Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Lantern festival expecting visitors to reach 12 million

UP IN LIGHTS:The festival is being held in Hsinchu County for the first time, and it will include some local elements that include Hakka culture, bamboo and Taiwanese cartoons

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter, Hsinchu County

A giant lantern in the shape of a snake is lit up in Hsinchu yesterday during a rehearsal for today’s opening of the Taiwan Lantern Festival. This year is the Year of the Snake according to the Lunar Calendar.

Photo: Huang Mei-chu, Taipei Times

An estimated 12 million domestic and international visitors are expected to flood into northern Hsinchu County in the next two weeks for the annual Taiwan Lantern Festival.

Because this year is the Year of the Snake on the Chinese zodiac, which is also called the “small dragon year,” the main lantern features a 20m high flying aquatic dragon and weighs about 26 tonnes in total. The main lantern is accompanied by four secondary lanterns, featuring the image of an elephant, a mound of gold ingots, a phoenix and a Chinese mythical hybrid creature called a Pixiu (貔貅).

Hsinchu County Magistrate Chiu Ching-chun (邱鏡淳) said the county had tried to combine technology and tradition in its presentation of the lanterns at the exhibition.

In the festival’s “green” energy section, the highlight is a lantern called “Sustainable Ring” (永續之環), presented by the Taipei-based Delta Electronics. The lantern features a 270-degree projection screen that is 10m in height and nearly 70m in width. The exterior of the lantern is decorated with LED lighting.

Because Hsinchu County is known for its bamboo, wind and glass, the festival features a shining walking passage using all three elements.

To promote Hsinchu’s Hakka culture, the county government also uses a Hakka village near the Hsinchu High-Speed Rail Station as part of the lantern exhibition. It has also produced a 3D film promoting 12 major Hakka festivals, which will be displayed at the Hakka fortified-earth building.

Because the county is also the home of Taiwanese cartoonist Liu Hsing-ching (劉興欽), the festival has a special section featuring lanterns of cartoon characters drawn by Taiwanese cartoonists.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said that the nation has been holding the festival for 24 years, and this was the first time that the festival was held in Hsinchu County.

The festival’s opening ceremony is scheduled to begin at 7pm today. President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and other dignitaries are invited to light up the main lantern. Japanese singer Sachiko Kobayashi has been invited to sing a song of blessing at the ceremony as well.

Prior to the opening ceremony at night, the county government will launch a parade at 1:30pm. The parade will include performers from Tokyo Disneyland and 16 other organizations.

Yeh said the exhibition site was located at the special development district of the high-speed rail in Hsinchu. The main lantern’s light show will also be displayed in conjunction with the schedule of the high-speed rail, which leaves from Hsinchu every half-hour.

To help carry the visitors to the exhibition, both the Taiwan Railway Administration and the Taiwan High-Speed Rail Corp have increased train services to meet the increase of passengers to Hsinchu over the next two weeks.

Yeh said the public was encouraged to take pubic transport to the exhibition. Should visitors need to drive, they are advised to park in the parking spaces designated by the Hsinchu County Government and take the shuttle buses to the site.

The festival will run from tomorrow until March 10.

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