Taiwan’s extravagant 2020 Lantern Festival

Posted on 18 February 2020

At the end of each year’s Lunar New Year celebrations, Taiwan hosts a lavish lantern festival that draws crowds from all over the island and abroad. The 2020 festival is currently on in Taichung City, on the western side of central Taiwan, and is expected to draw in excess of 15-million visitors.

The celebration, which kicked off on 8 February and runs until 23 February, consists of 43-hectares of outdoor space filled with themed areas of brightly-coloured lanterns. I visited the festival on the opening night and enjoyed an evening of wonder, enjoying the sights of grand lanterns with cheerful designs.

Guardian of the Forest – Tree of Light, the main lantern at the Taiwan Lantern Festival 2020, Taichung. Image credit: supplied

The main lantern, the 15m-tall ‘Guardian of the Forest – Tree of Light’, is situated in Houli Forest Park and comprises of 22 light-belts on the trunk, 368 buds and 2,359 leaves. It was first ‘ignited’ at the opening ceremony of the 31st Taiwan Lantern Festival by Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

Entertainment for the evening included the French Luminous White Horse Dance troupe, British drumming group Spark and Japanese Yosakoi performers. The closing display on 23 February will include an aerial display of 800 drones.

Rat taking a selfie at the 2020 Taiwan Lantern Festival in Taichung. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

Each lantern is a festive display of creativity and with 2020 being the year of the rat, I enjoyed the cheeky, selfie-taking rat lantern in particular.

Some of the lanterns were sponsored by companies, others designed by schools and others by countries. For instance, the Central American nation of Belize has an ‘under-the-sea’ themed lantern display.

The festival area is divided into sections which included a zodiac animals-section, international animal stars, tropical jungle, high-tech lanterns and a digital arts-section.

The birds of Taiwan are depicted in this elaborate lantern. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

Hundreds of wild bird species are also depicted in a series of bird lanterns tucked between the park’s trees as well as a towering display featuring a couple of Taiwan’s endemic Swinhoe’s pheasants (also known as the Formosan blue pheasant or Taiwan blue pheasant).

Decorative toadstools at the Taiwan Lantern Festival 2020, Taichung. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

The sights and sounds of the Taiwan Lantern Festival include a happy bustle of families, sometimes with dogs – dressed for the occasion – in tow, lights, music and a general air of festivity. If you can’t make this year’s event, you can plan ahead for the 2021 Taiwan Lantern Festival which will take place from 23 February to 7 March in the city of Hsinchu.

Getting there: Catch the high-speed rail from Taipei to Taichung, 700NT (about R350) for a standard return ticket.

For more information about the festival visit: https://theme.taiwan.net.tw/2020TaiwanLantern/en

Luminous White Horse Dance troupe from France at the Taiwan Lantern Festival 2020, Taichung. Image credit: Elise Kirsten

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