Kaohsiung's Lantern Festival Lights up the City
◎English translation:Peng Hsin-yi
◎Photos by Huang Ching-wen, Hsieh Guan-yi, Ceng Guo-shu
Kaohsiung Lantern Festival is one of the city's most joyful annual events and was held from February 21st to March 15th. It is now in its fifteenth year, with the original exhibition venue at the Love River featuring thirty giant theme lanterns and light sculptures, lighting up both sides of its shores. During its first years, the lantern exhibitions were exclusively held at the Love River, however as its popularity increased, exhibitions were added throughout the city, including bright and colorful exhibitions in Cishan, Gangshan and Fo Guang Shan. The Kaohsiung streets were also decorated with thematic, award-winning lanterns, attracting millions of visitors.
What really distinguishes Kaohsiung's Lantern Festival from other lantern exhibitions around Taiwan are the variety of activities that can be enjoyed alongside the artfully crafted lanterns. Visitors can enjoy a variety of street performances or take a cruise down the Love River, enjoying the lanterns on a Love Boat cruise or a private Gondola. There are also fireworks and water dances which are held 20 meters off shore. This year's show was entitled Eye of Kaohsiung, featuring a spectacular "O" shaped water projection.
The Lantern Parade took place on March 7th, featuring lantern floats, giant puppets, school marching bands, Song Jiang Arrays, a Cheerleading Squad from Japan's Teikyo University and folk dances performed by Kaohsiung's Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai immigrants. Kaohsiung's sister cities from Portland, USA, Busan, Korea, as well as Hachioji, Kumamoto, Chiba and Mie-ken, Japan also came to join in with the festivities.
Lantern Festival displays in the other districts were on show before the Lunar New Year. They poured their hearts and spirit into the exhibits and provided many lanterns which strongly displayed the local culture. The master lantern in Gangshan District exhibited giant fixtures such as nuts and bolts to honor the districts major industrial products. The lanterns in Cishan highlighted the beauty of its historical buildings, with vendors offering visitors a variety of foods as they strolled through the venue. Gushan's Lantern Festival exhibited jumbo-sized lantern at the "Sky Balcony", its newly developed scenic spots. Fo Guang Shan's New Year's Festival of Light and Peace included a Buddhist theme which created a serene atmosphere for visitors who came to the temple to pray for good fortune in the coming year.
With joy and light, Kaohsiung's Lantern Festival brought a perfect end to the month. Although it is finished for another year, the festive energy will remain with the people of Kaohsiung and a colorful beginning to the New Year. It also left everyone anticipating what next year's Lantern Festival will bring.