Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 June 2019

Up in lights: Taiwan's 2019 lantern festival officially opens – in pictures

Tourists and residents gather for the stunning Taiwan Lantern Festival

The 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival officially opened on February 19, with a crowd of thousands gathering to see the stunning light-up creations.

It's a notable year, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the annual celebration. It is being held in Pingtung County, Southern Taiwan, and running until March 3, 2019.

See some of the most impressive lanterns at the 2019 Taiwan Lantern Festival in the gallery above.

The festival is a visual spectacular, described as “a Disneyland without roller coasters”, with thousands of intricate and colourful cartoon-like lantern creations on display over 38 hectares of land and 200 hectares of water.

A marine motif was clearly seen at the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. Courtesy Taiwan Tourism
A marine motif was clear to see at the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. Courtesy Taiwan Tourism

The light-up displays incorporate important elements of Taiwanese culture, both new and old, with recurring themes of food, harvest, ecotourism, indigenous tribes, pop culture, immigration and history all included. Everything from sea creatures to cartoons and people to castles and even harvest produce is depicted in lantern form.

The local Pingtung culture is also a key theme. As it's a coastal Taiwanese county, marine elements are clearly seen throughout the festival, most notably in the main lantern, a giant 16-metre-tall bluefin tuna, a product that the local area says is "synonymous" with fishing.

Traditionally, the main lantern at the festival is a representation of the Lunar Year – 2019 is the Year of the Pig – however Pingtung officials chose the bluefin tuna as a more regional symbol, although the pig was still a prevalent motif in lanterns throughout the festival.

When the festival concludes on March 3, the tuna lantern will be displayed as a permanent landmark in Pingtung. Others will be sent to exhibitions around the world to represent Taiwan or be displayed in parks around the country, in a bid to "cut back on waste", Taiwan's Tourism Bureau director-general Chou Yung-hui announced at a press conference, marking the beginning of the festival.

A Hello Kitty lantern on display at the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. Courtesy Taiwan Tourism
A Hello Kitty lantern on display at the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. Courtesy Taiwan Tourism

The celebrations are not limited to the land, either. Lanterns are on display at sea, too, and flybys from airforce fighter jets, drone light shows and performances by an oceanic opera are also being organised.

One local visitor, who attended the opening ceremony, told The National: “Lanterns are much more than a light in a novelty box. They’re an illumination of the present, a nod to the past and hope for the future. The joy they bring extends far beyond the superficial aesthetic of a light-up jellyfish or onion. Lanterns tell the story of where we’ve been, and light the path for where we’re going.”

Every year, the Taiwan Lantern Festival celebrates its opening on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar calendar. This year's follows the Lunar New Year on February 15, and many see it as an ending to Chinese New Year festivities.

The 2020 Taiwan Lantern Festival is scheduled to be held in Taichung, a city in the northwest Taiwan, from February 8 to 23.

Updated: February 21, 2019 09:52 AM