Lantern festival lifts Taiwan residents after earthquake

Lantern festival lifts Taiwan residents after earthquake
People release sky lanterns at the square.
PHOTO: The New Paper

On Feb 6, just two days before Chinese New Year, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan around 4am. .

The death toll hit 116, with many of the casualties coming from the collapse of the Weiguan Golden Dragon high-rise tower in Tainan. But if you expected the quake to put a dampener on the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar, you would have underestimated the resilience of the Taiwanese.

A great example of this was the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival 2016, in Shifen Sky Lantern Square, New Taipei City, north of Tainan.

Mr Cheng, 29, a Taiwanese who has been to the festival a few times and was among the thousands who turned up, said: "Although the earthquake happened, it is a very sad and unfortunate incident, but whatever happened, happened, and it is time to move on."

The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival's final event is always held on the 15th day of the lunar new year to celebrate the first full moon.

WISHES

People write their well wishes on the lanterns and release them into the sky.

The wishes are usually about health and wealth. Once released, the lanterns gradually rise and float away. Some 200 sky lanterns are released over the course of eight sessions. During the intervals between each session, there are music and dance performances.

The festival dates back more than a hundred years and signifies sending one's wishes to God..

Mr Zhao Yuhsin, a Taiwanese, said: "Even though I'm local, I don't come to this event every year. But since it coincided with my holidays this time, I wanted to come and experience it because it's really fun to light the lanterns."

Miss Theresia Shanel from the Solomon Islands, who has been studying in Taiwan for four years, was at the festival for the first time. She said: "I just wanted to come to the festival to write a wish, soak in the atmosphere and experience the culture."

Pingxi is the only place in Taiwan where sky lanterns can be released legally due to its sparse population and high altitude.

I just wanted to come to the festival to write a wish, soak in the atmosphere and experience the culture.

- Miss Theresia Shanel, 23, from the Solomon Islands, at the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival 2016

jlong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on March 8, 2016.
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