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Lantern Festival first step on Taiwan's road to economic recovery
Publication Date : 17-02-2014
The Lantern Festival kicked off on Friday for the pleasure of local and foreign camera-wielding tourists all across the country. The most brightly lit event of the year is poised to dazzle millions of visitors again with its magnificent display of lanterns that range from cute handheld paper animals from the Chinese zodiac dangling from wooden sticks for children to humongous LED-lit structures displayed in outdoor venues.
According to the Tourism Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, this year's event could successfully attract more than 10 million visitors, including more than 30,000 foreigners, carrying hopes that the Year of the Horse will be a boost for Taiwan's economy, and for the country's tourism sector in particular. Without a doubt, the annual celebrations not only carry on the folk tradition of lighting lanterns while integrating notions of environmental awareness and various high-tech innovations that are key to attracting international visitors.
At the same time, the popular celebrations, which have been listed as one of the “Fantastic Festivals of the World” by the Discovery Channel, thoroughly demonstrate the strength of Taiwanese culture, the creative spirit of local people as well as the event's true potential to create massive economic benefits for cities and counties across the country.
This constantly striving spirit of the Taiwanese people is symbolised by this year's main lantern, “The Grand and Radiant Stallion,” which features a horse striding toward the highest peak in Taiwan, Yushan. For those who are not familiar with the Chinese culture, this instalment of the popular festival heralds the Chinese Year of the Horse, the 7th animal in the full 12-year annual zodiac cycle.
Since 1990, the official Taiwan Lantern Festival has been staged in cities and counties across the island, highlighting the nation's local culture and tourism resources through various lantern-making activities and live performances.
For its 25th anniversary, the Taiwan Lantern Festival's centerpiece display, a towering 23-meter-tall structure that weighs 30 tonnes, is displayed in Nantou County's Chung Hsing New Village in Central Taiwan for the pleasure of tourists of all nationalities. But what does the event mean to the people?
Originating approximately during the Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD), the Lantern Festival marks the end of the two-week-long celebration of the Lunar New Year. On the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar, streets are overwhelmed with the warm glow of red lanterns on buildings. Bigger, more elaborate designs of lanterns gather in larger venues in a festive celebration in many parts of mainland China and Taiwan.
More importantly, the lanterns and celebration of light symbolise the people's wishes of hoping for the upcoming year to be filled with good fortune and prosperity, where lanterns are believed to carry wishes up to the gods in the sky. Splendid firework displays and riddle-guessing activities are the traditional customs of the Lantern Festival. Still, the most important event is the display of exquisite lanterns elaborately lit, for which the festival is named after in English.
The true meaning and spirit of the long Lunar New Year celebration is unity. Reuniting with the entire family, cherishing the time spent together with loved ones and appreciating each other before everyone has to leave in different directions to go back to work, away from their hometowns. This unity is symbolised with the traditional glutinous rice ball sweet soup dessert eaten on the Lantern Festival. The roundness of the rice balls is considered to be harmonious with the full moon of that night. With this information in mind, we also wish that we all have a prosperous and harmonious Year of the Horse. That's what we should aim for on the road to the country's economic recovery.