Lantern Festival returns to Taipei after 23 years

A mother and daughter checking out a lantern featuring roles from the famous Journey to the West legend near the Taipei City Hall exhibition area.

TAIPEI: The chilly and damp weather is no deterrent to locals and visitors alike who thronged the city's metropolitan area for the annual Taiwan Lantern Festival 2023, which made a comeback to the city after 23 years.

As the city’s landmarks, buildings and alleyways become illuminated in beautiful electric colours during the night, the setup became unique art pieces during the day, not losing their lustre.

Many people came with an umbrella in addition to their jackets and rain boots and posed with the lanterns even hours before the official launch last night (Feb 5).

It is reaching the end of winter in Taiwan and the days have been often wet and cold with frequent showers.

But as night fell, areas featuring the lanterns only got more crowded.

Held for the 34th year, the festival, featuring lanterns of various sizes, themes and brought to life with innovation and technology, has become the most important festival in Taiwan on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, or Yuan Xiao (Chap Goh Mei in Malaysia).

For many in the capital city, Taipei's hosting of the annual grand affair means a lot following its reopening after the Covid-19 pandemic.

"After three years, we are organising this heritage event again,” said Taiwan Tourism Bureau director-general Chang Shi-Chung.

He said this signified Taiwan's return to normalcy.

"We hope that the tourism industry will bounce back," he told a press conference with media from several countries prior to the grand launch at the National Dr Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall here on Saturday (Feb 4).

Taiwan began reopening its international borders last October.

Themed "Light Up the Future" and featuring an exhibition area of some 168ha, Chang said this year’s exhibition is different from its old way of building on an empty area.

Following the MRT lines and connecting local commercial and industries areas, more than 300 lanterns are featured at areas such as the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Taipei City Hall square, Taipei City Council and Taipei101 building.

Some of the highlights of the festival are the main lantern - Brilliant Light of the Jade Hare in a robot design for the first time - inspired by Taiwan's global leading semiconductor industry.

"Three secondary lamps paid tribute to the dragon lantern image of the Taiwan lantern festival in the new millennium, expressing gratitude toward Taiwan’s hardworking medical staff during the pandemic.

"The secondary lanterns also showcased a technological style, different from the traditional lantern and reflecting the spirit of the annual festival moving from traditional to innovative," he said.

The International Friendship Lantern Area also featured participation from 10 cities, such as Japanese and Korean enterprises.

Held until Feb 19, Chang said the festival also offers various stage performances and street parade.

Aimed to attract six million tourist arrivals this year, Chang said Taiwan has increased its resource investment to create a diverse and high-quality tourism environment.

"This year, we will emphasise on international market expansion.

"To speed up recovery, relevant departments, county and city governments, and the tourism industry will work together to encourage more international tourists to arrive in Taiwan.

"The goal is to quickly recover to more than 50% of pre-pandemic levels of about six million people in 2023 and to 11.86 million visitors in 2024," he added.

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