Taiwan’s Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

On the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, lanterns fill the sky in the Pingxi District in Taipei, Taiwan. Held each year on 19 February, the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is a focal point in the Taiwanese calendar. 

Lanterns being lifted into the sky at the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

Locals and tourists alike come together for this celebration of light, both honouring and experiencing a new and old tradition. Visitors release lanterns into the sky with well-wishes written on them, that make for a breathtaking photo opportunity. 

As it is being lifted, the lanterns float into the sky with a combustible element attached to it, causing it to rise just like a hot air balloon.

A Spiritual Affair

Visitors writing their wishes on the lanterns at the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival

But as much as the Festival is a visual spectacle, it is also a spiritual experience. The first Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival was held in 1990 when the Tourism Bureau of Taiwan wanted to create an event dedicated to celebrating local folklore. Visitors then release their lanterns into the sky with hopes that their ancestors will see them and answer their prayers.

In the earlier days, these lanterns were used to warn others about potential attacks that were bound for the villages in the highlands. But now, it has become a sacred and therapeutic gesture that many look forward to. 

Pingxi’s Sky Lantern Festival is unlike any other. Other lantern festivals like the Floating Lantern Festival in Hawaii and the Marine Day Lantern Festival in Tokyo have caught on with the trend. But Pingxi holds true to its tradition.

Photo by Jirka Matousek

The small town of Pingxi is the only place in the whole of Taiwan, where sky lanterns are allowed since they aren’t able to float too far away because of the water and the mountains.

Whether you visit the Lantern Festival to honour your spiritual and religious traditions, or just to bear witness to the display of lanterns filling every inch of the sky – the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is definitely an event not to be missed.

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