TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- To coincide with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Lunisolarcalendar, the first leg of the 2018 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival (平溪天燈節) is set for liftoff today (March 2) in New Taipei City's Pingxi District, while a second such display will be held later this year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, according to the New Taipei City Government.
The Lantern Festival, known in Mandarin as "Yuan Hsiao Chieh" (元宵節), is one of the more spectacular spectacles in Taiwan and celebrates the last day of the Lunar New Year. The Pingxi lantern festival involves the nighttime release of thousands of sky lanterns (天燈).
Sky lanterns were first invented during the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-265) in ancient China by military strategist Zhuge Liang to transmit information and are considered the earliest precursor to the hot air balloon. Sky lanterns were first introduced in Taiwan in the 19th century and were originally released at the beginning of the spring planting season to be used as prayers for the coming year.
Taiwan Tourism Bureau image.
Today's sky lantern flying event will be held at the Shifen Sky Lantern Square (十分廣場) from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., with eight waves of mass sky lantern launches including a total of 1,200 sky lanterns scheduled throughout the night.
Free lantern flying tickets for the event will be issued at the venue, starting at 10 a.m. today, according to the local government.
Pingxi Sky Lanterns floating up into the night sky. (Image by flickr user Jira Matousek)
Every year, the festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Pingxi District, the only place in Taiwan where the release of sky lanterns is allowed by the government.
Fodor's Travel in 2013 named the event one of the world's 14 festivals a person must attend in their lifetime.
In order to avoid traffic and as traffic controls will be in place at different times, organizers advise members of the public to take public transportation to the event. Traffic controls on scooters, bicycles and cars will be in place from 9 a.m. until midnight.
Shuttle buses will be available from Muzha for NT$50, while buses from Shiding, Keelung, and Ruifang will be available for NT$30. Shuttle buses from elsewhere in Pingxi District will be available for NT$15.
Return shuttle bus rides will be free of charge. With the exception of shuttle buses to Keelung, contactless smartcards (such as EasyCards) can be used on all shuttle buses so that tourists will not need to carry spare change.
The Tourism Bureau pointed out that the schedule for trains running Pingxi will be different than the regular schedule. Passengers wishing to take the train to Pingxi are advised to first check the schedule online or refer to station announcements.
Shifen Sky Lantern Square
No.136, Nanshanping, Nanshan Village, Pingxi Dist., New Taipei City