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Pingsi Int'l Lantern Festival to kick off

Pingsi Int'l Lantern Festival to kick off

Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) The 2009 Pingsi International Lantern Festival will open on Jan. 26, organizers of the 15-day event said Thursday.
Three main sky lantern celebrations will be held during the festival -- a smaller-scale event to be held at Chingtung Elementary School on Jan. 31 and larger-scale extravaganzas at Pingsi Junior High School on Feb. 7 and at "Sky Lantern Square" in Shihfen township on Feb. 9, this year's traditional Lantern Festival day.
The Lantern Festival falls 15 days after the Lunar New Year. Concerts, dance performances, and sky lantern displays will be featured at each event before the people send their lanterns into the sky with their wishes for the new year, hoping they will be granted by the gods.
The tradition dates back to the Qing Dynasty when village watchmen would set off the lanterns to tell people in the mountainous area that they were safe from bandits.
At a news conference Thursday to announce the festival's schedule, Taipei County Magistrate Chou Hsi-wei emphasized the international flavor of this year's event, which will be attended by artistic groups from Mexico, Japan and China.
Chou showed some of the sky lanterns made by the Mexican and Japanese groups at Thursday's news conference.
During the 15-day festival, a total of 10,000 ox-shaped sky lanterns, in celebration of the Year of the Ox, will be given away to help festival visitors send their New Year's wishes to the gods, according to the county's Tourism Bureau.
Pingsi sky lanterns consist of a main body and a frame. The body is made either from thin or oiled paper and the frame from bamboo strips. A rag soaked in kerosene is placed inside a basket that hangs below the lantern and lit, so that the heat from the flame fills the lantern and causes the lantern to ascend into the night sky.
(By Nick Huang)