The Pingxi Lantern Festival

Sunday (February 28th) was the 15th day of the Lunar Year, and with that comes one of a number of celebrations in Taiwan for the Lantern Festival.  One of the biggest celebrations, if not the biggest, comes in the form of the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival.  One this day, thousands of paper lanterns have wishes written on them, paper or some sort of fuel is lit inside and they are then left to float into the sky in the hope that the wishes will come true.

Pingxi is a pretty small town, but it is certainly loaded with people during the festival.  Although there is a location which is specifically set up for releasing the lanterns, lanterns are lit and released in many areas.

First, you choose the color of the lantern you wish to use, as each color is meant to carry a specific type of wish.  For example, white might be for a wish related to employment, red for love, or any of quite a number of other possible colors.  Being honest, I don’t remember the specifics.  Then, your wish is brushed onto the lantern using a calligraphy brush.

After the calligraphy has been done, the paper fuel is lit, which of course gives the lantern it’s lift, and when the lantern is sufficiently ready, it is left to head into the sky.

As I had mentioned, there was an area specifically designated for releasing the lanterns, but the majority were simply let go in the middle of the town, right along the train tracks.  Adding to the excitement greatly was the times when the train arrived and people had to scramble off the tracks, or get plowed over.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but the possibility seemed to add to the sense of fun.

Although there were literally thousands there to release lanterns, there were probably as many photographers present, hoping to get something great and different.  To capture something different though would be difficult, but that didn’t stop people from trying.

In the official releasing area, the releases were coordinated and groups of 100 (I am told) let go simultaneously.  The first released happened right about 6:30, when the sky still had some blues and purples in it and I have to say that the look of the lanterns against the sky was gorgeous.  Unfortunately, for that release, I had chosen to go with a longer exposure.  Next time, I will think differently.

The effect of the lanterns against the black sky reminded me at first of some sort of luminescent jellyfish in a dead black sea.  It was quite stunning.

As they moved (quite quickly) into the sky, the look was more like that of fireflies.  A little different, yet equally beautiful.

Of course, the longer exposures were fun too.  I like this, because everyone you see here is a photographer.  They were packed five or six deep all the way around the releasing area, and many were perched in other vantage points as well.

I was told that there would be a total of 26 coordinated releases.  I did not stay for nearly all of them, but for the last one I saw, I went to one side and went up on quite a high retaining wall to get more of a shot of the crowd.  Here, you can see that the releasing area is totally ringed by a good number of photographers.  YOu can see quite a few flashes which went off.  I had more than one exposure ruined by a flash going off and blowing out a lantern.  The thing is, I am not really sure what they were hoping to do with the flash, as it would take away all the ambiance of the photo in my opinion.  Anyways, by no means did all my shots catch an errant flash, so to each their own.

One last shot, here, I believe my photo will look substantially different than the one caught on the point and shoot you see at the bottom left.

Well, that is it for now.  I have to say that the Lantern Festival was really a great event and one which I will make every effort to get back to next year.

9 thoughts on “The Pingxi Lantern Festival

  1. Thanks Dilip. You are right, it was a great evening. Looking forward to getting out shooting with you again soon. Cheers

  2. Love this post, Darren. Your shots are great! Now we each have our own set of the classic Pingxi photos. It was fun shooting with you!

  3. Good series and write-up Darren. It’s funny you mention the long-exposure on the first release. I did the same, although for me it was actually the only long exposure shot I did. It also seems to be the one getting the most attention from the ones I took.

  4. Pingback: Northern Taiwan « Taiwan Stories

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