Across Taiwan, as winter gives way to spring, communities set out bright lantern displays to mark the end of the Lunar New Year and fill up the last of the winter nights with cheer. The lanterns they put out aren’t your typical red lanterns, though. Called “flower lanterns” in Chinese, these are instead elaborate frameworks draped over with thin cloth or paper and lit from within like glowing statues. When it comes to “flower lantern” displays, there is nothing bigger or more prestigious than the Taiwan Lantern Festival, a massive show, that rotates from place to place each year, working its way across the island.
For nearly 30 years, this celebration of light has been the final word in extravagant design and fine craftsmanship. This year’s host, southern Taiwan’s Chiayi County, has been busy at work preparing to welcome the most ambitious Taiwan Lantern Festival yet. The lanterns stretch out over 50 hectares, making this year’s festival the largest yet. But deputy county head Wu Fang-ming says this year’s festival, now wrapping up, has aimed to do more than just impress with its scale. This has been a chance to show off what makes Chiayi special, to host serious works by international artists, and to build ties between Taiwan and its neighbors. It’s also been a chance for some fun- in Chiayi, not all of the artwork on display stands still.