Taipei, Feb. 5 (CNA) The Taiwan Lantern Festival officially kicked off Sunday in Taipei, returning to the capital for the first time in 23 years with hundreds of lantern installations in the city's trendiest districts.
Celebrating the theme "Light Up the Future," the festival will illuminate the city until Feb. 19 with innovative lanterns that feature various themes, such as the Chinese zodiac, animals, mythology, and international friendship.
On its first day, the festival was a major draw, attracting more than 462,000 people to the festival's main sites as of 7 p.m. Sunday, according to Taipei's Department of Information and Tourism.
Many of the lanterns and other displays around town that drew the big crowds were showcasing rabbits to mark the Year of the Rabbit, but there are also several that transported visitors to worlds outside Taiwan, some of them commissioned by Taiwan's diplomatic allies.
One of the most eye-catching of those lanterns, which depicts a moving train, has been presented by the Embassy of Saint Christopher (Saint Kitts) and Nevis and is called "A Magnificent View from the Scenic Railway."
Located on the grounds of the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, the lantern depicts the scenic railway of Saint Kitts and Nevis and offers a unique view of the country's history, according to Saint Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to Taiwan Donya Francis.
"This magnificent mode of transportation takes you through our lush green mountains where you can see some of our beautiful estates and other wonderful buildings and structures of the past," Francis said.
Another lantern, the Belize "Jaguar Preserve and Wondrous Wildlife" lantern presented by the Embassy of Belize, shows jaguars and national symbols such as the tapir (national animal), toucan (national bird), mahogany tree (national tree) and black orchid (national flower).
Belizean Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts told CNA the lantern offers Taiwanese a glimpse into her country, including its jaguar preserve, the only one of its kind in the world.
She hoped the lantern will encourage more Taiwanese to visit Belize and experience its natural wonders.
"You will understand why many claim Belize is a country where the heavens kiss the earth. You will agree that God really does favor this beautiful country," Pitts said.
Belizean Ambassador to Taiwan Candice Pitts welcomes Taiwanese to visit her country's lantern at the 2023 Taiwan Lantern Festival. CNA photo Feb. 5, 2023
Also in the area, the "Soar Together" lantern speaks of the bonds between Saint Lucia and Taiwan, according to the embassy.
The lantern showcases the Formosan Black bear being carried by the Amazona Versicolor, also known as the Saint Lucian Parrot. The Taiwanese Black Bear is endemic to Taiwan just as the Amazona Versicolor is endemic to St. Lucia, the embassy said.
The two are soaring together over clouds and moving forward into a bright future with even stronger bonds, much like the two countries, the embassy said.
Other installations inspired by overseas culture include "Grow the Taipei Tastes" by artist Cheng Jo-han (成若涵), who presented a 12-meter circular table decorated with metallic, papercraft-like reproductions of 15 cuisines brought to Taiwan by immigrants.
Located at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, the work was inspired by Taipei's international diversity and the many different types of cuisine from around the world seen in the city, Cheng told CNA.
Also at the park is another immigrant-inspired work, "Here We Are," a tall bamboo hut that represents the fusion of various cultures and the longing of home, said one of the park's curators Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲).
Another work carrying an immigrant theme is "The River of Memory" created by Filipino artist Mark Lester Reyes and Light ARTS, Lab. The work makes reference to a river flowing through Taipei, carrying the stories of new arrivals in the city.
This year's main lantern, the 22-meter-tall "Brilliant Light of the Jade Hare," is located at the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall.
During her remarks Sunday to open the event, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) described the Taiwan Lantern Festival as one of Taiwan's premier international festivals, and said the country was prepared to welcome tourists from around the world.
The annual Taiwan Lantern Festival, organized by the Tourism Bureau to promote tourism in Taiwan, was last held in Taipei in 2000.
Its main venues are the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, Xinyi District and Taipei City Hall Plaza. There are also many displays along Zhongxiao E. Rd., near some of the MRT Blue Line stations.