Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thousands of sky lanterns released in search of good luck

Thousands of sky lanterns released in search of good luck
February 13, 2011

TAIPEI--Chilly rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of 2011 Pingsi Sky Lantern Festival-goers yesterday, as thousands of sky lanterns in search of good luck for the coming year filled the skies over New Taipei City's Pingsi district in northern Taiwan.

total of 2,000 gift lanterns were distributed within just 90 minutes of the noon opening to people in the huge crowds attracted to the annual extravaganza held in the grounds of Pingsi Junior High School.

To celebrate the Republic of China's centennial, a gigantic sky lantern bearing 16 Chinese characters written by President Ma Ying-jeou wishing the country a prosperous, harmonious and lucky 2011, took the lead, soaring into the heavens at 6 p.m.

Like the president, 28-year-old Przemek Jura from Poland was among the 200 people who lit and released the first wave of lanterns.

“Letting off a sky lantern is a very unusual cultural experience for a Catholic like me,” said Jura, who has lived in Taiwan for two-and-a-half years.

“I usually watch the festival on TV, but decided to experience it in person this year,” he said, pointing at the words in Polish he had written on his lantern: “May I have good health.”

As the lanterns rose gently into the sky, the crowds burst into exclamations of encouragement, as according to tradition, the higher the miniature hot-air balloons rise, the more good luck they will bring to their releasers.

By 8 p.m., according to the New Taipei City Tourism Bureau, which organized the event, at least 100,000 people were estimated to have visited the mountain district.

The sky lantern, also known as the Kongming lantern, is said to have been invented by Zhuge Kongming during the Three Kingdoms period of 220-280 A.D.

A noted sage and military strategist, Zhuge used the lanterns, which work by trapping hot air produced by a burning wick — like a modern-day hot-air balloon — to deliver military information when his troops were trapped by the enemy.

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