Taiwan’s Lantern Festival Transforms Tainan into a Wonderland of Lights to Welcome the Year of the Dragon


When one mentions the word lanterns, understandable concerns about the environment usually follow. Where would the lanterns land? Who would clean up the debris? Questions regarding the environmental impact of the recent Lantern Festival in Tainan, a city in southern Taiwan, should be put to rest. The festival is now in its 35th year and is staged as part of the sustainable tourism program run by the Taiwan Tourism Administration (TTA). Instead of sending lanterns soaring into the sky, the Lantern Festival features a variety of colorful, designed, and LED-lit lanterns that remain fixed on land — and displayed throughout the festival's duration from February 24 to March 10, 2024.

Ayi Del Rosario
Colorful lanterns of various figures, designs and sizes wow'ed the crowd.

To sum it up, it's one glittery, eye-catching extravaganza.

What to Know about Taiwan’s Lantern Festival

Not to be confused with the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, which is held in conjunction with the Lantern Festival every year in Taiwan, the Lantern Festival held its first event in 1990. While the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival invites controversy because of the lanterns released into the sky, it is also steeped in ancient traditions and has made considerable efforts in the past several years to make the event more environmentally friendly.

Levi Amosin
Even Spongebob made an appearance

The Lantern Festival, meanwhile, only features modern lanterns laid out stationary on the pedestals and merge contemporary pop culture with traditional Taiwanese folk art figures and Chinese zodiac signs.

A very Family-friendly spectacle

The Lantern Festival revelry starts every 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, which in the Gregorian calendar falls into either January or February. A different city in Taiwan hosts the festival every year. 

This year’s host city and theme

The 2024 Lantern Festival host is the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan. It has been 16 years since Tainan last hosted the Lantern Festival, but this year made it extra special as the city is also celebrating its 400th anniversary, making the occasion double celebratory.

Krisma Rodriguez
The "Dragon Comes to Taiwan" lantern

Highlighting Tainan's varied culture, inventions, and position as a national leader in green energy, this year's lantern festival is themed "Glorious Tainan."

Sarah Patricia Gill
The "Formosa" lantern

Renowned artist Peng Li-chen drew inspiration from the flying dragons found on the pillars of Tainan's Grand Mazu Temple, also known as the Great Queen of Heaven Temple to create the 72-foot "Dragon Comes to Taiwan" lantern, which serves as the festival's centerpiece attraction marking the "Year of the Dragon" in 2024.

Sarah Patricia Gill
Taiwanese artworks were the prominent lantern design

Two main exhibition sections, the "High-Speed Rail Lantern Area" and the "Anping Lantern Area," displayed more than 300 pieces of lantern art to complete this year’s Lantern Festival. Included in the "High-Speed Rail Lantern Area" are seven expansive exhibition zones surrounding the high-speed rail station. These zones showcase a variety of themed lantern regions, with the main lantern being "Dragon Comes to Taiwan."

Why the Lantern Festival is celebrated in Taiwan

Dating back to many centuries, every fifteenth day of the lunar calendar, many Chinese villages celebrate the Lantern Festival, which is also called "Little New Year." Fireworks, lanterns, and temple visits to see festive displays are all part of this significant New Year's folk festival.

Sarah Patricia Gill
A pirate ship giant lantern

The event is seen as promoting a scene of togetherness and happiness while representing national wealth and harmony. The primary topic of the lanterns is based on the Chinese zodiac sign of the year, drawing from traditional culture.

Introducing this year’s lantern art pieces

Named as one of the “Worlds Best Festivals”, it came as no surprise when the 2024 Lantern Festival in Tainan already attracted more than 220,000 visitors during the testing demo alone. Throughout the more than two-week event, that number has further increased.

Marky Ramone Go
Felt like a kid again around all these colorful lanterns

More than 300 lantern art pieces were put on display on the grounds of Anping Recreational Wharf  and Tainan's High-Speed Rail station. Because the solar energy photovoltaic business in Tainan is world-renowned. In keeping with the lantern festival's emphasis on eco-friendly practices, this year's featured lantern used solar energy components like EVA and environmentally friendly materials like carbon 60.

Selle Yambao

Incorporating naked-eye 3D technology for the first time, the themed lantern combined diverse lantern media materials, highlighting Taiwan's unique geographical features, and connecting ecology to tourist attractions.

The featured lanterns art pieces represented an array of figures, from dragons and pirates to iconic figures from Taiwanese pop culture, such as the Black Bear and Black-Faces Spoonbill, as well as western figures like Spongebob, to the endless delight of the spectators and guests who traveled to Tainan to witness this year’s Lantern Festival.

Alexa Pajarillo

This early, the Taiwan Tourism Administration (TTA) is already promising a bigger and more extravagant Lantern Festival in 2025.

See you all in next year’s Lantern Festival.


This article first appeared on Spot.ph