New Taipei: Sky Lanterns at Shifen Old Street in Pingxi
A historic coal-mining town in the countryside of New Taipei City. The town of Pingxi (平溪) played a large role in 20th-century coal boom in Taiwan. But it is not the reason why tourists are being attracted here: it has something to do with a more ancient tradition – sky lantern flying. Tradition states that flying these lanterns are symbols of your prayers to the gods for their blessings.
After our rainy trip to Shifen Waterfalls, we went straight to Shifen Old Street, almost one-and-a-half kilometers away. The rains already disappeared and the alleyway along the historic Pingxi rail line brought back to life. Tourists are busy buying, preparing and flying their sky lanterns.
For NT$150 for a single-color sky lantern and NT$200 for a multicolored one, you can have and enjoy such an experience. After choosing a sky lantern, you are given a calligraphy brush to write your dedication and wishes. You will also be given a chance to have a selfie with your sky lantern, after which you will light it up and release it to the sky. According to ancient customs, it also grants good health and fortune.
Aside from its traditional architecture, the old street is an active rail line where trains regularly pass through. It lacks any fence at either side so tourists have to step aside while the train slowly runs along. Perhaps, it gives a different kind of feeling to witness the train rolling by at a close distance. You can experience this while savoring hot noodles from one of the stores. There are also miniature lanterns being sold that you can take home as souvenirs.
Not far from here is the Jingan Suspension Bridge, with a span of 128 meters is the longest bridge in Pingxi. Constructed in 1974, it has since served the town’s residents and is a popular tourist spot. At the bottom runs the Keelung River.
ABOUT PINGXI (平溪)
Pingsi Township, situated at the upper reaches of the Keelung River in northeastern Taipei County, covers an area of 71.34 square kilometers. The Township is elongated in shape with many hills and valleys, and very few dotted plains in between. It is surrounded by mountains; an isolated green mountain range filled with phytoncides. Due to the northeast monsoons, rainfall is particularly heavy in the winter, add to this the geological impact of erosion from the Keelung River and its tributaries and it has created many natural treasures such as sharp rocks, cliffs, waterfalls, and potholes, earning Pingsi the nickname “Waterfall Township”.
Taken from pingxi.com.tw/en/
ABOUT SKY LANTERNS
The Sky lanterns are also known as the Kong Ming lanterns. Legend has it that the lanterns were the invention of Zhuge Liang (Kong Ming was the name of Zhuge Liang upon reaching manhood) of the Three Kingdoms Period, who utilized the same principles as that used in hot-air balloons to float the lanterns as a means of communicating military intelligence. In addition, according to the elders in the Shihfen area in Pingsi Township, bandits roamed the mountains in the early days, and villagers would seek shelter in the nearby mountains when the bandits came on a raid. After they left, the men who stayed behind in the village would fly Sky lanterns as a signal of safety to beckon the villagers’ return. Although the area grew more stable later, the activity of flying Sky lanterns remained and became a local custom. Today, flying the Sky lanterns have become a symbol of prayers to the gods for their blessings. The sight of thousands of Sky lanterns carrying peoples’ wishes and slowly floating into the night sky is a sight to behold.
Click here to learn more about History, Making and Release of Sky Lanterns
ORIGINS OF LANTERN FESTIVAL
Historically, Chinese society has been agricultural and deeply religious, especially with regard to the veneration of ancestors and gods to help improve farming conditions and increase the harvest. At the beginning of the Lunar Calendar year, just after Chinese New Year Spring Festival (過年、春節), farmers pray to the gods for a bountiful year. In the past, farmers would pray for reliable water sources, lots of rice, and protection from the elements, however as conditions improved, so did the wishes of the farmers to include a fruitful harvest, the safety of farm animals, and other personal wishes. These wishes and prayers were then written onto the paper sky lanterns and released into the sky to reach the heavens, rising into the air following the same principles as a hot air balloon. Specifically in Taiwan and the Pingxi area, sky lanterns came to symbolise a wish to give birth to more boys to help out on the farm since the Taiwanese Hokkien wording for “adding a boy” to the family (添丁) and the word for sky lantern (天燈) have a similar pronunciation, roughly pronounced tiām dīng and tī dīng.
Taken from Guidetotaipei.com
- By Train
From Taipei Main Station, take a northbound train (except Keelung-bound trains) towards Ruifang Station. Transfer to the Pingxi Line (平溪線) and purchase a One Day Ticket for the Pingxi Line, NT$52.
From MRT Muzha Station (木柵, Brown Line 1), take bus 1076 towards Pingxi (平溪).
- Sky Lanterns: NT$150-200
PART OF OUR TAIWAN GETAWAY
- NORTH COAST: Yehliu Geopark | Pingxi Sky Lantern | Shifen Waterfalls | Golden Waterfalls | Jiufen Old Street | Wanli Abandon UFO Houses
- TAIPEI: Ximendeng | Taipei 101 | Maokong Gondola | Elephant Mountain | Taipei Peace Park | Taipei Zoo | Chiang Kai Shek Memorial | Shilin Night Market | The Red House
- TAICHUNG: Zhongshe Flower Farm | Xinshe Castle | Rainbow Village | Gaomei Wetland Park