|Main entrance. We actually exited from here because we entered from the street, not the shuttle bus parking lot.|
With that background, I am going to describe our own experience and observance of the National Lantern Festival in Lugang, Changhua County.
We took the HSR to the city of Taichung, the closest HSR station to Lugang. Having looked on the map, we knew it was quite a distance between the two. We read online that a free shuttle bus was offered from the train station to the festival, so that was our plan when we arrived. We followed the signs in the train station to the shuttle bus area, but we were in for a big surprise when got there. There was the longest line we had ever seen waiting to get on the shuttle bus(es)! The train station is a very large building, covering at least one square city block. We walked out one door to get in the line and began to walk to find the end of it. I took out my camera and began to photograph this line because we could not find its end. We went around the first corner of the building and could see it wrapped around the next corner as well. Each time we turned another corner around the building, the line continued on. People were standing patiently with hundreds of people in front of them.
It was a good ride. Leaving Taichung, we crossed a river into Changhau City. This was a big city crisscrossed with a freeway system that looked like any other freeway system in America or Europe. We passed many, many “brownstone” complexes at an elevated level. Each of them, like ours, had stainless steel water tanks on the roofs to give warm/ hot water when heated by the sun…not a common occurrence in these winter months, though it was a beautiful sunny day yesterday. We were driving directly west at 4:30 pm. As the sun lay low in the sky it shone on those many, many water tanks making them look like soup cans lined up in rows. We also passed what appeared to be a “public” graveyard. I need more information on this subject, but I will add a picture I took in a “cemetery” near our house so you can see how different their burial sites are from ours in the US.
Because the Strait of Taiwan was a short distance directly west of us, we were hit by the cold sea wind as soon as we turned the corner onto the main street, Zhongshan Road. I quickly wrapped the scarf I had brought around my neck and put on my gloves. Aside from noticing the cold wind, we discovered we were entering what is called “The 1,000 Mile Dragon Gallery.” The street was closed to vehicles and became a massive pedestrian walkway. Block-long dragons hung overhead. Each block or two had a different version of a dragon. They were non-stop the entire length of this main street connecting the south venue with the north.
Shortly after we turned this corner, we saw a Chinese couple taking pictures, as everyone was. The wife was taking one of her husband with the lantern dragon over his head in the background. I asked, in pantomime, if she wanted to get in the picture with him. “Yes, yes!” “Shi-shi, shi-shi!” She then offered to do the same for us. Thus, Don and I have a rare photo of the two of us…at the Lantern Festival!
These dragons hanging over the street were fabulous! Each one was different, though all made from lanterns. There was an orange one and a pink one and a green one. There was one depicting the “dragon boats,” famous in this area.
There was one block that was hung with rows and rows of lights in shapes of fish and waves. The street was lined with food vendors and the local shops were open for business. There was street entertainment. We walked through this area when the sun was just about to set. As we walked, the sky drew darker and the lights began to turn on. It would be another hour before it actually got dark and the full beauty of the dragons would be lit up. But we needed to move on.
|Taiwan's Empire State Building...Taipei 101, 2nd tallest building in the world.|
but then we turned the corner! There was an enormous stage (65yards x 22yards) with red skirting that held life-size scenes from Chinese culture. They were so…so…so…Chinese! This is what everyone in the world has in mind when they think “Chinese”! There it was…bigger than life! The sun was going down fast. The darker it got, the brighter the lanterns got. This was awesome! We forgot we were cold, we forgot it was windy, we forgot we were one (or should I say two) in a crowd of thousands. It was a sight that completely overwhelmed me! Here is some of what we were gazing on:
|Zhonghua Gate Castle|
|Women playing Majong.|
Once we could pull ourselves away from that main display, we turned around and directly behind us was a pathway to follow through four "Welcome Lantern Pillars" and gate.
This pathway brought us under an enormous lantern that was shaped like a gourd. The word for “gourd” in Mandarin is a homophone for “fortune,” so the gourd has come to symbolize good fortune. This open space was called the “Fortune Gate Lantern Area” which led to the “Blessing Lantern Forest.” As one can imagine, it was rows and rows of trees and lattices hung with gourd-shaped lanterns.
|Fortune Gate Lantern|
|Bisi Bearing Fortune|
|Crowd watching the dance performance at the Entertainment Square.|
|Full stadium bleachers also watching the dancers on stage.|
|"Soaring Dragon Over Radiant Skies" (from behind)|
We walked on to other displays before the dance performance was over. We could still hear the music clearly as we walked through another area of competing lanterns and through a grove of trees covered with lights. As Don and I walked arm in arm through this enchanted forest, we could hear that the hit song “Take My Breath Away” was playing over at the stage. I realize that song is arguably the most romantic song ever, but the title itself described the evening’s experience for me (and I dare say Don, as well)…it “took my breath away.”