Fireworks of the South, Sky Lanterns of the North

So this past Sunday (Feb 12), a couple of us headed to Pingsi / Pinghsi / Pingxi to play with sky lanterns (天燈) or Kung Ming lanterns (孔明燈) for the festival. Very fun.

Basically, on the 15th day of the lunar new year, tons of people make their way to this remote town to attend (on the jam-packed highway or the one railroad that gets there). The trains are literally packed with people, and angry words are often exchanged. You know, the typical

"Stop pushing!"
"I'm not pushing: it's the people behind me!"
"Stop! Pushing!"

Anyway, assuming they arrive safely, the people buy these cotton-paper lanterns, and write their wishes, prayers, and hopes on them, and release them into the night sky. The higher/further the lantern goes, the better chance of the heavens picking up on it, et cetera, et cetera.

You're supposed to not write selfish wishes on them, so that limits most prayers to things like world peace, business success, good health, happiness ... all the airy-fairy stuff. I wished for ...

And then I stuck a few wishes for toys anyway.) And you're also supposed to wish only for things that have a decent chance of happening, or else the weight of that wish will prevent your lantern from staying aloft.

It's fun to see all these warm glowing lanterns decorating the sky, but the funnest part is watching the ones that don't make it: they float up slowly, smack into a telephone pole (or eletrical wires) or just wobble around unstably in the wind, until they catch themselves on wire and crash-n-burn. Another pile of wishes gone up in flames. Basically, I cheered whenever an underdog lantern made it into the sky, and cheered also whenever a lantern didn't make it: win-win!

Too bad the pictures didn't really turn out.

I think next year, I'll try to make my own. But until then, I can still go watch the official 2006 Taipei Lantern Festival at a local memorial hall, which still has shows for the rest of this week.


Princess Taj said...

It's almost like that FRIENDS episode where Phoebe trys to prove that their is no such thing as a self-less good deed.

Ok. Yeah. It's almost like that.

Ben said...

I haven't read the "official lantern wishing rules", but I don't thnk it's said anywhere that you can't wish for something selfish for someone else, and have them ask for stuff for you!

"Oh oh oh ... get me a car. I'll ask for a PS3 for you."