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Taiwan sends prayer lanterns into the sky

posted 12 Feb 2011, 09:41 by Mpelembe   [ updated 12 Feb 2011, 09:43 ]

Thousands of people gathered in the northern township of Pingshi to deliver wishes with sky lanterns.

NEW TAIPEI CITY, TAIWAN (FEBRUARY 12, 2011) REUTERS - Hundreds of lanterns lit up the evening sky in Taiwan on Saturday (February 12) as people gathered to celebrate the upcoming lantern festival.

Once a year, people from around the world comes to Pingshi Township of New Taipei City (formerly known as the Taipei County) to write their prayers on the paper lanterns, and deliver their wishes to the heavens.

More than 2,000 lanterns were released on Saturday, which marks the largest scaled sky lantern release this year.

On a giant sky lantern, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou wished for peace and stability in the country, and blessings to all the people.

As the Valentine 's Day approaches, many wrote down their wish to find their true love.

"This is my first time coming to Pingshi, and I wish that by releasing the sky lanterns then my wishes can be granted. I wish to find my Mr. Right, and be promoted and get a salary increase at work," said 30-year-old engineer, Wang Wan-wen.

Others, like 25-year-old public worker, Lin Chia-jou, are just here to enjoy a good time with friends.

"I can make wishes through the sky lanterns, it's fun for everyone to join, and it's beautiful when they are all released at the same time. I wish for dreams come true, and good health for everyone in the family," she said.

The lanterns, also called "Kongming Lanterns", are believed to be a creation of Zhuge Kongming, the military mastermind in the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), as a communication tool for the army.

The wide-topped hot air balloons are made of cotton paper and bamboo. The bamboo ring at the bottom holds 12 sheets of paper money at the centre as the wick.

Once the paper money starts burning, the lantern is held on the ground for a minute then released up to the sky.

The tradition of releasing sky lanterns in Pingshi dated back centuries ago. When bandits appeared in the mountains, the locals would hide in their houses but release lanterns to signal safety after the bandits had gone away.

The tradition now has now evolved into a popular activity with friends and families.

"Sky lanterns make us feel the sense of happiness, and I wish everyone can be surrounded by joy," said 30-year-old Cherry Yeh.

Similar sky lantern tradition is shared in Japan, Mexico, and the Suchuan Province of China.