A traveling exhibition featuring lantern festivals from Southeast Asian cultures will be on view at the Pingtung-based Liudui Hakka Cultural Park from Aug. 19 through Sept. 3.
As lanterns are integrated with traditional customs and everyday life in Taiwan, the exhibition will present the significance of lanterns in different cultures, offer glimpses on how lanterns reflect local mythology and legends, and detail how people celebrate such festivals in Southeast Asia.
Loi Krathong, an annual festival celebrated in southwestern Thailand, is held to express gratitude to Buddha and river deities as well as convey people's blessings and wishes by releasing floating baskets onto the river.
During the Mid-Autumn Festival in Vietnam, the moonlight is so bright that the stars become overshadowed and invisible. Thus, people would light and hold star-shaped lanterns in their palms to replace the stars in the sky.
In Indonesia, people use large lanterns to symbolize the coffins of great men during the Tabot Festival in Bengkulu. After the parade, they will place those lanterns by the tomb of their Islamic leader to assist the souls of great men in following their leader to heaven.
During the Full Moon Day of Thadingyut, the lights festival of Myanmar, every household would line up candles and oil lamps to light up the path for Buddha to return to earth.
The Cambodian Water Festival (Bon Om Touk), on the other hand, is a three-day festival where people use decorated boat lanterns and water lanterns to carry their prayers for warding off disasters and diseases. The lanterns float along with the reversal flow of the Tonle Sap River, symbolizing the cycle of life.
The exhibition is part of a nationwide program titled "Southeast Asia Lights up Taiwan - New Residents Cultural Empowerment & International Art Tour Exhibition.” Launched in 2016, the program has held a diverse range of activities, including cultural and art forums, Southeast Asian music and dance training, festive lantern workshops, foreign-language tour guide training, and Southeast Asia arts promotion.
With the Taiwanese public's participation, the program seeks to enhance understanding and respect toward Southeast Asian cultures and strengthen the self-confidence and cultural identification of new immigrants and their children to achieve cultural equality and diversity in Taiwan.
The exhibition was previously held at the National Tainan Living Art Center and the Pier-2 Art Center in Kaohsiung. It will run at Liudui Hakka Cultural Park through Sept. 3.