Kaohsiung Lantern Festival

On the fifth day of Lunar New Year, Kaohsiung launched the annual Lantern Festival at Lotus Pond…

The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung, illuminated in pink.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas during the Lunar New Year Lantern Festival. Photo: Zhen-Kang.

Last night I joined a new friend for my first Taiwanese lantern festival.

We caught a taxi to Lotus Pond, a man-made lake I’d visited in 2019. This is how its famous Dragon and Tiger Pagodas looked back then:

Night-time photo of the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung.
For good luck, you enter through the dragon’s mouth and exit through the tiger. In this photo, the pagodas were closed for the night, which is why the tiger appears to be eating a roller door.

For the 2023 Lunar New Year Lantern Festival, the pagodas featured in a light show that spanned the length of the lake.

Here are some phone pics from the event:

A large lantern hanging from a traditional Chinese gate, with dozens of people taking photos and walking nearby.
We arrived around half an hour before sunset. The characters on the large lantern have been written so they can be read two different ways: “inviting wealth and riches” and “pursuing freedom & democracy”.
A dense crowd in front of Lotus Point, where an inflatable rabbit is visible in the background. Two vehicles, including a TV news van, are driving through the crowd.
It got more crowded as we approached the lake. The inflatable rabbit on the left is based on a creation of digital artist YUKIJI (雪路), who makes rabbit stickers for LINE—the most popular messaging app in Taiwan. Note the American-style TV news van at right.
A field of artificial reeds, internally illuminated, with people walking past the lake in the background.
One of the first installations we saw was this field of illuminated reeds.
An inflatable rabbit propped against an inflatable moon, on pontoons surrounded by kayaks and dragon boats, on the edge of Lotus Pond.
Further along was a second inflatable rabbit, this time resting on an inflatable moon. In the distance, you can see the 72-meter-tall statue of the Taoist god Xuanwu (sometimes known as the Black Emperor).
Steps leading to a pavilion-style building overlooking Lotus Pond.
We went upstairs to the balcony of this watersports pavilion.
Sunset over Lotus Pond, with kayaks and dragon boats docked in the foreground.
It was a pretty good spot for the sunset…
Laser lights projecting up into the sky from behind the Xuanwu statue, across Lotus Pond.
…And for the light show, which started with Xuanwu (the Black Emperor)…
Wuli Pavilion and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, lit with LED and laser lights projecting into the sky.
…before moving along the lake to the Wuli Pavilion and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, lit like a disco possessed.
Impressive fireworks display launched from behind the 72-meter-tall Xuanwu statue, across Lotus Pond.
As the music died, everyone’s focus was drawn to a surprise fireworks display from behind Xuanwu (he’s in there somewhere). A genuine wow moment.
Illuminated orbs and an inflatable rabbit in the foreground, with Lotus Pond and the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas in the distance.
After the show, we continued around the edge of the lake. The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas were illuminated in pink.
A temple next to Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung.
Depending on how you count them, there are up to 15 temples, palaces, and pagodas around the lake…
A large inflatable rabbit outside a temple.
…And at the moment, a similar number of inflatable rabbits.
People walking through a sculpture of 7 sets of rabbit ears, illuminated in the colors of the rainbow.
And rabbit ears.
People stand on a bridge looking at a temple across the lake. The temple is surrounded by trees illuminated in rainbow colors.
Near the head of the lake, this temple was surrounded by rainbow-colored lights.
A large illuminated inflatable turtle on the edge of the lake.
Although this is the Year of the Rabbit, “As one of four symbolic mythical creatures, the turtle is said to bring peace and prosperity. This installation is created as a new twist on the tradition and has incorporated local spiritual elements.”
 Pedestrians silhouetted against a colorful temple wall.
The turtle was facing this temple wall.
The 2023 Kaohsiung Lantern Festival light show across Lotus Pond.
The light show repeated on a 15-minute cycle, sans fireworks.
Multi-colored laser lights projecting across Lotus Pond from the Wuli Pavilion.
It was even more impressive up-close.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas at Lotus Pond, Kaohsiung, illuminated in pinkl.
The Dragon and Tiger Pagodas were very glam…
Lotus Pond, with lotus leaves in the foreground colored pink by the nearby lights.
…And the nearby lotus leaves looked surreal in pink.
Colorful statue of Guanyin riding a dragon at Lotus Pond.
In the other direction, a statue of Guanyin riding a dragon…
Two people sitting in the mouth of a dragon statue.
…With some people sitting in its mouth.
The Xuanwu statue.
Xuanwu was next door. When I came here in 2019, I wrote a wish on a wooden card which I hung on a tree below the statue. Per custom, when I returned to the temple last night, I made a follow-up donation.
Stone statue of a soldier on horseback, with a red ribbon tied around the horse’s neck.
The bridge to the Emperor was watched over by many smaller statues.
A crowded night market next to Lotus Pond.
This night market ran the length of the lake (around 1.5km). I bought some fresh green onion bread and iced lemon juice. It was a cool evening (under 20ºC), so I was the only person wearing shorts.
A temple across the road from the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas. Some yellow and black things can be seen in the foreground at the very bottom edge of the frame.
The night market stretched past this temple. The black and yellow car parts at the center-bottom are from a Transformers Bumblebee costume, worn by a street performer strategically cropped out of frame because he was charging NT$300 (NZ$15) per photo.
A large lantern hanging from a traditional gateway.
We circled back to the large lantern we’d seen earlier. On this side, the characters were written so they could be read as “Kaohsiung” or “dazzling dance“.
The most popular inflatable rabbit at the Lantern Festival.
At the end of the night, we took one final look at the rabbit. Then it was time to bounce.