Tainan 400

A lantern festival and a special exhibition for Tainan City’s 400th anniversary…

People silhouetted against an illuminated sculpture at Tainan 400 lantern festival in Taiwan.
Infinite Circle (無限圓). Photo: Zhen-Kang.

Tainan City was founded by the Dutch in 1624. Soon, Taiwan was also home to Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish immigrants, in addition to its indigenous populations.

It’s been a bumpy ride:

  • 1624 – Founded by the Dutch
  • 1661 – Overthrown by the Kingdom of Tunging
  • 1683 – Overthrown by the Qing Dynasty
  • 1895 – Tainan proclaimed capital city of the Republic of Formosa
  • 151 days later – Colonized by Japan
  • WWII – Bombed by the United States
  • 1945 – Handed to the Republic of China (ruled by the KMT)
  • 1949 – Mainland China overthrown by the Chinese Communist Party; military dictatorship implemented by KMT in Taiwan
  • 1987 – Martial law ended; democratic transition began
  • 2000 presidential election – First peaceful transfer of power

This morning, I learned a lot more about Taiwan history at a new exhibition for Tainan City’s 400th anniversary. But before that, last night I rode my scooter 50km north to check out the Tainan 400 lantern festival:

A view of townhouses along a narrow street in Tainan, taken from a fourth-floor balcony.
Here’s the view from my Tainan accommodation. Aside from apartments, these two-to-four-story townhouses (透天厝) are the most common type of housing in Taiwan. In busier areas, small businesses often operate out of the ground floor—anything from cafes to mechanics to retail stores. (The van outside number 5 hasn’t crashed, it just looks that way.)
A narrow Tainan street at night.
Here’s the same street at ground level. I like these narrow residential streets: they’re safe, peaceful places to walk at night.
Time Bagel art installation: bagel-shaped lanterns wrapped around some tree trunks.
I caught an Uber to the far end of the lantern festival. Here’s the first installation I saw: Time Bagel (時光貝果).
The Journey of Prosperity art installation – a cube-like shape comprising thousands of strands of hanging lights, with a large classical statue in the background.
The Journey of Prosperity (興城記).
A jellyfish or horn-like lantern, perhaps two meters tall and a few meters long, projecting onto the land from Anping Harbor.
Message from the Ocean (海洋的訊息).
A multicolor illuminated abstract piece, a few meters high, balanced on cross-crossed horizontal bamboo poles.
The Time (時光).
A 700-meter-long bamboo structure with a dirt walkway through the middle and trees overhead.
Nature Being (蕪為).
An abstract linear sculpture made of parallel vertical slats.
Paths of Contemplation (思考的路徑).
Around the base of a large tree, shapes made of thousands of shells are illuminated as people walk amongst them.
The Floatable In Between Weaving and Breathing Roots (織與氣根的漂流).
People are silhouetted in front of an illuminated sculpture made of dozens or hundreds of spheres. The spheres are made of curved wicker or some similar material.
Infinite Circle (無限圓).
A series of illuminated tall abstract sculptures that have plant-like buds near the top.
The Endless Love Flow of Mother Earth (源遠流長).
An illuminated sculpture of a series of eight joined wireframe arches arranged in a semi-circle.
Impression of a Memory (記憶底的顯像).
An illuminated sculpture resembling a large wooden boat.
Floating Time (漂浮於時間中).
Illuminated sculpture of a 3D spiral stretched into the distance, made of wood.
The Sun and the Moon (太陽和月亮).
An very large abstract mosaic sculpture, potentially as much as 10 meters long and three meters high.
The Transplanted Life (被移植的生命).
LED lights on four spinning fans are computer-controlled to display abstract horizontal bands of color.
Infinite Scenery (無限光景).
A series of illuminated empty square metal frames suspended over the side of Tainan Canal.
Light Array (重光陣列).
View across Tainan Canal to lazer projectors on the far side, projecting wide triangular beams of light over the water.
Fission and Rebirth (裂變再造).
Three abstract sculptures shaped like enormous metal dandelions.
Praying for You (我在這裡為你祈禱).
Dozens of spotlights, either side of Tainan Canal, projecting beams of light to a point of convergence very high in the sky.
River Reflections (河光流影). This was my favorite (and the most dramatic) installation: dozens of moving spotlights either side of Tainan Canal.
Looking across Tainan Canal. There are three-to-four-story buildings lining the canal. In front of them are dozens of parallel spotlights shooting parallel beams of light into the sky.
Here are the spotlights of River Reflections (河光流影) from another angle.
Photo taken from a bridge, looking up Tainan Canal at night. The water is still and reflective.
The lantern festival followed the edge of Anping Fishing Port and Tainan Canal for about 2km. It looks largely unattended in my photos, but there were thousands of people there between 8pm and 10pm on Monday. From the end point, I walked another 2km back to my hotel, enjoying the peacefulness of Tainan Canal at night.
Anping Guandi Temple at night.
I thought Anping Guandi Temple (財團法人台灣省台南市關帝聖堂) looked particularly beautiful.
Montage of five images: (1) dinosaur slippers; (2) a dinosaur-shaped hand-soap dispenser; (3) a LEGO-like Super Mario riding a Yoshi dinosaur; (4) painting of a dinosaur with the words ‘Be Brave’ written alongside; (5) a dinosaur-shaped desktop trash container.
My accommodation wasn’t bad either. Bonus points for it being unexpectedly dinosaur-themed.
Exterior of the National Museum of Taiwan History.
Catching up on the news, I read about a special exhibition that had just opened at the National Museum of Taiwan History (國立臺灣歷史博物館), in Tainan. So this morning, after checking out, I checked it out.
View of a large overhead solar array and a tent set up beneath the solar panels, in the distance.
The front of the museum is shaded by this 150-meter-long solar array. Note the blue tent underneath…
A lady in a camping chair, back to the camera, next to a small dome tent pitched under a solar array outside the National Museum of Taiwan History.
…Not sure what was going on here. I don’t think they were rough sleepers; they may have been picnicking(?).
Sign marking the entrance of the ‘Transcending 1624’ exhibition at the National Taiwan Museum of History.
This was the exhibition I came for: Transcending 1624—Taiwan and the World, looking at Taiwan’s early connections to the rest of the world.
Photograph of an old map of Fort Zeelandia, Tainan.
The exhibition was excellent. The museum, too. I was especially interested in this 1670 map of Anping Old Fort (Fort Zeelandia / 熱蘭遮城), which I visited in March last year. It’s now completely landlocked.
An enormous reproduction of a historic world map, painted on a wall inside the National Museum of Taiwan History. The map may be around 10 meters tall and 15 or 20 meters wide. A spotlight is shining on ‘Formosa’.
Speaking of Zeelandia, this world map—reproduced at a huge scale—has New Zealand labeled as “Nova Zeelandia”. Taiwan is called “Formosa”—Portuguese for “beautiful island”—aptly named by explorers in 1544; 80 years before Tainan was founded by the Dutch, 400 years ago.