During 2020 Chinese New Year, raging Coronavirus was claiming a heavy death toll in Chinese province of Hubei, when me and my girlfriend travelled to Taiwan for a short trip. One morning, we visited the National Palace Museum, hosting some of the finest Chinese imperial era pieces of art sent to Taiwan during the civil war between the Communist and Nationalist armies. Later that same day, we took a train to the small city of Pingxi, just a few kilometers East of Taipei, to attend the local sky lantern festival.
Traditionally, at the beginning of the Lunar Calendar year, just after Chinese New Year Spring Festival (過年、春節), Chinese farmers used to write their wishes and prayers for a fruitful harvest, reliable water sources, lots of rice, protection from the elements, safety of farm animals onto paper lanterns and release them into the sky to reach the heavens.
In Taiwan and the Pingxi area, sky lanterns came to symbolise a wish to give birth to more boys to help out on the farm since the Taiwanese Hokkien wording for “adding a boy” to the family (添丁) and the word for sky lantern (天燈) have a similar pronunciation, roughly pronounced tiām dīng and tī dīng.
In a magical night, while the whole world held its breath hoping that the Coronavirus would not spread out of China, we looked at thousands of paper lanterns slowly ascending in the dark sky and wished that moment could last in our memories.
Unfortunately the virus spreaded throughout the whole world. I am keeping a chronicle here.