Benglong, sometimes “banglong”, is a Lantern Festival activity. “Northern Sky Lanterns, Central Banglong and Southern Beehive Rockets” describe the folk celebrations during the Lantern Festival in different parts of Taiwan. The sky lanterns refer to the Kongming lanterns released at Shifen Village in Pingxi Township, Taipei County. Banglong takes place in Miaoli City in Miaoli County. The beehive rockets are fired in Yanshui Town in Tainan County.
Banglong originated from the Fire Dragon Dance in Hakka regions in China. The most famous performances were from Fengshun, Xingning, Wuhua and Heyuan Counties in Guangdong Province. The dragon is made of paper and tied with firecrackers. The dragon carriers, naked from the waist up, are exposed to exploding firecrackers while they dance until the explosives are spent and the dragon is burnt. The banglong activity begins the lantern Festival in Miali City. It has become the biggest attraction known throughout Taiwan since Mayor Qiu Bingkun promoted the event in 1988. Dragon dance teams gather together to parade the city. At certain sections spectators light firecrackers and throw them at the dragons to heat up the atmosphere. This is part of town is instantly filled with deafening roars of explosives and colorful flashes light up the sky.
The making of the dragon is an extremely serious process. The head is first shaped with bound bamboo strips, then pasted over with paper and then colorfully painted. It can weigh up to thirty kilograms. The body, also with a bamboo-strip cylinder for structure, is divided into over ten sections with colorful paper on the onside and gilded in gold or silver to resemble the scales. When in action, one person holds the head and many others the body, while another dancer carries a ball of fire in front for the dragon to catch to perform the so-called “Dragon Tease”. The giant dragon twists and coils up and down, weaving between fascinated crowds and making vibrations like a live dragon. When people start to toss firecrackers at the dragon, the explosions and the gunpowder smell take everybody into an emotional high.