Taichung Park’s Jiyang Kangtai Goat Sculpture

Jiyang Kangtai Statue in Taichung Park

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Every year, around late February to early March, streets all across Taiwan are beautifully lit as part of the country’s Lantern Festival. Alongside the traditional Chinese red lamps, one can also find a showcase of meticulously-shaped sculptures boasting both internal and external illumination. Towering over the grassy lawns of Taichung Park is Jiyang Kangtai, the ram-themed lantern that featured twice as the festival’s main installation, and since then has been greeting gawkers with its goaty stare.

On the fifteenth day of the lunisolar calendar’s first month, Chinese communities across the world take to the streets and celebrate the lantern festival, where myriads of beautifully designed lamps adorn the markets, parks and public squares. This ancient tradition can trace its origins all the way back to the Han Dynasty, around two millennia ago, where it probably started as an agricultural rite to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring.


While at its early days, the festivity was dominated mostly by the rather simple type of red lanterns we all now associate with China, it has since evolved into a spectacle of colors and shapes, featuring ever more flamboyant light art. As the event coincides with the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, it often revolves around the zodiac of that given year.


During Taiwan Lantern Festival of 2003 which took place in Taichung, dozens of breathtakingly crafted lanterns dotted the city’s main park, attracting hundreds of thousands of spectators. However, it was a glowing sculpture entitled “Jiyang Kangtai” that was the true protagonist of the 9-day festivities.


By far the largest installation up until then, the 20-meter-tall lantern comprised of a circular pedestal supporting three animal figures, a ram, a doe and their kid, all perching atop a sculpted depiction of Mt. Yushan, the highest mountain in Taiwan. It was designed by artist Yang Fengchen as a tribute to the Chinese year of the goat that started at February 1st, 2003. Much like Western astrology, the 12 Chinese zodiacs are classified based on their personality traits, with goat/sheep year cohorts often described as kindhearted, shy, gentle, persistent and resilient, somewhat akin to their animal counterparts.


After building the skeletal frame using perforated stainless-steel, Fengchen and his team were tasked with installing multiple light fixtures throughout the structure, including colored light bulbs, LED digital color-changing lamps and holographic effects.


To the fanfare of suspenseful music, the half-lantern, half-sculpture was colorfully illuminated in various ways as the surrounding throng cheered in awe. In fact, its success was so resounding that in 2015, the caprine statue was reused for the very same purpose, when Taichung hosted the festival once again, marking the year of the goat as it did twelve years beforehand.


Since then, Jiyang Kangtai has remained at the same verdant whereabouts, perhaps waiting to be in the spotlights once more, literally so. Due to budgetary considerations, though, the sculpture is only briefly lit during weekends and holidays, yet even without the beams of lights hovering around their faux wool, the three propitious goats are said to bestow a hefty amount of luck upon their beholders.