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Lantern Festival
Learn Chinese - History and Culture
Falling of the 15th day of the first lunar month in China, the Lantern Festival (yuán xiāo jié 元宵节) is a traditional festival in China. The first lunar month is called “zhengyue”(zhēng yuè 正月) by Chinese people, and in ancient times it is called “xiao”(xiāo 宵). As early as the Western Han Dynasty (xī hàn 西汉, 206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance. It is the first important festival after Spring Festival (chūn jié 春节).  

Lantern ShowAs the traditional customs goes by, all the family members will get together on that day. And they watch lanterns, eat yuanxiao (yuán xiāo, 元宵rice dumpling), appreciate the full moon and display firework.

Watching lanterns is an important activity on that day. Throughout the Han Dynasty (hàn cháo 汉朝, 206 BC-AD 220), Buddhism flourished in China. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would Lantern Showwatch sarira, or remains from the cremation of Buddha's body, and light lanterns to worship Buddha on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, so he ordered to light lanterns in the imperial palace and temples to show respect to Buddha on this day. Later, the Buddhist rite developed into a grand festival among common people and its influence expanded from the Central Plains to the whole China. In the Song Dynasty (sòng cháo 宋朝, 960-1279), some people write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. When visitors have solutions to the riddles, they can pull the paper out and go to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they are right, they will get a small gift. As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has become popular among all social strata.

Tangyuan (rice dumpling)People will eat yuanxiao on this day, so it is also called the "Yuanxiao Festival". Yuanxiao also has another name, tangyuan (tāng yuán 汤圆). It is small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour with rose petals, sesame, bean paste, jujube paste, walnut meat, dried fruit, sugar and edible oil as filling. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed. It tastes sweet and delicious. What's more, tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan”(tuán yuán 团圆), meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

Yangge Dance
As time goes by, there are more activities on Lantern Festival Performances such as a dragon lantern dance (wǔ long dēng 舞龙灯), a lion dance (wǔ shī 舞狮), a land boat dance (huá hàn chuan 滑旱船), a yangge dance (niǔ yāng gē 扭秧歌), walking on stilts (cǎi gāo qiāo 踩高跷) and beating drums while dancing will be staged.

The lantern festival is a traditional festival with a history of more than 2000 years, which is not only popular in the mainland, but also in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan of China as well as among the Chinese abroad.

Walking on stilts      农历正月十五日,是我国传统节日元宵节。正月是农历的元月,古人称其为“宵”,而十五日又是一年中第一个月圆之夜,正月十五日是一年中第一个月圆之夜,也是一元复始,大地回春的夜晚,人们对此加以庆祝,也是庆贺新春的延续,因此元宵节又称为“上元节”。元宵节是春节之后的第一个重要节日。




Land Boat Dance      一些地方的元宵节还有“走百病”的习俗,又称“烤百病”“散百病”,参与者多为妇女,他们结伴而行或走墙边,或过桥,走郊外,目的是驱病除灾。



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