Lantern Festival

Note: All of this information was gathered from various websites, Risa.


Lighting the Way - Chinese Lantern Festival Lovely Lanterns and Sweet Dumplings Lantern Festival

The 15th day of the 1st lunar month is the Chinese Lantern Festival because the first lunar month is called Yuan (month) and in the ancient times people called night Xiao (first night). The 15th day is the first night (Yuan Xiao) to see a full moon. So the day is also called Yuan Xiao Festival in China. According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a New Year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve the puzzles on the lanterns and eat Yuan Xiao dumplings (glutinous rice ball) and get all their families united in the joyful atmosphere.



Until the Sui Dynasty in the sixth century, Emperor Yangdi invited envoys from other countries to China to see the colorful lighted lanterns and enjoy the gala performances.

By the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century, the lantern displays would last three days. The emperor also lifted the curfew, allowing the people to enjoy the festive lanterns day and night. It is not difficult to find Chinese poems, which describe this happy scene.

In the Song Dynasty, the festival was celebrated for five days and the activities began to spread to many of the big cities in China. Colorful glass and even jade were used to make lanterns, with figures from folk tales painted on the lanterns.

However, the largest Lantern Festival celebration took place in the early part of the 15th century. The festivities continued for ten days. Emperor Chengzu had the downtown area set aside as a center for displaying the lanterns. Even today, there is a place in Beijing called Dengshikou. In Chinese, Deng means lantern and Shi is market. The area became a market where lanterns were sold during the day. In the evening, the local people would go there to see the beautiful lighted lanterns on display.

Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a big event on the 15th day of the first lunar month throughout China. People enjoy the brightly-lit night. Chengdu in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, for example, holds a lantern fair each year in the Cultural Park. During the Lantern Festival, the park is literally an ocean of lanterns! Many new designs attract countless visitors. The most eye-catching lantern is the Dragon Pole. This is a lantern in the shape of a golden dragon, spiraling up a 27-meter -high pole, spewing fireworks from its mouth. It is quite an impressive sight!



There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival. But one thing for sure is that it had something to do with religious worship.

One legend tells us that it was a time to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times. The belief was that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his beck and call and he decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon human beings. Beginning with Qinshihuang, the first emperor to unite the country, all subsequent emperors ordered splendid ceremonies each year. The emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people. Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty directed special attention to this event. In 104 BC, he proclaimed it one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony would last throughout the night.

Another legend associates the Lantern Festival with Taoism. Tianguan is the Taoist god responsible for good fortune. His birthday falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tianguan likes all types of entertainment. So followers prepare various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.

The third story about the origin of the festival goes like this. Buddhism first entered China during the reign of Emperor Mingdi of the Eastern Han Dynasty. That was in the first century. However, it did not exert any great influence among the Chinese people. One day, Emperor Mingdi had a dream about a gold man in his palace. At the very moment when he was about to ask the mysterious figure who he was, the gold man suddenly rose to the sky and disappeared in the west. The next day, Emperor Mingdi sent a scholar to India on a pilgrimage to locate Buddhist scriptures. After jouneying thousands of miles, the scholar finally returned with the scriptures. Emperor Mingdi ordered that a temple be built to house a statue of Buddha and serve as a repository for the scriptures. Followers believe that the power of Buddha can dispel darkness.

So Emperor Mingdi ordered his subjects to display lighted lanterns during what was to become the Lantern Festival.


Yuanxiao (First Night)

Besides entertainment and beautiful lanterns, another important part of the Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Festival is eating small dumpling balls made of glutinous rice flour. We call these balls Yuanxiao or Tangyuan. Obviously, they get the name from the festival itself. It is said that the custom of eating Yuanxiao originated during the Eastern Jin Dynasty in the fourth century then became popular during the Tang and Song periods.

The fillings inside the dumplings or Yuansiao are either sweet or salty. Sweet fillings are made of sugar, Walnuts, sesame, osmanthus (a yellow-gold flower to scent Chinese tea and as the main component of some famous Chinese dishes since ancient times is for longevity and happiness) flowers, rose petals, sweetened tangerine peel, bean paste, or jujube paste. A single ingredient or any combination can be used as the filling. The salty variety is filled with minced meat, vegetables or a mixture.

The way to make Yuanxiao (dumplings) also varies between northern and southern China. The usual method followed in southern provinces is to shape the dough of rice flour into balls, make a hole, insert the filling, then close the hole and smooth out the dumpling by rolling it between your hands. In North China, sweeet or non-meat stuffing is the usual ingredient. The fillings are pressed into hardened cores, dipped lightly in water and rolled in a flat basket containing dry glutinous rice flour. A layer of the flour sticks to the filling, which is then again dipped in water and rolled a second time in the rice flour. And so it goes, like rolling a snowball, until the dumpling is the desired size.

The custom of eating Yuanxiao dumplings encourages both old and new stores to promote their Yuanxiao products.


Chinese Lantern Festival is also known as the Shang Yuan Festival

The varied festivities and customs practiced on Lantern Festival not only provide celebrants with rich entertainment, like the historical-theme lantern displays and riddles, but are also instructive, by their expression of ancient wisdom. The variety of splendid lantern features different folk art techniques, impressing these arts deep in the hearts and minds of the people.

Shang Yuan is the birthday of the God of Heaven. Beginning in the T'ang dynasty, the fifteenth day of the first, seventh, and tenth lunar months were known as Shang Yuan, Chung Yuan, and Hsia Yuan respectively. Rites are offered to the God of Heaven on Shang Yuan, to the Earth God on Chung Yuan, and to the Water God on Hsia Yuan. Local temples all hold celebratory festivals on these dates to worship each of the three gods.


Decorative Lanterns

Though decorative lanterns have traditionally been made from bamboo, electric counterparts have become more popular in recent years. Countless different designs are used for the lanterns, but most can be generally divided into iconic lanterns and depictive lanterns. Iconic lanterns are modeled after animals, dragons, flowers, people, machines, and any number of other objects; depictive animate lanterns on the other hand depict scenes from popular stories such as the Legend of the White Snake, The Cowherd and the Weaving Maiden, and The Romance of Three Kingdoms. These stories are all didactic in nature, teaching filial piety and other traditional values in a colorful and entertaining manner.

Famous temples around Taiwan - such as the Lung Shan Temple in Taipei, Cheng Huang Temple in Hsinchu, and Chao Tian Temple in Peikang - have long displayed an array of decorative lanterns during Chinese New Year. Perennial favorites are the lanterns depicting animals of the zodiac and elaborate electric lanterns.


Lantern Riddles

Lantern riddles are, as their name implies, riddles stuck on the surface of lanterns for people to guess while enjoying the Lantern Festival displays. The key to the riddle may be found in a single word, a line taken from a poem, the name of a place or an object. Since guessing the riddles can be as hard as shooting a tiger, these brainteasers have been nicknamed "lantern tigers."

Lantern riddles today cover a wide range of topics and come in a plethora of different forms, and provide stimulating, entertaining, and interesting lantern festival activities. Newspapers, magazines, and department stores all come up with riddles for the public to solve. Together with the lantern riddle parties held at temples on the night of Lantern Festival, these activities add to the air of festivity on this occasion.


Yanshui Fireworks Display

The most spectacular "audio-visual" show of Lantern Festival is without doubt the YanShui Fireworks Display, or " beehive of fireworks".

It is told that in 1875, the village of Yanshui in Tainan County, was stricken with a pestilence that lasted for twenty years and nearly wiped out the town's entire population. The few survivors that remained prayed to the Goddess Kuan Yin to come to inspect the ravished land. On the day of the Lantern Festival, the town residents entreated the deity Kuan Kung and the deities of Heaven to come to earth to witness their plight, lining the route with signal fires and firecrackers to help the spirits ward off evil and rid the town of disease. When all was done, the plague was nowhere to be seen, and ever since, the people of Yanshui invite Kuan Kung to inspect the land every year on Lantern Festival, lighting firecrackers to herald his arrival to earth. This custom is continued today in the unique and spectacular Yanshui Fireworks Display.

The festival begins at dusk with the setting off of the fully adorned spirit palanquin and driver, and continues all the way up to 5:00 or 6:00 AM the following morning. Throughout the whole event all one can see or smell are fireworks.

The most impressive of all the fireworks set off on this day is the "cannon wall" which is lit to thank the gods for their blessing. The scale of the cannon walls varies, though most consist of tens of thousands of firecrackers, which pound the sky with a deafening roar. Every time the spirit palanquin approaches the cannon wall, the wall custodian pulls open the red cloth and lights the firecrackers, releasing an explosion of light and color that is the climax of the fireworks evening.


Pinghsi Sky Lanterns

During Lantern Festival, beautiful sky lanterns light the still night sky over the village of Pinghsi creating a scene of unusual beauty. Located in a remote mountain area outside of Taipei, Pinghsi developed slowly and was not very accessible. Originally inhabited by indigenous people, the region was later developed by Han settlers who were often the victims of murder and robbery during earlier times. Since access to the region was inconvenient, these pioneers came up with the idea of releasing "sky lanterns" to let others know that they were safe and sound. Through the years this practice evolved into a popular cultural tradition celebrated annually during Lantern Festival.

Sky Lanterns are also known as "Kung Ming lanterns," since some say they were invented by Chu Ke-liang (also known as Kung Ming) during the Three Kingdoms period as way of communication during wartime. According to another story, the name came from the resemblance of the lanterns to the hat worn by this famous Prime Minister.

Despite the remoteness of the Pinghsi area, the sky lantern festivities draw huge crowds thanks to wide reporting of the event in the media. Not only do the number of lanterns increase with every event, their size continually grows as well. The lanterns are decorated with colorful pictures, the names of their owners, and wishes such as "The higher the lamp flies, the higher your business will soar."


Eating Tang Yuan

Central to the customs practiced during Lantern Festival is the eating of yuan hsiao (eaten during the winter solstice) to symbolize peace and unity.

Each locality its own distinctive way of making yuan hsiao, but all include glutinous rice dumplings filled with bean paste, sesame paste, peanut powder, fish or, meat. Generally speaking, yuan hsiao are rolled out on bamboo frames whereas tang yuan (eaten during the winter solstice) are kneaded in the palm of the hand. The final product of both methods is a perfectly round dumpling which can be eaten either in soup or deep-fried.

The Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is a traditional Chinese festival, which is on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. The festival marks the end of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year.

Chinese started to celebrate the Lantern Festival from the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD). Like most other Chinese festivals, there is also a story behind the Festival. It is also believed that the festival has Taoist origins.

This is a festival for people having fun. On the night of the festival, people go on streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon, watching lions or dragon dancing, playing Chinese riddles and games, and lighting up firecrackers. There is really a lot of fun for the young and the old. The festival is not well celebrated in the US, though you may find celebrations in some Chinese communities, such as Hsi Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, California.

Yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) or Tangyuan is the special food for the Lantern Festival. It is believed that Yuanxiao is named after a palace maid, Yuanxiao, of Emperor Wu Di of the Han Dynasty. Yuanxiao is a kind of sweet dumpling, which is made with sticky rice flour filled with sweet stuffing. And the festival is named after the famous dumpling. Yuanxiao is sticky, sweet and round in shape, symbolizing family unity, completeness and happiness.

You can find Yuanxiao in oriental food stores. If you enjoy cooking, here is a recipe of Yuanxiao for you:


4-1/2 cups (500 g) sticky rice flour

butter 7 oz (200 g)

black sesame powder 7 oz (200 g)

sugar 8 oz (250 g)

1 tsp wine



1. Mix the butter with sesame powder, sugar and wine together. You need to heat a little bit. Make small balls about 0.3-0.4 oz (10 g) each.

2. Take 1/2 cup of sticky rice flour. Add water into the flour and make a flatten dough. Cook it in boiled water and take out until done. Let it cool down. Then put it in the rest of the sticky rice flour. Add water and knead until the dough is smooth.

3. Make the dough into small pieces about 0.3-0.4 oz (10 g) each. Make it like a ball using hands first and then make a hole in the ball like a snail. Put the sesame ball into it and close it up.

4. Cook them in boiled water. Make sure to keep stirring in one direction while cooking. When they float on the water, continue to boil for about one minute using less heat.


China Online

Chinese Folk Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is an important traditional Chinese festival, which is on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year.

The Lantern Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Chinese have celebrated the Lantern Festival since the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. - 221 A.D.). On this day, everybody would carry colorful lanterns and then gather in a public place for a big "lantern fair". Fireworks displays and riddle-guessing contests were later incorporated to add to the festivity of the occasion. Also, it is time to eat rice soup dumplings - the dumplings are round, and symbolize family unity and completeness.

Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan

Yuan Xiao and Tang Yuan are balls of glutinous rice, sometimes rolled around a filling of sesame, peanuts, vegetable, or meat. Tang Yuan are often cooked in red-bean or other kinds of soup. The round shape symbolizes wholeness and unity.

Falling on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar Year, the Lantern Festival takes place under a full moon, and marks the end of Chinese New Year festivities. The Lantern Festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago.


Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance.

This day's important activity is watching lanterns. Throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), Buddhism flourished in China. One emperor heard that Buddhist monks would watch 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 of China.

Till today, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited.

"Guessing lantern riddles" is an essential part of the Festival. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns. If 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 little gift. The activity emerged during people's enjoyment of lanterns in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). As riddle guessing is interesting and full of wisdom, it has become popular among all social strata.

People will eat yuanxiao, or rice dumplings, on this day, so it is also called the "Yuanxiao Festival."Yuanxiao also has another name, tangyuan. 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", meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

In the daytime of the Festival, performances such as a dragon lantern dance, a lion dance, a land boat dance, a yangge dance, walking on stilts and beating drums while dancing will be staged. On the night, except for magnificent lanterns, fireworks form a beautiful scene. Most families spare some fireworks from the Spring Festival and let them off in the Lantern Festival. Some local governments will even organize a fireworks party. On the night when the first full moon enters the New Year, people become really intoxicated by the imposing fireworks and bright moon in the sky.


Legend of the Lantern Festival's Origin

In one such legend, the Jade Emperor in Heaven was so angered at a town for killing his favorite goose, that he decided to destroy it with a storm of fire. However, a good-hearted fairy heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the people of the town to light lanterns throughout the town on the appointed day. The townsfolk did as they were told, and from the Heavens, it looked as if the village was ablaze. Satisfied that his goose had already been avenged, the Jade Emperor decided not to destroy the town. From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary of their deliverance by carried lanterns of different shapes and colors through the streets on the first full moon of the year, providing a spectacular backdrop for lion dances, dragon dances, and fireworks.


The Modern Lantern Festival

While the Lantern Festival has changed very little over the last two millennia, technological advances have made the celebration more and more complex and visually stimulating. Indeed, the festival as celebrated in some places (such as Taipei, Taiwan) can put even the most garish American Christmas decorations to shame. They often sport unique displays of light that leave the viewer in awe.


Master craftsman will construct multicolored paper lanterns in the likeness of butterflies, dragons, birds, dragonflies, and many other animals; these accentuate the more common, red, spherical lanterns. Brilliantly lit floats and mechanically driven light displays draw the attention of the young and old alike. Sometimes, entire streets are blocked off, with lanterns mounted above and to the sides, creating a hallway of lamps. Some cities in North China even make lanterns from blocks of ice! And just as in days gone by, the billion-watt background sets the scene for dragon and lion dances, parades, and other festivities.



Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival, also known as Shang Yuan Festival, takes place on the fifteenth day of the first moon. Last in a series of springtime celebrations, this "second New Year" is widely celebrated by families all around Taiwan.

On the night of the festival, decorative lanterns depicting birds, beasts, historical figures, and any one of a number of different themes are carried by children or adorn temples. To highlight these glowing works of art, competitions are held. The Taipei Lantern Festival, held annually at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Plaza and the largest and most famous of these competitions, is attended every year by thousands of lantern-watchers. The Lantern Festival is further enriched by the customary lantern riddle parties that are held on this night.

The night sky on Lantern Festival is also illuminated by the Tainan Yanshui Fireworks Display and Taipei Pinghsi Sky Lanterns - known together as "Fireworks in the South, Sky Lanterns in the North," as well as many other regional folk activities.

In addition to displaying and appreciating lanterns, Lantern Festival is also celebrated by eating tang yuan, an important custom symbolizing family unity and indispensable to the day's festivities.

The varied festivities and customs practiced on Lantern Festival not only provide celebrants with rich entertainment, like the historical-theme lantern displays and riddles, but are also instructive, by their expression of ancient wisdom. The variety of splendid lantern features different folk art techniques, impressing these arts deep in the hearts and minds of the people.




First Moon, Day 15 (Feb. 23, 2005)

(January/February) Gain a wonderful insight into the Chinese world of romance during the Spring Lantern Festival.


Popularly referred to as Chinese Valentine's Day, this festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. Based on an old Chinese tradition, flower markets, restaurants, homes and parks are filled with colorful lanterns in traditional designs. During the festival, singles gather to play matchmaking games with the lanterns, to determine who will be their lover.


Lantern Festival

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


Lantern Festival in Taiwan

The Lantern Festival (Traditional Chinese: ???; pinyin: yuanxiaujie) is a traditional Chinese festival/holiday, which is celebrated by the Chinese in many countries. On the Chinese calendar (a lunar calendar), the Lantern Festival is on the fifteenth day of the first month, making it the first major festival after the Chinese New Year. The Lantern Festival is also known as the Little New Year since it marks the end of the series of celebrations starting from the Chinese New Year.

The Lantern Festival is a Buddhist holiday and is often compared to Halloween. As children go trick-or-treating at night on Halloween, during the Lantern Festival, children go out at night carrying bright lanterns. In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.

Traditionally, the date once served as a day for love and matchmaking. It was one of the few nights without a strict curfew. Young people were chaperoned in the streets in hopes of finding love. Matchmakers acted busily in hopes of pairing couples. Often, those with brightest lanterns were deemed good luck and hope.

Those who do not carry lanterns often enjoy watching informal lantern parades. Other popular activities at this festival include eating tang yuan (Traditional Chinese: ??), a sweet rice dumpling soup, and guessing lantern riddles, often messages of love.


Chinese Lantern Festival

Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is a traditional Chinese festival, which falls on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. It is the last day of two week long Chinese New Year cerebration. People with their family will gather in the show place to enjoy the beautiful lanterns displayed by individuals or the local municipal. Kids will carry their own lanterns to participate in the showcase. Usually there is competition for the most beautiful lantern.

This festival is also a Chinese Valentine's day that youngsters celebrate the festivals with their lovers in such beautiful and romantic evening.

Lanterns are also displayed in other festivals such Mid-Autumn Festival. Lantern making has long history and there are a many Chinese romance stories told about lanterns and lovers related to this festival.






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