Tag Archives: Chinese Spring Lantern Festival

The Chinese Spring Lantern Festival


Myself . 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Chinese Lantern Festival at night at ChiangKaiShek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan (Photo: PhiloVivero)
Chinese Lantern Festival at night at ChiangKaiShek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan (Photo: PhiloVivero)

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Nowadays, lanterns are used as general light sources outdoors. Low light level varieties are used for decoration. The term is now commonly associated with Chinese paper lanterns.

The Chinese Emperor Wu of Han the seventh emperor of the Han dynasty of China, ruling from 141–87 BC, employed poets and musicians in writing lyrics and scoring tunes for various performances. He patronized choreographers and shamans for arranging the dance movements and coordinating the spiritual and the mundane. He was fond of lavish nighttime ritual performances under brilliant lighting provided by of thousands of torches. The Emperor directed special attention to the Spring Lantern Festival. In 104 BC, he proclaimed it to be one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony would last throughout the night.

Though there are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival, one likely origin is the celebration of “the declining darkness of winter” and community’s ability to “move about at night with human-made light,” namely, lanterns.

According to Taoist tradition, the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, Shàngyuán, corresponds to the “Official of light” who enjoys colourful and light objects.

As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), the Chinese Lantern Festival or the Spring Lantern Festival (元宵节)] that marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year celebrations had become a festival with great significance.

Emperor Wen of Han (202–157 BC), the third emperor of the Han Dynasty of ancient China after subjugating the insurgency of Zhulu declared the fifteenth day of the first lunar month as the Lantern Festival. It usually falls on some day in February or March in the Gregorian calendar.

The Chinese emperor Wu of Han the seventh emperor of the Han dynasty of China, ruling from 141–87 BC, employed poets and musicians in writing lyrics and scoring tunes for various performances. He patronized choreographers and shamans for arranging the dance movements and coordinating the spiritual and the mundane. He was fond of lavish nighttime ritual performances under brilliant lighting provided by of thousands of torches. The Emperor directed special attention to the Spring Lantern Festival. In 104 BC, he proclaimed it to be one of the most important celebrations and the ceremony would last throughout the night.

So, Han Dynasty takes credit for the celebration of the Spring Lantern Festival.

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Chinese Lantern Festival at night (Source: chinatravetour.wordpress.com)
Chinese Lantern Festival at night (Source: chinatravetour.wordpress.com)

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During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns.

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Yu Yuan Snake lantern installed at Yu Garden, Shanghai (Source: httpschoolhouse.com.)
Yu Yuan Snake lantern installed at Yu Garden, Shanghai (Source: httpschoolhouse.com.)

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In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, and only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones. In modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs many in the shape of animals. The lanterns are made almost always in red to symbolize good fortune.

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People let go the lanterns on Chinese Lantern Festival (Source: schoolhouse.com.tw)
People let go the lanterns on Chinese Lantern Festival (Source: schoolhouse.com.tw)

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When the people let go the lanterns it symbolises their letting go of their past selves and getting new ones, which they, in turn, will let go the next year.

In modern days, in Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Chinese Spring Lantern Festival is commercialized as the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day.

In Singapore and Malaysia, it is simply known as the “Lantern Festival” and is becoming popular in Western countries also.

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RELATED ARTICLES

Lantern (en.wikipedia.org)

History of Lanterns (1708gallery.org)

Lanterns in Han Dynasty (traditions.cultural-china.com)

Emperor Wu of Han (en.wikipedia.org)

Lantern Festival (en.wikipedia.org)

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