The Lantern Festival (元宵節)

Children playing with colourful lanterns
Children playing with colorful lanterns

 

The 15th day of the first lunar month is celebrated as the Lantern Festival (元宵節). In 2017, it falls on 12 February (Sunday). As early as the Western Han Dynasty around 210 CE, the Lantern Festival had become a significant festival. During the Lantern Festival, people have fun at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (猜燈謎).

In the ancient days, young adults celebrated in the hope of finding loved ones. Matchmakers were busily pairing couples. In more recent times, it is touted as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Lanterns are used for decorations and they are always red in colour to symbolize good fortune.  They can also be made in the shape of animals.

The following images show traditional lanterns in different shapes and designs in a long scroll painting circa 1486 CE (明宪宗元宵行樂圖卷).

elephant lantern
elephant lantern

 

crab lantern, rabbit lantern
crab lantern, rabbit lantern

 

toad lantern, figure lantern
figure lantern and toad lantern

 

a traditional lantern
traditional lantern

 

 

People eat sweet glutinous rice balls, yuanxiao (元宵) also known as tāngyuán (湯圓), and enjoy a family reunion.

 

Famous Chinese poems related to the Lantern Festival

朱淑真(一說作者為歐陽修)《生查子》

去年元夜時,花市燈如晝。月上柳梢頭,人約黃昏後。

今年元夜時,月與燈依舊。不見去年人,淚濕春衫袖。

 

辛棄疾青玉案之元夕》

東風夜放花千樹,更吹落、星如雨。寶馬雕車香滿路,鳳簫聲動,玉壺光轉,一夜魚龍舞。

蛾兒雪柳黃金縷,笑語盈盈暗香去。眾裡尋他千百度,驀然回首,那人卻在,燈火闌珊處。

 

唐寅《元宵》

有燈無月不娛人,有月無燈不算春。春到人間人似玉,燈燒月下月如銀。

滿街珠翠遊村女,沸地笙歌賽社神。不展芳尊開口笑,如何消得此良辰。

 

Acknowledgements :

The lanterns images come from 中國國家博物館  館藏文物研究叢書  繪畫卷  風俗畫 (2006)

 

Further readings:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lantern_Festival

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%85%83%E5%AE%B5%E8%8A%82 (元宵節)

http://baike.baidu.com/view/24718.htm (朱淑真)

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%BE%9B%E6%A3%84%E7%96%BE (辛棄疾)

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%94%90%E5%AF%85 (唐寅)

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