Monday, February 9, 2009

Celebrating the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Festival,元宵节)

Yesterday is the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao Festival), the 15th day of the first lunar month. And the whole country is decked out for the celebration. And the exciting thing which made it special is that this year’s Lantern Festival witnessed the biggest and roundest moon for the past 52 festivals Monday night.

Lantern Festival is the first significant festival after Spring Festival, Having lots of meanings to Chinese people. Literally, we can know that the most important activity during the night of the event is watching lanterns. And because every household eats yuanxiao (a rice ball stuffed with different fillings, also called “tangyuan”) on that day, it is called Yuan Xiao Festival. Today, Lantern Festival is regarded as China's Valentine's Day, offering many youngers a good time to sharing with lovers.

For its rich and colorful activities, it is regarded as the most recreational among all the Chinese festivals and a festival for appreciating the bright full moon, and family reunion. Customs and Activities: With a history of over 2,000 years, various traditional customs and activities are held during Lantern Festival that appeal to people of different ages, including watching lanterns and fireworks, guessing lantern riddles, performing folk dances, and eating yuanxiao.

Watching Lanterns

During the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), Buddhism flourished in China. So in order to popularize Buddhism, one of the emperors gave an order to light lanterns in the imperial palace to worship and show respect for Buddha on the 15th day of the first lunar month. During the Tang (618 - 907), Song (960 - 1279), Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) dynasties, lighting lanterns became a tradition for Chinese people.

Today, when the Lantern Festival comes, red lanterns can be seen in the street, in each house, and store. In the parks, lanterns of various shapes and types attract countless visitors. Visitors marvel that various lanterns so vividly demonstrate traditional Chinese folklore.

Guessing Lantern Riddles

Beginning from the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), guessing lantern riddles is regarded as an indispensable part of the Lantern Festival. The lantern exhibition organizers write all kinds of riddles on pieces of paper, and paste them on colorful lanterns to let visitors guess. If one has an answer to a riddle, he can pull the paper from the lantern to let organizers verify the answer. Gifts are presented to the people who get the right answers.

Because this intellectual activity is exciting, people from all walks of life enjoy it.

Folk Dances: Lion Dance, and Walking on Stilts

Derived from the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280), the lion dance is an excellent traditional art that adds infinite fun to any celebration including the Lantern Festival. Two performing types have formed during its long development. In north China, the lion dance focuses on skills, and in the south the lion dance pays more attention to the animal resemblance. One actor manipulates a small lion made of quilts resembling a real one, and with two persons acting like a big lion, one manages the head part and the other, the rest. Under the guidance of a director, the lions sometimes jump, leap, and do difficult acts such as walking on stilts.

Because the acting is always amusing, spectators enjoy it very much. According to ancient custom, the lion is a symbol of boldness and strength that can protect people, so by performing the lion dance, everyone prays for an auspicious and happy life.

Walking on stilts, another folk art, traces its origins to the Spring and Autumn period (770BC - 476BC). Performers not only walk on stilts by binding them to their feet, but also do some breathtakingly difficult moves. As actors impersonate different characters like monks, clowns, and fishermen and perform vivid and humorous acts, the art amuses many people.

Eating Yuanxiao

Yuanxiao, also called tangyuan, is a dumpling ball made of sticky rice flour stuffed with different fillings. Eating yuanxiao has become an essential part of the festival. The methods for making Yuanxiao differ by region and fillings include sugar, rose petals, sesame, sweetened bean paste, and jujube paste. Some do not have fillings. Because tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed, and each has a unique taste, it is very popular. Yuanxiao is round in shape so it is endowed with the meaning of reunion, harmony and happiness. During the night of the festival, family members sit together to taste yuanxiao and appreciate the full moon.

11 评论:

forexwatch said...

Very Informative. Beautiful Photographs.

Vinay Rai said...

Love Chinese festivals.Especially the new year dragon festival

Sophia Chu said...

yuan xiao jie is not lantern festival la...

is it so???

Vinay Rai said...

There are so many of celebrating in China. I bleive more than any other country in the World. That is why China for me is the cultural hub of Asia.

Marie said...

I love the dragon dance. We have it here in Manila yearly during Chinese New Years.


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