In China, the Lantern is very famous artwork. 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 Spring festival. The
Lantern Festival dates back to shrouded legends of the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago.
In the sixth century, Sui Dynasty, Emperor Yangdi invited envoys from other countries to China to
see the colorful lighted lanterns and enrich the gala performances. By the beginning of the Tang
Dynasty in the seventh century, the lantern displays 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. 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!
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.
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.
People usually hang lanterns in the gardens, outside the houses, and on the boats. These lanterns are signposts to guide guests and spirits of ancestors to the Lunar celebration. After a sumptuous fifteen-day feast, these lanterns light the way for the spirits back to the world beyond.
Silk, paper and plastic lanterns vary in shape and size and are usually multi-colored. Some are in the shapes of butterflies, birds, flowers, and boats. Other are shaped like dragon, fruit and animal symbols of that year. The most popular type of lantern is the "horse-racing" one, in which figures or animals rotate around the vertical axis of the lantern.
The special food for the Lantern Festival is Yuen Sin or Tong Yuen. These are round dumplings made with sticky rice flour. They can be filled and served as a sweet snack or made plain and cooked in a soup with vegetables, meat and dried shrimp. The round shape of the dumpling is a symbol of wholeness, completeness and unity.
The Lantern Festival is an occasion for families to get together and for everyone--young, old, rich and poor to have fun.