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About Chinese Lanterns
    2007-03-02 14:23:12     CRIENGLISH.com

The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, usually in February or March according to the Gregorian calendar.

It marks the end of the Spring Festival.

The Lantern Festival originated as early as the Western Han Dynasty around 2000 years ago, it had become a festival with great significance.

On that day, lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Excited children carry bought or handmade lanterns as they stroll down the streets.

This day's important activity is watching lanterns. Why? There is a story which goes as follows.

Throughout the Han Dynasty, 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.

Many traditional lanterns are generally very fancy, like palace lanterns, lanterns with revolving figures, gauze lanterns, wall lanterns and glass silk lanterns.

Today, of course, there are electric ones replacing the traditional ones.

On the whole, the laterns consist of a frame made of metal wire or bamboo strips covered with painted paper or a thin gauze.
There is also a kind of a portable redwood frame that can be taken apart and folded up when not in use, which makes a great souvenir.

Guessing lantern riddles is a very popular activity during festivals or other special occasions in China. Lantern owners write riddles on a piece of paper and post them on the lanterns.

If visitors think they know the answers to the riddles, they can pull the paper out of the lanterns and go to the owners to check them.

If they are right, they receive a little gift.

As people will eat yuanxiao, or rice dumplings on this day, 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.

In the daytime of the Festival, performances such as dragon lantern dance, lion dance, land boat dance, yangge dance, walking on stilts and beating drums will be staged.

On the night, fireworks add to the beautiful scenery already creatd by thousands and thousands of lanterns.

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 are moved by the fireworks and the imposing bright moon in the sky.

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