The Dragon Boat Festival, the 5th day of the 5th lunar month,has had
a history of more than 2,000 years. It is usually in June in the
The Lantern Festival or Yuanxiao Jie is a traditional Chinese festival,
which is on the 15th of the first month of the Chinese New Year. The
festival marks the end of the celebrations of the Chinese New Year.
粽子tsung-tse/rice dumplings：Glutinous rice(糯米) filled with meat,
nuts or bean paste(豆酱) and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The custom of
eating tsung-tse is also popular in North and South Korea, Japan and
Southeast Asian nations。
Chinese started to celebrate the Lantern Festival from the Han Dynasty
(206 BC – 221 AD). Like most other Chinese festivals, there is also a
story behind the Festival. It is also believed that the festival has
Dragon boat racing is an indispensable part of the festival. As the
gun is fired, people will see racers in dragon-shaped canoes pulling the
oars harmoniously and hurriedly, accompanied by rapid drums, speeding
toward their destination。
During the time of Emperor Han Wudi of the Han Dynasty , a palace woman
named Yuanxiao was prevented from carrying out her filial duty of
visiting her parents on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.
Distraught, she said she would kill herself by jumping into a well.
The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations
since the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 221 AD). Usually held on the 15th day of
the first month of the lunar calendar, it marks the end of New Year
In order to help Yuanxiao fulfill her duty as a filial daughter, the
scholar Dongfang Shuo came up with a scheme. He told Emperor Han Wudi
that the Jade Emperor, the highest god in Heaven, had ordered the Fire
God to burn down the capital city of Chang’an on the sixteenth day of
the first lunar month.
It is said that the holiday evolved from an ancient Chinese belief
that celestial spirits could be seen flying about in the light of the
first full moon of the lunar calendar. To aid them in their search for
the spirits they used torches. These torches gave way to lanterns of
every shape, size and colour。
Anxious to find a way to save his city, the emperor asked Dongfang Shuo
what he should do. Dongfang Shuo replied that the Fire God loved red
lanterns more than anything. He advised that the streets be hung with
red lanterns, and the emperor, empress, concubines, and court officials
come out of the palace to see them. In this way, the Fire God would be
distracted and disaster averted.
The Lantern Festival is also popularly referred to as the Chinese
Valentine’s Day because in days of old it gave girls and boys a rare
chance to go out in the evening and mingle. Today, lantern festivals are
held each year in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan to mark the end
of Chinese New Year celebrations. Competitions are held to select the
The emperor followed Dongfang Shuo’s advice, and while everyone was out
viewing the lanterns, Yuanxiao was able to sneak out of the palace and
be reunited with her parents.
Although the above stories are quite fantastical, it is sure that the
origins of Lantern Festival are related to ancient humanity’s use of
fire to celebrate festivals and avert disaster. Since Lantern Festival
involves making offerings to the deities and is celebrated at night, it
is natural that fire would play an important role.
The lanterns come in all shapes and sizes. Some are created in the
form of animals, insects, flowers, people or even machines or buildings.
Others depict scenes from popular stories teaching filial piety and
traditional values. A favourite subject is the zodiac animal of the year
Over time, Lantern Festival gradually evolved into its present form.
When Buddhism was introduced to China during the Eastern Han Dynasty ,
the emperor decreed that on the night of the full moon of the first
lunar month, lanterns should be lit to honor Buddha, adding yet another
level of significance to Lantern Festival.
Lantern riddles (caideng mi)
And according to Daoism, Lantern Festival is associated with the
primordial deities of Heaven and Fire, who were born on the fifteenth
day of the first lunar month.
Part of the lantern festival tradition involves a game to guess
riddles attached to the lanterns. In the old days the riddles were
obscure literary allusions to the Chinese classics and so were mainly
the preserve of the educated classes。
This is a festival for people having fun. On the night of the festival,
people go on streets with a variety of lanterns under the full moon,
watching lions or dragon dancing, playing Chinese riddles and games, and
lighting up firecrackers. There is really a lot of fun for the young and
吃元宵 Eating Yuanxiao
Like most Chinese festivals, the Lantern Festival has its own
special food, called “tang yuan”. These are round, glutinous rice
dumplings with sweet or spicy fillings. The dumplings are said to
symbolise both the first full moon and family unity and completeness。