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Lantern Festival 元宵节 Chinese 2 Per.4 By Katelyn Feliciano, JiaHui Lee, Julie Dinh, David Lu
Origins • This traditional Chinese holiday has been around since the Han Dynasty, 2,000 years ago. • Previously in the early Tan Dynasty (618-907AD), it was called the Shan-Yuan Festival, because of Daoism. In the late Tan Dynasty, it was called the Festival. Another name for it was Lantern Night in the Sun Dynasty (960-1297 A.D.)
Stories and Legends • According to Daoism, the Lantern Festival is the birthday of the Heaven Officer who blesses human luck. • Yuan Xiao story: A beautiful maid in the emperor's palace named Yuan Xiao missed her family but could only go back to her home at Chinese New Year. She told the emperor that the God of Fire visited her and told her that he planned to burn down the city. She suggested that the emperor should make the city look like it was already burning so the God of Fire wouldn’t bother them.The emperor took the threat seriously and had the entire court and city put up colored lanterns and light firecrackers to mimic a great fire. The palace was so busy with the preparations that Yuanxiao was able to sneak home! • TaiyiStory:Taiyi was the ancient god of heaven. Taiyi had 16 dragons and used them to control the destiny of the human world. Emperor Shi Huang di, who first united China, held the first Lantern Festival to ask Taiyi for good weather and health.
More Stories and Legends • Jade Emperor Story: There once was a beautiful bird who flew down to the earth from heaven. It was hunted by the village people and The Jade Emperor in Heaven became angry because they had killed his favorite bird. He ordered the village and its people to be killed with a storm of fire on the 15th lunar day. The daughter of Jade Emperor heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the villagers to prepare for it. Everybody worried about it and no one had any idea to face the fact.Luckily, a wise man passed by the village and suggested that every house should hang red lanterns around the house, setup campfire on the street, explode bamboo firecrackers, and make fireworks on 14th, 15th and 16th lunar days. In this way, the Jade Emperor might be fooled to think all the village people had died under fire. • On the night of 15th lunar day, the troop coming down from the heaven saw the village was ablaze and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied with the result, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrated the anniversary on 15th lunar day every year by carrying red lanterns on the streets and exploding the firecracker and fireworks.
Cultural Significance • The lantern festival is held on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Families gather together to light up and watch colorful lanterns. The lanterns symbolize letting go of your past and starting fresh. The festival ends the celebration of Chinese New Year. It is the time of the year to forgive old grudges and make peace. Legend says that people would search spirits with burning sticks (lanterns) because they thought the spirits could be seen during a full moon.
Modern Day Evolution: • 206 BC - 221 AD (The Han Dynasty) was when the Chinese first started to celebrate the lantern festival. In ancient times, the lanterns were plain and simple but they have evolved and are now made in various shapes and colors. Back then, only emperors and nobleman has the large lanterns. It started by an emperor that heard that Buddhist monks would watch the remains of Buddhas body from cremation, so they light lanterns in imperial palaces and temples to show Buddha respect on this day. The lantern festival is still, to this day, celebrated all over the world.
Customs • A few Chinese traditions done at the lantern festival are the famous dragon dance, where there are several dancers inside a giant dragon costume and do a ceremonial dance around the stage or people. There is also a ceremony to commemorate the legend of Yu, the Great Flood. Around the festival, you could often see stilt walkers, where people walk on tall poles, and most likely many fireworks being set off to ward off evil spirits. This is a time to be out with the old and evil and in with the new and good!
Sources • http://www.chssc.org/Festival/Lantern/Lantern%20Festival.htm • http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/LanternFestival.htm • http://gochina.about.com/od/chinesenewyear/p/LanternFestLeg.htm • http://chineseculture.about.com/od/chinesefestivals/a/Chinese-New-Year-Origins-Of-The-Lantern-Festival.htm • http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/02/chinas_lantern_festival_and_an.html • http://www.easytourchina.com/images/Photo/chinese-lantern-festival/p909_d20120206143637.jpg • http://www.torontosnaps.com/p3/m/Rogers-Chinese-Lantern-Festival/2007/Rogers-Chinese-Lantern-Festival-2007-2466.jpg • http://budapestblog.luxuryhotelsbudapest.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/chinese-lantern-festival-in-grand-hotel-royal-budapest-illustration.png • http://www.hellokids.com/c_14270/reading-online/holidays/chinese-new-year/the-lantern-festival