Today is the Lantern Festival, the first full moon night of the year in the Chinese Lunar New Year.
In the Chinese lunar calendar, the first month of the year is called the month of Yuan (元), and the ancient people called the night Xiao (宵), so it is called the Yuan Xiao (元宵, Lantern Festival), also known as Shang Yuan (上元) and Yuan Xi (元夕). On this night, all activities revolve around lantern.
As a specific festival, the Lantern Festival was shaped in Sui, and from Tang to Qing Dynasty, it was continuously grand, gradually forming a festival custom with lanterns as the core. How did people spend the Lantern Festival in the past? Follow The Palace Museum to check out the Lantern Festival customs that inherited for thousands of years.
Rich Traditional Lantern Types
Both daily or festival, from the palace to the folk, the ancient people used a wide range of lantern styles, characters, flowers, birds, fish, insects, and so on. The exquisite and chic appearance of the lanterns gives good meaning.
During the Lantern Festival, there are some specific categories of lanterns. For example, the Qingcheng lantern is a custom-made palace lantern in the Forbidden City for the Lantern Festival, and is often installed in the Imperial Temple during the ancestral worship at the Shang Yuan Festival as a tribute.
Aoshan lantern has a long history and is a specific landscape of the Lantern Festival in ancient times. Aoshan is a mythical mountain carried by a giant Ao in the sea, and Aoshan lanterns is often built with elements such as mountains, flowing water, immortals, and all living things. Some Aoshan lanterns can be more than ten stories high and are large spectacle lanterns.
During the Qing Dynasty, the palace also prevailed in a special lantern - ice lantern. Manchu ancestral home in China northeast, more snow and ice in winter. Since the Qing Dynasty, ice lanterns also spread to Beijing, during the Lantern Festival, there are not only various kinds of lanterns in the Qing Palace, but also ice lantern games.
Lantern Festival Customs
The colorful lanterns constitute the atmosphere of the festival; while watching the lanterns and enjoying the scenery, people sing and dance, laugh and play, which enriches the connotation of the Lantern Festival.
Tang Dynasty, there are twenty feet high lantern wheels, in the Song Dynasty, the lanterns bright as day splendor, in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the lantern atmosphere is more brilliant.
In the Ming Dynasty, whenever the Lantern Festival, the Aoshan lantern would be set up outside the Meridian Gate, tens of thousands of colored lanterns stacked like mountains, lanterns shine brightly.
Outside the Donghuamen Subdistrict , set up a two-mile-long lantern market. The people set up their stands, decorated with colored paper, hung lanterns and lantern riddles.
In the Qing Dynasty, the Aoshan lantern was installed in the palace, and the crickets adopted in the autumn of the previous year were put into the lantern to enjoy the lantern and listen to the insects, which was quite a novelty. In the Yuanmingyuan, there are thousands of people composed of a dancing lantern team holding colored lanterns, singing songs, dancing, constantly changing formation.
In the first month of the 13th, the emperor will invite foreign envoys, ministers, and family members of the court, together in the Yuanmingyuan to watch opera programs, and rewards food, wine and fruit.
In addition, before and after the Lantern Festival, there are acrobatics, lion dances, dragon dances, stilt walking, Yangge, and other performances in the folk, the atmosphere is joyful and peaceful.
Festive Mood in the Clothing
Clothing and accessories are an important way to highlight the atmosphere of the festival. In the Ming Dynasty, on the day of the Lantern Festival, the inner courtiers and palace family members all wore costume with lantern scene ornamentation.
The lantern pattern is a common element of traditional Chinese decoration, consisting of rice, bees, and lanterns, conveying people's wish for good weather and harvest.
As a common type of embroidery, the lantern pattern appeared in the Song Dynasty and developed into various forms in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, such as plum blossom, lotus flower, silver ingot, etc., signifying a good harvest and joy.
In order to respond to the season and create a festive atmosphere, ancient women also choose different themes of headdresses in different festivals, such as plum blossom in New Year's Day, rabbit in the Mid-Autumn, etc.
Lantern Festival Food
Yuan Xiao (元宵) is an essential food for the Lantern Festival. Also known as Tang Yuan (汤圆) or Fen Tuan Zi (粉团子), round in shape, signifying the reunion of the whole family.
Ming Dynasty Liu Ruoyu recorded the practice of the ancient Yuau Xiao in the "Zhuo Zhong Zhi": made of glutinous rice, with walnut kernel and sugar as the inner filling, as big as walnuts, which is called Tang Yuan in Jiangnan. In the Ming Dynasty, three days before and after the Lantern Festival, the palace routinely eat Lantern Festival, usually in the evening after five o'clock.
For more than two thousand years, the Lantern Festival has become one of China's cultural symbols, having been inherited and developed by various dynasties. May the splendid and colorful folk customs light up all families and illuminate happiness and prosperity.