The story appears on

Page A12

February 4, 2012

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature

Festival of lanterns and laughter

THE Lantern Festival on Monday ends the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration, and cities nationwide are ablaze with multicolored lanterns, children eyes are wide in wonder and people mingle in the street. Chen Ye reports.

When the lunar new year's first full moon rises on Monday, Chinese people traditional stroll about to appreciate glowing, multicolored lanterns, children pluck riddles from lanterns and try to solve them and many people parade around carrying their own small lights.

Of course, there are gatherings with family and friends and the festive food, tangyuan, glutinous rice dumpling, all hoping for a prosperous new year and another reunion in 12 months.

This festival of lights and fun marks the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that began on January 23.

Legends about the origin of the festival abound. It is believed to date back more than 2,000 years and probably began as offerings to the God of Heaven and the Taoist God of Fortune who controlled destiny, weather and the coming light in springtime.

It was a day of entertainment and socializing, and once upon a time it was a day when everyone mingled on the streets and young women and men could meet. That's no longer the case now - they meet all the time.

"The Chinese Lantern Festival has a really long history developing from a serious family event to open and romantic festival," says Tian Zhaoyuan, director of the Anthropology and Folklore Institute at East China Normal University.

"It was a day when people could immerse themselves in the atmosphere of carnival," he says. "All cheerful activities were encouraged."

People also beat Taiping (peace) drums, performed yangge (literally rice sprout song), a form of Chinese folk dance, walked on stilts and performed dragon and lion dances. Many made their own paper lanterns and rabbit-shaped lanterns were extremely popular. Most lanterns today are plastic and have batteries.

The day has also been called the Yuanxiao Festival, meaning both Rice Dumpling Festival and First-Month Night Festival; also the Chundeng (spring lantern) Festival.

"People now spend less time making their own rabbit-shaped lanterns, and it is hard to find a red lantern hanging at residents' doors," says Tian. "The consciousness of joining community activity is getting weak."

Instead of making their own tangyuan and lanterns, people prefer to visit outdoor sites where magnificent, high-tech lanterns have been created, such as Yuyuan Garden, considered the best spot in Shanghai. It's mobbed on the Lantern Festival.

Since 2012 is the Year of the Dragon, there are many dragon lanterns and dragon themes.

The highlight is a golden dragon lantern - 60 meters long, 10 meters high and 3 tons in weight - hanging in the garden. The dragon has 2012 scales and is surrounded by 86 dragon-shaped lanterns.

Festival legends

One legend goes that the Jade Emperor in Heaven was enraged when villages killed a beautiful crane and decided to burn the village on the 15th day of the first lunar month. The god was deceived when villages hung lanterns everywhere, set off firecrackers and set bonfires so the Jade Emperor believed the village had already been destroyed.

Another tale from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) goes that a palace servant girl Yuan Xiao wanted to throw herself down a well because she missed her parents and could never see them.

A kindly minister saved her by creating an elaborate ruse and rumor that the city would burn on the 15th night of the first lunar month. The only way to save the city was to ask a young palace servant girl to dress in red and make dumplings for the emperor that day.

In addition everyone had to hang lanterns in front of their homes, and light firecrackers and create great noise and commotion. In that way Yuan Xiao met her parents in the street.

Yuyuan Garden

With the biggest dragon-shaped lantern in 2012, the ancient garden in the Old Town area is a sight to behold on Monday.

Dates: Through February 9, 9am-10pm

Address: 269 Fangbang Rd M.

Tickets: 80 yuan on February 6

How to get there: Metro Line 10 Yuyuan Garden Station

Guyi Garden

A 2.5-meter-long dragon is made from golden daffodil flowers. On display are more than 20 kinds of orchids from Taiwan and South Korea.

Guyi Garden was first built between 1522 and 1566 in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It is the largest of the five classical gardens in Shanghai.

Date: February 3-6, 6am-7pm

Address: 218 Huyi Highway, Jiading District

Ticket: 12 yuan

How to get there: Metro Line 11 Nanxiang Station


The ancient canal town has been called the "Venice of Shanghai." The quaint 1,700-year-old town with canals and bridges in suburban Qingpu District is brilliantly decorated for the holiday. Many restaurants are open.

Date: February 6

Address: Xinfeng Rd, by Xinxi Rd, Qingpu District

Tickets: 60 yuan (includes 10 attractions)

How to get there: Take Tourism Bus 4 at the Shanghai Stadium.

Fengjing Ancient Town

This 1,500-year-old town in rural Jinshan District is famous for lantern riddle games, and the whole town is decked out in lanterns. More than 400 people are expected to join in. Large lanterns are covered with strips of paper bearing simple riddles, sometimes about the holiday. There are also simple riddles for children.

Date: February 6

Address: Fengli Rd, by Xinfeng Rd, Jinshan District

Tickets: 80 yuan

How to get there: First take Metro Line 1 to Jinjiang Park Station, then transfer to Fengmei Bus Line.

Shanghai Botanical Garden

To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, the botanical garden will showcase plants with names that include the word dragon. Dragon and lion dances will be performed. People born on the Dragon Year get 20-percent discount on tickets.

Dates: February 6, 7am-5pm

Address: 1111 Longwu Rd

Tickets: 40 yuan

How to get there: Metro Line 3 Shilong Road Station


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend