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Lantern Festival

http://www.chinese.cn 10:43, January 18, 2011 chinaculture.org

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Folk craftswomen decorate a large lantern at a handicraft factory in Rushan, east China's Shandong Province, Jan. 14, 2010.

Folk craftswomen decorate a large lantern at a handicraft factory in Rushan, east China's Shandong Province, Jan. 14, 2010. A total of 38 sets of lanterns, fixing the LED light bulbs for energy saving, were under-making here for the local Spring Festival lantern fair this year. 
The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, usually in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. As early as the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 25), it had become a festival with great significance.

This day's important activity is watching lanterns. Throughout the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), 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.

Till today, the lantern festival is still held each year around the country. Lanterns of various shapes and sizes are hung in the streets, attracting countless visitors. Children will hold self-made or bought lanterns to stroll with on the streets, extremely excited.

People will eat yuanxiao, or rice dumplings, on this day, so 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. Tangyuan can be boiled, fried or steamed. It tastes sweet and delicious. What's more, tangyuan in Chinese has a similar pronunciation with "tuanyuan", meaning reunion. So people eat them to denote union, harmony and happiness for the family.

 

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