Explore the Modern Lanterns Use in Our Chinese Light Festivals
The Lantern Festival, also known as the Spring Lantern Festival, stems from traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. Observed on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunar Chinese calendar, the Lantern Festival marks the final day of traditional Chinese New Year celebrations. Over time, it has become the most popular lantern festival and light event in China.
As technology has improved, we now use electricity to illuminate the lanterns while using the same traditional lantern-making skills. Lanterns can come in many shapes and sizes, such as animals, plants, sea creatures, Chinese culture, international architecture, space, history, ancient stories, and more.
Besides a walk through a sea of beautiful lanterns, many more elements can be added, including performances, dinosaur rides, lantern playgrounds, authentic food booths, cultural exhibits, and more. All the traveling festival activities offer endless fun! Book us for your next event today.
The Chinese Lantern Festival can mean different things for people. A familiar lantern festival for people outside China, for example, is the Mid-Autumn Festival — a Chinese Harvest Festival celebrated during the full moon to bring families together and usher in a season of prosperity.
For Chinese people, the Chinese Lantern Festival usually refers to the Spring Lantern Festival, which traces back to over 2,000 years ago, linked to the reign of Emporer Han Ming at a time when Buddhism was growing in China.
In ancient times, the Spring Lantern Festival was marked with the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year.
An advocate of Buddhism, Emperor Ming noticed Buddhist monks would light lanterns in temples on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Emperor Ming then ordered all households, temples, and the imperial palace to light lanterns on that evening. This practice eventually developed into a folk custom.
In Sui Dynasty in the sixth century, Emperor Yangdi invited envoys from other countries to China to see the colorful lighted lanterns and to enjoy the gala performances. In Song Dynasty, the festival was celebrated for five days; the activities began to spread to many big cities in China.
Colorful glass and jade were used to make lanterns, with figures from folk tales painted on the lanterns. The largest Lantern Festival celebration took place in the early 15th century, lasting for 10 days. Emperor Chengzu designated the downtown area as the center for displaying the lanterns. Even today, there is a place in Beijing called Dengshikou, the entrance of the original Lantern Festival gala.
Food during the Lantern Festival time included a dessert featuring a glutinous rice ball typically filled with sweet red bean paste, sesame paste, or peanut butter.
Known as Tangyuan in South China and Yuan Xiao in North China, the round shape of the balls — and the bowls in which they are served — were believed to symbolize family reunion and that eating this dessert may bring the family harmony, happiness, and luck in the coming year.
As a result, the Lantern Festival carries people’s expectations for a better life and prosperity of the coming year.
The modern light event is indispensable when it comes to the development of the Lantern Festival. Zigong — the connotation of Nanguo Lantern City — is located in Sichuan Province, which was formed in the Qing Dynasty through the Ming Dynasty. It provides a golden opportunity to these light events with its own geographical advantage and humanistic conditions.
In 1964, the city government of Zigong City organized the first modern lantern festival since the founding of People’s Republic of China, so it is considered as the origin of the modern light. Since then, the annual lantern festival has been held in Zigong, forming the unique style of Zigong lantern festival.
In the 20th century, the Lantern Festival has become a world-renowned event. More organizations are committed to promoting this unique culture to the world, and we are one of the earliest Lantern Festival hosts overseas.
As a traveling exhibit, the Chinese Lantern Festival illuminates more than 35 cities in Europe and United States after its introductions in these areas.
Local people have become familiar with its new names, such as China lights, Asian Lantern Festival, Dragon Lights, and more, instead of just Chinese Lantern Festival that we are familiar with.
In recent years, we have brought this traveling exhibit to more and cities. The scale and style of the festival has changed over time, and it now includes themes such as cultural, Christmas, nature, ocean, and more.
At Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., our purpose is to bring the festival everywhere, no matter what it is called. Our goal is to let the lantern festival illuminate the world.