Send your hopes and dreams off into the night sky by the light of the full moon
When: 15th day of the Chinese year, 6th Feb 2012, 24th Feb 2013.
Where: China, Tibet.
The Chinese Lantern Festival (Yuan-Xiao) has been a traditional Chinese festival since the Han Dynasty more than 2000 years ago, when is was called the Shan-Yuan Festival.
According to Taoism, the 15th day of the Chinese year is the birthday of the Heaven Officer who blesses human luck and families gather in the villages and towns to to set off sky lanterns with their wishes written on them in the hope they will come true. Homes are decorated with lanterns and there are beautiful lantern displays, fireworks and lion and dragon dances to be found in the town centre squares and temples. The full moon of the Lantern Festival also marks the end of the Chinese New Year season.
As with many Chinese festivals there is a legend associated with the lantern festival. There was a beautiful bird that flew down to earth from heaven, but it was hunted by the village people for it’s beauty. The Jade Emperor in Heaven was very angry because it was his favourite bird and he vowed to destroy the village and kill all people with a storm of fire. The daughter of Jade Emperor heard of this act of vengeance, and warned the villagers to prepare for it.
Every house hung red lanterns and fires were lit on the streets, they set off firecrackers and fireworks so the Jade Emperor, seeing the village ablaze in this way might think all the village people had died.
The troops coming down from the heaven saw the village was ablaze and returned back 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.
Have you been to the Chinese Lantern Festival yourself? If so, please tell us all about it! You can share your pics and videos on our facebook page too! Or if you just want to say hi, or leave a comment for any other reason, we’d love to hear from you.
Food & Drink
Tang Yuan (ball-shaped boiled sweet rice dumplings with delicious stuffing) are traditionally eaten at this festival. Traditionally most Chinese cuisine is mostly based on opposites, where sweet balances sour for example. Try our Hot and Spicy Crispy Beef. Drink Rice wine.
Where to see the Lantern festival
The lantern festival is celebrated throughout China but the capital of Beijing puts on a good show. Chengdu in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province also holds a fabulous lantern fair each year in the Cultural Park.
In Pingxi, near Taipei, Taiwan they celebrate throughout February by releasing sky lanterns, sometimes up to 2,600 at a time.
In Tibet they celebrate with butter lamps. Butter and tsampa (a Tibetan wheat substance) are sculpted into statues of famous symbols and figures and then set alight. Barkhor Square in Lhasa, has one of the biggest and brightest celebrations. NB The Tibetan Butter lamp festival dates can vary from the Chinese dates. It always falls on the 15th day of the New Year which in Tibet can be the same as the Chinese New year dates but can also vary by 1 day or sometimes 1 month. Read more on Tibetan New Year (Losar) or the Butter Lamp Festival (Chunga Choepa).
Travel to anywhere in China or Tibet. The nearest airport to Pingxi in Taiwan is Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
Enjoy your trip! And when you’re home we’d love you to come back and tell us all about it!