CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Art & Culture | Exhibition & EventFebruary 14, 2012

Chinese Lantern Festival 2012

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Being in china at this time of the year is an unforgettable experience . This year  more than any other,  the year of the dragon the festivities took place vibrantly all over Asia. I have included a few images courtesy of AP and getty with a brief explanation of the festival and some image captions. Enjoy!

The Lantern Festival (also known as the Yuanxiao Festival or Shangyuan Festival in China and Yuen Siu Festival in Hong Kong,  is a festival celebrated on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar year in the Chinese calendar, the last day of the lunisolar Chinese New Year celebration. It is not to be confused with the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is sometimes also known as the "Lantern Festival" in locations such as Singapore and Malaysia. During the Lantern Festival, children go out at night to temples carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns or pinyin: . It officially ends the Chinese New Year celebrations.

In ancient times, the lanterns were fairly simple, for only the emperor and noblemen had large ornate ones; in modern times, lanterns have been embellished with many complex designs. For example, lanterns are now often made in shapes of animals.

In some region and countries, this festival is also regarded as the Chinese version of St. Valentine's Day, a day celebrating love and affection between lovers in Chinese tradition and culture.

he first month of the Chinese calendar is called yuan month, and in ancient times people called night xiao; therefore, the day is called Yuan Xiao Festival in mainland China and Taiwan. The fifteenth day is the first night to see a full moon in that lunar year. According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve puzzles on lanterns, eat yuanxiao a glutinous rice ball, also known as pinyin and enjoy a family reunion

In Taiwan there are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival, however, it is likely to have had something to do with celebrating and cultivating positive relationships between people, families, nature and the higher beings that were believed to be responsible for bringing or returning the light each year.

In China, one legend tells us that it was a time to worship Taiyi, the God of Heaven in ancient times. The belief was that the God of Heaven controlled the destiny of the human world. He had sixteen dragons at his back andd he decided when to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon human beings. Beginning with Qinshihuang, the first emperor of China, who named China, all the emperors ordered splendid ceremonies each year. The emperor would ask Taiyi to bring favorable weather and good health to him and his people and  be one of the most important celebrations where the ceremony would last throughout the night.

Another legend associates the Lantern Festival with TaoismTianguan is the Taoist god responsible for good fortune. His birthday falls on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. It is said that Tianguan likes all types of entertainment, so followers prepare various kinds of activities during which they pray for good fortune.

Yet another common legend dealing with the origins of the Lantern Festival speaks of a beautiful crane that flew down to earth from heaven. After it landed on earth it was hunted and killed by some villagers. This angered the Jade Emperor in Heaven because the crane was his favorite one. Therefore, he planned a storm of fire to destroy the village on the fifteenth lunar day. The Jade Emperor's daughter warned the inhabitants of her father’s plan to destroy their village.

The village was in turmoil because nobody knew how they could escape their imminent destruction. However, a wise man from another village suggested that every family should hang red lanterns around their houses, set up bonfires on the streets, and explode firecrackers on the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth lunar days. This would give the village the appearance of being on fire to the Jade Emperor.

On the fifteenth lunar day, troops sent down from heaven whose mission was to destroy the village saw that the village was already ablaze, and returned to heaven to report to the Jade Emperor. Satisfied, the Jade Emperor decided not to burn down the village. From that day on, people celebrate the anniversary on the fifteenth lunar day every year by carrying lanterns on the streets and exploding firecrackers and fireworks.

Villagers perform a dragon dance to pray for good luck and celebrate the upcoming Chinese Lantern Festival in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, on February 1, 2012. The traditional dragon is constructed of bamboo and paper for the festival. (Reuters/China Daily

Models in traditional outfits stroll through Yuyuan Garden to celebrate the Lantern Festival at the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations, on February 6, 2012.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

People launch sky lanterns to celebrate the Lantern Festival on February 6, 2012 in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province, China. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)
A blacksmith throws molten metal against a cold wall to create sparks, as he and others celebrate the Lantern Festival which traditionally marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations, in Nuanquan, Hebei province, China, on February 6, 2012. For over 300 years, the village, which is famous for its blacksmith skills, has maintained the tradition which they consider a cheaper alternative to buying fireworks during the Lantern Festival. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

A man holds his daughter as they walk in an area decorated with lanterns in Yu Yuan Garden in downtown Shanghai, on February 5, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Visitors view ice sculptures at Yanqing Ice Festival also for the Chinese Lantern Festival on February 6, 2012 in Beijing, China. The Lantern Festival also known as the Yuanxiao Festival or Shangyuan Festival in China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Tourists visit Confucius Temple to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Nanjing, in eastern China's Jiangsu province, on February 6, 2012. (AP Photo)

Villagers perform the annual "dragon march" to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Gutian township, Fujian province, China, on February 6, 2012. According to local media, the traditional march, usually performed during Lantern Festival, has a history of more than 200 years. The marching dragon, made of paper and bamboo and connected by wood planks, set the new Guinness World Records of the longest parade float at 791.5 m (2,597 ft), according to local media. (Reuters/Stringer)

Lanterns on display for the Chinese Lantern Festival on February 6, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Hundreds of Taiwanese release sky lanterns on Saturday, January 28, 2012, in New Taipei City, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)( see video embedded)

A dragon dance is performed amid fireworks during a Lantern Festival celebration in Chongqing municipality, on February 6, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)

A woman reacts in an area decorated with lanterns ahead of the Lantern Festival at Yu Yuan Garden in downtown Shanghai, on February 5, 2012. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

Fireworks explode in the sky to celebrate the Lantern Festival on February 6, 2012 in Huizhou, Guangdong Province, China. (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)

Chinese people visit a Dragon sculpture during the Lantern Festival on February 6, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

People visit a lantern show at the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations, on February 6, 2012 in Beijing, China. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

A blacksmith, ladle full of molten metal in hand, prepares to fling it against a cold wall to create more sparks in Nuanquan, China, on February 6, 2012.(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Tourists walk through an alley decorated with red lanterns for the Lantern Festival in Beijing, on February 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

Blacksmiths prepare molten metal for throwing against a huge stone wall in Nuanquan, China, on February 6, 2012. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

This photo taken on February 6, 2012 shows spectators silhouetted as they watch a dragon dance in front of a blacksmith throwing molten metal against a nearby stone wall to create sparks at the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations in Nuanquan, China. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images) #

Blacksmiths prepare more molten metal to be thrown against a stone wall in a centuries-old traditional celebration of the Lantern Festival in Nuanquan, China, on February 6, 2012. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Worshippers throw firecrackers at a shirtless man acting as Master Handan during the Handan ritual as part of the Chinese Lantern Festival celebrations or "Yuan Hsiao Jie" in Taitung, eastern Taiwan, on February 6, 2012. According to some cultural historians, Master Handan is a god of wealth who is afraid of the cold and throwing firecrackers at him can drive the chill away from his body. During the procession, the more firecrackers onlookers set off, the more successful and wealthy they will become.(Reuters/Stringer)

Wearing some protective clothing, blacksmiths wait their turn to throw molten metal against a cold wall to create a display of sparks for the Lantern Festival in Nuanquan, China, on February 6, 2012. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

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Photos Copyrights" AP/ Getty Images

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