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Lantern Festival (元宵節)

On February of this year I went with a Taiwanese friend to celebrate the Lantern Festival at Taipei Expo Park, right in front of Yuanshan MRT Station (see map).





I'd been planning to post the pictures I took that day for some time already, but for several reasons I never found the right moment to do it. Originally I wanted to write a post about Chinese New Year, but I couldn't find enough material, so I gave it up and decided to simply share the pictures of the Lantern Festival.  

The Lantern Festival (元宵節 / 元宵节; pinyin: Yuánxiāojié) is one of the major holidays in China and in East Asia. It falls on the 15th of February and marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.

There are different stories about the origin of the festival. Some people believe that it dates back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD). On the 15th night of the second Lunar month the emperors used to pay tribute to the First Cause of the universe. Because the ceremony was held at dusk, lanterns were lit to illuminate the palace (Henderson 2009, p. 479).

In the High Tang era (705-780 A.D.), the Lantern Festival became one of the most popular festivities throughout the empire. According to a chronicle from that period a "spectacular lamp-lighting ceremony was held on the fifteenth day of the first month in the capital [...]. Jinwu loosened the restrictions and allowed people to pass the streets in the evening. Everybody, including aristocrats, royal relatives, bond servants, craftsmen, and merchants, went out in the evening" (Qian Ning: Art, Religion, and Politics in Medieval China. The Dunhuang Cave of the Zhai Family. Honolulu 2004, p. 131).

Whatever the religious origins of the festival may be, nowadays it has lost much of its sacredness. Throughout the Chinese-speaking world the Lantern Festival has turned into a popular, festive event with exhibitions of colourful lanterns in the form of deities and heroes of folk beliefs and myths.

The park was beautifully decorated with lanterns which were lit after sunset. We were wise enough to go there on a Monday, so that there were relatively few people compared with the weekend. The atmosphere was very nice, even romantic. That I was not the only person to think so was shown by the dozens of couples strolling around, enjoying the night view and the fresh evening air.   













































This is Guanyu (關羽), a hero from the Romance of the Three Kingdoms




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