Author: CHUNG Yoon Ngan
Date: 01-26-12 20:22
The Lantern Festival (元宵節)
去年元夜時,---Qu3 nian2 yuan2 ye4 shi2,
花市燈如畫,---Hua shi4 deng ru2 hua4,
月上柳梢頭,---Yue4 shang4 liu3 shao tou2,
人約黃昏後.---Ren2 yue huang2 hun hou4.
今年元夜時,---Jin nian2 yuan2 ye4 shi2,
月與燈依舊,---Yue4 yu4 deng yi jiu4,
不見去年人,---Bu4 jian4 qu3 nian2 ren2,
淚溼春衫袖.---Lei4 shi chun shan xiu4.
Last year on this night,
The lanterns in the flower market were like a picture,
When the moon reached the top of the willow tree,
I met my friend.
This year tonight,
The moon and lanterns were the same as last year,
But I did not see my friend,
And I felt very sad.
The poem was written by 朱淑貞 (No one knows when she was born and the year
of her death. It is believed that she was born in Qian Tang (錢塘 present
day city of Hangzhou 杭州) in Zhejiang province (浙江省) and she was alive
in 1170AD during the reign of Emperor Xiao Zong 孝宗皇帝 (1165AD to 1198AD)
of the Song Dynasty (宋朝 960AD to 1279AD).
The night of the fifteenth day of the 1st lunar month is called Yuan Xiao
元宵 or the lantern festival. In the streets, business men would hang up
all sorts of beautiful lanterns in front of their shops. For those families
that had produced a baby boy the previous year, they would hang up a little
lantern next to the ancestral altar. This is called "Tian Xin Deng 添新燈
", which means add in a new lantern, or a new member has been added to the
That night, for supper, the family would eat Tang Yuan (湯圓) glutinous
rice round balls which were prepared stuffing with meat, peanuts, sesame,
bean cream etc.variety. It was like new year eve reunion dinner.
According to the dictionary, on the night of Yuan Xiao, before the Sui Dynasty
(隋朝 581AD to 618AD), there was no lanterns displaying, but the sport of
wrestling. The tradition of displaying lanterns started during the Tang
Dynasty (唐朝 618AD to 907AD) when Li Shimin (李世民) became the second
Emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He reigned from 627AD to 649AD. The country
was prosperous and peaceful. All the peripheral countries lived peacefully
with the Tang Dynasty. During the new year period delegates from the border
countries paid homage to Emperor Li Shimin. In order to show the foreigners
how peaceful and wealthy the country was Li Shimin told his officials to
produce and display lanterns in the shape of the drums (nowadays the lanterns
are in many forms and shapes) in the palace and the streets of Changan (長
安 present day Xian 西安市 in Shaanxi province 陜西省), the capital of the
country. Later the tradition of displaying lanterns spread throughout the
country and carried on generation after generation until today.
To celebrate the Yuan Xiao festival, people in the villages played a game
called Zhi Pao Cheng (擲炮城) or throwing firecrackers into a wall.
A collection was made for the prizes in a village. On the night of Yuan
Xiao Jie, an iron or a wooden bucket with many holes was placed on a small
platform of about 30 feet high supported by bamboo rods. Many strings of
firecrackers were put inside the bucket. Any one from the village could
take part in the game. Any person would light a firecracker and throw it
into the bucket. Whoever's lit firecracker lighted the string of firecrackers
inside the bucket that produced a chain of explosions inside the bucket
was the winner and received a prize. After the explosions another bucket
was placed on the platform to replace the damaged one. The game could go
on until there were no buckets and firecrackers left.
Posted to asiawind.com
By CHUNG Yoon-Ngan (鄭永元)