Lanterns light the way to festive celebrations

There's lots to see and do to mark the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year period.

Lines of glowing lanterns with riddles written on the sides decorate Dengxin Lane in Hangzhou. The lanterns symbolize good wishes for the Chinese New Year and a farewell to the previous year.

The Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Jie, is celebrated on the 15th day of the first lunar month, marking the end of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. This year, it falls tomorrow.

That night sees the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. This auspicious astronomical phenomenon is the origin of Yuanxiao, which Chinese people have been celebrating since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220).

Among all the festivals enjoyed by the people of Hangzhou, the Lantern Festival may be the most visually pleasing as the lanterns create a kaleidoscope of colors.


Dragon dance by expats and locals at Huanglong community

Vivid depictions of Yuanxiao scenes were recorded in historic archives during the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), when the city was the capital. The Lantern Festival celebrations became grander than ever as people flocked to the streets to admire ornate lanterns and try to guess riddles.

The Lantern Festival was also regarded as an ideal time for a lovers’ tryst. Many famous poets described how young lovers would meet after nightfall beneath the lanterns’ romantic glow. Zhu Shuzhen, a female poet living in Hangzhou during the Song Dynasty (960-1279), famously depicted how young lovers met in the city streets on that night.

The full moon is often marked with a series of folk customs, including making paper lanterns and eating tangyuan (汤圆), glutinous rice balls traditionally stuffed with sesame paste.

Today, the number of varieties of tangyuan has expanded and the stuffing may contain red bean paste, meat, peanut paste and pulp of the longan fruit. People also sometimes toast or fry tangyuan, which makes them crisper.

Shanghai Daily reporter recommends some spots where visitors can appreciate traditional Lantern Festival celebrations in the scenic city of Hangzhou.


People play the riddle-guessing game at Hangzhou Workers’ Cultural Palace.

Some spots where visitors can appreciate traditional Lantern Festival celebrations in the scenic city of Hangzhou

The 13th Lantern Riddle Guessing Game

Every year the riddle-guessing game at Hangzhou Workers’ Cultural Palace attracts thousands of people from all over the Yangtze River Delta region. This year, it has prepared 3,000 riddles marking the 70th birthday of the People’s Republic of China among the themes. There are prizes for the winners.

Date: Through tomorrow, 6-8pm

Address: 501 Dongning Rd

Qiantang River Lantern Show

The show is a tradition in Hangzhou. Lines of glowing and gorgeous lanterns with riddles written on the sides decorate the lane. The lanterns are often made into animal shapes with complex patterns and ornaments. They symbolize good wishes for the Chinese New Year and a farewell to the previous year. Since it is the Year of the Pig, lanterns representing the pig will definitely be a highlight.

Date: Tomorrow, 9-11am

Address: Dengxin Lane

Flash mob

To celebrate the Lantern Festival and the 70th birthday of New China, Jianggan District is organizing a flash mob in the shopping center. A group of performers will assemble suddenly and dance with popular songs, and then quickly disperse.

Date: Tomorrow, 2:30pm

Address: Tianhong Shopping Mall, 108 Xintang Rd

Wushan Temple Fair

The temple fair in Wushan Square is a must-visit activity for locals and tourists. It features local handicrafts, snacks, traditional opera performances and a float parade. The highlight is a “lantern sea” made of 2,000 rose-shaped lights.

Date: Through February 20

Address: 1 Yan’an Rd S.

Dragon dance in Mituo Temple

Zhejiang Library is working with the Beishan Street Neighborhood to launch this activity. The dragon dance is commonly seen during festive celebrations. It is believed to bring good luck to people, therefore the longer the dragon in the dance, the more luck it will bring to the community. In addition, citizens will be able to watch traditional operas and movies in the library and experience making tangyuan. Chinese people consider tangyuan to be symbolic of family reunions and believe eating them can bring good fortune to families.

Date: Tomorrow, 9am

Address: 533 Tiyuchang Rd

Glove puppetry performance

Zhejiang locals celebrate the Chinese New Year through a series of different ceremonies and customs which have survived through the years and play a big part in bridging the gap between generations. The glove puppetry that originated in Fujian Province has developed into an intangible cultural heritage in Taishun County of Zhejiang Province. The art is often put on during festivals. Now, a professional team from Taishun will present performances that will introduce children to this cultural heritage.

Date: Tomorrow, 9:30-9:50am, 10:10-10:30am, 10:50-11:10am, 1:30-1:50pm, 2:50-3:10pm, 3:30-3:50pm

Address: China Craft and Art Museum, 334 Xiaohe Rd

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