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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 15:11, January 20, 2006
Why do Chinese display lanterns to mark Lantern Festival?
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There is a tradition in China that when Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival, comes each year, people will display lanterns to celebrate the day. The 15th day of the 1st lunar month is the Chinese Lantern Festival. What is the origin of the festival?

Originally the festival was the patent of Buddhism. According to the teachings of Buddhism, firelight was regarded as Buddha's power. There were magic functions for the lighted lanterns: dispelling human darkness while presenting the brightness of Buddha, which could get rid of people's troubles. Therefore, in Buddhist rituals, lamp was one of sacrificial tools before Buddha. Through all ages people went to Buddhist temples to offer incense to Buddha for Buddha's blessing. Offering a lighted oil lamp was a must. And grand Buddhist rituals needed a quantity of lighted lamps to shine Buddha.

Buddhist legend says that the founder of Buddhism Sakyamuni made an appearance to subdue devil, which was the day of December 30 in the west and the 15th day of the 1st lunar month in the orient. To mark the appearance, a religious ceremony with lighted lamps was held on the day. That is the origin of the Lantern Festival.

The display of lanterns originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220). Emperor Ming of the dynasty issued a royal edict to make lamps lighted on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, expressing his thanks to the founder of Buddhism. During the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), the exhibit of lanterns was in vogue. From the beginning of the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century, the display of lanterns in the festival became lawful, gradually becoming a folk tradition.

Today, the displaying of lanterns is still a big event on the 15th day of the first lunar month in various parts of the country. People feel more delighted when enjoying the brightly lit night to mark the festival in the joyful atmosphere.

By People's Daily Online

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