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Qinhuai International Lantern Festival

  • Celebrated: Jan. 25 to Feb. 19
  • Location: Nanjing
qinhuai river

Location: Nanjing at the Confucius Temple in Jiangsu Province

This interesting festival has a long history. It was traditionally held between the Chinese New Year Spring Festival that starts on the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar Calendar and the 15th day of the first lunar month on the night of the full moon. That day was called the Lantern Festival. It is also called the Nanjing Jinling Lantern Festival. Since 1985, the Nanjing municipal government has sponsored a fair and lantern display around the Confucius Temple in Nanjing. This Confucius Temple and the lantern festival have been famous in Chinese history. The festival at the temple was even mentioned in The Dream of the Red Chamber that was written in the middle of the 1700s and is considered one of China’s Classic Novels. Nowadays, as China’s economy keeps prospering and people have more money to construct lanterns, the lanterns are getting bigger and bigger and more interesting.

Chinese people like big lighted lanterns that light up the night in a multitude of colors. An example of extremely large strange lanterns are the ice lanterns and snow lanterns in January in Harbin that are massive objects several stories high. Nanjing isn’t cold enough for such frozen lanterns, so they make lanterns of paper and other materials instead.

In 2011, there were about 200 large and medium sized lanterns displayed, and about half a million people visited on the main festival night. There were even many lanterns on the Qinhuai River and flying in the air for the first time in 2011. Now the lantern display has spread out to places such as the 3.5 kilometer-long Ming Dynasty City Wall. Brilliant lights decorated the 600 year old wall. There was also a light and firework show. About 400,000 lanterns were displayed in six areas: Zhonghua Gate Castle, Ming Dynasty City Wall, Bailuzhou Park, Qinhuai River, Hall of Great Accomplishment, and Lantern Market.

If you go in 2013 and in the future, you can buy pretty paper lanterns at the Lantern Market and enjoy the festivities. The Lantern Festival Day is on February 6, 2012. This means that the official Nanjing Qinhuai International Lantern Festival will probably begin on the Chinese New Year Day which is February 24, 2012.

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The history of the festival is uncertain, but people have been lighting lanterns for spiritual purposes since before paper was invented. Lanterns used to be made of cloth. But they probably were not bright or colorful then. With the invention of paper, Chinese started to make colorful paper lanterns. The traditions and days of celebrating the Lantern Festival is different in various places in China. In Nanjing, the Manchus who ruled the Qing Empire made the celebration big and grand with plenty of noise of clanging gongs and beating drums. That is the scene described in the The Dream of the Red Chamber. During the late 19th and 20th centuries, the festival wasn't celebrated or it was greatly diminished. It was illegal during the Cultural Revolution. Since 1985, the municipal government of Nanjing has made the festival grander and grander and is attempting to make it an international fair like the Harbin International Ice Lantern Festival.