Legendary Story About Lantern Festival

About Hanging Lanterns

It is said that in ancient times, there was a beautiful bird flew down from the heaven to earth. It was killed by a villager by accident. As the bird was favored by the Jade Emperor in Heaven, after knowing this, he got angry and ordered to burn the village and all the people on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Can't bear to see this, the daughter of the Jade Emperor told this message to the villagers. All the villages were anxious and had no idea after knowing this. Luckily, an old man had suggested that every family hang red lanterns, set off fireworks and firecrackers on the 14th, 15th and 16th day. In this way, the Jade Emperor may thought the villages had been on fire and the villagers were burned to death.

On the evening of 15th day, the Jade Emperor saw the village was ablaze and thought the people had been died. So, he didn't order to burn the village. From that time on, people hang lanterns, set fireworks and firecrackers on the 15th day of the first lunar month every year to celebrate the victory.

Dongfang Shuo and the Girl Yuan Xiao

This legend is related to the custom of eating Yuanxiao (the Glutinous Rice Balls). According to legend, the Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty had a favorite minister named Dongfang Shuo, who was kind and witty. One winter, when it snowed heavily for a few days, Dongfang Shuo went to the Imperial Garden to pluck plum blossoms for Emperor Wu. Ju as he walked through the gate the garden, he found a court maid in tears ready to throw herself into the well. Dongfang Shuo rushed to her rescue and asked why. It turned out that the young maid named Yuan Xiao, had parents and a young sister at home, and since she had entered the palace, she had never had the chance to see her family again. Every year when the season of winter ends and spring comes, she missed her family more than usual. She felt that it was better to die because she could not do her filial duty in front of her parents. When Dongfang Shuo heard her story, he sympathized with her and promised her that he would try to reunite her with her family.
 
One day, Dongfang Shuo went out of the royal palace and set up a fortune-telling booth in the Chang'an Street. Many people rushed to ask him for fortune telling. Unexpectedly, everyone's fortune drawing ticket read " you and the whole city will be burnt by fire the on the 16th day of the first lunar month ". All of a sudden, there was a great panic in Chang'an City. All people asked for solutions to the disaster. Dongfang Shuo said, "on the evening of the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, the Fire God will send a fairy dressed in red to visit the earth, and she is the messenger who is ordered to burn Chang'an. I will give you the copied red post so that you can ask for the emperor to figure out a solution. After saying that, he threw down a red post and left. The people picked up the red post and hurriedly sent it to the royal palace to report to the emperor.
 
The Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty took a look at the post and saw that it reads: "Chang'an will be in a calamity, the emperor's palace will be burnt, the heavenly fire will be lit on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, and the flames will light up overnight”. He was so shocked that he immediately invited the resourceful minister Dongfang Shuo. After pretending to think about it, Dongfang Shuo said, "I heard that the Fire God likes eating “Tang Yuan” (the round glutinous rice balls). Does the maid named Yuan Xiao often make the “Tang Yuan” for you? On the night of the fifteenth day of the first lunar month, ask the maid Yuan Xiao to make “Tang Yuan” and your majesty light the incense and provides the offerings and send orders to the people to ask every family to make glutinous rice balls and worship the Fire God. Then, give orders to the people to ask them hang lanterns on the night of the 15th day, set off firecrackers and fireworks all over the city as if the city is full of fire, so that we can hide the truth from the Jade Emperor. In addition, your highness can notify the people outside the city to come into the city to watch the lanterns and mix in the crowd to eliminate disasters and solve problems. When Emperor Wu heard this, he was very happy and sent a decree to ask people to follow what Dongfang Shuo had said.
 
The Lantern Festival arrived on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. The City of Chang'an was decorated with lanterns, and people were bustling around the street, and it was very lively. The parents of the palace maid Yuan Xiao also brought her sister into the city to watch the lanterns show. When they saw a large lantern with the word "Yuan Xiao" written on it, they were surprised and shouted, "Yuan Xiao! Yuan Xiao!" When Yuan Xiao heard the shout, she finally reunited with her family.
After such a lively night, Chang'an City was safe and sound. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty was very happy. So, he ordered that on every fifteenth day of the first lunar month each year, every family should make glutinous rice balls as an offering to Fire God and hang lanterns and set off firecrackers and fireworks.  Because the glutinous rice balls made by the maid Yuan Xiao are the best, her name is used to name the day in her honor, Yuan Xiao Festival (the Lantern Festival).

Chinese Calendar

SuMoTuWeThFrSa
31初三/3 1初四/4 2初五/5 3初六/6 4初七/7 5初八/8 6初九/9
7初十/10 8十壹/11 9十二/12 10十三/13 11十四/14 12十五/15 13十六/16
14十七/17 15十八/18 16十九/19 17二十/20 18廿壹/21 19廿二/22 20廿三/23
21廿四/24 22廿五/25 23廿六/26 24廿七/27 25廿八/28 26廿九/29 八月 (Aug) 27初壹/1
28初二/2 29初三/3 30初四/4 31初五/5 1初六/6 2初七/7 3初八/8

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