5 Fun Facts About the Origins of Chinese Lantern Festivals

The Chinese Lantern Festival is celebrated all over the world, even in Western countries. The festival is held on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, and it marks the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations. This festival has been held for more than 2,000 years, so let’s take a look at five fun facts about the origin of this ancient Chinese celebration.

Emperor Ming of Han

Most historians trace the roots of the festival to Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty. Emperor Ming was a Buddhist and noticed that the Buddhist monks lit the temple lanterns on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Inspired by this, Emperor Ming ordered all temples, households, and the palace to also light their lanterns on that evening.

During the Han Dynasty, the Lantern Festival was in devotion to Ti Yin, a female deity connected to the North Star. From here, it developed into a joyful, yearly folk custom.


An alternative legend says the Lantern Festival sprung out of Taoism. This theory points out that Tianguan is a Taoist god associated with good fortune. Coincidentally, Tianguan’s birthday is on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month. Tianguan enjoys being entertained, so his Taoist followers engaged in all kinds of fun activities to honor him, all while praying for good fortune. Thus began the Lantern Festival.

The Beautiful Crane

Another legend declares that the origin of the Festival began with a beautiful crane that flew down from heaven. Sadly, after it landed, it was hunted down and killed by some stupid villagers. The Jade Emperor in heaven became very angry, and planned to firebomb the village on the fifteenth lunar day. However, the Jade Emperor’s soft-hearted daughter warned the villagers of the plan. A wise old man suggested that every house should hang a red lantern, set bonfires, and set off firecrackers on the 15th. When the Jade Emperor’s troops came down to destroy the village they saw it was already ablaze, so they turned back. Ever since, people celebrate by raising lanterns exploding fireworks.

The Suicidal Maiden

Another legend involves a maiden named Yuan and Shuo, the Emperor’s adviser. One day, Shuo was in the garden and heard a girl crying, getting ready to commit suicide. He stopped her and she explained she would never see her family again and would rather die. Shuo decided to help so he devised an elaborate scheme, involving predicting a fire on the fifteenth. To make a long story short, the Emperor was tricked into decorating the palace with red lanterns to appease the Jade Emperor. The ruse worked, and Yuan’s parents came to see the lanterns and were reunited with her.

The Chinese Lantern Festival is a time of joyful celebration. If there is one happening near you, you should go with your friends and family.

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