The Lantern Festival (元宵節)

Children playing with colourful lanterns
Children playing with colorful lanterns


The 15th day of the first lunar month is celebrated as the Lantern Festival (元宵節). In 2017, it falls on 12 February (Sunday). As early as the Western Han Dynasty around 210 CE, the Lantern Festival had become a significant festival. During the Lantern Festival, people have fun at night carrying paper lanterns and solve riddles on the lanterns (猜燈謎).

In the ancient days, young adults celebrated in the hope of finding loved ones. Matchmakers were busily pairing couples. In more recent times, it is touted as the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Lanterns are used for decorations and they are always red in colour to symbolize good fortune.  They can also be made in the shape of animals.

The following images show traditional lanterns in different shapes and designs in a long scroll painting circa 1486 CE (明宪宗元宵行樂圖卷).

elephant lantern
elephant lantern


crab lantern, rabbit lantern
crab lantern, rabbit lantern


toad lantern, figure lantern
figure lantern and toad lantern


a traditional lantern
traditional lantern



People eat sweet glutinous rice balls, yuanxiao (元宵) also known as tāngyuán (湯圓), and enjoy a family reunion.


Famous Chinese poems related to the Lantern Festival













Acknowledgements :

The lanterns images come from 中國國家博物館  館藏文物研究叢書  繪畫卷  風俗畫 (2006)


Further readings: (元宵節) (朱淑真) (辛棄疾) (唐寅)

Renri – Everyone’s birthday (人日)

The 7th day of the Chinese New Year is known as Renri (人日, 人慶節 or 七元節), literally the Everyone’s birthday. According to Chinese folklore, Nǚ wā (女媧) is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals, human beings and grains on different days. Renri was the day human beings were created. The days on which different animals and grains were created are:

1st Day : chicken ;  2nd Day : dog ;  3rd Day : pig ;  4th Day ;  sheep ;  5th Day : cow ;  6th Day : horse ;  7th Day : human being ;  8th Day : grains (穀)

People celebrate renri as part of the CNY. Fireworks (花炮) are lit. Foods like “seven-vegetable congee” (七菜粥 ), “jidi congee” (及第粥) or “seven-colour sliced raw fish” (七彩魚生) are common to celebrate the occasion.


jidi congee (及第粥)
jidi congee (及第粥)


seven-colour sliced raw fish (七彩魚生)


A poem related to renri.

人日思歸  薛道衡 (540 CE – 609)(南北朝人)

入春才七日, 離家已二年。人歸落雁後, 思發在花前。

(意譯) 入春只有七天, 我離家已經有兩年。回家的日子要等待春回大地雁群從南方北飛回來之後,但春天花開之前我已經回家的念頭了。

(Meaning in English) It is only the 7th day of the CNY but I have already left home for two years. I will return home after spring arrives when the wild geese flying back to the north.  I thought of going home well before the spring flowers blossom.


Further readings : (人日) (薛道衡)





Couplet displayed in the foyer of Art Gallery NSW

Foyer of Art Gallery NSW during 2015 CNY
Foyer of Art Gallery NSW during 2015 CNY


Patrick and the couplet
Patrick and his couplet


春秋長樂, 福壽咸增。(隸書) 印章 : 延年 (朱文長方印),  蕭燿漢 (白紋方印)
春秋長樂, 福壽咸增。(隸書)
印章 : 延年 (朱文長方印), 蕭燿漢 (白紋方印)


Forever joy throughout spring and autumn

Perpetual increments of blessing and longevity


Annual cleanup on 28th day of the final month in the lunar calendar 年廿八, 洗邋遢

The 28th day of the final month in the lunar calendar is a very special day. It is the tradition of Hong Kong, Macau and places in southern Guangdong to have an annual clean-up. In 2023, it falls on 19 January (Thursday).

This annual clean-up was illustrated and recorded in the nianhua (年畫) of the 19th Century.

28th Day (2).jpg

Renewing the Peachwood Board (桃符換彩)

28th Day.jpeg

The woman is cleaning some ornamental pieces.The woman is cleaning some ornamental pieces.

The Peachwood Board Change Colour (桃符換彩) (3)
After the annual clean up finishes, the red sticker (揮春) is pasted onto the wall.

The two scripts Hóng xǐ (鴻禧) means Happy New Year.

Nianhua (年畫) CNY paintings


For many centuries the Chinese people have decorated their homes during the Chinese New Year (CNY) with brightly-coloured pictures printed on paper by woodblock painting.  I have published 2 pages on nianhua about religious pictures and symbols of good luck.  Please have a look.  May I wish you a happy and prosperous Year of the Sheep!

Five Kinds of Happiness Fly Out of a Vase (瓶出五福)
Five Kinds of Happiness Fly Out of a Vase (瓶出五福)


Sons and Grandsons – Ten Thousand Generations (子孫萬代)


Year of the Sheep / Goat 羊年

Two goats bringing blessing
Two goats bringing blessing


Because of non-aggressive and docile nature, sheep and goats were the first animals that humans domesticated.

Characteristics of people born in the Year of the Sheep/Goat are usually kind, gentle and sociable. They have a special fondness for quiet living. They are wise, compassionate and highly caring for others.

For more information, please visit the page on the Year of the Sheep/Goat.