On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the Chinese celebrate an occasion called The Lantern Festival. When I read this; 1. I was excited at the thought of so many lanterns, as I”m obsessed! 2. All I could imagine was Tangled! How cool would that be?!
So I did some research. There wasn’t a lot of information, but I read about a few places Lantern Festival’s take place: Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Nanjing. The festival in Nanjing caught my eye, as it is the largest lantern festival in China! Also, it was held at the Confucius Temple, which was surrounded by the Qin Huai river. The images I viewed online were beautiful and only made me want to go more.
Prepping to go to the festival was done in about 20 minutes. I packed my bag, booked my stay at the Trojan Space Capsule Apartment nearby the temple and got a taxi to Beijing South Station, equipped with my laptop to do some post writing, my iPhone and my photography accessories, my Chinese textbooks to practice my writing, a book to read and one change of clothes. I was only going for one day, as I needed to be back in Beijing to attend a concert with a Chinese family I am friends with.
After a good nights sleep (and several video chats with friends and family about how cool going to a Lantern Festival was going to be) I headed down the road to the Confucius Temple. I noticed a side road where most people were walking and decided to join the crowd. Next, I was surrounded by hundreds of stands of Lantern’s in different colors, sizes and shapes. Lots of children picking out their lanterns to hold at the festivities tonight. I was on the look out for a gorgeous lotus lantern, as those are my favorites, and I found many!
I wandered down the streets and the temple for a few hours, sampling food, looking at shops and talking to people. Some spoke English, I spoke some Chinese to the best of my ability. I love the shock of look on children’s faces when I say “ni hao! ni jiao shenme? (你好！你叫什么？) when they don’t expect the foreign girl to speak Chinese!
What I love the most about the festival was the families that were together. A key element of the Chinese culture is the prominence of family. For centuries, families would live together (this being the children, the parents and the grandparents on both sides of the family). This is still a tradition today, but with the struggles of working away from home provinces or families from different areas. However, all families come together to celebrate the Spring Festival.
The lanterns and decorations were in place, waiting for the evening to come so the temple could be light up in all its glory. Beyond excited to see it! But, for the rest of the day, I decided to visit the Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty (upcoming post on Friday).
After a long day of walking and a quick nap back at my capsule, I headed back to the lantern festival. However, the crowds were ridiculous. Being short was a MAJOR issue (well, sort of, the great thing about being in China is I’m average height at a cute, exact 5ft!). I turned to go down towards a street I had walked earlier in the day, when I was stopped by a policeman. He said “no” and pointed me in the direction that everyone was walking in. I slowly realised as I saw more policeman that they were herding all the visitors on a planned route of the festival.
This is a lot of people.
It was hilarious though, I was approached by a Chinese family, and a girl about my age spoke to me in English. They wanted pictures of me holding the children! Then, lots of Chinese people wanted pictures with me! I didn’t get time to get my phone out, as I usually ask for one as well!
As I walked around, I saw more lanterns, shops, street food and hundreds of Chinese people. The total walk went on for so long before I reached the main part at the center of the Temple.
The lanterns were beautiful, but… I expected a lot more from the largest lantern festival in China, especially with it being such a large celebration! It was great and I really enjoyed it and could tell many people did as well, but the amount of lanterns seemed small. But boy did I do a lot of walking that day! I need a few days to relax…