Sunday, March 2, 2008

Lantern Festival

With the end of the Chinese New Year, came the Lantern Festival this past week. For a few short hours Linfen shed its dusty persona, and came aglow with the dazzling colors of handcrafted lanterns, bringing a very festive feel to Gulou Square.

It was not all the traditional red lanterns that hang so majestically almost floating from loosely strung wires.

Numerous animals represented some long standing themes in China, indeed, symbols of Chinese culture and thinking. The Olympics were well represented with several lanterns sporting the Olympic Rings, one in particular was lead by two dragons.

A long held belief in China is that Chinese people descended from Dragons. The dragon represents the solidarity, courage and unbent spirit of the Chinese people, despite the arbitrary or selfish characteristics attributed to dragons in western mythology.1

Off to the left of the dragons were a couple of Giant Pandas munching on bamboo leaves. Thee was a very well made lantern that sported two rabbits, the Chinese zodiac animal for 2011. Hares are often associated with the lunar cycle, as symbols of rebirth, fertility, and longevity. This symbol may have migrated to Europe along the Silk Road and contributed to modern day Easter's rabbit.2

This is of course the year of the rat...I personally feel that calling it the year of the mouse would be a more acceptable idea, but the clever rat is a strong symbol in China. This lantern sported a pair of mice with the long snouts of rats. Like all the animal lanterns, the pair of animals seemed to tell a story of the eternal ideal of live and companionship...kissy, kissy!

China is rightly, very proud of the Olympics which at this writing are 159 Days, 11 hours, 31 minutes and 52 seconds away. This very large lantern was highly photographed but the crowd.

Happy New Year to all you Rats out there!

1 "Is the Dragon a Symbol of China?" Forum from Beijing Review, No.1 Jan 4, 2007.
2 The Symbolism or Rabbits and Hares by Terri Windling,, viewed online March 2, 2008.

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