Walking under the Lantern Light

    What a coincidence 好巧 (hǎo qiǎo) ! This February 14th happened to be the Western Valentine’s Day 情人节 (Qíngrén Jié) and also the Eastern Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao Festival 元宵节 (Yuánxiāo Jié).  It’s not hard to guess how most Chinese couples would celebrate their Valentine’s this year – going to the Lantern Festival and walking under the beautiful lights of colorful lanterns 灯笼 (Dēnglóng).
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Lantern Festival is an annual big event in eastern countries.  It falls on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.  People celebrate the Lantern Festival in many ways: various fascinating lanterns are displayed on the streets; people carry small cutie lanterns in hand 提灯 (Tídēng); riddles are written on lanterns for people to solve猜灯谜 (Cāi dēngmí); yuanxiao 元宵, or rice balls 汤圆 (Tāngyuán), are served as snack, symbolizing the family reunion.  The Lantern Festival highlights the whole Chinese New Year and also marks the end of the festivities.
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According to the Chinese Zodiac 生肖 (Shēngxiào), 2014 is the year of horse 马年 (Mǎ nián) and the year of eternal love (“2014” in Chinese is homophonic to 爱你一世 (Ài nǐ yīshì), to love you for my whole life).  It is why lanterns this year are mostly featuring horses or hearts.  Special events were also held on the same day in different places in Taiwan, for example, the Lantern Festival in Taipei, Nantou, and Kaohsiung; lighting up sky lanterns in Pingxi 平溪放天灯 (Píng xī fàng tiān dēng); the beehive firecrackers in Yanshui, Tainan 台南盐水蜂炮 (Táinán yánshuǐ fēng pào); throwing firecrackers at Master Han Dan in Taitung 台东炸寒单爷 (Tái dōng zhà hán dān ye).  All these celebrations are meant to give good fortunes and wishes to people and set a good start of the year.

Here are some riddles for you.  Let’s see how many riddles you can solve!

  1. What is the heart of a turtle look like?  (guess a Chinese word; homophonic)
  2. What kind of dragon 龙 (long) is the lightest?  (guess an object; homophonic)
  3. A pyramid of gold 金 (jīn).  (guess a Chinese word)
  4. What country does not need electricity 电 (diàn)  (guess a country; homophonic)
  5. Refuse to be bribed.  (guess an alternative therapy)

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Answers will be revealed on the Chinese Tea Bag article next month.


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