falls on the fifteenth day of the Lunar month. It marks
the conclusion of celebrations for Lunar New Year. There
is a story behind it.
the reign of Emperor Han Wu Di of the Han dynasty, there
was a reputable high-ranking minister, Dongfang Shuo, well
known for his wit and compassion.
day while he was strolling in the palace garden, he heard
a wailing. It was from a palace maid, Yuan Xiao. At that
time, palace maids had to attend to palace duties
throughout the whole year. Thus they were unable to return
home for family reunion. Yuan Xiao had worked in the
palace for a number of years. She missed her family so
much that she could not hold back her tears.
learning her plight, Dongfang Shuo came out with a plan.
next day, he informed Emperor Wu Di a rumour that the
Supreme Deity of Heaven had ordered that the city to be
set ablaze. God of Fire was to carry out the Deity’s
command on the sixteenth day of the first month of the New
Year. The Emperor was anxious on hearing the news.
Dongfang Shuo claimed to have a solution.
The day before
the sixteenth, that is, on the fifteenth day, every
household was to display a lit red lantern, and shoot up
lots of firecrackers into the air. Everybody, including
palace maid, must be out on the streets. This was to
create as much noise and mess as possible to give an
illusion that the city was already in flames. God of Fire
would be deceived into thinking that since the city was
already burning; there would be no need for him to work.
The God of Fire loved glutinous rice balls, known as tangyuan.
Since Yuan Xiao made the best tangyuan,
Dongfang Shuo suggested that Yuan Xiao should make some
glutinous rice balls to offer to the God of Fire.
than taking the risk of the city being set in flames, and
seeing that there was no harm in Dongfang Shuo’s
suggestions, the Emperor took Dongfang Shuo's advice and
ordered everybody, including palace maids, to be out on
the streets on the fifteenth day. Yuan Xiao was thus able
to take this opportunity to meet up with her family.
Han Wu Di, on learning that his people enjoyed themselves
so much, dedicated the fifteenth day to be a yearly event.
then, that yearly event has become a joyful festival,
marked by a wide variety display of lanterns, fireworks,
riddle-guessing contests, and a feast of tangyuan.
This occasion is named after Yuan Xiao, the palace maid,
thus Yuan Xiao Jie,
or The Lantern Festival.