The history and traditions of the Lantern Festival

In 2019, the Lantern Festival (Yuánxiāo jié 元宵节)falls on February 19th, the fifteenth and final day of Spring Festival. Although it’s not a public holiday, it is still widely celebrated, especially in southern China and amongst the diaspora. What’s this holiday all about and how can you celebrate it?

Read on to find out!

There are numerous legends about the origins of the lantern festival.  One is that in the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) Buddhism had just recently arrived in China. On the 15th day of the first lunar month, the monks in Buddhist temples lit many lanterns as they observed Uposatha.

Emperor Ming, in an effort to popularise Buddhism, ordered that all households, including the imperial palace, should light lanterns. Combined with other tales and traditions, this gradually developed into a folk custom and became incorporated into the Spring Festival celebrations.

On the lantern festival, people traditionally light lanterns, go to public lantern displays, solve riddles and eat tangyuan. Solving riddles livened up lantern displays with intellectual challenges. Chinese riddles are difficult to translate as they usually depend on puns, historical figures, characters, idioms or places to make sense.

But here’s an example: These tall, thin brothers go everywhere and do everything together, and always avoid soup. Who are they? (Answer below.)

Tangyuan (Tāngyuán 汤圆) are round dumplings made of glutinous rice flour with sweet fillings, traditionally sesame paste. Their round shape represents the full moon (since the 15th day falls on the first full moon of the new year); and also unity and the coming together of the family at this time of year, as well as hope for togetherness in the new year. In some parts of China they are known as yuanxiao, hence the Chinese name of the festival. They are now widely available in supermarkets with all manner of fillings including kiwi and chocolate!

Join us Sunday February 17th at the CK Culture Centre for an afternoon of fun and friendship as we celebrate the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Spring Festival!

At this event, you can learn more about Lantern Festival customs and language, paint paper lanterns, solve riddles, make tangyuan (sweet dumplings) and enjoy a meal together!

Transportation from Sanlitun, all materials, snacks, tea and dinner, and English-speaking hosts are all included! Just 488RMB, or bring a friend and pay just 888RMB, saving 88RMB!

Lantern Festival Celebration with Cultural Keys

Date: Sunday February 17th 2019
Location: CK Culture Centre – Songzhuang, Tongzhou
Pickup: 2pm at Tuanjiehu Subway Station
Drop off: 9pm at Tuanjiehu Subway Station
Places: Limited to 8 people
Price: 488RMB per person / 888RMB for 2 people
Payment: Prepayment via WeChat, Alipay, bank transfer or cash at our office

If you have any questions, or would like to confirm your place, please email us at [email protected]. Alternatively, add NicD1280 on WeChat.

We look forward to having you join us for this exciting cultural event!

Please note:

– we do have a cat and dogs on the premises, so if you are allergic to either, this event might not be suitable for you.
– once booked, we are unable to offer refunds. If you are unable to join us, please consider finding someone to replace you, so your place doesn’t go to waste
– our schedule is arranged for the maximum benefit of both our teachers and participants. If you are late for pickup, our driver will unfortunately not be able to wait for you.

Upcoming Events


Cultural Keys is a proud member of
Expat Connection

Follow Expat Connection’s Official WeChat Account to stay up-to-date with all the latest events, services and discounts from Beijing’s best businesses!


About Us

Cultural Keys, a registered company in Hong Kong, Beijing and the UK, was founded in 2013 by three expats looking to help people better access, understand and enjoy life and traditional culture in China.

Since then, Cultural Keys has helped hundreds of people do exactly that.

If you are looking to get more out of your stay in China, no matter your reason for being interested in this fascinating country, Cultural Keys can help you experience more. Feel free to get in contact and let us know what you are looking to get out of your time here. We’d be happy to help you in any way we can!

Cultural Keys
191 (North Gate A), Xiaopu North Road
Xiaopu Village, Songzhuang
Tongzhou, Beijing

北街191号 (北门-A), 小堡村,
宋庄镇,通州区,北京

Telephone :
+86 18611558781
010 89595202