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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in China Series at ChineseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Chinese holidays and observances. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 6, Lantern Festival. In Chinese, it’s called 元宵节(Yuánxiāo Jié).
On every fifteenth of the first month of the lunar year, right after the Spring Festival, people usher in the first full moon of the new year with a traditional Chinese holiday, the Lantern Festival. Eating rice balls, also called 元宵 (yuánxiāo), and enjoying lanterns and the lion dance are traditional activities that you won't want to miss. Let’s take a closer look!
But before we get into more detail, do you know the answer to this question?
It is said that in ancient times, the Lantern Festival played a similar role to Valentine's Day. Do you know why?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
There is an old Chinese proverb which states, 民以食为天 (mín yǐ shí wéi tiān) meaning “food is the paramount necessity of the people.” When we talk about the Lantern Festival, we can’t forget to mention the tradition of eating 元宵 (yuánxiāo). This is a type of dessert made of glutinous rice with or without filling. It can be filled with black sesame, bean paste, sugar, or hawthorn, and they can be made in various ways—boiled, sautéd, deep-fried, or steamed. In addition, remember that glutinous rice balls are called 元宵 (yuánxiāo) in the north of China, while in the south they are called 汤圆 (Tāng Yuán).
In Beijing, these rice balls are best characterized by their filling. People first prepare the dough with the filling and then put it in a machine. The machine gradually shapes the dough into a ball, and it's a little bit like making a snowball. However, in the south, making Tangyuan is quite similar to making dumplings, because they are both molded and shaped by hand.
Besides eating, of course, there is also play or 游戏 (yóuxì). Popular traditional activities during the Lantern Festival include going to the fair, lighting lanterns, and guessing riddles. The fair is an open market held near a temple or in a park. You can taste traditional snacks from different areas of China and enjoy various folk performances. As you would guess, lighting lanterns involves lighting and hanging various types of beautiful lanterns. Guessing riddles also originated from lighting lanterns. People write riddles on the lanterns and visitors can guess the answer when they pass by. At the fair, the first person who successfully solves the riddle may receive a prize.
During the Lantern Festival, you can also enjoy the lion dances or 舞狮子, (wǔshīzi). The lion dance is a traditional Chinese dance. Dancers hide themselves in a lion costume, then roll up and down and move left and right to imitate a lion, which is very interesting to see.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question!
It is said that in ancient times, the Lantern Festival played a similar role to Valentine's Day. Do you know why?
In ancient times, young girls in China were usually not allowed to go outdoors, but the Lantern Festival was an exception. It was a great opportunity for single young people to meet each other.
What did you think of this lesson? Did you learn many interesting things?
Is there anywhere you can buy Yuanxiao or Tangyuan in your country? If not, maybe you should go to Chinatown to try your luck. Please leave a comment for us at ChineseClass101.com, and I'll see you in our next lesson. Bye!