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River lanterns spangle the Yellow River in Shanxi

Updated : 2015-08-31

Thousands of lanterns lit the Xikou ancient ferry in Shanxi province’s Xinzhou city on August 27, when the 20th Hequ River Lantern Festival opened.

The River Lantern Festival is a tradition at the ancient ferry by the Yellow River, in Xinzhou’s Hequ county.

River lanterns spangle the Yellow River in Shanxi

River lanterns float on the Yellow River in Hequ county, Shanxi province. [Photo/XInhua]

According to Hequ county annals, the earliest records of the festival date back to 1573 as a ritual for Yu the Great, a legendary ruler famed for the Yellow River’s flood control. In 1795, river lanterns floating became an official ritual on the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. From then on, the 3-day ritual was passed from generation to generation, according to Miao Liuding, one of inheritors of the Hequ River Lantern Festival.

“Hequ Xikou ancient ferry has a temple for the river god and a stage. It’s a tradition for boatmen to perform opera and float lanterns to pray for safety and luck,” Miao said, whose father and grandfather were boatmen and also good at floating river lanterns.

The Hequ River Lantern Festival was listed in the second batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008.

Compared to its ceremonious style in ancient times, the current river lantern festival is simplified. However, the locals try to keep its traditional style. For security reasons, river lanterns can only be floated by professional handlers.

“The river lanterns are not floated randomly, but require proper river flow and wind, which allow the lanterns float for several kilometers,” Miao explained.

On that day, 3,650 lanterns were set down at the ferry, signaling peace and happiness all year round.

In addition to lantern floating, the 20th River Lantern Festival also included folk opera performance, calligraphy and painting exhibitions.

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