Festival of the Arts: The History of Dumplings and Lanterns

Carolyn Liu

Modern-day Chinese New Year celebrations include tasty dishes and intricate activities that date back to the Han Dynasty. The Chinese lantern and dumplings, for instance, are two key symbols of the Chinese culture. Red, a color that represents fortune and luck, is the major prevalent theme in joyous Chinese festivities. 

Chinese dumplings were first used as a remedy for frostbite back to the iconic Han Dynasty. Indeed, much of the modern Chinese culture can be traced to the 200 years of Han rule. Language and dishes are part of the legacy left behind by the dynasty. A man named Shang, wanted to cure people who were suffering from frostbite. He decided to treat his patients with a special dish. As a result, he wrapped dough around vegetable and meat fillings in the shape of the human ears. A miracle worked, and his patients were cured. Soon, dumplings gained popularity across China. Nowadays, people gather around with their families on Chinese New Year and eat dumplings together. Families and friends alike bond around this traditional dish. Especially on the day of the winter solstice, dumplings are part of the celebration of the upcoming season. The lunar new year calendar is used here. 

Preceding the use of electricity in the 19th century, many resorted to the use of fire for light. During the reign of the Eastern Han Dynasty, lamps were used in palaces to illuminate during the night. Although this practice lasted throughout much of Chinese history, lanterns were increasingly used for festivity purposes. People gathered around lantern festivals in China. Couples and individuals believe lanterns will help achieve any wish they have. In modern times, a traditional festival has been officially set for lanterns. The date usually follows Chinese New Year celebrations in late February. Understably, lanterns represent the light of hope in darkness and uncertainty.