Sunday, January 16, 2022

Japanese Lantern Festival

 The NYC Urban Sketchers did a virtual meeting on Saturday. Our subject was Winter Festivals. We were provided with lots of references for festivals that were in the USA and all across the world. We could use those references, our own photos or anything else we could find. I selected a nocturnal reference for the Japanese Lantern Festival. I used my Stillman & Birn Nova Trio sketchbook for this. I thought the black paper would work out well with gouache. Of course this is not an urban sketch since it was done from a reference and not from life.

I like knowing about the background of the festivals so I looked on the internet. I like the legend below.

Lantern Festival, also called Yuan Xiao Festival,  holiday celebrated in China and other Asian countries that honours deceased ancestors on the 15th day of the first month (Yuan) of the lunar calendar. The Lantern Festival aims to promote reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness. The holiday marks the first full moon of the new lunar year and the end of the Chinese New Year. During the festival, houses are festooned with colourful lanterns, often with riddles written on them; if the riddle is answered correctly, the solver earns a small gift. 

A legend has it that the Jade Emperor's favorite crane was killed by some villagers. So, he decided to destroy the village with fire on the fifteenth day of the lunar year. The Jade Emperor's daughter felt very sad about this and warned the villagers about what was going to happen.

Then, a wise man advised the villagers to hang red lanterns to give the Jade Emperor the impression that the village was already on fire. The emperor was fooled and the village survived. This tradition of hanging red lanterns on the fifteenth day of the lunar year has continued until the present time.


  1. Thanks for the story and a beautiful sketch to go with it or vice versa. :-)

  2. Many thanks, Jo. I'm glad you like both.

  3. Joan thanks for sharing this special story. This piece is very eye catching on the black paper. Love it.