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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Playing With Lanterns
by Wang Yage
Age Range: 6-8
It is Chinese New Year and Zhao Di and her friends are looking forward to going out each night to celebrate with their beautiful colourful paper lanterns. Each lantern has a lit candle inside so they need to do their best to avoid the wind and the mischievous boys from the village. Every night, until the fifteenth day of New Year, Zhao Di will take part in this fun tradition until the final night when it’s time to smash the lanterns!
Chinese author Wang Yage’s charming book, translated by Helen Wang, is about the Chinese New Year folk tradition from the Shaanxi province in northwest China that can be traced back to Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE). The appealing artwork by award-winning Chinese illustrator Zhu Chengliang makes this an ideal book for children to find out about this ancient New Year custom.
Yage explains in an author’s note at the end of the book that on the third day of Chinese New Year, people start making lanterns. It is usually the custom for uncles to give them to their nieces and nephews – a pair of lanterns and ten candles every year for twelve years. Over the next fourteen days, each child takes their lantern outside in the evening to have fun with their friends. On the fifteenth day of New Year, the lanterns must be smashed and burned, so they cannot be used again as it is considered unlucky to save them for the following year as it is believed that this would make their uncles’ eyes red and sore from pinkeye! It also signals that the festival is over.