Guessing the meaning of lantern riddles has been a unique folk custom during the Lantern Festival since ancient times.
In ancient China, every family hung colorful lanterns at the gate. Some wrote riddles on pieces of paper, and attached them on the lanterns. The answer had to be guessed from a word, a poem, or a phrase.
Because the riddles are interesting and thought-provoking, and guessing lantern riddles makes the festival more interactive and lively, it has remained an essential activity during the Chinese Lantern Festival.
Guessing the Lantern Riddles
Guessing the lantern riddles, also known as playing lantern riddles, is one of the most important and popular activities of the Lantern Festival. The lantern riddles, originating from common riddles, emerged in the Southern Song Dynasty (960-1279), whose capital, Lin'an (today's Hangzhou, the political center of the Southern Song Dynasty), witnessed the flourish of making and guessing lantern riddles during people's appreciation of lanterns. People wrote riddles on paper notes and pasted upon the colorful lanterns. If visitors think they have the right answers to the riddles, they could pull the paper out and went to the lantern owners to check their answer. If they were right, they would get small gifts. As riddle guessing is interesting and informative, it has become popular among all social strata.
Legend about the Lantern
Everyone agreed and was busy preparing for that. On the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, the heaven emperor looked down, and there was red fire and thundering cracks everywhere, for three nights. He thought the folks had been punished; therefore people got to keep their lives and property. From then on, people light up lanterns and fireworks on the 15th day of the 1st lunar month, in order to celebrate the success.