Water lanterns light Lijiang on Ghost Festival

Thousands of water lanterns were set afloat down the rivers of Lijiang's Old Town in Yunnan province on Sept 5, one of the grandest folk customs of the Naxi people in celebration of Ghost Festival.

Ghost Festival, also known as Zhongyuan Festival, falls on the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month. Since ancient times, Chinese people have believed that the gates of hell open up on the day of the festival, and so people hold various activities to honor the spirits of the deceased.

Two Naxi women release lanterns on the water during Ghost Festival in Lijiang on Sept 5. (Photo from xinhuanet.com)

The Naxi people have their own unique ethnic customs, including article offerings and floating water lanterns. The water lantern, also called the lotus lantern, is made by pasting paper into a lotus shape with a candle or lamp inside.

Naxi people, wearing traditional ethnic clothing, always release lanterns downstream on the night of Ghost Festival.

A Naxi man sets afloat a water lantern on the night of Ghost Festival in Lijiang on Sept 5. (Photo from xinhuanet.com)

In ancient Chinese philosophy, human beings and land belong to yang, meaning positive. Ghosts and water belong to yin, meaning negative. The dark and mysterious underworld reminds people of a sepulchral hell where spirits suffer, so lanterns are set afloat to honor the dead.

Colorful water lanterns float on the river in Lijiang's Old Town. (Photo from xinhuanet.com)

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