Colorful lights during Spring Festival ignite Chinese people’s expectation
Published: Feb 22, 2024 01:28 PM
Colorful lights decorated by a family in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on February 9, 2024, Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve. Photo: Ma Yuhan/GT

Colorful lights decorated by a family in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, on February 9, 2024, Chinese Lunar New Year's Eve. Photo: Ma Yuhan/GT

"In Shanxi, not a single tree spends the New Year in darkness; this is a romantic tradition unique to the people of Shanxi." During this year's Spring Festival holidays, Shanxi once again made waves on the internet with its unique custom of hanging colorful lights.

On the day of Chinese New Year's Eve, I returned to my hometown, Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province. As my father drove to pick me up from the high-speed railway station, I noticed various-sized and differently colored rings hanging from the trees lining the green belts along the roads. The trees were bare the last time I was home.

Later that night, I found the entire city of Taiyuan lit up in an array of colors. The illumination wasn't just from street lamps and buildings; every street was transformed as trees and bushes donned various dazzling lights. Pink, purple, blue and green LED strips were delicately wrapped around poplar trees. Willow trees were adorned with golden light strips several meters long, resembling cascading waterfalls. 

As the car drove through the streets, the ring-shaped lights on the trees lit up in different colors, resembling delectable donuts, or perhaps fireworks bursting at the treetops, surreal and dreamlike. As cars sped past, the lights seemed to leave trailing afterimages, as if transported into a science fiction movie where time was fluid.

The vibrancy isn't limited to Shanxi's streets. If you look up at the windows of every residential building in Shanxi during the Spring Festival, you'll see balconies emitting beams of colorful lights. When I went to my grandfather's house to pay New Year's greetings, he eagerly showed me the colorful lights he had put up. Two large red lanterns hung high on either side of the balcony, while the entire balcony was adorned with LED lights emitting a blue-purple glow, with yellow lotus lights as accents. My grandfather even arranged LED lights into the shape of "1, 6, 8," auspicious numbers symbolizing smooth sailing and prosperity.

This Spring Festival, "Cyber Shanxi" has become a trending topic on Weibo. The concept of "cyber" originates from science fiction, portraying futuristic urban landscapes. Dense neon lights against the night sky, compact skyscrapers forming a gorgeous cityscape. People in Shanxi lit up colorful lights, with countless lights and brilliant streets creating a futuristic and technological atmosphere. This also reflects the unique cultural heritage and warmth of Shanxi, a province with a long history.

Shanxi, known as the land of coal and iron, once provided warmth to the nation through the burning of coal. Today, this warmth has transformed into vibrant and colorful lights, continuing to shine brightly. The tradition of lighting colorful lights in Shanxi originated from the "Wanghuo" custom, where a tower-like structure resembling a pagoda was built with coal and bricks. Igniting the coal chunks inside the tower, flames would emerge through the holes, resembling a dragon breathing fire, bringing happiness and well-being for the entire year. 

Previous generations, in response to the call for energy conservation and emission reduction, replaced the "Wanghuo" with electric lights, and they upgraded them to multicolored lights. This generation continues to unleash their rich imagination, spreading the unique charm of Shanxi's Spring Festival through social media.

On the one hand, hanging colorful lights continue to uphold tradition, while on the other hand, the small lights are imbued with new meaning. Although Shanxi's conspicuous lights may seem "goofy" at first glance, behind them lies people's most sincere and beautiful New Year wishes, as well as their hopes for peace, stability and prosperity.

This year's Spring Festival saw a dazzling display of lights across Taiyuan. Taiyuan ancient county, Yuquan Mountain Forest Park, Jinyang Lake, Qingxu county and other tourist spots all held large-scale lantern exhibitions, interpreting the splendor of Taiyuan with lights. Among them, the New Year Lantern Festival at Taohuadao in Jinyang Lake offered visitors a feast of dazzling lights and shadows, topping the list of popular lantern festivals released by Ctrip.

Today, the people of Shanxi continue to preserve traditional Chinese New Year customs in a modern way. The hearts of the people of Shanxi are as warm and bright as the colorful lights, lighting up countless homes and praying for peace across the country. Across the country, from the LED light strings on the balconies of every household in Shanxi to the lifelike flying dragons in lantern festivals nationwide, the lights during the Spring Festival ignite the expectations of hundreds of millions of people, heralding a new year filled with vitality.

After the festival, I shared my grandfather's colorful balcony on my social media, receiving numerous likes. I know that they were not only giving likes for my grandfather's creativity but also for the inheritance and innovation of culture, and more importantly, for our shared bright future. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn