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Chinese Traditional Festivals

Spring Festival
Lantern Festival
Qingming Festival
Dragon Boat Festival
Double Seventh Festival
Mid-Autumn Festival
Double Ninth Festival

As an historical and civilized country with a long history, the abundant number of traditional festivals is an integral part of the cultural landscape. Each festival has its own historical origin, legend and enjoyment. They reflect a nation's traditional habits and religious morality. The main traditional festivals are the Spring Festival, Lantern Festival, Qingming Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese Valentine's Day, Mid-Autumn Festival, Double Ninth, etc – all of which are spectacular celebrations.

Spring Festival

The Spring Festival is the most celebrated traditional Chinese festival and known as "Guo Nian" in Chinese. With the coming of Chinese New Year, every family will gather to have dinner, known as "Tuan Nian" which means "getting together". People will stay up late even all night on Chinese New Year's Eve, putting up the spring festival scrolls and decorating with lanterns and streamers. Meanwhile, local people will pay visits to each other at the beginning days of Chinese New Year, play the lion dance and the dragon lantern dance, put on Shehuo show, visit flower markets and appreciate lantern lights.

Recommended Tourist Attractions & Activities

Longhua Bell Toll

Longhua Temple is the oldest, largest and most magnificent Buddhist architecture in Shanghai. It is said that the temple was built in 247 AD. The temple, the pagoda, the temple fair and the evening bell chiming constitute a religious tourist attraction.

Activities: Longhua Bell Toll
Tel: +86 21 64566899
Add: 2853 Longhua Road
Public transport: Bus No.73, 56

Lantern Festival

The 15th day of the 1st lunar month is the Chinese Lantern Festival. The 15th day is the first night to see a full moon. Therefore, the day is also called Yuan (Round) Xiao (Night) Festival in China. According to the Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve the puzzles on the lanterns and eat Yuanxiao (glutinous rice ball) and get all their families united in the joyful atmosphere.

Recommended Tourist Attractions & Activities

Yuyuan Lantern Show

With the dragon-like nine-turn zigzag bridge and the reflective nature of the river's surface, set with the Mid-Pond Pavilion and Oriental Pearl TV Tower as the background, the exhibit put many colorful and dramatic popular lanterns on show – an opportunity to appreciate and gain a greater understanding of Chinese traditional culture and the culture of lanterns. It is a wonderful way to greet the New Year as well as to see and appreciate the new Shanghai and its seven-hundred-year history and culture.

Activities: Lantern Show
Tel: +86 21 63559999
Add: 269 Middle Fang Bang Road
Public transport: Bus No.932

Guyi Garden

Guyi Garden is located in Nanxiang Town, Jiading District. Inside the garden, there are constructions such as Mid-Lake Pavilion, Nine Zigzag Bridge, Long Corridor and Plum Blossom Pavilion. The most famous historic relic in the Garden is One-Corner-Lacking Pavilion, which was built in 1931.

Activities: Lantern Festival Riddle Contest — Searching for plum blossom, guessing a riddle and appreciating lights
Tel: +86 21 59122225、59121535
Add: 218 Huyi Road, Jiading District
Public transport: Bus Beijia Line

Qingming Festival

The Qingming Festival meaning Clear and Bright Festival, is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5 of the Gregorian calendar. Every leap year, Qing Ming is on April 4. Astronomically, it is also a solar term. In solar terms, the Qingming festival is on the 1st day of the 5th solar term, which is also named Qingming. Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime, and also to tend to the graves of departed ones.

Qingming is a statutory public holiday in mainland China in 2008 for the first time since 1949.

The holiday is also known by a number of other names in the English language:
• All Souls Day
• Clear Brightness Festival
• Festival for Tending Graves
• Grave Sweeping Day
• Chinese Memorial Day
• Tomb Sweeping Day
• Spring Remembrance

Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Brightness Festival are the most common English translations of Qingming Festival.

For the Chinese, it is a day to remember and honor one's ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, (joss) paper accessories, and/or libation to the ancestors. The rites are very important to most Chinese and especially farmers. Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and/or front doors. They think that willow branches help ward off the evil ghosts that wander on Qingming. Also on Qingming, people go on family outings, start the spring plowing, sing, dance, and Qingming is a time where young couples start courting. Another popular thing to do is fly kites (in shapes of animals, or characters from Chinese opera).

Hanshi, the day before Qingming, was created by Chong'er, the Duke Wen of the state of Jin during the Spring and Autumn Period when he accidentally killed his personal friend and servant Jie Zhitui and his mother in a fireblaze in the hope of making him return to him (Chong'er). On Hanshi, people were not allowed to use fires to heat up food, thus nicknaming it the Cold Food Festival. Eventually, 300 years ago, the Hanshi "celebration" was combined with the Qingming festival, but later abandoned by most people.

Qingming itself was created by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732. It is said that because the wealthy held too many expensive, elaborate ancestor-worshipping ceremonies, in a needed effort to lower this expense, Emperor Xuanzong declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestor's graves only on Qingming.

Qingming in Chinese Tea Culture

The Qingming Festival holiday has a lot of significance in Chinese Tea culture since this specific day divides the fresh green teas by their picking dates. Green teas made from leaves picked before this date are given the prestigious 'pre-qingming' or 'mingqian' designation which commands a much higher price tag. These teas are prized for having much lighter and subtler aromas than those picked after the festival.

Qingming in literature

Qingming was frequently mentioned in Chinese literature. Among these, the most famous one is probably Du Mu's poem (simply titled "Qingming"):
A drizzling rain falls like tears on the Mourning Day;
The mourner's heart is breaking on his way.
Where can a winehouse be found to drown his sadness?
A cowherd points to Almond Flower (Xing Hua) Village in the distance.

Dragon Boat Festival

Falling on the May 5th of the lunar calendar, another traditional festival is held – the Dragon Boat Festival, also called the Double Fifth Festival. People celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival so as to mourn for the great poet, writer and noble officer, QU Yuan who is said to have committed suicide by drowning himself in a river. In order to prevent the fish and shrimp from biting QU Yuan, people put the ZongZi (dumpling made of glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves) they prepared into the river to feed them. The tradition of eating and making ZongZi was passed down generation by generation. It is a festival celebrated for more than 2,000 years. It is also referred to as Health Day, and an opportunity for people to sweep their yards, hang calamus and artemisia, drink rice wine and sprinkle it around the courtyard as a disinfectant.

Recommended Tourist Attractions & Activities

Zhujiajiao Ancient Watertown

The ancient water town Zhujiajiao with many bridges and lanes shows the abundant cultural atmosphere of this watertown. Known as "Shanghai 's Venice" - its waters are splendid and the town has cultivated many heroes during the past 1700 years. Zhujiajiao's many cultural events and activities are attracting the locals and visitors, adding a strong cultural atmosphere to the tranquility of these peaceful and ancient waterways and lanes.

Activities: Traditional Dragon Boat Festival Activities
Tel: +86 21 59240077
Add: 23 Caoping Road , Zhujiajiao
Public transport: Bus Song Zhu Line, Shang Zhu Line

Suzhou River

Suzhou River, divides Shanghai into two parts- the old and the new. The winding waterway is just like the road of history making its way down to the present as it makes its way down this artery to the Huangpu River-one views the great changes of the Grand Dragon that is Shanghai.

Activities: Dragon Boat Competition
Add: From Jiangning Road Bridge to Changhua Road Bridge
Public transport: Bus No.112, 830, 206

Double Seventh Festival

Double Seventh Festival,known Qi Xi in Chinese (literally "The Night of Sevens") and also known as Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar. It is sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day in recent years.

Young girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:
• The Festival to Plead for Skills
• The Seventh Sister's Birthday
• The Night of Skills

The story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl

In late summer, the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky, and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:

A young cowherd named Niulang (literally "the cowherd", the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and waits to see what will happen. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinu (literally "the weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niulang has seen her naked, she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang a good husband. They lived happily and had two children. But the Goddess of Heaven (in some versions Zhinu's mother) finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and is furious and orders her return to Heaven. (In another version, the Goddess forced the weaver fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds in the sky because she could not do her job while married to the mortal.) Down on Earth, Niulang is very upset learning that his wife is gone. Suddenly, his cow begins to talk telling him that if he kills him and puts on his hide, he will be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife. With tears flowing, he killed the cow, put on the skin and carrying his two children with him and off he went to Heaven to find Zhinu. The Goddess found out he had come and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way, which separates Altair and Vega).

Zhinu must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar and takes care of their two children.

But once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge of magpies over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon.

It is said that if it rains on the night of Qi Xi, they are the tears of Niulang and Zhinu crying at the misery of their life.


On Qi Xi, a festoon is placed in the yard and the single or newly married women in the household make an offering to Niulang and Zhinu consisting of fruit, flowers, tea, and facial powder (makeup). After finishing the offering, half of the facial powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. It is believed by doing this the women are bound in beauty with Zhinu.

Another tradition is for young girls to throw a sewing needle into a bowl full of water on the night of Qi Xi as a test of embroidery skills. If the needle floats on top of the water instead of sinking, it is believed to be an indication of the girl's being a skilled embroideress.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar is China's Mid-Autumn Festival. It is so named because it falls in the middle of autumn. The moon is roundest and brightest at this time people across all of China will sit down and eat with their closest family and friends, miss their hometowns, and get deluged by memories. Because of the tendency to sit around a round table with family and friends, Mid Autumn Festival is also called "Gathering Holiday". And there is no denying that Mid Autumn Festival is one of the most important traditional Chinese holidays. In some local places in China, people still play the straw dragon dance and other such activities at the festival.

Recommended Tourist Attractions & Activities

Guilin Park

Built in 1929, Guilin Park , formerly known as HUANG Jinrong's Private Villa, is also known as HUANGs' Garden. It reopened in 1958 after major renovations. Due to the sweet scented osmanthus trees everywhere, it received the name Guilin (the forest of sweet scented osmanthus trees) Park. There are bridges, streams, hills, pavilions and terraces surrounded by walls, trees and flowers. 1,000 sweet scented osmanthus trees with 23 species will burst into blossom during mid-autumn. The fragrance permeates the entire garden whilst the visitors intoxicated by the delicious aroma.

Activities: Mid-Autumn in Tang Dynasty - wear Chinese traditional costume, taste sweet-scented osmanthus wine, play Tang Dynasty games and stroll by moonlight.
Add: 128 Guilin Road, Shanghai
Public transport: Bus No.43, 89, 92, 93, Hu Xin Line, Nan She Line

Huangpu River Cruise

Riding a cruise along the Huangpu River, you will take a glimpse of the history of Shanghai. On one side of the river, there is the Bund, a landmark of Shanghai. Lining the boulevard of the waterfront are grandiose solid buildings of Western style dating back to the early 19th century. You will also see the People's Heroes Monument and Huangpu Park, the city's first park. The evening cruise on Huangpu river presents a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the magnificence and grandeur of the Bund's night scenery in the glittery neon lights and the bright full moon.

Activities: Enjoy the Moon by Ferry
Add: 1333 Wai Ma Road
Public transport:Bus No.930, 920

Double Ninth Festival

Double Ninth Festival falls on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar. In the ancient Book of Changes, people take the number six as Yin and the number nine as Yang. On that day, it's the 9 th day of the 9 th month of a year, so it is known as Double Yang or Double Ninth. "Nine" and "long live" have the same pronunciation in Chinese and the number "nine" is the largest in the single digit numbers, so nine holds a significance for Chinese. In 1989 the Chinese Government proclaimed the day Senior Citizen's Day, so now the day is also an opportunity to care for and appreciate the elderly. To celebrate the day, there are many activities which include visiting family and friends, climbing mountains, wearing zhuyu (a kind of plant and considered to have cleansing qualities ), eating Double Ninth cake, drinking chrysanthemum wine and so on.

Recommended Tourist Attractions & Activities

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Oriental Pearl TV Tower is 468 meters high and is the hightest TV tower in Asia and the third highest in the world. It lies at the mouth of Lujiazui area beside Huangpu River and just opposite to the classical structures on the west Bund. The TV tower, together with Nanpu Bridge and Yangpu Bridge, look like two dragons playing with a ball - the view of which is a symbol of reform and the opening up of Shanghai to the world as the economic centre of the waking dragon that is China.

Activities: Climbing Competition
Tel: +86 21 58791888
Add: 1 Century Avenue, Pudong New Area
Public transport: Bus No.870, 81, 82, 85, 795, Metro Line 2