Dumplings, Lanterns End Spring Fest

As elbow-to-elbow crowds paid homage to the lantern, and cloudy skies hid a hoped-for appearance of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, Spring Festival 2001 drew to a close last night after two weeks of fireworks and family reunions.

While sanitation workers cleared away the gun-powder-scented debris from last night's final barrage, transportation officials today were bracing for the holiday's last travel peak as hundreds of thousands of workers and students were due to return to the city from their home-towns.

The culmination of Spring Festival, which began with the start of the Lunar New Year on January 24, is called the Lantern Festival, or "yuanxiaojie."

"Yuan" refers to the first lunar month, "xiao" is pinyin for "night," and "jie" means festival.

Though fireworks cascaded in the skies throughout the city, the focal point for last night's activities was in Yuyuan Garden, where lanterns in all shapes and sizes have been on display for more than a week.

At the garden's God Temple area and in the streets outside, children were pulling rabbit-shaped lanterns on wheels to mark the full moon.

Chinese tradition has it that one of these long-eared creatures lives on the moon.

The festival originated in the Han Dynasty (BC206-AD220). According to legend, Emperor Wen Di conquered a rebellion by Empress Lu, queen of a previous emperor, and to celebrate his victory, Wen declared the night a festival.

In the past, parents made the lanterns themselves out of paper, but today most are store-bought and lit by battery power.

Another big part of festival tradition is the eating of dumplings made from glutinous rice flour, some with red bean paste, rose petals, sesame and other flavored stuffings, and some plain.

The dumplings are called "tangyuan" which is similar in pronunciation to the pinyin for "family reunion." The round shape signifies perfection and reunion.

Again, in the past people made the dumpling in their own kitchens.

Today, most celebrants either buy prepared "tangyuan" at a supermarket or eat them at restaurants for 2 yuan (24 U.S. cents) to 5 yuan a bowl.

Business was booming yesterday at the Ningbo Tangtuan Food Shop in the Yuyuan area.

"It's really exciting," said shop owner Pang Shouzheng, pleased that she sold out her supply of 300 boxes yesterday, each containing 80 "tangyuan."

While her business is winding down, railway workers are facing a rush.

More than 220,000 people were expected to pour into the city today.

"It is the third transportation wave of the holiday," said Ying Rongwu of the Shanghai Railway Police Station.

The other crests, each amounting to more than 200,000 passengers, occurred on January 28 and February 1, as some workers returned to their jobs and other people came to the city hoping to find employment.

Today the influx will be swelled by college students coming back for the start of classes.

Yesterday, more than 176,000 people arrived in Shanghai by rail.

"The station was orderly, and we are well-prepared to receive the flow," said Ying.

More than 270 officers were assigned for crowd control, including 60 undercover agents targeting ticket scalpers.

Local police have arrested 63 scalpers since January 9, the first day of the Spring Festival transportation season, and confiscated tickets valued more than 57,000 yuan, Ying said.

(Eastday.com 02/08/2001)

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