The Lantern festival in China dates back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Even today it is considered to be one of the important traditional festivals of China. It was Emperor Hanmingdi an ardent follower of Buddhism who had first started this festival. He came to know that some monks lit lanterns on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month to show their respect to the Buddha. Being a devotee of Lord Buddha the Emperor too ordered all the temples, royal palaces and even the households to light lantern on that evening. This practice of lighting lanterns gradually turned into a grand festival for the people of China.
According to another belief, the Lantern Festival has originated from the Torch Festival. People in rural China used to light torches to scare away evil spirits, beasts and insects that damaged their crops. In some parts of Southwest China people still light up torches made from reeds or branches and celebrate the lantern festival by dancing in the fields or the grain sunning grounds. Some also include fireworks display to add more fun to the celebrations.
The lantern festival was popularised during the reign of the Sui, Tang and Song dynasties. There are historical records of hundreds and thousands of singers and dancers participating in the grand celebrations which lasted from morning till dawn. In the recent times the festival has become a major tourist attraction in China.