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Festive Lantern Banquet in Nantou

Xiao Jiuyuan (R) is taking down a festive lantern. [Photo by Yu Zhaoyu]

Arriving in Nantou Town, one may come face-to-face with the grand home appliance production plants. If he or she visits the rural community of this town and chats with the locals about the development of Nantou, the Festive Lantern Banquet culture will always be brought up.

The Beidi Temple is opposite Beidi Community in Nantou. The flat steps, colorful paints and clean gate all reveal the majesty of the Beidi Temple.

Xiao Jiuyuan, 62, is the original inhabitant of the Beidi Community. He is also the heir of the Festive Lantern Banquet culture and a member of the Beidi Temple Council. Since childhood, he has participated in various folk activities of the Beidi Temple. After retirement, Xiao devoted himself to the daily management of the temple.

According to Xiao, the customs of Festive Lantern Banquet in Nantou enjoy a common history of nearly 200 years. During the annaul Festive Lantern Banquet in the first lunar month and on the 9th day of September lunar calendar, all communities in Nantou will hold lantern bidding ceremonies, with residents gathering for charity. The largest events are held in Beidi and Min'an communities, where hundreds of tables are at the center of lively and prosperous annual feasts.

In 2017, "Nantou Festive Lantern Banquet" became a representational project among the seventh batch of Guangdong intangible cultural heritage.

According to Xiao, the funds raised in each event will be announced to the public and fully used for the daily operation of the Beidi Temple and the inheritance of the Festive Lantern Banquet culture.

The Beidi Temple Council, established in 2012, also serves to promote the development and inheritance of the Festive Lantern Banquet culture with an open mind. Its most important role is to invite the guests from all over the world to attend such events.

"Outsiders would not be allowed to participate in the praying ceremony and lantern bidding in the past," said Xiao. As society develops, people's mindsets have gradually changed. Since its establishment, the council has taken the initiative to invite companies that have settled in Nantou and even people from surrounding towns and cities to join, understand and inherit Festive Lantern Banquet.

Now, not only the locals of Nantou but also people from Guangzhou, Foshan, Zhuhai and other surrounding cities are attending the Festive Lantern Banquet events held in the Beidi Temple each year.

"The council plans to hold more activities aside from those on designated holidays for the masses to attend as a way for them to better understand the culture," according to Xiao.

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