Fish-shaped lanterns parades were recently held in a mountain village in east China's Anhui Province, attracting throngs of visitors.
Fish-shaped lanterns in Wangmantian village, Xitou township, Shexian county, Huangshan city of Anhui, boast a history of over 600 years and are a provincial-level intangible cultural heritage (ICH).
Every year between the 13th and 16th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, locals hold fish-shaped lanterns parades to pray for prosperity and peace.
The village has an ancient tradition of appointing a young man or woman as the head of each year’s fish-shaped lanterns parades. Wang Chunyan is the head of this year’s parades and is responsible for tasks including raising funds, purchasing materials, and organizing villagers to make and repair fish-shaped lanterns.
The lanterns are made of paper and bamboo. This year, the biggest fish-shaped lantern is 7 meters long and 3 meters high. “We spent four to five days finishing the biggest fish-shaped lantern this year,” Wang Chunyan said.
Wang Wenquan, 21, returned to the village from Hefei, capital city of Anhui for the Spring Festival. He previously served as the head of the village’s fish-shaped lanterns parades for three years. According to him, young people in the locality compete for the post.
He came to learn about the importance and value of passing on the ICH after developing a fondness for taking part in fish-shaped lanterns parades.
Xie Xiuyuan, who works in documentaries, recently captured some spectacular scenes with her camera during a fish-shaped lanterns parade in Wangmantian village.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Xie went to her grandmother’s home in Shexian county with her father for the Spring Festival 13 years ago when she was a college freshman. After her grandmother told her about fish-shaped lanterns parades in Wangmantian village, Xie and her father filmed in the village for five days and later made a documentary film, which drew widespread attention to the ICH and crowds of visitors to the village.
During the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar, which fell on Feb. 5 this year, districts and counties in Huangshan city held various ICH-themed activities, which have become very appealing to an increasing number of young people. “Their strong vitality has made traditional culture popular among young people,” said Xie.
More and more people have been taking it upon themselves to promote fish-shaped lanterns in various ways, such as livestreaming sessions and visiting senior handicraftsmen for cooperation opportunities.
Wangmantian village’s fish-shaped lanterns have been attracting greater attention in recent years, thanks to a film about them in 2021, a fish-shaped lanterns performance at the opening ceremony of a university sports meeting in 2022, and a New Year 2023 short film on the ICH related to a popular game.
“In 2021, our village formed a fish-shaped lanterns performance team, which has been invited to stage performances in places such as Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang,” said Wang Junhua, Party secretary of the Wangmantian village.
Today, Wangmantian village is home to nearly 30 fish-shaped lanterns workshops. At last year’s Lantern Festival, over 10,000 people thronged to the village. Offline sales of small fish-shaped lanterns in the locality exceeded 70,000 yuan (about $10,324) while online sales approached 150,000 yuan.
Local governments have made plans to train more inheritors of the techniques used to make fish-shaped lanterns, and incorporate the ICH into TV series, films, animations, traditional villages, and scenic areas.
“We are confident that we can inject new vitality into fish-shaped lanterns, which have a history of more than 600 years, and help introduce the ICH to the rest of the country,” said Liu Li, deputy mayor of Huangshan city.