Jiayi Zhu


Luminous Reverie

A person's birthday is the most important day of the year, the people's most important day of the year is the festival. Festivals are common days for everyone, and their types are rich and diverse, including ethnic, national, religious, about a group of people, and also closely related to people's lives. Most festivals have a long history, and some were formed during the long farming era. In order to be grateful for the gifts of nature, or to celebrate the harvest of hard work, or to stimulate the vitality of life, or to enhance interpersonal affection, after a long period of mutual recognition, people gradually determined a certain day of the year as a festival, and created a very complete and strict customs, such as rituals, celebrations, taboos, and even specific activities, decorations, etc. With food, to transform the festival into a unique and fascinating day. More importantly, people in every traditional festival, but also the common ideal of life, human aspirations and aesthetic pursuit into the connotation of the festival and various rituals. Therefore, it is the ultimate expression of the Chinese nation's earthly ideals and life aspirations, and a large part of Chinese culture is inherited from this festival passed down from generation to generation. In this academic year, I will focus on exploring China's Lantern Festival, a major celebration of the country's diverse cultures, and how it relates to my own experiences.
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In Chinese history, the Lantern Festival custom is different in different times, in the time of the festival, around the fifteenth day of the first month, there are long and short. The period of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-220 AD) was one day. The Tang Dynasty (618-907) lasted for three days. The Song Dynasty (960-1279) extended it to five days. The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) began to light the lanterns on the eighth day of the first month and put them out at night on the seventeenth day of the first month. The Lantern Festival of the Ming Dynasty coincides with the Spring Festival. People go to the market during the day and watch the lanterns at night. It is very busy. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), the folk activities of Lantern Festival became more abundant, but the festival was shortened to three to five days. During the period of the Republic of China (1912-1949), the Lantern Festival was prescribed for three days, which is still preserved in some parts of China, while in some places the Lantern Festival is only on the 15th day of the first lunar month this day.
From the government level, this festival has now been included in the scope of national holidays. The customs of Lantern Festival have diversified with the development of history. The custom of lighting lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar month originated in the Han Dynasty. In the Tang Dynasty, the custom of appreciating lanterns became more prosperous, and lanterns were hung everywhere in the royal palace, streets and homes, and tall lamp wheels, lamp buildings and lamp trees were also built in the imperial city. During the Tang and Song dynasties, lantern fairs also saw the rise of juggling. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, Lantern Festival has developed the activity of guessing riddles, as well as more rich customs such as singing and dancing, opera performances. In modern times, the Lantern Festival has become an important traditional festival for the Chinese people. Festival activities vary from place to place. Many places combine local customs and add traditional folk performances such as playing dragon lanterns, playing lions, walking on stilts, rowing boats, doing yangge and playing Taiping drums.
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The Lantern Festival, deeply rooted in China's rich history, serves as a symbolic representation of the country's extensive and diverse cultural tapestry. It isn't just a mere commemoration of a past event, it stands as a testament to China's unique ability to evolve and adapt to modern times without losing its profound connection to age-old customs and traditions. When I embarked on curating my collection, my primary intention was to capture this intricate equilibrium that the Lantern Festival effortlessly maintains. Through every piece in my collection, I aspire to showcase the festival’s enduring significance in not only reflecting the past but also in illuminating the present. For countless generations, the Lantern Festival has been more than just a festive occasion. It has been a symbol of hope, fostering unity and peace, and a wellspring of creativity, inspiring artists, writers, and everyday people alike. My collection is, in essence, a tribute to this timeless celebration, hoping to resonate with its spirit and convey its undying essence to the world.
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Jiayi Zhu, a senior fashion design student at Parsons School of Design. Originally from China, her collections are often inspired by Chinese festivals, incorporating symbolic motifs and rich colour palettes that reflect the festive spirit and cultural depth of her homeland. Through her designs, Jiayi aims to invoke a sense of nostalgia while pushing the boundaries of contemporary fashion. Her work is not only a nod to her cultural past but also a vision of its place in modern-day fashion. By reimagining traditional garments with a fresh approach, she aims to make Chinese style accessible to today’s global audience.