關鍵詞：夜禁 狂歡 偷青 男扮女裝 走百病
Sleepless in China: Carnivalesque Celebration of the Lantern Festival and Official Regulation of Everyday Life during the Ming-Qing Period
Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
For thousands of years, the Chinese have been celebrating the Lantern Festival, which not only climaxes the entire Spring Festival celebrations, but also symbolizes the completion of the transitional passage from the past year to a new one. Unlike other annual observances that comprise only one-day fetes and are celebrated mostly within family, the Lantern Festival is usually celebrated continuously over several days with various social activities. During the late imperial era, with official approval for lifting the curfew, places like the lantern markets in the cities and the temple fairs in the villages became spectacles where people, regardless of gender, social status, or any other identities, were all allowed to enjoy the colorful night together. They were both actors and spectators on an open stage with shining lights above.
Normally, the separation of night and day, the demarcation of urban and rural, the differentiation of elite and commoner, and the distinction between male and female constituted the order of everyday life in imperial China, as well as basic ontological and principles of Confucianism. Yet, the celebration of the Lantern festival was carnivalesque; people encouraged to break the rules, cross the above-mentioned boundaries, and even turn them upside-down. The Lantern Festival was thus perceived by some as a grave threat to the social norms and the legal order that defines everydayness.
In the paper I investigate the Lantern Festival in the context of the dialectical tension and interdependence between state and society. Since the Lantern Festival was celebrated by both the government and the populace, it is an ideal lens on the penetration of the political authority from top down and the resistance to social power from bottom up. Hence I delve into how the political authority participated or even initiated the celebration of the Lantern Festival in order to demonstrate the present order as a time of peace and prosperity, but at the same time also endeavored to monitor and police the popular celebration for fear of its explicit subversive qualities. On the other hand, based upon a comparative scrutiny of local gazetteers, literati’s miscellaneous notes and fiction, folklore, and dramas, I also examine how the popular discourses were formed and varied during the Ming-Qing period to justify such carnivalesque activities as “stealing greens (touqing)” and “warding off the hundred diseases (zou baibing),” which strongly demonstrate subversive vitality of the common people.
Keywords: Lantern Festival, carnival, curfew, transvestism