Lanterns Lighted, Poetry Revived: Recap of the 2022 Chinese Language Program Lantern Festival Poetry Event

Over the past three months, the 2022 UBC Lantern Festival Poetry Event organized by the Chinese Language Program (CLP) attracted significant attention and achieved great success. Held for the fifth time, the event this year showcased 102 artworks related to Chinese poetry submitted by CLP students, and shared 20 multilingual presentations by distinguished guest speakers from both the Department of Asian Studies and the UBC Asian Library. Due to Covid-related uncertainties, the event took place online through its dedicated Canvas site this year. Despite various challenges, the event’s organizers and talented participants creatively celebrated the Lantern Festival with innovative contributions loaded with multicultural connotations. What’s more, this event promoted knowledge sharing related to poetic traditions in multiple languages and cultures among Asian Studies students, faculty members, Asian Library experts, and beyond.

2022 CLP Lantern Festival Poetry Event Recap Video:

This year, the Lantern Festival event centered on the theme of “revival,” which sought to prompt both guest presenters and student participants to reflect on the potential richness of post-pandemic life. The theme has given rise to a diverse collection of Lantern Festival-themed artworks created by students in CHIN 450+ level Chinese literature courses. Each and every participant innovatively interpreted the theme of “revival” and associated it with a great variety of talented works.

Welcoming all participants on the Homepage of the event website, Dr. Sharalyn Orbaugh, Head of the Department of Asian Studies and Professor of Modern Japanese Literature and Popular Culture, started off the poetry event with a passionate and poetic video message, in which she told several fascinating revival-related stories and shared a Japanese poem on the event theme.

Dr. Sharalyn Orbaugh delivering her welcoming message

The event showcased a kaleidoscope of guest poetry presentations, student talent demonstrations, and lively audience discussions. It also introduced the significance of the Lantern Festival and engaged the participants with lantern riddles. These activities formed the core of the event and promoted community engagement through intercultural and multilingual communications.

Presented in a cluster of Asian languages, the guests’ contributions well illustrated the multilingual and intercultural dimensions of the poetry event. Ms. Jing Liu, Chinese Studies Librarian at the Asian Library, explained in great detail how Chinese poetry was revived and became popular in British Columbia. Dr. Mostafa Abedinifard passionately read a classical Persian poem named “Spring Imagery.” Similarly, Dr. Sunil Bhatt connected revival with spring by reciting quite a few Hindi poems with great enthusiasm. In his presentation, Dr. Nick Hall talked about the tradition of haiku recitals and chanted a haiku verse in Japanese. Dr. Ross KingDr. Zoe LamDr. Xueshun Liu, and Dr. Naveena Naqvi all shared their impressive poetry recitations in Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin and Urdu respectively. Dr. Zheng Cai presented a poem titled “Miracle” composed by himself from the perspective of a little boy. Dr. Kay Duffy elaborated on a famous poem titled “The Song of Everlasting Sorrow and commented on how dynastic politics and romantic love are entangled therein

Also revolving around the theme of revival, Dr. Hedy Law’s presentation discussed a Cantonese song titled “Journey of an Itinerant Spirit.” Lecturer Gurinder Mann innovatively read a Punjabi poem in a musical style. Dr. Christopher Rea passionately delivered a classical Chinese poem written by the renowned poet Li Bai. And Dr. Bruce Rusk shared another classical Chinese poem titled “Silkworm Song of Torchlit Fields.” In juxtaposition to the classical poems, Dr. Renren Yang presented an inspiring modern Chinese poem titled “All You Need Is to Be Alive.” Dr. Jeonghye Son, Dr. Ayaka Yoshimizu, and Dr. Zhaokun Xin in turn delivered poetry recitals in Korean, Japanese, and Mandarin respectively. Dr. Bin Zheng shared a self-composed metrical poem named “Lily Magnolia” that is charged with deep feelings.

The guest speakers’ multilingual presentations vividly represent the rich and diverse cultures at the Department of Asian Studies. The guest contributions greatly stimulated heritage Chinese students’ interests in various poetic traditions and prompted them to broaden their horizons. In the meantime, students from the CHIN450+ literature courses at CLP similarly demonstrated outstanding talents through a great variety of artworks, such as photography, calligraphy, painting, self-composed poems, poetry recitals, original videos, and instrumental performances. The students’ active and creative participation made the event exciting and inspiring.


The Photography section exhibited a total of 26 photo submissions, one of which came from CHIN literature student Qi Qi and conveys a sense of revival by capturing a large number of blooming cherry blossoms and relating them to a famous poem about spring by the philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200). Photos by students Jiaying Liao and Wendy Sun also touched on the theme of revival via spring. These captivating photos vividly convey the transformative force of nature and time, reminding us of the significance of revival after a long winter, both literally and metaphorically.

Photo by Qi Qi

Photo by Jiaying Liao

In the Poetry section, 25 original poems and 20 poetry recitals were displayed. Atian Suen Guo impressed the audience by sharing a touching poem that he composed on the night of the Lantern Festival. The poem relates to the theme of revival by expressing great hope for tomorrow. Meanwhile, Jian Zou recited with great passion the well-known poem “Farewell to Cambridge Again” by the modern Chinese poet Xu Zhimo. By composing and chanting poetry in their unique ways, literature students from the CLP have explored their poetic talents with considerable creativity.

Poem composed by Atian Suen Guo

Poem composed by Xu Zhimo and recited by Jian Zou

Ziyan Huang’s self-composed poem features a vivid description of night scenes, demonstrating their familiarity with poetic meters and moods. A poetry recital by Elina Xu guided the audience into the mystical and enchanting world of Cao Zhi’s (192-232) “Rhapsody on the Goddess of Luo River.” The students drew on their literary expertise to explore the fascinating poetic worlds.

Poem by Ziyan Huang

“Rhapsody on Goddess of Luo” recited by Elina Xu

There were also 18 outstanding artworks in the Calligraphy and Painting section. Truly a masterpiece, Yue Yao’s brushstrokes breathe new life into Zhu Xi’s famous poem “A Verse Written by Chance.” Xiaojiao Yuan painted some lovely rice dumplings with sweet-scented osmanthus fillings, which highlights the ambience of the Lantern Festival. Their artistic talents beautifully furnished the festive atmosphere.

“A Verse Written by Chance” by Zhu Xi, Calligraphy by Yue Yao

Painting by Xiaojiao Yuan

Besides the amazing works shown above, three wonderful performance videos also lit up the event. Jiaxin Yang played the song titled Jasmine on the piano and created a peaceful atmosphere. The resonant singing of both Atian Suen Guo and Xinling Huang also left deep impressions on the audience.

Jiaxin Yang’s performance of Jasmine

Not only did participants have great fun by engaging with Chinese poetry, but they also helped each other figure out the key to various lantern riddles. The CLP wishes hearty congratulations to Feifei Yang, winner of the Lantern Riddle Games. A huge congratulations to all the mentioned participants above as well, whose works have been recognized by the large number of likes from the audience, and who have been awarded prizes as well.

The 2022 Lantern Festival Poetry Event served as an ideal platform for both the contributors and the audience to expand their knowledge of different poetic traditions, foster their creative imagination, and learn from each other. They simultaneously gain deeper appreciation of Chinese cultures as the CLP community revives the beauty of poetic arts and explores its impacts on our life today. Indeed, the event has played a crucial role in connecting professors with students, participants with the audience, as well as people from various cultural and linguistic backgrounds in a virtual context. Through poetry, the event facilitated multilingual as well as intercultural communications, and promoted community engagement on multiple levels. To further deepen and enrich learners’ understanding of Chinese poetry, the CLP offers a comprehensive range of literature courses on poetic traditions from earliest classical verses to contemporary popular lyrics. Although the pandemic confined the event to the online format, the participants’ creativity and the audience’s dedicated engagement alike have inspired new ways of interacting with a diverse range of poetic traditions.

Written by Jiayi Zhang
Edited by Shih-wei Wang