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February 11, 2009

China's Lantern Festival, and an unfortunate ending

Marking the end of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival takes place on the 15th day of the year - during the first full moon. People across Mainland China and Taiwan celebrate the festival in many colorful ways, from fiery folk traditions to firework displays and laser shows. Unfortunately, this year's festival ended on a somewhat sour note as an unauthorized fireworks show set an unoccupied skyscraper on fire in downtown Beijing, and one firefighter lost his life fighting the blaze. Collected here are 27 photos of the festival, and a handful from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel fire in Beijing. (27 photos total)

A performer dressed in traditional costume sings during the celebrations for the lantern festival in the city of Tianjin, located 100 km (62 miles) east of Beijing February 9, 2009. The lantern festival marks the last day of the two-week Chinese lunar new year celebrations. (REUTERS/David Gray)

Visitors stand in front of a giant lantern to celebrate the upcoming Lantern Festival at a park in Tianjin municipality February 7, 2009. (REUTERS/Vincent Du) #

A folk stuntman sprays molten iron against a concrete wall to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Nuanquan town of Yuxian County, Hebei province February 8, 2009. For over 300 years, the village has carried out the tradition of spraying molten iron at 1,300° C (2,372° F) against a cold concrete wall to form sparks like fireworks during Lantern Festival, local media reported. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

People visit a folk performance of spraying molten iron to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Nuanquan town of Yuxian County, Hebei province February 8, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

A local stuntman flings molten iron against a concrete wall, causing a sparking lightshow to celebrate the Lantern Festival in Nuanquan town, Hebei province February 8, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

A girl tries to lift a red lantern to be hung to decorate the Qianmen Avenue to celebrate the Lantern Festival on February 8, 2009 in Beijing, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

Villagers wear traditional costumes as they perform Zou Madeng to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao) in Hefei, central China's Anhui province February 8, 2009. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Villagers rest after a stilt walking performance in Shehuo celebrations on February 7, 2009 in Xining of Qinghai Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A resident performs Yangge Dance, a festive dance popular in rural areas of North China, at the Xian Culture Plaza during the Lantern Festival celebrations on February 9, 2009 in Changchun of Jilin Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A man sits next to fireworks for sale on a street in Beijing for the celebration of the end of the Lunar New Year on February 9, 2009. (PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images) #

Children wearing decorative Ox horns hold cards filled with New Year greetings as they await government officials who are arriving at a community function celebrating the upcoming Lantern Festival in Shanghai February 6, 2009. (REUTERS/Aly Song) #

A giant ox lantern stands in the square of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, near the Taipei 101 building during the 2009 Taipei Lantern Festival, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009, in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying) #

People light and hold sky lanterns, readying them for release, to celebrate the traditional Chinese Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi, Taipei County, Taiwan on February 7, 2009. Believers from Taiwan, Japan and Thailand gathered on Saturday to release sky lanterns as a form of prayer for good luck and blessings. (REUTERS/Nicky Loh) #

People begin to release their sky lanterns for the Chinese Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi, Taipei County, Taiwan on February 7, 2009. (REUTERS/Nicky Loh) #

Sky lanterns float into the night during the Chinese Sky Lantern Festival in Pingsi, Taiwan on February 7, 2009. According to the elders of Pingsi, the tradition of releasing lanterns began during the Ching Dynasty when bands of outlaws frequently raided villages around Pingsi, forcing local residents to seek refuge in the mountains. The lanterns were signals used by the village watchmen to inform the refugees that their houses were safe again. (REUTERS/Nicky Loh) #

A performer pauses during a folk art performance celebrating the Lantern Festival on the last day of the Chinese lunar New Year, in Yuxian County, Hebei province February 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

A boy passes by a large ox-shaped lantern at the Qingchuange Lantern Festival on February 8, 2009 in Wuhan of Hubei Province, China. (China Photos/Getty Images) #

A local performer, dressed up as characters from the Chinese mythology, yawns during a "Shehuo" parade to celebrate the lantern festival in Longxian, Shaanxi province February 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause) #

The Moon appears in focus as fireworks explode in the sky over Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China, during the Lantern Festival celebrations in February 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Jeff Xu) #

People set off fireworks to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival in Xian, in north China's Shanxi province on February 9, 2009. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) #

Fireworks light up the city sky to celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival in Xian, in north China's Shanxi province on February 9, 2009. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images) #

A building in the new China Central Television (CCTV) complex, still under construction, is seen on fire in Beijing February 9, 2009. The fire, started inadvertently by an unofficial fireworks display for the Lantern Festival staged by CCTV officials, destroyed the unoccupied building, designed by Rem Koolhaas, which was meant to house the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. (REUTERS/China Daily). #

Firemen prepare to fight a fire at a building that would have housed the soon-to-be-opened Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Beijing February 9, 2009. One person was killed in the fire, firefighter Zhang Jianyong, age 30. He was among the first on the scene and died from smoke inhalation. (REUTERS/Paul Zhang) #

The unoccupied Mandarin Oriental Hotel building, part of the new CCTV headquarters complex, is seen burning in Beijing, China on February 9, 2009. (REUTERS/China Daily (CHINA). #

Water is sprayed at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel building after it caught on fire in Beijing February 9, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

The facade of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel building, seen the day after it burned, in Beijing China, February 10, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

A general view shows the Mandarin Oriental Hotel building (right) which burned the night before, next to the CCTV (left) building in Beijing February 10, 2009. (REUTERS/Jason Lee) #

 
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