Under the Three Gorges Project:
a light ceremony complished by river lanterns underwater

Daylight investigations - Region ASIA & OCEANIA

Yawen Qiao
Deng Teng
Haoyu Zhang
Shuyang Yan

Jun Wang
Huang Xuan

Southwest Jiaotong University, Chengdu


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Since 1994, the construction of the Three Gorges Water Conservancy Project has created 1.2 million “Three Gorges migrants”. In this grand narrative of the times, every individual, adult or child, is at a loss and confused by the disconnection. What this group faces is not only migration, but also the change in economic production methods, the transformation of lifestyles, the break of interpersonal social networks, and the splitting of clan inheritance, based on land development that has lasted for hundreds of years. The countless buildings and monuments that could not leave with the people remain forever under the waters of the Three Gorges. These buildings are not only the medium of the clan heritage of the Three Gorges residents but also the carrier of the local customs of their hometown, full of the strong local sentiments of the Three Gorges migrants. With their sinking, the connection between the people of Three Gorges and the land was broken, and the people’s spiritual support and belonging were lost.

Therefore, we have reinvented this tradition. During the Zhong Yuan Festival, the migrants are allowed to rekindle their underwater homeland by releasing river lanterns. Of course, this is all done in an environmental-friendly way. During the lighting period, re-communicating with the past neighbors, it is as if one has never moved. The flickering of the river lanterns in the water is the thoughts and words of the Three Gorges migrants for their homeland, while it is also like a scene from a dream as if one has returned to his ancestral home.

This is both a ritual and a memorial, as well as a reconnection of the Three Gorges immigrants with their broken ancestral home and local feelings.