Lunar New Year Celebration

Detail of painting of red plum blossoms.

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population. While the official dates encompassing the holiday vary by culture, those celebrating consider it the time of the year to reunite with immediate and extended family.

Commonly known as the Spring Festival in China, Lunar New Year is a fifteen-day celebration marked by many traditions. At home, families decorate windows with red paper cuttings and adorn doors with couplets expressing auspicious wishes for the new year. Shopping for holiday sundries in open-air markets and cleaning the house are also beloved traditions. The Lunar New Year’s Eve reunion dinner is the highlight that kicks off the holiday, a feast with a spread of symbolic dishes, such as a whole fish representing abundance, that bring good luck and fortune. The fifteenth and final day of the holiday is the Lantern Festival, during which people have tangyuan, or sweet glutinous rice balls, and children carry lanterns around the neighborhood at night to mark the end of the celebration.

In the Chinese zodiac, 2024 is the year of the dragon. Different regions across Asia celebrate Lunar New year in many ways and may follow a different zodiac. We also acknowledge that many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders do not observe the Chinese/lunar zodiac.

Dancers wearing a red-and-gold lion costume perform a lion dance before a crowd gathered in an outdoor plaza.

Lunar New Year Family Festival

February 3, 2024

It's the year of the dragon! Celebrate Lunar New Year at the National Museum of Asian Art with free attractions for all ages, including performances, talks, tours, hands-on activities, and more.

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  • A round red lacquer treasure box with intricate carvings

    Virtual Tour: Lunar New Year

    Leap into the year of the dragon in 2024 with a virtual tour of our collections! On the tour, visitors will explore popular legends, learn to identify auspicious messages, and uncover the symbolism of animals, plants, and colors associated with Lunar New Year. Schedule your virtual tour today!

    Request a Virtual Tour

Learn More about Lunar New Year Traditions

Immerse yourself in the holiday and the art and culture of China through videos, audio recordings, written sources, and more.

Video Poster

Video | "Luck and Fortune: Lunar New Year Food Traditions" | View on YouTube

  • woman playing a stringed instrument

    Chinese Music for Lunar New Year

    Also called the Spring Festival, Lunar New Year in China marks the traditional start of the agricultural season. It’s also a time to admire the hearty plum blossom, which flowers so early that snow is sometimes still on the ground. Enjoy these performances of music celebrating plum blossoms, lingering snow, and the arrival of springtime. This compilation draws from concerts at the museum featuring Bing Xia on zheng, Yi Zhou on pipa and qin, Miao Yi Min on xiao and dizi, and the Gang-a-Tsui Theater, all recorded live at the National Museum of Asian Art.

    Listen Now

For Educators: Teaching China with the Smithsonian

Discover videos and objects related to Lunar New Year. These resources are perfect asynchronous learning assignments for students in grades 5 through 12.

Teachers can access the following Mandarin lesson plans:

Take an immersive tour of two Chinese artworks through story maps from Google Arts and Culture:

Need a fun interactive activity? Complete our Lunar New Year-inspired puzzle.

Pre-K–12 Virtual Field Trips

Available December 11, 2023–February 23, 2024
Available for Grades Pre-K–5

What is Lunar New Year, and how is the celebration similar to and different from celebrations marking January 1? Discuss the entertainment, foods, symbols, and other customs of Lunar New Year. During this virtual field trip, students will explore works of art. Other possible activities include participating in an interactive storytelling session, completing a simple art project, or watching video clips of Lunar New Year festivities. Ring in the year of the dragon!

Do you teach a language immersion class? We offer virtual field trips in Hindi, Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin. Learn more about these virtual field trips and reserve your program.

Grades 1–6 Webinars

Grades 1–3: Tuesday, January 30, 1–1:45 p.m. Register
Grades 4–6: Wednesday, January 31, 1–1:45 p.m. Register

During this webinar, students will discuss the entertainment, foods, symbols, and other customs of Lunar New Year as they explore works of art and interact with presenters. These sessions are perfect for homeschool groups or for teachers who may want to review a recording after the live session. Register for dates depending on student grade level. Links to view the recording will be sent to those who register.

  • A stylized dragon and a virtual portal float in augmented reality, with a plant and a door in the background.

    Play in AR: Hidden Dragons

    Dragons are hiding throughout the museum! Make your own party with the boisterous dragons that inhabit this interactive augmented-reality experience.

    Learn More

Chinese Art Exhibitions

Experience the Chinese art exhibitions that are currently on view, or browse our exhibition archive.

  • A set of narrow, vertical panels arranged side by side. An expansive, detailed scene of palace buildings and grounds, populated by many figures, is rendered in multi-tonal inlays and black lacquer.

    Palace Life Unfolds: Conserving a Chinese Lacquer Screen

    July 15, 2023–January 28, 2024

    On display for the first time after a major conservation project, this Chinese lacquer screen dated to 1672 is a delight, featuring newly revealed intricate details that had been obscured by centuries of wear and use. This exhibition examines the screen’s meaning and use in China, the techniques of its manufacture, and the efforts of museum staff to research and conserve this work of art. It also explores the popularity of such screens as imported luxuries in Europe.

    View Exhibition
  • Three metal, handled vessels with zoomorphic designs.

    Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings

    February 25, 2023–April 28, 2024

    Anyang: China’s Ancient City of Kings features over two hundred remarkable artifacts drawn exclusively from the museum’s permanent collections. Explore the early development of Chinese writing, enduring ritual practices, innovations in weaponry and warfare, advances in design and manufacturing, and the highly personal spaces of tombs, including objects chosen for the afterlife.

    View Exhibition
  • Detail of swirling, expressive dragons and clouds, painted on a white porcelain dish

    Looking Out, Looking In: Art in Late Imperial China


    Many of the powerful emperors of China’s last dynasties—the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912)—were patrons, collectors, and casual practitioners of the arts. Art served many functions: for state rituals, for expressing piety, to dazzle palace visitors, to build diplomatic relations, and for personal pleasure.

    View Exhibition
  • Stylized, swirling depictions of a feline and a dragon, carved in light green jade.

    Afterlife: Ancient Chinese Jades


    A construction boom in China more than a century ago resulted in new railways and factories—and the accidental discovery of scores of rich ancient cemeteries. Buried in these tombs for thousands of years were jewelry and ritual objects, all laboriously crafted from jade.

    View Exhibition
  • Promise of Paradise: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Sculpture


    Buddhism’s rapid evolution transformed China’s artistic landscape. The period produced massive cave sites, grand temples, and monumental stone figures, as well as smaller images for domestic altars.

    View Exhibition
  • Partial view of a gold surface decorated with designs of birds and floral scrolls, with a medallion in the center.

    Center of the World: China and the Silk Road


    Located in northwest China, Chang’an (modern Xi’an) served as the gateway to the so-called Silk Road, overland trade routes that linked the prosperous Tang empire with Central, West, and South Asia. This wealthy, worldly hub offered a ready market for exotic imports, including silver and gold objects, delicate glassware, and even grape wine.

    View Exhibition
  • lidded bronze wine vessel in the shape of a stylized dove

    Art and Industry: China’s Ancient Houma Foundry


    The largest bronze foundry complex from antiquity was excavated at Houma in northern China in the mid-twentieth century. Fragments of reused clay models, master pattern blocks, and decorated clay molds indicate the adoption of ceramic pattern transfers to cast ornamented bronze objects.

    View Exhibition

Chinese Art in the Collections

With more than thirteen thousand objects dating from Neolithic times (circa 7000–circa 2000 BCE) to the present, the National Museum of Asian Art’s collections include some of the finest Chinese art in the world. In addition to containing numerous masterworks, the collections reflect all major periods and materials of artistic production. Special strengths include remarkable ancient jades and bronzes, early Buddhist sculpture, imperial and trade ceramics, lacquer, classical paintings, and calligraphy, all of which are among the greatest treasures of Chinese art outside of China.

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