Genshin Impact’s Lantern Rite Festival Is A Heartfelt Homage To The Game’s Roots

Genshin Impact’s Lantern Rite Festival Is A Heartfelt Homage To The Game’s Roots

This year, I returned to Liyue Harbor to find paper kites flying alongside strings of vermillion lanterns. I couldn’t help but reminisce on the first time I wandered these docks, grinding through mini-games and coaxing a certain antisocial mask-wearing warrior into the city. Like Genshin Impact’s protagonist, the Traveler, I admire the busybody organizers and festive scenery as a visitor, even though I’ve been here before. What was once a self-contained festival within the country of Geo has evolved into a crossover celebration that embodies Liyue’s most important values and unites characters across Teyvat.

Liyue, one of Teyvat’s seven nations, is inspired by China. Lantern Rite usually aligns with the Lunar New Year, a real holiday celebrated in countries including China, Vietnam, and South Korea. It’s the only event in Genshin Impact that happens annually, which might be because of HoYoverse’s identity as a Shanghai-based developer. But Lantern Rite isn’t just the in-game equivalent of a major Chinese holiday. It’s also teaches players about Chinese culture while meaningfully expanding Genshin lore.

Screenshot: HoYoVerse

The start of Lantern Rite

At its heart, Lantern Rite is a festival about celebrating life. Liyue is still recovering from the loss of its Archon, Rex Lapis, and many of Genshin’s characters from the region are still grieving friends and loved ones that fell during the Archon War.

When I first experienced Lantern Rite in 2021, I learned about how Liyue citizens lit lanterns like wishes and released them alongside what was essentially a giant parade float commemorating the life of a historical figure that year. It’s similar to the real-life Lantern Festival meant for honoring those who have passed away. I remember watching as Xiao, the signature character of that year’s event, watched a former comrade’s deer-like form prance across the lantern-lit sky. At the time, it struck me as a heartwarming story about healing and closure. It seemed less like a celebration of Chinese culture and more like one that lightly touched upon the themes without overstating them. It was about unpacking the lore, especially that involving the relationships between the citizens, heroes, the nation’s Geo Archon, and the divine heroes known as yakshas. However, HoYoVerse’s ambitions with Lantern Rite grew much grander in the years that followed.

Fleeting Colors in Flight in 2022 was where Lantern Rite really started to take form as a melting-pot kind of event. This larger celebration affected every playable character in the region. Keqing, then one of the most neglected characters in terms of screentime, had a major role in the event. In addition to Xiao, every character from Ningguang, Liyue’s most important politician, to the rockstar, Xinyan, had a role or cameo in the event. That iteration was the start of a more robust Lantern Rite that had the “crossover quality” that would apply to future festivals—ones that spanned international waters.

Screenshot: HoYoVerse

A melting pot of culture

I’m not Chinese. That said, I’ve been exposed to enough Chinese culture that I crave the occasional dimsum and recognize the significance of red envelopes in Chinatown, even though I won’t catch Genshin’s references to Chinese opera. Though I can’t personally relate to the way the festival is celebrated (because it’s not celebrated in my own culture), HoYoverse started to add other characters to the mix who were also experiencing the festival for the first time.

Lantern Rite expanding outside of Liyue was a stepping stone to crossover content Genshin players wouldn’t otherwise get. In 2023, Exquisite Night Chimes built on the traditional Lantern Rite event by including visitors from overseas. A major storyline that year featured a conductor from Fontaine who came to Liyue to find the descendant of the musician that saved his ancestor. This year also featured a music festival that mixed inspirations from within and outside of Liyue. It brought Venti, Mondstadt’s Archon, to the dinner table with Liyue’s main cast, even if he left as quickly as he arrived. Still, as an old friend of Zhongli, his presence tied in with the theme of reconnecting with people from one’s past.

This year’s Lantern Rite, Vibrant Harriers Aloft in Spring Breeze, returns with a promising premise starring wushou dancer Gaming (pronounced gah-ming, not gay-ming) and Liyue’s efforts to connect with countries overseas. Charlotte, one of Fontaine’s iconic characters, greets the Traveler while planning with Keqing about her country’s relationship with Liyue. It’s a nod to Fontaine’s long-awaited addition to the game earlier this year, and at the same time it feels like passing the torch. It’s also another opportunity to feature Chinese culture at the forefront of the story. Instead of opera with Yunjin back in Genshin Impact 2.4, this time it’s kite-flying and lion dancing.

Each Lantern Rite builds upon the last. While the festival remains Liyue-centered at heart, it honors the bonds between the characters on a grander scale than other in-game events. Lantern Rite is like a homecoming for Genshin players, especially the die-hards who have been playing for years now. Almost like a second anniversary event, it honors the growth of the game and its community…at least, most of the time.

Lantern Rite Promotional Video: Dream Upon a Lantern|Genshin Impact

HoYoverse doesn’t always do the right thing for its fans, as seen with latest Chinese review bombing and unfollowing incident that ensued after developers revealed that they would only be giving players three Intertwined Fates (three chances to get a character on a banner) as a reward for three years of participation. As per the in-game event explanation and rewards graphics from the livestream, it’s actually 10 Intertwined Fates from the Lantern Rite check-in event plus the additional three from another check-in event that starts on February 24. Still, the fact that players even expected so much from this event serves as a reminder about how big a deal it’s supposed to be. It’s not just another throwaway event: it’s a legacy.

This Lunar New Year, I’m reminded of wushou dancing as I weave through the streets of New York’s Chinatown, packed between celebrants setting off fireworks and filming the passing parade. The lion dancers shake their ornate, colorful costumes through the sidewalks, echoing what I’d seen in Liyue Harbor this year. I watch with eyes as big as saucers when fireworks explode above me into a colorful spray of sparks.

It wasn’t my first time, but it might be someone else’s.

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