Have you heard of the Lantern Festival in China? Have you paid a visit to the temple fairs or lantern shows in China? If you have attended the temple fairs or lantern fairs in China, I suppose that you must be deeply impressed by these exquisite lanterns. Today, I’ll talk about these exquisite to you.
Paper lanterns, originating from Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), mainly were used as lamps in ancient China. A variety of crafts were used in their making such as Chinese paintings, paper-cutting, and pricking and seaming.
Originally, monks used lanterns on the twelfth day of the first lunar month in their worship of the Buddha. First Chinese lanterns were invented in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25–220 AD) and used as lamps and for the worship of the Buddha. Later, this custom gradually became a grand festival among common people. During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), people made lanterns to celebrate their peaceful life while the splendid illuminations symbolized and celebrated the prosperous, strong and powerful country.
Characteristics of Chinese lantern
With a history of more than 1800 years old, the workmanship of Chinese lantern is a perfect combination of Chinese painting, paper-cutting, paper arts, embroidery, sewing, as well as the lighting function.
- Using for celebrating ending of the harvest and symbolizing sun, light and warmth, and prayering to the Sun to come back after the winter
- A status symbol.
- Illuminating the future and giving birth Taiwan for “Deng” pronounced “Ding”, which means “a new-born baby boy”.
- Pink color symbolizes romance, white represents good health, green yields growth, orange means money, yellow brings good luck and light blue and purple make dreams come true
- The round shape symbolizes wholeness and togetherness
- Common decorative writings represent best wishes for a long, healthy life and a prosperous, wealthy future.
- Lantern crafters will paint dragons for strength, bamboo for resilience, butterflies and flowers for happiness, and trees and plants for growth.
- People hung lanterns in front of their doors to drive away evil spirits.
The materials to make Chinese lantern include bamboo, wood, rattan, straw, animal horns, metal, silk, damask, etc. The shade was crafted from delicate paper or silk.
- Palace Lantern
Palace lantern was hung in the royal palaces at the very beginning. It is famous for the delicate craftsmanship, graceful and dignified pictures as well as the courtly features. Fine wood was used to make the frames that were covered in silk or glass when making palace lanterns. Their shapes were diverse, such as octagonal, hexagonal and even diametric.
- Gauze Lantern
Gauze was used to cover the lantern. Bamboo was used to make frames but wire is used now, while the candles are replaced by bulbs.
- Shadow-picture Lantern
Appeared in China 1,000 years ago, this kind of lantern was usually used for entertainment. The shape is much like that of the palace lanterns and there were two layers of covers. Paper-cuts are pasted or pictures are drawn on the inner layer. When lit, the heat causes a paper wheel inside the lantern to rotate so that moving pictures appear on the outer cover.
- Zou Ma Deng Lantern
Zou Ma Deng Lantern, adorned with a revolving circle of paper horses, has been favored by all walks of life.
- Suzhou-style lanterns
Suzhou-style lanterns usually have a rustic style. They boast a time-honored history and various colors, refined processing, ingenious structure, exquisite sculpture and grand magnificence. Suzhou lanterns have various appearances, ranging from bird, flower, and fish to pavilion, terrace, tower and even human figures.
- Flying Lanterns
This kind of airborne lanterns are propelled by rising hot air generated by the flame within. They are beautiful to watch and are often released in large groups for a more eye-catching effect.
- Floating Lanterns
Lantern celebrations, such as the Dragon Boat Festival, that take place near rivers, ponds, and lakes will often feature floating lanterns. This variety comes in many different shapes, such as the lotus design featured here.
5 distinct classes
- The Baby’s Bottom
The Baby’s Bottom is the miniature class, often used in modern times with Christmas lights.
- The Rolling Paper
This tall and cylindrical lantern is often associated with restaurants and bars.
- Tomato Light
The Tomato Light also known as Big Red; the classic round mid-size lantern. The color red traditionally symbolizes good fortune prosperity and joy.
- The Crystal Magic
This type can be made in any geometric form, from square to hexagonal, and everything in between. Crystal Magic lanterns are typically ornately decorated, reminding viewers of one of their original purposes as palace lanterns.
- Buddha’s Gastronomy
The larger lanterns are used to decorate temples and for show at festivals. This type has no limits to its form, growing more elaborate with each passing year.
How Are Lanterns Used?
In ancient China, they were used to provide light and eventually as aspects of Buddhist worship. Today, they are used only for decoration and modern forms of celebration and worship. Lanterns have become a symbol of national pride in China and are used to decorate homes and public places.
Best Places to View Chinese Lanterns
In Beijing, temple fairs are held in various venues, and lanterns can be seen everywhere during the worship and celebrations.
- Hong Kong
In 2011, the biggest Mid-Autumn Festival event hosted in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park set a Guinness World Record for the largest lantern sculpture. Year after year, this event in Hong Kong is considered the grandest Mid-Autumn Festival celebration in all of China.
Qinhuai International Lantern Festival (the biggest in China!) is estimated from January to March, at Confucius Temple, Qinhuai Scenic Zone, Nanjing.
Xiamen Lantern Festival is estimated from February to March, at Yuanboyuan Garden, Xiamen City.
Shanghai Datuan Peach Garden Lantern Festival is from the middle of March to early April, at Datuan Peach Garden, 888 Caichuan, Datuan Town, Pudong New District, Shanghai.
Guangzhou Yuexiu Park Lantern Fair is from Februay to March, at Yuexiu Park in Guangzhou.
Pingyao, one of China’s best-preserved ancient walled towns. Experience the rich history of Chinese lanterns year-round in this quaint city.
There have a “Lantern Town of the South Kingdom” in Zigong, Sichuan Province, that is the Zigong Lantern Museum, the only one of its kind in China, and is even considered one of the Three Wonders of Zigong.
As times goes by, paper lanterns are not only decorative handcrafts, but also become a part of Chinese culture and have a profound meaning among Chinese people. All the Chinese people are proud of this exquisite handcrafts.