Chinese lanterns are collectively referred to as “light colors”, and are a traditional Chinese craft going back to ancient times.
Every year on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month China’s Lantern Festival blazed and buzzed as people united under their symbol of unity, the red lantern.
Later, the lantern became a symbol of all Chinese festivities and special occasions. With the advancement of technology, combined with improved artistic devices, the Chinese lantern has developed into a beautiful symbol of celebration.
The History of the Chinese Lantern
Lanterns are recorded as far back as the eighth century Tang Dynasty and right through the Qin and Han dynasties. It is believed paper lanterns were invented in the Eastern Han Dynasty. History has proven that China’s lantern was the world’s first portable light.
The Lantern Festival originated in the early years of the Han Dynasty, and legend has it that the Lantern Festival began in Tang Minghuang’s palace, to celebrate peace and prosperity, by hanging a burning light as a symbol of a strong people in a rich land. Celebration lanterns have been popular ever since.
Today, in our age of electricity, people don’t need to use lanterns to light up, but the special status of Chinese lanterns is still well and truly alive.
Lanterns are to be seen on every festive day, weddings, and other celebrations. The craftsmanship of lanterns has vastly improved, and designs are more elaborate. This iconic Chinese symbol is not only meaningful in celebrations but is also now widely used in advertising.
However, with wider cultural exchanges between China and other countries, China’s international status has improved, and more and more people around the world recognize ‘lanterns’ as synonymous with China.
The British are the largest immigrant group in Hong Kong, and London has the largest Chinese community in Europe, which all come alive at the annual New Year and the Spring Festival. The magnificent display of various red lanterns bobbing in rows along the streets, creates an ambience and community atmosphere of joy and celebration, attracting many foreigners to join in as well as Chinese.
In recent years, Paris has also hosted many Chinese cultural events with places like the Paris City Hall Gate, Champs Elysees, the Seine River, and the Eiffel Tower all adorned with red lights, blazing with brilliant color and light.
In the eyes of the Chinese people, red lanterns symbolize family reunion, prosperity, happiness, light, vitality, success and wealth, which appeal to everyone.
It is not uncommon in overseas Chinese communities, such as Chinatown, to see red lanterns hanging all year round. The Chinese cultural heritage of the red lantern has permeated into other societies, becoming a symbol of Chinese culture.
Different kinds of Lanterns
Lanterns vary in kind from ordinary paper lanterns, yarn lights, chandeliers, and so on.
You will see them decorated with people in traditional Chinese landscapes, flowers, birds, dragons, phoenix, fish and so on.
Today I will show you how to make two different kinds of Chinese lanterns.
First Method: Simple Paper Lantern
thin cardboard (An expired old calendar card works nicely.)
double-sided adhesive tape
Prepare the rectangular red cardboard (an expired old calendar card works nicely).
Keep a border of 0.5 – 1.0cm on both long sides of the piece of cardboard.
On the back (wrong side) measure and draw evenly spaced parallel lines across the cardboard, from border to border, and then cut these through with the paper cutter.
Bend the cardboard into a curved shape.
Cut strips of adhesive tape and paste the two ends together.
Place a piece of adhesive tape on opposite sides of the top of the lantern to attach the cord.
You can add some fringing to the bottom if you like.
Isn’t it gorgeous? And so simple to make!
Second Method: Chopstick Lantern
Place four chopsticks into a square.
Stack two more layers of chopsticks on top in the same way and glue them together at the corners (a stack of three in total).
Tie the corners with red string to secure.
This forms the lantern base.
Turn the base on its side and secure a chopstick in the middle of each side, vertically. These are the ‘pillars,’ the part you will wrap the paper around.
Make the top of the lantern the same as the base and secure it to the vertical chopsticks.
Cut the crepe paper to a width equal to the ‘pillars,’ long enough to wrap all the way around with a bit extra to glue it in place.
Turn your lantern on its side and wrap the crepe paper around the ‘pillars,’ and glue in place using double sided adhesive tape.
Cut four equal lengths of red string and tie one to each top corner of the lantern.
Bring these together and tie to a single chopstick (to be used as the lantern’s handle).
Decorate the base of the lantern with red (or color of choice) tassels or other decoration to complete your beautiful and environmentally friendly lantern fit for a palace!
What to Use for a Source of Light
If you are using your lantern at home, you can sit a candle inside it. If you are taking it with you, it is best to use a light bulb with a battery.