Chinese lanterns have many claims to fame from symbols of traditional culture to works of art, lucky charms or first man made portable lighting device. Through foreign trade, they spread across Asia and the rest of the world but they remain an integral part of all Chinese celebrations. Sky lanterns or ornaments shaped like a lotus flower, they express creativity and a touch of magic beyond the material world.
Sky Lanterns and Chinese Celebrations
Made of rice paper held by a bamboo frame, lit by a candle, sky lanterns are a beautiful sight as they take to the air. The flame heats the air inside the lantern, density drops and the lantern rises, floating through the night sky as long as the candle keeps burning.
Traditionally, sky lanterns are released on the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, most spectacular of all at the Lantern Festival in Taipei. In China and Chinatowns around the world, the first full moon of the year is honoured in similar ways, but lanterns appear in many festivals. There are sky lanterns and paper lanterns carried through the streets in all shapes and sizes, some inscribed with puzzles to be joyfully unravelled, while families eat glutinous rice according to tradition.
Chinese Lanterns, Lotus Flower and Lucky Charms
Some say the Lantern Festival celebrates the Taoist god of good fortune and Chinese lanterns act as lucky charms year round. Traditional paper lanterns are red, often with a touch of gold, both favourite Feng Shui colours attracting good luck, wealth and positive energy. It’s no wonder they adorn businesses, restaurants and private homes.
Most highly prized is the Chinese lotus lantern, originally made from mother of pearl shells from Capiz, arranged in a flower pattern. Today lotus lanterns come in many guises but as a Buddhist sign of purity, the flower remains the perfect complement to the Chinese lantern. Lotus flower lanterns play a major role on special occasions, such as weddings or anniversaries, to ensure good fortune and a long and healthy life.
Paper Lanterns for Home Decoration
Chinese paper lanterns range from simple devices to intricate artwork, as seen in palace lanterns decorated with dragons and stained glass, tassels and rosewood lacquer. There are miniature lanterns, known as Baby’s Bottom, cylindrical Rolling Paper, round Big Heads, Crystal Magic, sporting geometrical designs, and largest of all, temple and festival lanterns.
All can be used for home decoration to attract good luck and add a little colour and exotic touch to any interior. Chinese lanterns are widely available but with little more than paper and ribbon, making a paper lantern is easy and cheap.