The iconic symbol associated with Chinese culture.
In ancient times lanterns were used as a source of light. Paper or silk was wrapped around a wooden or bamboo frame, protecting the precious flame from gusts of wind. In today's modern era, thanks to inventions like electricity, lanterns are a decorative feature, usually hung in streets and doorways at holidays, festivals and any other celebrations. Lanterns can be seen hanging above the door of your local Chinese restaurant, adorning streets and houses or floating through rivers and skies during festivals.
Lanterns were first commonly used during the Eastern Han Dynasty. The main use of lanterns at that time, other than lamps, was for worship in Buddhist temples. On the 12th day of the first lunar month, Buddhist temples across China were illuminated. However, it wasn’t until the Tang Dynasty that this became a grand lantern festival, and to this day is celebrated among the common people.
Chinese New Year and the Lantern festival are two of the main festivals in which lanterns are used. During the lantern festival, floating lanterns are released in their thousands into the sky, carrying the prayers and wishes of those who watch in awe from the ground. During the Dragon Boat Festival, smaller lanterns usually adorned with flowers are released into rivers, lakes and ponds. For Chinese New Year and other festivals throughout Chinese culture, hanging lanterns are most commonly used.
Red is the colour of blood, the colour of life and is also one of the most frequently used colours throughout Chinese culture. Although in today's modern era you can find many different styles and colours, shapes and sizes, typically, lanterns are red in colour with gold trim. They are a symbol of peace and of course, light. They are a celebration of prosperity as well as a strong, powerful country. Many come with characters, proverbs or blessings painted on them. Some may even be painted with your family name to hang around the house. In ancient times, a unique folk custom was to write riddles on lanterns hanging at the gate, people then traveled around guessing the meaning of these riddles. Although this custom is not widely practiced today, fun can still be found in other ways, such as extravagant lantern designs. Check out zodiac animal lanterns!
The lantern started as a simple, functional and practical tool in history. Over the course of time it has developed into beautiful, ornate, highly decorative item and one of the most iconic symbols identified with the Chinese culture !