The Chinese Paper Lantern is a popular decoration for homes, establishments, and occasions. It comes in different colors, designs, shapes and sizes. However, lighting a Chinese paper lantern has a deeper meaning in the Chinese culture.
According to legend, long ago, wild beasts pestered the livelihood and safety of the local folks. To protect themselves, they decided to fight back and kill the wild beasts. Then one day, a sacred bird from the heavens fell to the mortal world. An ignorant hunter saw the sacred bird and thought that it was one of the wild beasts and killed it.
The emperor of heaven learned about the mortals’ action and was very furious. As punishment, he decided to have the mortal world burn to the ground and ordered his soldiers to do it on the 15th day of the first month. However, the daughter of the emperor of heaven did not agree to such a punishment.
Being kind-hearted, she secretly came down to the mortal world and informed the locals of their punishment. The people were frightened and thought of ways to save their lives. Fortunately, a wise old man thought of lighting Chinese paper lantern and fireworks from the 14th to the 16th of the first lunar month.
The time of the punishment came. Seeing the fire and hearing the cracks in heaven, the emperor thought that everything has been burned. For three consecutive days, the locals lighted lanterns and fireworks. And with that, they were able to keep their lives and prosperity. Since then, they started lighting Chinese paper lanterns to dispel darkness from their homes and celebrate their success.
Traditional and Modern
Indeed, the Chinese paper lantern has been around for centuries. In fact, it was first used for military aid, communication medium and a signal during war. According to reports, the first lantern was created by a military strategist and was shaped after his hat. The Chinese paper lantern was made of oiled rice paper, bamboo and a small candle.
Moreover, it was traditionally used to decorate homes of both noble and peasants during festivals as it represents hope and prosperity. Besides that, the lantern was also used on important ceremonies. During wedding rites, a white Chinese paper lantern is decorated with characters of wishes and released to the sky. It is believed that the good wishes or messages placed were carried to the gods.
The traditional use of the Chinese paper lantern is still evident nowadays. Not only that is has also evolved in terms of color and size. The most common Chinese paper lantern is colored red. However, it does not only symbolize love. In Chinese culture, red has a deeper significance. Red lanterns bring happiness and warmth that reunite families especially on New Year’s Day. It also means energy, birth and marriage.
A blue colored Chinese paper lantern means that someone is ill. White lantern symbolizes mourning and death. For the size, it depends on the social status of the homeowners. Wealthy people display large lanterns made of silk or velvet while rural folks display homemade Chinese paper lanterns.
Types of Lanterns
As the Chinese lantern made from paper became popular, it evolved into different types. The smallest is called Baby’s Bottom. It is so small that it is commonly used as a Christmas decoration. Next is called Buddha Gastronomy, the largest type of lantern. These are often displayed outside or near temples. Another is Crystal Magic. This is mostly made of bamboo and requires craftsmanship.
Furthermore, Tomato Light lanterns are round and more personal. One can choose the color and relate meaning to it. Rolling Papers are large geometric-shaped lanterns. They are more modern compared to others because of the abstract design. And lastly is the Name Lantern. This is the most personal of all the types wherein the lantern is painted with the name of the owner.
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