The Chinese have designed and crafted lanterns that can float in water and glide in the air. Though sky lanterns were initially crafted as a device, to send signals, today they are used as decorative articles. Water Lanterns in Chinese festivals have its own importance.
There is an interesting story to the History of Chinese lanterns. It was believed that these lanterns, both the sky lanterns and the Water lanterns used in Chinese festivals were initially created out of necessity rather than artifacts for decorations. The Chinese have a history of inventing several new things and also leading the way in several new technologies. But, initially, the Chinese did not have access to or the knowhow to make a vital building material – Glass. Hence they did not have glass lanterns or glass windows. On the other hand, they had the skill of making paper. The paper industry in china was so advanced that it could produce paper that was very thin, to let light pass through it. They could also add beautiful colors and embellishments to the paper. Thus was born, the world’s first source of portable light – the lantern.
These lanterns were then gradually adapted to float in water and glide in the sky. Such was the skill of the Chinese craftsmen that these lanterns were used for lighting public places, homes and even battlefields. There is a story of a military strategist Zhuge Liang, having used paper lanterns to help the army march by night and attack by the day.
Over time, this battlefield beacon turned into an epitome of hope and wellbeing and festivity. The origin of the Lantern festival can be dated back to the Han Dynasty. During this time, the city is decorated with lanterns that are beautifully crafted in different shapes and sizes and then displayed with wishes or riddles written on them.
Water lanterns in Chinese festivals like the Moon Festival are a major tourist attraction. People from all over the world come to witness this event. On this day children and adults make or buy Water lanterns and write wishes on them. They then set these lanterns afloat in the water under the moonlight and watch them float away.
Water Lanterns in Chinese Festivals alongside other lanterns are used to light up the way to guide the spirit of their ancestors to come and bless them. Even today this tradition is followed, and people decorate their homes and public places to welcome their ancestors.
by Edward Zhang