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This post was edited by 1584austin at 2011-12-27 06:02|
Chinese paper lanterns are a popular decoration at parties all over the world today for their colorful, festive look. But they have a rich tradition in their native land that is steeped in symbolism. Since 250 B.C., Chinese nobles and peasants alike have decorated their homes with lanterns to announce special occasions or wish for good luck.Related Searches:
- Early Lanterns
The Lantern Festival
- According to chinatravel.com, the precursors to Chinese paper lanterns might have been torches carried on the eve of the Chinese New Year by Buddhist monks as early as 250 B.C. Monks carried these torches at night in hopes of spotting the ethereal figures of the Buddha and his bodhisattvas. Soon, commoners began making lanterns with frames of bamboo, redwood or wire and covering them with thin, oiled paper, gauze or silk. Today, lanterns are largely unchanged in design, though paintings of historical or heroic figures, divinities, and landscapes on the paper are popular.
- According to chinatownhi.com, the Chinese Lantern Festival has taken place on the first moon of the new Lunar Year, or the 15th day of the New Year, since 230 B.C. At this time, people gathered en masse in the streets and raised lanterns after nightfall in an attempt to see their deceased loved ones passing over on their journey to the heavens. Today this festival is also known as the Second New Year, and celebrations feature elaborate lanterns with scenes or riddles painted on them. All people, from the cities to the countryside, string hundreds of lanterns across streets and around their homes.
- Flying Lanterns
Growth in Popularity
- During the Han Dynasty, from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., the Chinese Empire was divided into three warring kingdoms, and the military hero and strategist Zhu Geliang (also known as Kung Ming) devised special lanterns to alert nearby cities of approaching attackers. These "Flying Lanterns" consisted of a strip of kerosene-soaked cloth or paper that was ignited and placed inside a lantern. The heat made the lantern float upward so it could be seen far away in the night sky. Today, flying lanterns are released on New Year's Day with wishes to bring good luck and prosperity in the coming year.
Zouma Deng Lanterns
- Emperors of the Sui Dynasty, from 516 to 618 A.D., displayed colorful paper lanterns during parades welcoming foreign dignitaries. These lanterns became a fixture in Chinese culture during the following Tang Dynasty, from 618 to 907 A.D. The nobility used them as lighting at palaces, and eventually the lanterns became a sort of folk art. People often displayed them during festive occasions, and hung them on doors at night to ward off evil or bring good luck. They were also used to light the way for nighttime travelers before the days of streetlights.
- The Song Dynasty, from 960 to 1279, was a time of great innovation in China, and a new style of lantern was designed also. Tthe zouma deng or "roundabout" lantern, shaped like a miniature pavilion with upturned eaves, features an inner wire shaft fitted with paper vanes. The heat current from the lit candle rotates the shaft, setting a paper cutout in a merry-go-round motion.
- For the next several centuries, Chinese lanterns were used much as they are today, as a means of communication between neighbors. A red lantern, symbolizing vitality or energy, signifies a new birth or marriage. Blue lanterns, symbolizing declining energy, are displayed when someone in the home is ill. White lanterns are used when a house is in mourning, to symbolize eliminated energy, or death. The size and elevation of lanterns hanging outside homes indicate the dwellers' social status. Wealthy homeowners often display very large silk or velvet lanterns that require several men to hang. Rural folks often display homemade paper lanterns.
- During the Cultural Revolution, between 1966 and 1976, lanterns and other art were outlawed, as they were deemed bourgeois and showy by Mao Zedong's new government. At the end of the Cultural Revolution, there were great celebrations, and yearly festivals, which had been banned also, returned stronger than before, including the Lantern Festival.