The Significance of Red Chinese Lanterns

January 17, 2023
Lantern Festival Poster in Black Frame

Red Chinese lanterns have been displayed since ancient times. They were used to provide illumination and were influential in religious practices. Nowadays, Chinese lanterns are used for decoration and worship. They represent national pride and are commonly seen in homes and public areas. Traditionally, the lanterns are seen in red and adorned with gold tassels. 

The origin of Chinese lanterns

Red Chinese lanterns were initially seen during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). The lanterns were used as lamps or covers. They were also used in several religious practices, like Buddha worship. Buddhism was known to spread in China due to the efforts of the Eastern Han emperor. The emperor ordered that lanterns be lit every 15th day of the first lunar month to worship Buddha. This practice eventually became the famous Lantern Festival. 

During the Tang dynasty in the year 618-907, paper lanterns were displayed to celebrate China’s peaceful life and power. This led to the popularity of lanterns throughout the country. 

The beauty of Red Chinese Lanterns

During Ancient China, creating lanterns was a collection of crafts, including painting and paper-cutting. Various materials are used in making them; the most commonly used are bamboo, wood, wheat, straw, paper, and silk. Illustrations were also seen in traditional lanterns, showing some of China’s beautiful landscapes, portraits of key personalities, and mythical creatures like dragons and phoenixes, birds, and fish. 

The colors and what they represent

Colors say a lot about the culture and traditions of China. They have different symbolisms and are used on occasion. Red lanterns represent wealth, fame, and prosperity. These lanterns are usually used at weddings and family reunions.

During imperial times, yellow lanterns were displayed in palaces as the color represented the emperors of ancient China. As such, it was forbidden to use yellow lanterns by the public. These days, yellow lanterns are displayed to bring good luck to students. 

On the other hand, white lanterns are used in any event that has something to do with death. Therefore it is common to display or see white lanterns during funerals. In contrast, green lanterns symbolize health, prosperity, and harmony. These are likewise seen during temple fairs or the infamous Lantern Festival. 

The popular Lantern Festival

These are the days to feast your eyes on colorful and beautiful Chinese lanterns. The tradition of viewing lantern displays can be traced back to the Han Dynasty, around 2000 years ago. One of the favorite activities during the Lantern Festival is guessing lantern riddles. People gather around the displayed lanterns and guess the answers to the riddles. It is a form of competition wherein the person who answers the most riddles wins.