Originally constructed to improve on a simple candle flame, the iconic Chinese lantern has a very long history.
The lantern’s shade is usually made of paper or silk, and held together by a skeleton of bamboo or wood. Besides protecting a candle’s flame from being extinguished in windy weather, it also provides a more diffuse light.
During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), people made lanterns to celebrate their peaceful life while ornate illuminations symbolized and celebrated a prosperous, strong, and powerful country. Lighting elaborately decorated lanterns has been popular ever since.
The most common Chinese lanterns are red, have an oval shape, and are decorated with red or golden tassels. Red symbolizes good luck and is considered to ward off evil, so it’s a custom to hang red lanterns in front of doors at the Chinese New Year. Now, people use lanterns for decorative purposes, and are commonly painted with Chinese art and calligraphy.
Watch how CCTV America’s Yuwen Yang creates a beautiful red lantern out of red envelopes to help decorate our newsroom for the upcoming Chinese New Year.
How to make a traditional red lantern by using red envelops
Chinese village earns millions from lantern making
For ordinary Chinese people, red lanterns are holiday decorations symbolizing happiness and good fortune. In north China’s Tuntou Village, however, they represent a billion-yuan industry.
With a history dating back hundreds of years, Tuntou-made lanterns have been known as “palace lanterns” in China since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when, according to legend, their exquisiteness impressed an emperor who specially ordered them to be hung in the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Up until today, some local craftsmen still stick to the traditional method for lantern-making that requires as many as 56 steps. In the traditional way, it can take several artisans days to create a single lantern. But others have begun to use machines to produce them in large quantities.
Employing more than 90 percent of local households in the business, the booming lantern-making industry in the village in Hebei Province now produces nearly one billion yuan (160 million US dollars) worth of the festive decorations a year.
Meanwhile, as the Chinese Spring Festival is drawing near, residents are scrambling to fill orders amid a surge in demand at home and abroad.
“Palace lanterns produced by our village account for over 70 percent of the market share in the country and are mostly sold to customers in large Chinese cities including Shanghai and Beijing and those in south and central Asia, Middle East, and Russia,” said village official Su Zhenguo.
Source: CCTV News