The Chinese Water Lantern Festival
The Chinese have designed and manufactured lanterns that can float on water and glide through the air. Although sky lanterns were initially designed as a device to send signals, today they are used as decorative items. The water lanterns in Chinese festivals have their own importance.
There is an interesting story in the History of Chinese Lanterns. These lanterns, both the sky lanterns and the water lanterns used in Chinese festivals, were believed to be initially created out of necessity and not as decorative artifacts. The Chinese have a history of inventing various new things and also leading the way in various new technologies. But initially, the Chinese did not have access or the knowledge to make a vital building material: glass. Therefore, they did not have glass lanterns or glass windows. On the other hand, they had the ability to make paper. The paper industry in China was so advanced that it could produce paper that was very thin to let in light. They could also add beautiful colors and embellishments to the paper. Thus was born the world’s first portable light source: the flashlight.
These lanterns were gradually adapted to float on water and glide across the sky. Such was the skill of Chinese craftsmen that these lanterns were used to illuminate public places, homes, and even battlefields. There is a story of a military strategist Zhuge Liang, who used paper lanterns to help the army march at night and attack by day.
Over time, this battlefield beacon became an epitome of hope, well-being, and festivity. The origin of the lantern festival dates 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 at Chinese festivals such as 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 float these lanterns in the water under the moonlight and watch them float.
The water lanterns in Chinese festivals along with other lanterns are used to light 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.