Chinese Paper Lanterns: A Centuries-Old Tradition

Chinese paper lanterns

Origin of Paper Lanterns

Most people know that paper lanterns have their origins in Asia, particularly in Japan, China and Korea. While the specific details of their origin is shrouded in the mists of time, many experts point to the Chinese Eastern Han Dynasty in the First and Second Century CE as the point when paper lanterns became a part of more “mainstream” culture. Long associated with specific celebrations by Buddhist monks, the Emperor Liu Zhuang, himself a devout buddhist, reportedly ordered the residents of the palace and the citizens to light lanterns to Buddha as the monks did.

Over time, the practice expanded to other celebrations and to other countries, such that paper lanterns became pervasive across most of Asia. Their use has stood the test of time, continuing to be used in festivals and celebrations over the centuries. In the modern era, China’s Lantern Festival is the largest and most well known. The festival occurs on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, which corresponds with the last day of the Chinese New Year Festival, typically in February or early March of each year.

The Tradition Continues

Some traditions rightfully stand the test of time and now, in the 21st century, appealing paper lantern lights are still the perfect accent for any indoor or outdoor space. They add a simple, clean decorative touch that is always fresh looking and also versatile. Paper lanterns look great lit by string lights, pendants and even battery operated light kits.

Paper Lanterns Party
Source: French Basketeer

Get Creative with Paper Lanterns

Chinese lanterns offer flexibility, coming in a variety of shapes and sizes. You might prefer the traditional (and most popular) round lanterns, but there are also stars, square, cocoon, and beehive shaped paper lanterns to help create visual interest. For outdoor use, nylon lanterns will stand up to the elements.

Paper Lanterns Patriotic Party
Source: Beautiful Days

Chinese paper lanterns also come in a wide variety of colors, ranging from the basics colors like white, red or green to a myriad of unique color variations like coral, mango and even chartreuse! Whatever your mood, theme or decor, paper lanterns can match your look perfectly.

From their origin in Buddhist ceremonies to the modern Lantern Festival, paper lanterns continue to be a great option to enhance your home’s beauty and provide decorative accents for celebrations whether used indoors or outdoors. Their simple classic design and warm ambiance works with many styles of decor; it’s no surprise they’ve stood the test of time so well!

For more ideas, check out our How to Light Up Paper Lanterns blog article.

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