Chinese Lanterns Where in the World are We?Cultural Arts Presentation Isha, Dhrishika, Sana & Dana
What is a Lantern? A Lantern is simply a bag made of inflammable paper, with a candle placed inside, used for protection of the flame from wind, as also for decoration. Originating from the early Eastern Han Dynasty of China (25 AD-220 AD), Lanterns are widely used today all around the world, for various purposes such as decoration, festivals, advertising, etc.
Sky Lanterns These are made with flameproof paper so a lit candle can sit inside. The warm air causes the lantern to rise up, which is how sky lanterns work. They are flown as symbols of good wishes at New Year.
Wenzhou Style Dragon boat lanterns come from Wenzhou. These are large lanterns that can be 3 meters long and 3 meters tall. Each lantern is made of two layers of paper, the inside one being white while the outside layer is colorful.
Significance to Culture: Myths, Legends & Symbolism
Symbolism and Significance to Culture Numerous myths exist today, about the conception of lanterns. They were established in China as simple lighting devices, alternative to the readily available electricity we have today. Their significance then grew in terms of aesthetic point of view, and they were hung up at weddings and festivals as decoration, as well as at funerals for mourning death. Besides using them for decoration purposes, the Chinese also applied their usage for sending messages and warnings among the military, as well as for placing in doorways to ward off evil spirits and to bring good luck.
Myths & Legends One of the many myths about lanterns declares a story about the Jade Emperor from heaven planning a storm of fire to destroy the village on the 15th lunar day, following the killing of his favorite bird sent down to earth from heaven. Subsequently, his daughter had warned the people of the village, who jointly decided to bring out red lanterns on the 14th, 15th and 16th lunar days, suggesting the appearance of a fire. Another myth states that decorative lanterns originated as Emperor Ming of this Dynasty established the lighting of lamps on the 15th day of the first lunar month – expressing thanks to the founder of Buddhism.
Effects on the Environment Sky Lanterns are truly a splendid sight to see as they fly off into the air. However, they can have deadly effects when they land. The retailers claim that they are easily degradable but this isn’t all true. The paper part degrades easily in 3-6 weeks However the thin metal wire support take nine months, on average, to break down. Still the wire lying on the ground for nine months is a considerable hazard, depending on where it lands, for farm animals or children. If it gets wrapped up in hay bales it would be like swallowing razor blades for farm animals and if it falls into grassland it will kill wildlife. In one case, a cow bled to death because it swallowed a piece of metal. They could start a fire on the moorlands, a fire in a tinder-dry cornfield or even someone's house. These negative after effects are the reason why sky lanterns have been banned in some countries. Vietnam and Thailand have banned the use of sky lanterns and so have 3 states in Germany after the death of a 10 year old boy occurred by the a fire caused by a sky lantern. Even the UK coastguard is now starting to express concern about the site of these lanterns drifting out to see and mimicking the sight of distress flares.
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