Flower Lamps: Lighting up the Lantern Festival

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 19, 2019
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Flower lamps are one component of the traditional culture of the Chinese nation. With both actual functions in daily life and artistic values, flower lamps are always lit up during holidays like the Spring Festival and the Lantern Festival. They function to boost the atmosphere of holidays. The custom of lighting up flower lamps during the Lantern Festival has a history of over 2000 years in China. Various kinds of flower lamps with diverse styles are popular in different parts across the country.

According to some Chinese folk customs, on the 15th day of the first lunar month, witnessed by a full moon hanging high above the sky, people will light up various lanterns at night to celebrate. It is the time for the whole family to enjoy the bright moon, fire firecrackers, guess lantern riddles, eat the rice glue balls and celebrate the holiday.

The custom of lighting up lamps during the Lantern Festival evolved. It transformed into the Lamp Fair during the Tang Dynasty. Lamp Fairs in the Song Dynasty outshined those of the Tang Dynasty both in scale and sophistication. Meanwhile, the event became more folkloric and its ethnic features more prominent. With its evolution amid successions of dynasties, the lamp fair increasingly lasted longer than before.


As a form of integrative arts, the Chinese flower lamp combines a myriad of skills, procedures, decoration tactics and raw materials. Typical flower lamp includes the dragon lamp, the palace lamp, the gauze lamp, the blue flower lamp, and the dragon-phoenix lamp, etc. Before the Qing Dynasty, people used sorghum straws and bamboo to make the framework of flower lamps and a variety of colored papers to make lampshades. The styles of flower lamps were very diverse indeed. The passage of time witnessed the emergence of the palace lamp and the gauze lamp respectively in north China and south China. Meanwhile, the wire lamps, originated from the northern side of the Great Wall, also penetrated in the Central Plain Area. As a result, lantern-making skills got remarkable improvement, and new styles of the decorative lamp also mushroomed.

Palace lamps were lit up in the Palace Museum during the Spring Festival of 2019, the very first time in 200 years. Lamp craftsmen from Zigong City of Sichuan province, working in partnership with the staff from the Palace Museum, got insights from ancient records and recreated the royal palace lamps by using traditional and modern methods. With palace lamps hanging under the roofs of the Qianqing Palace and the Huangji Palace, the joyful Spring Festival atmosphere returned to the time-honored Forbidden City again.

Today, economic development and social progress provided the impetus for the upgrading designs and innovative styles of lamps. Whether paper lamp, electric lamp or LED lamp, flower lamps have seen the changes of time. What has never changed, however, is craftsmanship. Flower lamp is more than a handicraft: it is also an inheritance. Watching flower lamps has become a culture, which has been passed down from one generation to the next.

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