Traditional Chinese lanterns illuminate festivities globally

(Xinhua) 09:50, February 18, 2024

A photo taken on Jan. 26, 2024 shows light installations for an upcoming lantern show in Zigong, southwest China's Sichuan Province. (Xinhua/Shen Bohan)

CHENGDU, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Li Yuanming, an experienced artisan with 30 years of expertise in crafting lanterns, is consistently occupied during the Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year, as well as during international festivities.

The custom of attending lantern fairs during the Spring Festival is a time-honored tradition in Chinese culture, with a history spanning over 1,800 years. Colored lanterns, mainly handcrafted, require artisans to set up lantern sets on site, tailored to local conditions.

Li, 58, is a native of Zigong, a city in southwest China's Sichuan Province renowned for its lantern-making culture. Li has not only extensively traveled across China to create colored lanterns, but also journeyed to the United States, Britain, and France.

A lantern fair, celebrating its 30th edition, opened in Zigong a few days before this year's Spring Festival on Feb. 10. Li was involved in the creation of several lantern sets for this fair.

The fair features a diverse array of lantern designs, including traditional elements such as flowers and birds, dragons and phoenixes, legendary figures, and landscapes, as well as contemporary influences stemming from cartoon characters, trend culture, and online games, which have gained immense popularity among youngsters.

In June 2023, the organizing committee of the lantern fair initiated a global call for themes, attracting submissions from children and adolescents worldwide. Over 3,000 paintings, contributed by young artists from 14 countries and regions were received. Select pieces were crafted into lantern sets by artisans and are being showcased during the ongoing event.

"The fair is stunning, with a strong New Year atmosphere and abundant elements of the Year of the Dragon. I took a lot of nice, festive photos," said Liu Jiamin, a tourist from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.

During this year's Spring Festival holiday, Zigong lanterns are illuminating 80 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an and Chengdu.

According to data from the Zigong municipal bureau of commerce, there are around 50,000 workers engaged in the production of colored lanterns in Zigong all year round. The city boasts 1,091 lantern enterprises, with an annual output value of more than 6 billion yuan (about 844.64 million U.S. dollars), accounting for 85 percent of the domestic market and 92 percent of the international market.

Currently, a significant proportion of colored lanterns utilized during Christmas holidays, art festivals and light shows globally are crafted by skilled artisans from Zigong, such as Li. Since 1990, when Zigong lanterns debuted internationally in Singapore, artisans from Zigong have spread their footprints across more than 90 countries and regions.

"Although lantern-making is hard work, I am very proud and excited to see Zigong lanterns light up the night sky of a foreign land," said Li, who is in charge of setting up circuits inside lanterns.

Zigong lanterns enjoy widespread popularity across the globe, primarily due to the integration of traditional craft and modern technology, in addition to their novel themes. According to Li Zhongwen, vice president of Lantern Group, the company has held lantern fairs in several countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Ireland, using the latest technologies, such as holographic projection and laser water-screen film.

When abroad, craftsmen incorporate local cultural elements into the design and display of Zigong lanterns. "For instance, in Italy we crafted illuminations that emulate the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. It was highly appreciated by the visitors," said Wei Peng, design director of Haitian Lantern, a lantern culture operator based in Zigong.

"Last year, Zigong lanterns lit 71 cities in 19 countries and regions, attracting more than 20 million visitors. It allows people around the world to perceive, understand and appreciate Chinese culture in the beauty of light and shadow," said Tang Yusha, deputy director of the Zigong municipal bureau of commerce.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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