China Lights Lantern Descriptions

#1 Chinese knotting is a decorative handicraft art that began as a form of Chinese folk art in the Tang and Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) in China. Eleven basic types of Chinese decorative knotwork have been identified. More complex knots are then constructed from repeating or combining basic knots. One major characteristic of decorative knotwork is that all the knots are tied using one piece of thread. They can come in a variety of colors such as; gold, green, blue or black, though the most commonly used color is red because it symbolizes good luck and prosperity.
There are many different shapes of Chinese knots, the most common being butterflies, flowers, birds, dragons, and fish. Culturally they were expected to ward off evil spirits or act as good-luck charms for Chinese marriages.

Traditional Chinese archways, called paifang or pai lou, marked the entrances to communities or districts within sprawling Chinese cities. The gates were made of wood or stone, and inlaid with glazed tiles. In the Tang Dynasty, these archways initially functioned as guarded gates and markers denoting precincts, but evolved into more elaborate, decorative structures in the Song Dynasty. These highly stylized archways also serve to commemorate great achievements and important families in Chinese history. These archways are a classic Chinese architectural form found in front of temples, tombs, bridges, and ancestral halls.    

Some believe the architectural huabiao column originally served as a type of community "bulletin board", or bangmu, in the Shun Dynasty. The wooden boards were placed on main roads where citizens could freely post criticism and grievances about the government. Later, in the Xia Dynasty, the boards were moved in front of the palace, where a ruler could keep an eye on the citizens posting complaints.
Today's huabiao columns are decorative marble pillars carved in bas-relief. The ceremonial columns typically contain four distinct sections: a square base depicting auspicious symbols, like the dragon or lotus; a column carved with coiled, flying dragons and clouds; a stone board in the shape of a cloud that caps the column; and the carved denglong, a mythical dragon that is said to watch the sky and communicate the people's mood to the heavens. The 500-year-old huabiao pillars positioned at the entrance of the Forbidden City, facing Tiananmen Square, are a pair of the most recognized in the world.

This series of welcome posts denote the Chinese character "Fú", which bids "good fortune" or "good luck" to visitors entering the festival. Use of this character is widespread across China, often appearing at the entrance of Chinese homes. The character is typically hung or depicted upside-down because the words "upside down" and "to arrive" (which sound the same in most Chinese dialects) indicate that good luck will be arriving. The character is most often associated with the Chinese New Year.

#5 Chinese Ornaments
These round, decorative lanterns are one of the most familiar styles of Chinese lantern, and are said to symbolize tang yuán, the stuffed sticky rice flour dumplings traditionally eaten at night during the lantern festival. Because the pronunciation of this word is very similar to tuán yuán, which means "reunion," the lanterns are associated with the welcoming and gathering of family and friends. 

The kylin or qilin is a mythical animal composed of several different animals, also known as a chimera. The pair of kylin have the head of a dragon, a single horn, the back of a tiger, horse hooves, the tail of an ox, and a snake's scaled skin. In folklore, the creature is characteristically lively, intelligent, and gentle, but brave, and said to ward off bad spirits. The kylin is considered a good omen, a sign of prosperity, and its appearance may be associated with the arrival or departure of a wise or revered ruler.

No animal embodies the spirit of the Chinese people or represents China's national unity more than the dragon, which is a symbol of dignity, strength, and power. This auspicious creature – believed to be a descendant of the Chinese people – is a national icon linked with powers over the natural world (particularly water, rainfall, hurricanes, and floods), and bestows fortune, longevity, strength, and endurance. The dragon appears in a variety of colors – blue, black, white, and red – but a yellow dragon is the most revered of all.

The lotus flower and lotus pond holds great meaning in China. The flower is a symbol of beauty, love, and harmony. For Buddhists, the lotus flower is associated with the sitting Buddha. This perfect flower grows and blooms through muddy water, which represents enlightenment – the ability to overcome the pain and attachments of the material world.
This summertime setting demonstrates the most active time of year around a lotus pond, when the flowers are in full bloom and the surroundings are filled with dancing fireflies, singing frogs, and nightingales.
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Marvel at a landscape filled with bold, bright flowers glorifying the sun, living harmoniously alongside a stand of spinning windmills. This sprawling grove of colorful lights reminds us of the symbiotic, striking, and powerful force of nature at work – of wind-powered energy and sun-powered flora – and the importance of ecological innovations. 

Dressed head-to-toe in ornately detailed costumes, these Chinese dolls offer a glimpse into the traditional world of Peking Opera, a highly stylized art-form that combines many theatrical elements – music, song, mime, dance, and acrobatics – in one live performance.
Typically, the color of the character's mask is a clue to the opera character's personality. Red is worn by loyal, courageous, and brave characters. Black denotes a rough, bold figure, or one who is fierce and selfless. Yellow represents an ambitious, cool-headed persona. Clever, loyal, and brave characters wear blue.  Purple is worn by players who are noble and sophisticated. White is often worn by the villain – someone who is crafty, treacherous, or sinister, and surrounded with suspicion. Green is worn by impulsive, stubborn, selfish, or violent characters. Often, one character in the Peking Opera wears xiaohualian, a distinct, white patch painted around the eyes and nose, which indicates a secretive, or sometimes funny, clownish performer. 

This stand of lantern columns is set on long poles that appear to reach high into the sky – a path of brilliant lights and colorful red and gold fabric combine to create picturesque torches designed to light the way of visitors. Note the traditional structure that caps the lanterns, modeled after the traditional Chinese pagoda. A steeple – the tallest point of the pagoda, called a cha – crowns the lanterns, reminding viewers of this important architectural form.

A festive archway of lights and lantern flowers illuminates a promenade through the Botanical Garden.

Iconic symbols of the Netherlands – windmills, tulips, wooden clogs – have been transformed into breathtaking light displays designed to transport viewers to yet another world.

#14 Lucky FISH
This beautifully stylized, colorful carp is more than a thing of beauty in Chinese culture. Luck and prosperity are heavily associated with fish in China, where the carp is a symbol of both sustenance and success. The pronunciation and meaning of "fish" (yú) and the word "abundance" (shèngyú) are interconnected, and the appearance of fish leaping out of water is considered a good omen. Notice the similarities in the styling and textures of the ornate Chinese Dragon – some believe the carp has the power to transform into a dragon.

The pagoda is a classic Asian architectural form with ties to religious worship, particularly in Buddhism. This lantern was inspired by the Flower Pagoda, the central structure of the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees, a world-renowned Buddhist temple in Guangzhou. The Flower Pagoda was first built in 537 AD, and has been reconstructed and renamed several times in its history. The octagonal Flower Pagoda, which houses historic Buddhist relics, stands 187 feet high and incorporates the style's typical multi-tiered stories and pointed eaves. (This lantern pagoda stands 26 feet high.) The Flower Pagoda was designed to represent a flower's stigma – reaching high into the air – with the up-turned eaves of the roof resembling a flower's stamen.
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The lotus flower is steeped in meaning and cultural significance in China. The flower is deeply associated with the sitting Buddha and a state of enlightenment, but it also symbolizes purity and perfection of the heart and mind. This exquisite flower is eternally connected to and grows out of muddy pond water, yet retains its purity and serenity.

Harmony with nature is a common theme in Chinese culture, and these lanterns are inspired by an awareness and embrace of eco-friendly practices. The scene depicts mankind living low-impact, sustainable existence in harmony with natural surroundings through brilliant trees inlaid with colorful lights.

China's national flower holds many meanings rooted in its association with feminine beauty, love, and motherhood. Prosperity, peace, happiness, honor, riches, and marital bliss are often associated with this blossoming flower. Red is associated with luck, and red peonies often appear in homes or businesses to bring good fortune. These bright, colorful peonies stand 8 feet tall.

The golden flower is heavily associated with The Secret of the Golden Flower, a meditation technique involving poetry, sitting posture, a style of breathing, and contemplating. This gathering of golden flowers also conjures springtime and happiness, despite the dark, chilly days of winter.

Jumping fish are often used to denote or wish success and prosperity (or "surplus") in Chinese culture. Using LED lighting to dramatize their movement makes an important connection between classic, ancient symbols and modern technology.

The colorful, larger-than-life insects bring us a little closer to nature in this magnificently detailed display. Living in harmony with nature and recognizing the importance of all animals – no matter how small – is one of the cornerstones of peace and happiness.

A field of flowers delights all of the senses. Set against the backdrop of the Botanical Garden, these magnified and magnificent flowers display interesting details about the complex anatomy and beauty of a simple flower – details that are easy to overlook in real life.

Each of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac assigned to a calendar year, in a cycle that repeats every 12 years. Find the year you were born to see your Chinese Zodiac animal.
1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

This ornate lantern style – built in a dazzling variety of shapes – was used to light the grand, royal palaces of ancient China. The lanterns were both functional and decorative, often bearing hand-painted illustrations of auspicious flowers or animals, such as the mythical dragon or phoenix, or the lotus flower.

A captivating flock of penguins dazzles with character and delights onlookers. Some appear austere and serious, others shy or nervous, and still others display a lighthearted and chatty conviviality that seems inevitable in such a gathering.

A motley collection of winged and whimsical birds – watch the peacock's brilliant, iridescent "train" of tail feathers slowly unfold. Peacocks are said to symbolize loyal friends and good luck in Chinese culture. This fanciful display showcases the tremendous range in detail and colorful artistry of the Chinese lantern tradition.

This dynamic lantern display is a glimpse under the sea – down where it’s better, down where it’s wetter – where a giant shark and a multi-colored world of plants and other marine life live in harmony.
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The God of Prosperity is one of the three gods worshipped by Chinese people. The god symbolizes prosperity and wealth in China, and the smiling deity is often depicted holding a gold coin to give blessings of fortune to onlookers.

High in the mist-covered mountains of central China and deep in the dense bamboo forests lives one of the world's most rare and unique mammals: the giant panda. Known as the Gentle Giant of the Bamboo Forests, pandas are relatives of the bear, but notoriously docile and shy. Pandas are herbivores, subsisting mainly on bamboo shoots and leaves, and devote about 12 hours a day to satisfying their voracious appetite. Today, approximately 1,000 giant pandas survive in the wild. Pandas are the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund and international conservation efforts.
A canopy of classic Chinese lanterns clustered overhead creates a breathtaking, illuminated pathway. Take a minute to soak in the detail of each type of lantern. The shape, the color, and the symbols displayed on every lantern each have meaning and significance in Chinese culture.

The lotus, the chrysanthemum, the orchid, the peony – many flowers hold significant meaning in Chinese culture. The lotus represents the holy heart of the Buddha. The chrysanthemum signifies intellect, longevity, and powerful Yang energy, and attracts good luck in the home. The peony China's national flower, and symbolizes honor, status, beauty, and opulence. The hydrangea expresses love and gratitude. Integrity, nobility, perfection, and elegance are associated with the orchid.

Tiptoe by these larger-than-life tulips, which symbolize happiness and luck in China. Tulips are heralds of spring – often the first green shoot you'll see in a garden.

A canopy of classic Chinese lanterns clustered overhead creates a breathtaking, illuminated pathway. Take a minute to soak in the detail of each type of lantern. The shape, the color, and the symbols displayed on every lantern each have meaning and significance in Chinese culture.

#33 Fancy Fan
The history of the Chinese fan can be dated to over 3,000 years ago, around the Shang Dynasty (C.16th-11th BC). The first type of fan, known as Shanhan, was a bit like today’s umbrella. The fan was not used to help cool people until the Zhou Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago. At that time, fans were usually made of feathers and were only popular among the noble class. The fan was popularized by the common people during the Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220) when the simple bamboo fan and the cattail-leaf fan were invented. When talking about fans today, we usually refer to the exquisite folding fan, which is said to be introduced to China from Japan during the late Song Dynasty. Today, there are over 500 kinds of fans in China, of which the sandalwood fan, the damask silk fan, the fire-painting fan, and the bamboo thread fan are known as the four most famous fans of China.


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