“Sky lanterns”, or 天灯, originated during China’s Three Kingdom Period.  They were invented by Zhuge Kongming, an extraordinary elite, an exceptional military strategist, and a remarkable advisor of the state.  Kongming was unfortunately trapped in the enemy’s state, and was unable to send for help from his allies. It was under those circumstances that Kongming invented a used feather-weight paper or fabric, bamboo materials for a cage-like construction, and a small dish of oil along to successfully make a “sky lantern,” or hot air balloon.  With the help of his wind speed calculations, his invention was able to fly in the necessary direction for him to receive assistance. The “sky lantern” is also referred to as, 孔明灯, or “Kongming lantern”.

So how did this invention become a modern-day “make a wish” tradition in China? Legend has it that because the day Kongming signaled for help happened to be the fifteenth day of the Chinese Lunar New Year (which falls on February 14 this year), people began to use the lanterns on this day to symbolically signal their safety to their distanced family.  Instead of seeking help, as Kongming had, they began to write down their wishes for their loved ones, hoping that the lantern would carry them to the gods in the heavens for blessing. The tradition continues today throughout Asia with various forms of celebration in China, Taiwan, Southeast Asia and different regions around the world where Chinese heritage is observed, respected and celebrated.

Warning: Launching paper lanterns can lead to a fire hazard and is a potential threat to the environment if it is not monitored properly. Please be advised that despite the biodegradable materials of the Chinese lanterns, the lantern will eventually land in a different area that may cause potential fire hazard for others. Please be sure to read all warnings and follow the instructions as provided by the vendor prior to the occasion.

"Wish with the Chancellor"- Photo by Ai Wan Choong

“Wish with the Chancellor”- Photo by Ai Wan Choong

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