Why Chinese make Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns?

In the Mid-Autumn Festival, in addition to appreciating the moon and eating moon cakes, there is actually a very interesting custom in China, which is lighting lanterns. In ancient times, lanterns were used as lighting tools, i.e. a traditional lamp; nowadays, lanterns have become handicrafts and ornamentals and people light the Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns to symbolize family reunion and to pray for good fortune.

As early as the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), there was a Mid-Autumn Festival custom of floating lanterns in the river. Now, appreciating and playing with lanterns are still welcomed by many people, second in popularity popular only to the Lantern Festival. Chinese Moon Festival lanterns are mostly welcomed in south China and there are no large lantern shows being held like in the Lantern Festival. The Mooncake Festival lanterns are mainly treasured among families and children.

Why are the Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns Made? - 4 Symbolic Meanings

1. Create festive atmosphere

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a very happy event, when family members gather together to admire and pay homage to the moon and eat mooncakes. People also make a variety of Mid-Autumn lanterns. Several days before the festival, people hang these Moon Festival lanterns to create happy festive atmosphere and welcome the coming of the festival.

2. Continue the 2,000’ years craftsmanship of making lanterns

Lanterns, the ancient Chinese traditional crafts, are originated in the Western Han Dynasty more than 2,000 years ago. By making it during festivals, the crafts can be passed down to later generations.

3. Symbolize family reunion

In Chinese culture, lantern is also a symbol of happy reunion since most lanterns are round, and “round” in Chinese has the similar pronunciation with “reunion”.

4. Pray for babies

In some areas of China, during the Mid-Autumn Festival the mother sends a message through the Mooncake Festival lantern to her newly married daughter, wishing her to add to the family. This is also because “lantern” and “man” have the similar pronunciation. And there is also a hope that the daughter have a bright future.

Mid-Autumn Lantern Fairs and Activities around China

1. Erect lanterns in the high

Popular in: Guangdong, Hong Kong
Usually about 10 days before the festival, people in Guangdong and Hong Kong make Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns with bamboo strips. These lanterns are usually in the shape of birds, fish, and fruits, covered with colorful papers and painted with Chinese characters “Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival”. On the festival night, the lanterns with burning candles inside are tied to the bamboo poles and hung in the heights of the house, commonly known as “erect Mid-Autumn”. The family members then gather under the lantern to have fun.

2. Pomelo lanterns for children

Popular in: Guangxi
If you ask children in Guangxi “Why do you use lanterns on Mid-Autumn Festival”, they may not know the reason but only answer “It is a lot of fun”. In that region, in addition to the Mid-Autumn paper lanterns for children to play with, there are also simple pomelo lanterns. The so-called pomelo lantern is made of a hollow pomelo with a burning candle in it. There are also pumpkin lanterns and orange lanterns made from hollow pumpkins and oranges.

3. Lantern market

Popular in: Beijing
There are many lantern markets in Beijing, especially during the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Lantern Festival. The bustling downtown is full of people who buy and sell Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns. The lantern craftsmen rely on their handicrafts to make a living.

4. Burn tile lanterns


Popular in: Jiangxi, Guangdong, and Guangxi
Burning tile lanterns are also known as “burning tower lanterns”, which is popular in the southern China. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, children pick up tiles and pile up a small round tower, which is like a pagoda. There are some holes on each floor. Under the moonlight, firewood, tree branches and other easy-to-burn charcoal are placed in the tower and burned.

- Last updated on Oct. 10, 2023 by Gabby Li -
Questions & Answers on Why Chinese make Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns?
Asked by tal from ISRAEL | Sep. 29, 2023 01:44Reply
chang'e moon fairy
what is a chinese legend about the moon fairy? because relevant to moon festival.
Answers (2)
Answered by Rita | Oct. 07, 2023 01:12

The most famous is "Chang E Flying to the Moon". You can read the full version here: www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/mid-autumn-festival-story.htm
Answered by tal | Oct. 10, 2023 07:25

much thanks
Ask a Question
Question Summary (100 characters)
Details (optional) (2,000 characters)