Each different type of the Chinese lanterns has its own set of meanings, but all lanterns symbolize, generally speaking, hope for a better and brighter future. In Chinese culture, the meaning behind the color is very important, so the message that any Chinese lantern wants to convey will vary from color to color.
In Chinese culture, red represents wealth, fame and prosperity, which is why festivals, weddings and other celebrations usually use many red decorations and costumes. Most of the lanterns are red Chinese lanterns, for signifying prosperous commerce and life.
Red Chinese lanterns are very popular during important festivals of the year, notably Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival. Beyond the seas, these lanterns have become synonymous with Chinese enterprises, and many Chinatowns and Chinese-owned shops and restaurants hang them all year round.
It is usually associated with good luck and neutrality. It was the color of emperors in feudal times and is still associated with the five emperors of ancient China. Yellow also stands for freedom from the world, so it is widely used in Buddhism. Young people and students often play yellow Chinese lanterns because they are said to bring good luck to the school.
Green is also a relatively popular color for the Chinese lantern. Among the symbols of Chinese culture, green is associated with health, prosperity and harmony. Therefore, this kind of green Chinese lanterns can be flied to pray for peace.
Besides color, the shape of the lantern is another factor to be considered. Nowadays, you can even find lanterns in geometric figure, in the shape of the Chinese zodiac. However, most traditional festive lanterns are round, as the circle symbolizes completeness and unity, and is reminiscent of the full month, which is an important part of the Lantern Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival, both of which make full use of lanterns.
The decorations and art on the lanterns also have different meanings. Usually, decorative characters are used on long lanterns to express good wishes for a long and healthy life and prosperous future. Dragons represent strength, flowers and butterflies represent happiness, bamboo represents toughness, and plants represent growth. With the increasing number of festivals throughout China, there are also more and more festive lanterns. Today, the Lantern Festival is filled with huge colorful lanterns shaped like animals and plants.