Ping Zhang: 'The round lantern indicates a time of family reunion'
- Brian Donaldson
- 20 December 2019
A dramatic and colourful tradition of ancient China is coming to the centre of Edinburgh
During last year's Burns&Beyond celebrations, St Giles' Cathedral on Edinburgh's Royal Mile was dominated by a huge moon. Luke Jerram's globetrotting Museum of the Moon installation transformed the cathedral's atmosphere and produced a dramatic backdrop for a programme of entertainment. This time, with the festival connected to the Chinese New Year, the building will be busy with a colourful expression of national and cultural pride and centuries-old tradition.
There are various suggestions about the exact origins of Chinese lanterns and how long they have been around for, but Ping Zhang, the Chinese Co-Director at Heriot-Watt University's Scottish Confucius Institute for Business and Communication, places their genesis at around 200 AD, back in the times of the Eastern Han dynasty.
'Buddhist monks would light the lanterns on the 15th day of the lunar New Year in honour of the Buddha,' says Ping. 'In ancient China, lanterns were used to provide light and then act as aspects of Buddhist worship. Today they are only used as decoration and in celebrations. All the lanterns are in the colours of red and gold because red in China is a symbol of happiness and gold is the symbol of wealth; so you can see all the lanterns are decorated by some gold stripes on the surface. The shape of a lantern is usually round which indicates a time of family reunion during the Chinese New Year.'