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Xiashi colored lanterns

chinadaily.com.cn| Updated : Sep 10, 2021

The making of Xiashi colored lanterns is an ancient folk art in Haining, Jiaxing, Zhejiang province. It can be traced back 1,200 years and was popular early in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). In the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), making Xiashi colored lanterns became a prosperous business.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), both Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong visited Haining a couple of times, and Xiashi colored lanterns were the major eye-catching decorations for imperial ceremonies. People took the various lanterns in hand or carried them on their shoulders along the streets, singing and dancing to the deafening sound of gongs and drums. Later, such grand lantern festivals gradually became an important folk custom in Haining.

The making of Xiashi colored lanterns is very meticulous and uses eight skills, with stich work the predominant feature. The eight traditional skills consist of "drawing, bending, carving, fastening, embroidering, mounting, pasting and tying" into an organic whole. 

Using bamboo strips as the skeleton model, rice paper drawing and manual needle patterns, the production process is exquisite. After lighting the lanterns, patterns of acupuncture mark the vivid artistic images. The mountains, birds, pavilions and various characters from folk tales used as decorations are projected by the light, creating vivid images.

There is a variety of Xiashi colored lanterns with various themes, and they can be divided into five varieties -- desk lanterns, portable lanterns, wall lanterns, hanging lanterns and gift lanterns. The lifelike, florid and exquisitely carved pictures are typical of Xiashi colored lantern making, which has won prizes both at home and abroad. 

The Xiashi colored lantern was selected in the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage.

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Xiashi colored lanterns [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]