A video guide to making a Chinese red paper ‘palace lantern’, made by a Birmingham design student during lockdown, has been released to mark the end of the Chinese New Lunar Year celebrations in the UK.
Yujie Li, an international student from China, is pursuing an MA degree in Visual Communication at Birmingham City University. Friday 26 February marks the arrival of the Lantern Festival in Chinese culture. As a “master of paper”, Yujie produced and shared a video to raise awareness of the tradition of making paper lanterns.
The Lantern Festival is a Chinese event marking the 15th day of the first lunar month, first recorded as part of the Sui and Tang dynasties, that now sees children and families carrying ‘palace lanterns’ out in the streets, and solving riddles illustrated on the lanterns. The palace lanterns are regarded as one of the traditional handicrafts of the Han nationality, featuring strong local characteristics in the design.
Lion and dragon dances, and riddle games, are popular activities during the Lantern Festival, which is observed in China and by the Chinese diaspora across the world.
Yujie Li’s DIY Chinese paper ‘palace lantern’ video is available to watch on the Birmingham City University YouTube channel and is accompanied by a written guide:
10 sheets of A4 sized red card
Scissors or graphic design cutting knife
5 sheets of Tracing paper
1. Cut out the palace lantern templates according to the drawings given in the video, and paste them on each of the adjacent pages, so that you have a cylinder that unrolls out from the centre
2. Following Yujie’s drawings in the video, cut out strips of 7×72cm (top) and 13×64cm (middle) respectively. Since the lantern has eight sides, each side should be 7×9cm and 13×8cm in size. Then cut your favourite Chinese pattern in the middle of each side and cover it with tracing paper of the same size.
3. After that, assemble the materials prepared in the first two steps, and the prototype of a lantern will appear, but we still need to add a little decoration to it. Choose any pattern you like, paste the material into the appropriate size in the form of paper-cut, and paste it on the tracing paper (remember to paste it from the inside of the lantern).
4. Finally, the lanterns are strung with red string and tassel. Put a string of coloured lights in the middle of the lantern so that the lantern can be lit at night.
24-year-old student, Yujie Li said, “This was my first Chinese New Year in UK, and it was unlike any other. Although I was "reunited" with my family via a WeChat online call, other friends who had stayed behind in the UK and I decided to make this unusual New Year's Day more meaningful by cooking a meal together. It is also the first time I have made Chinese lanterns with limited materials in another country! I feel very honoured to have such an opportunity to demonstrate my own culture, and I hope this video will help to increase people's interest in traditional Chinese culture.”
Birmingham is home to one of the UK’s largest Chinese communities. The city has a Chinese Quarter, an area of Chinese influence with Chinese-owned, businesses and organisations with buildings in Hurst Street and Ladywell Walk featuring Chinese architecture.