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Zigong lanterns light up festivities around world

China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-21 09:20

A worker makes a lantern for a lantern fair in Zigong, Sichuan province, on Jan 18. SHEN BOHAN/XINHUA

CHENGDU — Li Yuanming, an artisan with 30 years of experience crafting lanterns, generally keeps busy during Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, as well as during international holidays.

The custom of attending lantern fairs during Spring Festival is a time-honored tradition in Chinese culture, with a history spanning over 1,800 years.

Artisans create colored lantern sets at the events that are tailored to meet local tastes. Li, 58, is a native of Zigong in Sichuan province, a city renowned for its lantern-making culture. Li has traveled extensively to create colored lanterns, not only across China but also to the United States, Britain and France.

A lantern fair celebrating its 30th anniversary opened in Zigong a few days before this year's Spring Festival, which began on Feb 10 and will end on Friday. Li was involved in the creation of several lantern sets for this fair.

The fair features an array of lantern designs, including traditional elements such as flowers, birds, dragons, phoenixes, legendary figures and landscapes, as well as contemporary images of cartoon characters and video games that have gained immense popularity among youngsters.

In June, the organizing committee of the lantern fair initiated a global call for designs, attracting submissions from children worldwide. Over 3,000 paintings submitted by young artists from 14 countries and regions were received.

Select pieces were crafted into lantern sets by artisans and are being showcased during the ongoing event.

"The fair is stunning, with a strong New Year atmosphere and abundant elements of the Year of the Dragon. I took a lot of nice, festive photos," said Liu Jiamin, a tourist from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan.

During this year's Spring Festival holiday, Zigong lanterns illuminated 80 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an in Shaanxi province and Chengdu in Sichuan.

According to data from the Zigong municipal bureau of commerce, there are around 50,000 workers engaged in the production of colored lanterns in Zigong all year round. The city boasts 1,091 lantern enterprises, with an annual output value of more than 6 billion yuan ($844.64 million), accounting for 85 percent of the domestic market and 92 percent of the international market.

Currently, a significant proportion of colored lanterns utilized during Christmas, art festivals and light shows worldwide are crafted by skilled artisans from Zigong like Li. Since 1990, when Zigong lanterns debuted internationally in Singapore, Zigong artisans have left their footprints across more than 90 countries and regions.

"Although lantern-making is hard work, I am very proud and excited to see Zigong lanterns light up the night sky in a foreign land," said Li, who is in charge of building circuits inside the lanterns.

Zigong lanterns enjoy widespread popularity across the globe, primarily due to the integration of traditional crafts and modern technology.

According to Li Zhongwen, vice-president of Lantern Group, the company has held lantern fairs in several countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Ireland, using cutting-edge technologies such as holographic projection and laser water-screen film.

Tang Yusha, deputy director of the Zigong municipal bureau of commerce, said: "Last year, Zigong lanterns lit up 71 cities in 19 countries and regions, attracting more than 20 million visitors. It allowed people around the world to perceive, understand and appreciate Chinese culture in the beauty of light and shadow."


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