Sky Lantern 天燈


Dublin Core


Sky Lantern 天燈


Sky, Lantern, Festival, Wishes and Blessings


A sky lantern, also known as Kongming lantern, is a small hot air balloon made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.


Zhuge Liang


Three-kingdoms Period (220 AD - 280 AD)


Thin paper shell 30 cm to 200 cm, Opening at the bottom.



Crafts Item Type Metadata

Crafting Methods

Sky lanterns are traditionally made from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame. The source of hot air may be a small candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy flammable material.


Bamboo, Paper

Usage and Application

In ancient China, sky lanterns were strategically used in wars, in a similar way as kites were used in ancient Chinese warfare, such as military communication (transmitting secret messages), signaling, surveillance or spying, lighting the sky when laying siege on the city at night etc. However, later on, non-military applications were employed as they became popular with children at festivals. These lanterns were subsequently incorporated into festivals like the Chinese Mid-Autumn and Lantern Festivals.

Interesting Facts

The invention is traditionally attributed to the sage and military strategist Zhuge Liang (181–234 CE), whose reverent term of address was Kongming. He is said to have used a message written on a sky lantern to summon help on an occasion when he was surrounded by enemy troops. For this reason, they are still known in China as Kongming lanterns.



Zhuge Liang, “Sky Lantern 天燈,” CCCH9051 Group 64, accessed February 28, 2024,

Output Formats