Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination

Posted on January 16, 2013


Today I am taking up the Weekly Photo Challenge of the Daily Post. The word ‘Illumination’ reminds me of the Chinese Lantern, which plays an important role in the culture I grew up in. It symbolizes the brilliant culture of China that was brought along by the early Chinese migrants to Penang.

Traditional Lantern2

In ancient China, floating sky lanterns were strategically used as ‘blimps’ in wars as early as the 3rd century BC. Then lanterns made of oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame with small candles were used to light up entrance-ways and as portable lighting when walking around at night.

Traditional Lantern3

Uniquely designed lanterns are further embellished with exquisite calligraphy. These objects of artistic expression not only illuminate the darkest corners of a room, but also stand out as decorative ornaments, such as the ones we encountered at the Khoo Kongsi in Penang.

Traditional Lantern

In modern days lanterns are subsequently incorporated into festivals. During the Hungry Ghost Festival, large crowds would congregate at the beach near Gurney Drive to witness lotus shaped lanterns being set afloat in the sea, as a symbolic guide for the lost souls of forgotten ancestors to the afterlife.

Festive Lantern3

When I was young we used to make our own lanterns in different shapes and sizes for the Mid-Autumn Festival. When night falls we would proudly show off our brightly lit lanterns to the neighbours. One tradition is to write riddles on lanterns and have other people try to guess the answers.

Festive Lantern4

During the Lantern Festival it is a common sight to see houses decorated with many red lanterns on the 15th day of the first lunar moon. This grand design of illumination is to celebrate and cultivate positive relationships between people, families, nature and the higher beings that are believed to be responsible for returning the light to earth each year.

Festive Lantern5

Posted in: Photography, Story, Travel