How to Make a Chinese Lantern That Won't Burn

by Jeff Cunningham
In China, paper lanterns are lit and released to float into the sky like balloons.

In China, paper lanterns are lit and released to float into the sky like balloons.

China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images

In Chinese and other Asian cultures, significant events or festivals are celebrated by lighting special paper lanterns. These lightweight lanterns then float into the sky like hot air balloons for as long as the fuel within them lasts. Naturally, precautions must be taken to ensure that the flame does not ignite the balloon itself and burn it, causing it to fall from the sky as a fire hazard. With special chemical treatment and careful construction, you can make your own Chinese lantern that will fly without burning prematurely.

Items you will need

  • 4 sheets of colored tissue paper
  • Clothesline
  • Clothespins
  • Flame retardant paper spray
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Brown craft paper
  • Scissors
  • 4 sheets of white tissue paper
  • White glue
  • Florist's wire
  • Wire Cutters
  • 50-inch bamboo strip
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Step 1

Hang the four sheets of colored tissue paper from a clotheslines and pin them by their corners.

Step 2

Spray both sides of each sheet thoroughly with flame retardant paper treatment until they are soaked, being sure not to spray near the clothespins. Allow to dry.

Step 3

Draw and cut out a pattern out of brown craft paper. It should be 40 inches long and 12 inches wide at the base. Two thirds of the way up each panel, it will flare up to 22 inches. After this flare, it will gradually taper back down to a point, much like the a blade of a tropical ceiling fan.

Step 4

Glue each of the treated sheets of colored tissue paper to a sheet of white tissue paper along their edges with white glue, then allow to dry.

Step 5

Trace the brown pattern onto the colored sides, with the tapered point facing upwards, of each of the glued sheets.

Step 6

Glue the panels together at the sides, sealing the top where the pointed ends come together. Leave the bottom open to form a bag. Allow to dry.

Step 7

Cut two lengths of florist's wire measuring slightly longer than the diameter of the lantern's lower opening.

Step 8

Bend a strip of bamboo into a circle to fit the bottom opening of the lantern, then hold it together by twisting the two wires tightly around four equidistant points on it, forming an X in the center.

Step 9

Glue the bamboo hoop around the lower opening with white glue and set aside to dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • To fly the paper lantern, pull apart a cotton ball a little, soak it in rubbing alcohol, then drape it over the wire in the center of the lantern and light it.
  • Never fly the lantern near buildings, trees, overhead wires or other hazards.

About the Author

Jeff Cunningham has written on science and technology since 2007. He has co-authored volumes on science education and offered commentary on spaceflight on the Google Lunar X Prize blog. Cunningham has a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Photo Credits

  • China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images