The Technium

Sky Lanterns

These home-made mini-hot-balloons look cool. They are launched in mass during a traditional lantern festival in a town near Taipei, Taiwan. Some of them are quite large, maybe 3 meters tall. Others are only 1 meter tall.


According to the photographer Oliver Wu, who shot these photos,

Sky lanterns, a.k.a. Kongming lanterns, are released as the main activity of Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival at Shifen Sky Lantern Plaza on Feb 28, 2010. Strategically used in wars in ancient China, sky lanterns nowadays are transformed into media to the Heaven. People would write down their wishes on the lanterns, burn the bamboo papers that soaked in oil and tied below them, and then released them into the sky so that the gods would receive their wishes and make them come true. Pingxi Township is the original location where early people race sky lanterns to pray for good luck, now it become the largest event of Yuan-Xiao Festival (Lantern Festival) in northern Taiwan.

Maybe Make magazine or Instructurables will offer directions on how to do this at home.

Dan Russell points out that a similar idea, and image, is used in the new Disney movie Tangled, which is a retelling of Repunzel. Image from here.


  • I love this. What a hopeful way to put your own wishes on paper and then join a community. Bet it is beautiful and inspiring.

  • Clay Bridges

    The technique may not be quite the same, but this video about making paper hot air balloons is great:

    There are plenty more. My search:

    • Kevin_Kelly

      Thanks, clay. A good start.

  • Eddie

    I love this as much as any one else, not just because its my heritage, but also it is a meaningful, pleasant and beautiful way to spend a brisk Spring (according to ancient lunar calender) evening. :-) Having said that, there’s some caveats to letting go these KongMinDen, please do it away from airfields. :-) For some of the consequences of these ancient invention, toss in “kongmin lanterns airport” into your favourite search engine. Have fun y’all!

  • this is real very good…

  • They do a similar lantern festival in Thailand. Loi Krathong Lantern Festival in Phuket is done during November usually (depends on the Lunar calendar). The lanterns look different than these but have the same beautiful effect. I tried to buy some in Phuket and bring them back to the US but they’re too fragile! Definitely love to find out how to make either versions…

    • Kevin_Kelly

      If you do find out, let us know>

  • We made a similar thing when I was a kid with dry cleaner bags and birthday candles. These seem marginally safer.

  • Cloudface

    Sounds like a brush-fire holiday, if imported to the American West…