A sea of lanterns at Zigong festival

( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-06 07:24:59

A sea of lanterns at Zigong festival

People from around the country gather in Zigong, Sichuan province, to enjoy the annual lantern show, which runs from Feb 2 through March 15. [Photo by Wang Wenlan/Zou Hong/China Daily]

The 21st Zigong International Dinosaur Lantern Festival being held through March 15 not only shines a spotlight on traditional Chinese gauze lanterns, but also illuminates contemporary innovations in materials.

Energy-saving light bulbs, empty penicillin vials, silk, glass and steel are used to make the lanterns, which take the shapes of sheep - this year's Chinese zodiac animal - and dinosaurs, since Sichuan province's Zigong city is famous for fossils. Lanterns have remained a traditional folk item since the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.

Zigong's festival ranks among the top events celebrating this heritage in modern times. The annual event has toured more than 500 Chinese cities and 40 countries, attracting more than 300 million people in the past two decades. Today, 365 companies produce the lanterns, generating a revenue of more than 2 billion yuan ($320 million) a year.

The State Council lists the festival as an official intangible cultural heritage event and China National Tourism Administration recognizes it as one of two national folk activities. The festival's popularity seems to suggest history's shadow lights up a bright future for the country.

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