How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns

By Mary Smith. Updated: January 16, 2017
How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns

Chinese paper lanterns float in the sky when heated by a flame, in the same manner as a hot air balloon. Invented in China over 2,000 years ago, these flying lanterns are called 'Khom Fay' or 'Khom Loy'. The original Chinese lantern was made with a bamboo hoop and thin sheets of paper taped together, creating a bag or bucket shape. But what are the physics behind these magic Chinese paper lanterns? Hot air fills the lantern and makes it fly, propelled by a burning flame maintained by a piece of cloth soaked in oil. Unlike in the past, when the lanterns were used to send information to the military, nowadays many people write wishes, messages and love notes on their lanterns before sending them skyward. This is why at OenHowTo we'd like to show you how to make Chinese wishing lanterns.

You'll need:
  • Tissue paper or plastic bag
  • Adhesive tape
  • Birthday candles
  • Foil
  • Drinking straws
You may also be interested in: How to Make Outdoor Hanging Lanterns
Steps to follow:

The first step to make Chinese wishing lanterns is to grab a transparent plastic bag, or alternatively some tissue paper, sticking the sheets together to make a bag. If you are making the lantern with paper, you can add decorations.


Now you need to create the base for the candles that will heat up the air inside the lantern and make it fly. Take a sheet of foil measuring 10x10 centimeters (4x4 inches approx.).


Stick 4 candles to the foil with their own wax. The candles should be arranged in a diamond shape, with a uniform distance between each one to balance the weight and allow the lantern to fly properly.

How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns - Step 3

The next step is to create the base of the Chinese paper lantern. If the bag that you are using opens out to 30 centimeters, we will need to make a base for the candles that measures 30x1.7 = 51 centimeters (20 in approx.).

How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns - Step 4

The base will be made from plastic straws, joined by putting one inside the other, to make a square cross of 51 centimeters (20 inches). Join the cross in the middle with tape.

How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns - Step 5

Now we have a bag, the cross that will form the base to support the candles, and candles stuck on the foil. The next step to make the Chinese paper lantern is to join the cross to plastic or paper bag, sticking them together with tape.

How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns - Step 6

After attaching the base to the bag, we now need to stick the foil with the candles on it to the cross-shaped base. Obviously the candles must be face up in order to heat the air inside the bag.


Stick the bottom of the foil with the 4 candles to the cross-shaped base with sticky tape.


To light the candles, hold the tip of the bag up high and lights the candles with a lighter or another candle. It is important to get someone else to help you with this and make sure that the flame doesn't touch the plastic bag.


Wait as the candles heat the air inside the paper lantern. Within minutes, you will see that the lantern has inflated with hot air and it will start to fly. Now make a wish!

How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns - Step 10

If you want to read similar articles to How to Make Chinese Wishing Lanterns, we recommend you visit our Interior Design and Decor category.

  • Drinking straws are the best material for making the base for your paper or plastic Chinese lantern.
  • Making the lantern is easier with two people.
  • Don't launch it on windy days.
  • It won't light if it is raining.
  • Remember, your lantern is a potential fire hazard. You are responsible for any damage that it may cause.

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