A sky lantern, also known as Kongming lantern or Chinese lantern, is a small hot air balloon made of paper, with an opening at the bottom where a small fire is suspended.
In Asia and elsewhere, sky lanterns have been traditionally made for centuries, to be launched for play or as part of festivities. In recent years there has been growing concern about their potential to cause crop or building fires and harm animals that may eat their remains. Several countries have banned them for that reason.
Sky lanterns are a possible explanation for some UFO sightings.
The name "sky lantern" is a translation of the Chinese name tiān dēng. Sky lanterns have also been referred to as sky candles or fire balloons, however the latter term is also used to refer to balloon munitions used during World War II.
sinologist and historian of science Joseph Needham, the Chinese experimented with small hot air balloons for signaling from as early as the 3rd century BC, during the Warring States period. Traditionally, however, their invention is attributed to the sage and military strategist Zhuge Liang (181–234 AD) whose reverent term of address was Kongming. He is said to have used a message written on a sky lantern to summon help on an occasion when he was surrounded by enemy troops. For this reason they are still known in China as Kongming lanterns (孔明燈, , kǒngmíng dēng). (However, some claim that the name actually comes from the lantern's resemblance to the hat Kongming is traditionally shown to be wearing.)
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