A lantern is a portable lighting device or mounted fixture used to illuminate areas. Lanterns may also be used for signaling, as torches, or as general light sources outdoors. Low light level varieties are used for decoration. The term “lantern” is also used more generically to mean a light source, or the enclosure for a light source. Examples are glass pane enclosed street lights, or the housing for the top lamp and lens section of a lighthouse. The term is commonly associated with Chinese paper lanterns.
Lanterns are first spoken of by Theopompus, a Greek poet, and Empedocles of Agrigentum. Lanterns were used by the ancients in augury. Lanterns in ancient China were made of silk, paper, or animal skin with frames made of bamboo or wood. One of the earliest descriptions of paper lanterns is found in records from Khotan, which describe a “mounting lantern” made of white paper.
The simplest technology used is the candle lantern. Candles give only a faint light, and must be protected from wind to prevent flickering or complete extinguishment. A typical candle lantern is a metal box or cylinder with glass or mica side panels and an opening or ventilated cover on the top. A primitive form of candle lantern, made from white horn and wood and called a lanthorn, was first made in the time of the English king Alfred the Great (849–899). Read more