Paper lanterns, originating from Eastern Han Dynasty(25-220), mainly were used as lamps in ancient China. A variety of crafts were used in their making such as Chinese paintings, paper-cutting, and pricking and seaming and many kinds of materials such as bamboo, wood, wheat-straw and metal were used in their manufacture. Paper and silk were the major materials.
Once used for lighting before the introduction of gas and then electricity, lanterns are now merely decorative or more significantly used during of the yearly Lantern Festival.
Here is the video about how massive lanterns are made for the Lantern Festival from Zigong Tengda Lantern Art.
It was mainly used in palaces in ancient time. It is famous for the delicate craftsmanship, graceful and dignified pictures as well as the courtly features. Fine wood was used to make the frames that were covered in silk or glass when making palace lanterns.
Different kinds of patterns were drawn on the covers. With dragon and phoenix patterns on them, these lanterns were not only used as lamps but also as decorations in palaces. Their shapes were diverse, such as octagonal, hexagonal and even diametric.
Gauze was used to cover the lantern. Bamboo was used to make frames but wire is used now, while the candles are replaced by bulbs. Among these lanterns, red ones are recognized the most throughout the world. Red gauze was used when making them.
In Chinese culture, the red lantern is the symbol of booming life and prosperous business, so they are always hung on important festivals such as Lantern Festival,Chinese New Year and Chinese National Day in parks or along main streets. In some famous China towns abroad, you can see red lanterns all the year round. They have become a symbol of Chinese worldwide.
Now more types of lanterns appear in festivals apart from the traditional ones. With the use of satin, rayon, ceramic, glass, paint and steel wires，people can make very intricate shapes of very large lanterns.
More modern technology is also used in making lanterns, so people can see lanterns with music, with colorful bulbs inside and so on.
The shapes of the modern lanterns have changed a lot too. These shapes can be cartoon characters, Chinese zodiac animals and the makers can even involve the computer games, which give visitors a different new and fresh impression.