How to Make a Chinese Lantern from Hongbao (Red Envelopes)

Chinese red lanternsRed lantern symbolizes good luck and is considered to drive off evil, so it is a custom in China  to hang red lanterns in front of doors at the Chinese New Year.

Red lanterns are popular decorative items in China. You can find red lanterns, small or large, globular or square hung along the streets, in parks, in shops, and in Chinese houses. Almost every major Chinese festival features lanterns, especially during Chinese New Year, and, of course, during the Lantern Festival. Here’s a guide for how to make your own red lantern with your recycled hongbao (red envelopes), which we are sure you have. ;) 

In the West, you can find hongbao in Chinese food stores and some restaurants. During Chinese New Year, hongbao are widely sold in almost all the shops in big cities and small towns in China. What you need here are just the most common and cheapest ones.

What You Need?

  • 44 red envelopes (the same size), or 44 pieces of thin rectangular red card (8 pieces slightly longer than others)
  • 8 pieces of card that can be put into a red envelope
  • Adhesive or a roll of double-sided adhesive tape
  • Stapler
  • Red crewel yarn (red string): 1 medium tassel and 8 small tassels (if you have no tassels, you can cut and bundle the red crewel yarn into medium and small tassels)
  • 24 flowers and beads (or other decorative items)
  • Time needed: about two and a half hours

Preparation Work

1. Fold 16 red envelopes into isosceles triangles, and remember to crease the edge well. The photo below shows the back, and the right one shows the front.
Fold the red envelopes

2. Put the 8 pieces of card into 8 red envelopes.

Instructions

1. Arrange the 24 prepared envelopes into 3 rows, with the 8 envelopes with card in in the middle row, triangles pointing up on the top row and down on the bottom row. Tape the middle row together (at the back) and the triangles on at the top and bottom edges of the middle row..
Step1 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

2. Make the rows into a ring, taping the middle row to make the ring continuous.
Step2 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

3. Staple the folding lines of the upper triangles.
Step3 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

4. On the upper end, insert red crewel (with a medium tassel at the end) and staple the opening.
Step4 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

5. At the bottom insert small tassels between the triangles, and staple the folding lines.
Step5 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

6. The main part of the lantern is done. Set it aside.
Step6 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

7. Take another 16 red envelopes, and fold each one into 4 equal parallel strips.
Step7 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

8. Apply adhesive on one end strip of each folded envelope.
Step8 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

9. Fold the 16 envelopes into open-ended triangular prisms, and stick them.
Step9 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

10. Apply adhesive to one side of each prism and stick 4 prisms on a face of the middle of the lantern for a corrugated effect. Step10 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

11. Stick on the remaining 12 prisms, 4 on each alternate face of the middle of the lantern.
Step11 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao


12. Unseal the bottom edges of the 4 remaining envelopes (so that these envelope are a bit longer than a normal red envelope), and stick them on remaining 4 faces of the middle of the lantern. Stick only the two ends, so that they can form a protruding arc shape.
Step12 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

13. Here comes the decoration step: paste flowers on the 16 vertices of the middle row.
Step13 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao 

14. Lastly, staple the corners together, at the top and bottom, and your red lantern is done! You can affix it high on a wall or under the eaves to make your house more festive.
Step14 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao

The finished Chinese lantern

Step14 for Making A Chinese Lantern from hong bao

More on Chinese Lanterns and Red Envelopes

Back to Chinese New Year 2014

Hi, I'm Gavin Van Hinsbergh
I updated this article on March 26, 2014
See all my travel articles
follow this pageChina Highlights

Questions and Answers About How to Make a Chinese Lantern from Hongbao (Red Envelopes)

JJ 2014-01-17
Show Answer
Are there any more nicely done hongbao lanterns like this one? I''m entering a school competition.
Hello JJ, it is a common one. You can easily find it or the better one in the local market. Whitney Liao replied on 2014-01-19
April Offer $25 Coupon
  1. Send your inquiry before Apr. 30, 2014, and we will email you a $25 coupon.
  2. The coupon is valid till Dec. 31, 2014, for paying tour packages worth $250 or up.
  3. The coupon cannot be used for paying flight tickets, train tickets, hotel rooms and day trips.
Travel Advice or Question? Ask us here
Do you want to book a tour/hotel/Wi-Fi. etc.
Your Name Your Email