Water lantern

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Tōrō nagashi in Sasebo

The Floating Lamp is a type of lamp that floats on the surface of the water. It is also known as a river lamp or lake lamp etc, depending on the water body in which the water lamp is floated. The water lamp originated in India and later spread to Southeast Asia and East Asia due to influence of Hindu-Buddhist cultural diffusion.

South Asia and Southeast Asia[edit]

The water lamps in the Indian culture is seen in various traditional festivals and sacrifices, especially the festivals on the full moon day or Purnimas like the festivals on Kartik Purnima, across South and Southeast Asia including the Vesak Day, Deepavali, Boita Bandana, Loi Krathong, Bon Om Touk, Songkran Festival, Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Water Festival, etc., have simple lamps and are made of plant materials such as flowers and leaves. The main meaning of the water lights in these areas is to worship the gods, send away the disasters, and welcome happiness. Some young men and women will also pray for a good marriage with water lamps. Water lanterns are also believed of guiding the souls in the water.

East Asia[edit]


As early as in the Tang dynasty, the Water Lantern has been used in traditional Chinese festivals such as the Lantern Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese New Year, and even Christmas in some places like Hong Kong. It has many names, depending on the water bodies in which the lanterns are discharged, such as 水燈 (water lantern), 流燈 (floating lantern), 河灯, 江燈 (river lantern), 湖燈 (lake lantern), 水燈頭 (water lantern head), and 照冥. The shape of the lanterns may be square or in the form of a lotus.


In both Koreas, the water lantern is known as 유등 (yudeung: light).


Hiroshima Peace Message Lantern Floating Ceremony, August 6, 2019

Tōrō nagashi (灯籠流し) is a ceremony in which participants float paper lanterns down a river; tōrō is the Japanese word for "lantern," while nagashi means "cruise" or "flow." This activity is traditionally performed on the final evening of the Bon Festival in the belief that it will help to guide the souls of the departed to the spirit world. The Bon Festival takes place on the thirteenth to sixteenth of August or July, depending on the calendar used. The peaceful custom is a gesture of respect for those who have died and gives participants a moment to think about their ancestors, loved ones or even past pets.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ito, Masami (August 13, 2013). "Lighting the way for o-Bon". The Japan Times.

External links[edit]

  • Lantern Floating Hawaii Official site of Hawaii's largest Tōrō Nagashi ceremony, held on Memorial Day at Magic Island in Honolulu. Presented by Shinnyo-en Hawaii and the Na Lei Aloha Foundation.
  • Tōrō Nagashi Video A videoblog entry from the 2006 Tōrō Nagashi ceremony in Honolulu.
  • [1] Web site of the San Francisco Bay Area Peace Lantern Ceremony, held annually since 2002.
  • [2] Web site of 'From Hiroshima to Hope', in Seattle, the largest commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima outside Japan.