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 located. The water lamp originated in India and was later spread to Southeast Asia and East Asia due to Buddhism.

Indian Cultural Circle[edit]

The water lamps in the Indian cultural seen in various traditional festivals and sacrifices, especially the festivals on the full moon day, including the Vesak Day, Deepavali, Songkran Festival, Lantern 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 (River light), 流燈 (Stream light), 河灯, 江燈 (Lake lights), 湖燈 (Lake light), 水燈頭 (Water lamp 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 ceremony may take place on other days of the year for such reasons as the commemoration of those lost in the bombing of Hiroshima and those who died on Japan Airlines Flight 123. It is also performed in other regions of the world, such as Hawaii, to commemorate the end of World War II. The Bon Festival takes place on the thirteenth to sixteenth of August or July, depending on the calendar used. Traditional Japanese beliefs state that humans come from water, so the lanterns represent their bodies returning to water and in particular to the sea.[citation needed] White paper lanterns are used to represent those who died in the past year.[citation needed]

South Asia[edit]

The water lamp is also found in Thailand and Vietnam.

See also[edit]

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.