Hanoi family keeps making paper masks for four decades

Located in a small alley on Hang Thang street, the house of old couple Nguyen Van Hoa and Dang Huong Lan is the only family in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to still practice the craft of making traditional paper masks, for four decades.

Paper masks used to be favourite toys of Hanoi children during the Mid-autumn festival.
Paper masks used to be favourite toys of Hanoi children during the Mid-autumn festival.
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However, traditional toys have lost their charm in modern life. Nguyen Van Hoa and Dang Huong Lan are the last craftsmen in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to run the practice.

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In a 30-square-metre space in the attic of their house, Lan and Hoa are completing the final steps of paper masks.

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According to Lan, the craft has been handed down by her ancestors. Lan and her husband have persisted in making paper masks for more than four decades.

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The making of a traditional paper mask is a time-consuming process.

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The artisans first tear the paper into many pieces, then glue different layers of paper with glue and cassava powder and press them into moulds. From the mould emerge the shapes of faces for the masks. The masks are dried and then painted.

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After the painting process, the masks are sun-dried again.

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Hoa’s family has created 30 moulds in different sizes for traditional paper masks.

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A traditional paper mask is sold in dozens to hundreds of Vietnamese dongs depending on its size and model.

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There was a period when made-in-China toys dominated the market, making Vietnamese products become disfavoured by customers. However, in recent years, Vietnamese customers have regained their interest in traditional toys.

VOV/Translated by NDO