Lantern-making village lights up full moon festival

Thursday, 2013-09-19 11:59:23
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Making star-shaped lanterns
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Nhan Dan Online – Bao Dap village, in Nam Truc district, is the only craft village in Vietnam to make the star-shaped lanterns carried by children during Mid-Autumn festival (the 15th day of the eighth lunar month). 

Despite the preponderance of modern toys over traditional ones, village residents continue to practice their traditional craft — making star-shaped lanterns.

It is said that the villagers of Bao Dap have been crafting lanterns for a long time; perhaps since the star-shaped lanterns first appeared at the Mid-autumn festival.

The lanterns are made from simple materials: bamboo, glazed paper and the trunks of jute trees. All assembly is done completely by hand.

The star-shaped frame of the lantern is made of bamboo splints, tied tightly with wire. Three sizes of star-shaped lanterns are made, with diameters of 30, 40, and 50 centimetres. The craftspeople soak the bamboo in water to make it flexible before splitting the bamboo to the appropriate size.

The frame is then covered with glazed paper. The craftspeople dip white glazed papers in green and red dye before cutting them into the six requisite parts of a star. Each part is glued onto the frame carefully to avoid any peeling.

In the next step, the star is decorated with yellow saw-toothed ribbons, and is encircled with a thin yellow bamboo frame. The makers finally affix a jute handle to make the frame taut and set the lanterns out to dry.

The lanterns are tied into bundles of 100 and brought to traders in cities and provinces throughout the country. Most are sold in Hanoi and Hai Phong city.

Experiments were made producing the lanterns out of plastic, using machines instead of manual production. These attempts were unsuccessful, however, since the plastic frames made it difficult to affix the glazed paper, and because the resulting lanterns were not as beautiful. To this day, the villagers still do every step of the process by hand.

According to Nguyen Van Xa, a resident of Bao Dap village, the craftspeople start preparation for the lantern-making just after the Tet (lunar New Year) festival to ensure their supply for the Mid-Autumn festival. Although the materials for lantern-making are simple, each step in the process requires ample precision, patience and talent. A skilled worker can produce around 20 lanterns a day.

Weather conditions can also affect production. Prolonged rain can impede the drying of products or make the glazed papers rumple.

At present, more than 100 households in the village earn their living through the craft. Each household produces an average of 30,000 lanterns each year for sale during the full moon festival. A large lantern is priced at VND 5,000 and a smaller one costs VND 3,000.

Although Bao Dap village’s products have not been exported abroad, the village prestige is renowned nationwide, as their products have been sold throughout the country, bringing joy and happiness to children on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn festival. 

Vietnam Association of Craft Village/ Translated by Nhan Dan Online