Lantern making in Hoi An: a preserved tradition in this charming city
- on Sep 7, 2019       By: Bảo Ngọc
How can you feel all the charm of Hoi An without mentioning the lanterns? The river Thu Bon serves as a guide for a walk through the small town and lanterns of all kinds glitter at both sides, during the day and especially at nightfall. They create an atmosphere which would be best described as fairytale like.
Why is it called city of lanterns?
The lanterns first made their appearance in Hoi An in the 16th century with the arrival of Chinese immigrants under the reign of Lord Nguyen. The job of making lanterns was founded by Xa Duong, the man who devoted himself to the creation of the unicorn heads and lanterns for traditional performances. Over the centuries, the activity has been able to overcome declines to establish itself as a tourist attraction which some call the “Venice of Vietnam”.
Based on a strong attachment and know-how handed down from generation to generation, the lanterns of Hoi An are gradually diversified in terms of form and material. In particular, traditional lantern shops encourage visitors to follow a small manufacturing course offered by one of the craft workshops in Hoi An.
Whether at a café or a boutique, these multi-format lanterns give a particular charm to the place where they are settled. Beyond a feast for the eyes, they are indeed a favorite of the visitors in Hoi An. Under the light of the lanterns you can immerse yourself in the timeless atmosphere by strolling by the houses situated on the quiet narrow streets of Tran Phu, Le Loi, Bach Dang, Nguyen Thai Hoc and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. A lantern is a nice souvenir for your loved ones or yourself which you can create with your own hands and creativity. Does this activity appeal to you during your visit to Hoi An?
Steps to making a traditional Hoi An lantern
Bamboo and cloth are the two main materials for the creation of lanterns. We only choose the old bamboo that is cut into stems depending on the shape chosen. For pre-treatment they are boiled and then soaked in saltwater for ten days before drying in the sun.
Choice of fabric
Fabric selection is a critical task. Among all types of fabric, silk is probably the part that brings out the elegance of a Hoi An lantern. The color plays both an aesthetic and symbolic role. Red is for luck, purple for chic and yellow for joy. We can say that it is the color of the silk which with the light of the lamp makes the difference of each lantern.
Formation of the frame and laying of fabric
Two key steps required in making a lantern are the formation of the frame and the laying of the fabric. Both of which require special attention and mastery of specific techniques. The strands are framed by two circles of wood. Then the link between the strands is tied together by strings entirely by hand. After, the laying of the fabric finishes the lantern. This step requires a real skillful finger on the part of the craftsman.
To make a lantern a work of great finesse, the craftsman plays the role of embroiderer and painter by spending hours with sophisticated ornamental patterns. A lantern is highlighted with the imagination of the author who breathes a soul through the cultural symbols and historical relics. Finally, a handful of lanterns are hung to put an end to the creation process.
Please note that a beginner can possibly make one or two lanterns per day against the twenty in the case of a real professional. The success of a beautiful lantern requires great attention to detail and a deep love. In any case, apprentice travellers will be accompanied by local craftsmen to get acquainted with them, step by step.
The lantern making workshops well-known in Hoi An:
At Ha Linh, 72 Tran Nhan Tong, Hoi An
At Huynh Van Ba, 54 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Hoi An