​50-yr-old lantern village busy as Mid-Autumn Festival nears

A woman smiles under a number of complete lanterns.

Traditional Vietnamese lanterns are winning back trust from local consumers

A busy atmosphere can easily be sensed these days at Phu Binh, a small quarter housing numerous lantern-making facilities in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City, as the Mid-Autumn Festival is just around the corner.

The mid-autumn festival, which is celebrated by many Asian countries including Vietnam, is the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar. This year’s festival falls on October 4.

Nearly 100 households in Phu Binh, a craft village founded more than 50 years ago, are busily completing the very last batches of orders for the festival.

More than half a century ago, some artisans from the famed craft village of Bac Co in the northern province of Nam Dinh relocated to Phu Binh, also a Christian hamlet, bringing with them the craftmanship of making traditional lanterns.

The craft was passed from generation to generation and embraced by Phu Binh villagers, enabling the small quarter to become a hub for lanterns, one of the indispensable items to celebrate the full-moon festival.

During Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, family members habitually get together, make offerings to their ancestors and delightedly enjoy moon cakes over fragrant tea while admiring the full moon.

Meanwhile, kids typically hang around with their well-lit lanterns, chanting traditional moon-welcoming songs, and playing traditional games.

The lantern making craft enjoyed its heyday in the 1990s, when “all complete products were sold out, even though they did not bear beautiful or diverse designs,” Thang, a seasoned lantern maker in Phu Binh, said.

There were times when the traditional Vietnamese lanterns faced tough competition from the battery-powered, plastic products made in China.

However, as the modern lanterns pose several safety and health risks, Vietnamese consumers have returned to the traditional products in the last few years.

Phu Binh villagers have also exerted effort to improve the designs for their lanterns to meet new demand from the market.

It takes several phases to make a complete lantern, from cutting the bamboo sticks to make the frame from placing and painting the plastic papers to wrap around the frame.

Below are some photos at the Phu Binh lantern village.

Tuyet, a lantern maker with more than 30 years of experience.
Tuyet, a lantern maker with more than 30 years of experience.
Nguyen Trong Binh, 40, has 30 years experience in the job.
Nguyen Trong Binh, 40, has 30 years experience in the job.
A special rooster-shaped lantern, fetching some VND600,000 (US$27)
A special rooster-shaped lantern, fetching some VND600,000 (US$27)
This man is a truck driver who moonlights as a lantern maker.
This man is a truck driver who moonlights as a lantern maker.
Lanterns of various designs are on sale at Phu Binh.
Lanterns of various designs are on sale at Phu Binh.
Colors used to decorate the lanterns.
Colors used to decorate the lanterns.
A family with three generations making lantern.
A family with three generations making lantern.
This man follows his parents to keep the lantern making tradition for the family.
This man follows his parents to keep the lantern making tradition for the family.
Lanterns ready for sale
Lanterns ready for sale
A set of complete products waiting for delivery.
A set of complete products waiting for delivery.

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