If you have a chance to visit Hoian, you will love this town with small alleys lined up by elegant boutique shops and colourful boulangerie. But you will be much more enchanted if you see the beauty of this little town at night when it is brightened up by thousands of colourful lanterns hanging everywhere. The lanterns is considered a signature image of Hoian by many tourist. You may wonder why they have so many in lanterns displayed in Hoian? Let me tell you the story behind those beautiful lanterns.
No one knows exactly when the first lantern appeared in Hoian but it is said that it was around 16th century when the first Chineses came settled in and brought along their Chinese lanterns to sooth their homesick. And from then on, the beautiful lanterns find its way into every home in Hoian. They are hung at front of houses, decorated along the riverside, lined crisscross on the streets and setup in restaurants and shops. The lanterns come with many different colours, shapes and sizes but all blend amazingly with the ancient surrounding to make an integral part of Hoian.
Watching those bright lights swinging in the wind is surprisingly interesting and relaxing. In broad daylight, the lanterns tells you the story of the artisan with all the master and hardwork put in to make a sophisticated object like lantern. At night, when all around is pit dark, the lanterns are like the star shining through the night and lightening up the ancient town. Words fail to describe how enchanting it is, only your eyes can capture the elegance of scarlet sky, brilliant colours of lanterns reflected on the water and the tranquility of the old town.
At the beginning, big lanterns or Chinese paintings was only seen in the houses of the rich. Then in time, they has become more affordable to the mass still retaining its original beauty, elegance and charm. It is a complicated process to make a lantern involving two main stage of making the frame and the cover. To form the frame of the lantern, the bamboo has to be soaked in salt water for 10 days to prevent termites, then dried up and trimmed into size. Then the bamboo stick is attached to two wooden rings at two ends and all are tied together by a string. The whole frame is adjusted for the final touch at the end to make it symmetrical. The making of cover is no less difficult. It involves the choosing of the right fabric, which must be chamois or silk to have certain stretch, and the master skill of the artinsan. The fabric is cut into pieces and glued to the frame. The crucial part here is how to stretch the fabric at the angle of the frame which requires high level of skill. Finishing this step, the artisan does a final touch for the covered frame then attach it to the light holder which is made of artificial silk thread attached to a wooden ball.
In the Asian culture, the lantern is meant to dispel the evil spirits and to bring peace and happiness. When the night falls, you are to enjoy the sparkling lights of lanterns which bring with it the nostalgia of the past, very close but also unreachable. Under the cast of lantern light in harmony with the light steps of locals, the soft echo of a street vendor, the mossy mesmerizing old house, you feel the prosperous past of this ancient town passing by. Just gentle like that but so enchanting.
Come and feel Hoian by yourself. It is especially beautiful in mid-autumn night festival or mid-month in lunar calendar.
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