the lanterns of Hoi An
Skeletons of bamboo rods shaped into circles and teardrops hang above our heads and wood bases with tiny slats sit near a pile of sawdust. We’ve just walked into a quasi-workshop, located in a shed that sits to the side of a private home. The woman who lives here does not speak English, but as a favor to Nhi, our homestay host, is patiently showing us how she makes Hoi An’s famous silk lanterns. The process is lengthy, and our appreciation of the craft instantly skyrockets. We learn that the daughter of this family runs a store in town, where we later buy two lanterns made by mom.
The small ancient fishing town of Hoi An is well known for its lanterns and they'e everywhere. Strings sway above the streets and shops on every corner radiate light in different shapes, sizes and colors. Like a moth to a flame, it’s impossible not to be drawn in.
Like many crafts, the lanterns are a product of Vietnam’s long history of trade with its neighboring countries. There’s no doubt, however, that these lanterns are not only Vietnamese, but Hoi An-ian. Each lantern is hand made with local bamboo and covered carefully with raw silk. Many are hand painted with flowers, scenes of the countryside, or Vietnamese words. There is true pride in the craft and it shows.
The Vietnamese believe that hanging a couple of lanterns in front of the house will bring happiness to the family. After witnessing the magic of the lanterns, we have no doubt.
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