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Glowing Lanterns
of Ancient Hoi An


The tradition to decorate the ancient town in Hoi An with multi-colored lanterns, which started three centuries ago, is still continued today on the fourteenth night of each lunar month in this small town in central Vietnam.

In the past, Vietnamese people often put oil lamps in decorative spherical and hexagonal lantern shades, which were hung in the eaves and both sides of the door in the Chinese style. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Faifo (the name of Hoi An's ancient town at that time) was bustling with foreign merchants from the Netherlands, India, and Japan around the clock. Japanese merchants often hung tube and canary-shaped lanterns along the poles in front of their houses, which lit up the whole commercial quarters at night with a glowing, mysterious light. Locals began hanging lanterns out as well, with hopes for bringing good luck and coziness to the town.

The decision to bring out the lanterns again in the autumn of 1998, however, was an unexpected success. Authorities of Hoi An's ancient town chose the fourteenth night of each lunar month for a night of lantern festivities. On that night, most lights in houses and shops in the ancient town are turned off for the night and replaced with lanterns to light up their narrow streets and alleyways. This year included a Vietnam-Japan cultural festival in Hoi An's ancient town, where Japanese visitors showed off their famous art of paper lanterns. Local residents also had a chance to show their own multi-colored lanterns of many sizes made by experienced artisans, including large, unique lanterns made of rare woods with sophisticated designs and embellished with valuable works of art on each side. Those large, old-fashioned lanterns are now family treasures used only on the night of lanterns. Although lanterns are often lit up with ordinary light bulbs today, their soft light gives a hint of what romantic nights were like long ago.

For many years, traditional colored lanterns have enchanted visitors to Hoi An, particularly foreign visitors. Every year, tens of thousands of Hoi An lanterns are exported or bought by foreign visitors as souvenirs and gifts. As a cultural and tourist product, the lanterns have helped raise incomes of Hoi An's residents.

Hoping to cash in on the lanterns, several other areas have recently started to turn out so-called Hoi An lanterns. The low quality of these imitations, however, has harmed the reputation of traditional Hoi An lanterns, which has led long-time lantern makers to encourage local authorities to develop a specific trademark for Hoi An lanterns to preserve the beauty of the town's long-lasting lanterns.

Hoi An lanterns carry distinctive cultural values of the town that can help present one of Vietnam's cultural heritage sites, Hoi An ancient town, to the outside world, while high-quality will ensure a better standard of living for residents. (Source)


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2359] (8576)
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