There are times when Vietnamese people joke about how Hoi An becomes Vietnam’s second capital city since a huge number of celebrities from all over the world have been to and love this little lovely town. Located in Central Vietnam, Hoi An is a city of peace and bygone time with streets full of Vietnamese traditional houses that are never built to be higher than 2 floors, vintage Ao Dai, silk and tailor-made shoes and clothes. You will have the chance to see things you can rarely see elsewhere around Vietnam, eat the best Banh Mi in the world and be blown away by how friendly and lovely the people here are.
But most importantly, Hoi An can keep your mind away from the hustle and bustle of the big city with its own charms and features. And one famous and crucial factor making up this charm is Hoi An’s signature silk lanterns. On whichever street in Hoi An, you will see brightly colored silk lanterns hanging from shops to restaurants, from theaters to pedestrian-only streets and coffee shops. It is easy to see why: Silk is Hoi An’s exquisite souvenirs and people here are making good use of it to contribute to the ancient essenes and modern breath of the city with lanterns.
Lanterns – the soul of Hoi An’s nights
How Hoi An gains the title “City of the lantern”
Hoi An gains its title “City of lanterns” as on the full moon days (14 lunar monthly), all houses, stores, and shops will turn off the electric lights and leave only the vivid lanterns to cover the space, creating this very unique for Hoi An street. Stunning under the daylight, yet when the sun sets, the whole city of Hoi An changes into a charming and tranquil place with lanterns of all shapes, patterns, and eye-catching colors. Under the lanterns’ shimmering and warm light, somehow one can feel the time slowing down and their mind becomes eased out to vibe with the quiet and elegant soul of the Old Quarter.
History of Hoi An lantern
No one can tell exactly when lanterns were created or its original creators, but we know for sure that lanterns are among Vietnam’s oldest traditional handicraft products with a 400-year history, around the 16th century.
At that time, Hoi An was a famous and bustling port with many Chinese and Japanese traders with tons of merchant ships docking to exchange goods with the Vietnamese. And one day, these foreigners realized that the lanterns used in lighting up and decorating old homes here are so beautiful and thus, lanterns made of silk – Hoi An’s top commodities appear and morphed this place into a quasi-tourist attraction.
So the lanterns were put into production. Locals began to hang lanterns out as well, in hopes of bringing good luck and coziness to the town. It worked.
Hoi An lanterns in art and theaters
At first, Hoi An’s habitants hung lanterns with the hope of light, coziness and good luck, but time flies and now this special commodity has become more and more popular. Now, lanterns are playing the main decoration role on many Vietnamese stages since it brings a warm, shimmering light source for the repertoire. With the growing reputation of “Ky Uc Hoi An” Show – Memories of Hoi An, lanterns prove itself to be indispensable with huge sections called Lights and Sea created just to honor it on an outdoor stage of 25,000 m2 on Con Hen Island, Cam An Ward.
Hoi An lanterns also appear as props for Vietnamese dancers, who can appear on stage inside giant lanterns of different shapes, or in the art to represent the undying love or hope of the Asian women, etc. Vietnamese souls of the lanterns are shimmering to bring more sublimation but still retain the traditional values.
How it’s made
To make decent lanterns, the process you need to go to is quite long: bamboo and silk fabric selection, shaping and decoration. People often soak bamboo in saltwater in 10 – 15 days to prevent insects ruining it, then shaping the lantern frame and decorate the silk with Asian scenery, trees symbolizing elegance or flowers symbolizing beauty.
Over time, Hoi An lanterns are developed to be diverse in design, size, and color. Talented craftsmen now let their imagination go wild to add new and luxurious designs to suit the needs of customers all over the world loving this little charm of Hoi An.
All about Hoi An’s lantern festival
Hoi An lantern festival is celebrated on the 14th every month based on the lunar calendar, but the best time to enjoy this special event is the first full moon of a lunar year, the Mid Autumn Festival.
The festival is a magical scene to see no matter how many times you have witnessed it: the whole city turns into the dark after 8 PM and the only light source you have is thousands of colorful silk lanterns of all shapes. The glamorous Hoi An lanterns shine everywhere, giving you an Alice in Wonderland delusion. From luxurious restaurants along the Old Quarter to painted wooden boats slowly make it way on the main river, you will be brought back to the bustling trade port of Hoi An in the 16th century in just a blink of an eye.
The traditional activity on this occasion is lantern releasing. This thousand-year-old activity is believed by Hoianian to bring fortune, health, and happiness to the prayers. With a 50-cent paper lotus lantern handcrafted carefully by the town’s old artists, you can enjoy the magical experience that occurs once every month: You will sit on one among hundreds of wooden boats on the river to light up your lantern and let it go with thousands of other lanterns, bringing your wish and hope to a faraway land with a shimmering light to lead its way.
You should not miss the Lantern Festival since it is a meaningful and lovely experience to have, but if you can’t schedule your trip to see it, learning how to make a lantern and making one yourself is equally a good choice.
With Vietbiz Travel, you will have the chance to talk to Mr. Huynh Van Trung – the man who made a comeback of Hoi An lanterns and made it thrive many years ago. Born in a traditional lantern making family, Mr. Huynh inherits valuable skills in making lanterns from his father – a well-known artisan named Huynh Van Ba. He will be the one to tell you stories about lanterns, all the history, details about shape, color as well as the stages of production. You then can try to create your own lantern and take it home as a souvenir.
Vietbiz Travel specializes in custom-made holidays with several choices of high-end services for leisure travel, business travel and MICE serving a wide range of luxury travelers from 1 to 1000 people. Founded in 2004, we are proud to provide tailor-made private tours to every corner of Vietnam as well as in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar with nearly 75.3% customer satisfaction rate.