Award Honors Dedicated Woman for Traditional Mid-Autumn Toy Crafting

In the suburban district of Hoai Duc, Hanoi, Nguyen Thi Tuyen is the sole craftswoman keeping alive the ancient art of making traditional Mid-Autumn toys.

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Nguyen Thi Tuyen is the sole remaining artisan in her village dedicated to crafting traditional toys for the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. Despite only working for one month each year, she perseveres in this art form, considering it to be the essence of her existence and a means of preserving cultural heritage for the younger generation.

 Nguyen Thi Tuyen is busy making Mid-Autumn toys for customers. Photo: Cong Phuong

Every year during the Mid-Autumn Festival, the residents of Ai Hau Village in Van Canh Commune, Hoai Duc District, located approximately 10 kilometers from Hanoi, are engaged in the production of lanterns that are then distributed to the market.

The village was filled with trucks, eagerly awaiting to load star lanterns, carp lanterns, and traditional toys for delivery to various destinations. Ai Hau Village proudly holds the title as the birthplace of lantern making in the historic capital city.

In today’s world, the allure of industrially manufactured toys with vibrant colors and captivating sounds has greatly overshadowed the traditional craft of Ai Hau Village. Sadly, this has resulted in a gradual decline of interest and participation in this age-old practice. However, amidst this fading tradition, there exists a determined female craftswoman who remains committed to preserving the art form. Despite the challenges she faces, she tenaciously holds onto her trade, particularly during the festivities of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

 Nguyen Thi Tuyen is still determined to stick with the craft. Photo: Cong Phuong

Artisan Nguyen Thi Tuyen has been crafting toys since the tender age of eight. Initially assisting her father with the task of gluing colored paper, she gradually assumed more responsibilities and eventually mastered the entire process independently. Fond memories of her maiden attempt, meticulously attaching pieces of colored paper to the tail of a carp lantern, remain vivid even after more than five decades. Today, her passion for creating toys endures, as she continues to dedicate herself to this craft.

Tuyen, a skilled artisan, remains dedicated to his work out of a genuine love and passion for the trade. His primary motivation is to safeguard the rich cultural heritage of his village and honor his ancestors by preserving the traditional art form. As a third-generation Mid-Autumn toy maker, Tuyen considers this occupation an integral part of his identity and deeply ingrained in his being.

Additionally, she highlighted that the creation of handmade products demands perseverance, meticulousness, and ingenuity. There is no room for cutting corners, as each toy is deeply linked to folk tales and the traditional wisdom passed down by our ancestors.

 Tuyen shares with reporter about the meaning of a toy paper scholar. Photo: Cong Phuong

Tuyen introduced the newly completed paper scholar, which holds significance in the traditional Mid-Autumn Festival children’s feast tray. This inclusion symbolizes the aspirations of parents and grandparents for their children to excel academically and achieve a successful future.

Crafting toys is a meticulous process that requires significant effort and preparation. Starting from the 5th lunar month, Tuyen and her husband embark on the task of gathering materials. Carefully selecting bamboo sticks, they then meticulously cut them into strips to create the frames for the toys. This stage alone demands a considerable amount of time and attention to detail. Following this, they proceed to cut the paper, further adding to the complexity of the process.

According to the Hanoi craftswoman, the process of crafting Mid-Autumn toys is unique compared to other professions. She dedicates herself to this craft for less than a month, specifically before the arrival of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In order to meet the demands of her customers, she enlists the assistance of her husband and children. Each family member contributes their skills to the process: splitting bamboo, cutting paper, gluing paper, and more.

Tuyen hopes that traditional toys can serve as a bridge between cultural traditions and children. Photo: Cong Phuong

Tuyen offers a comprehensive range of services in addition to producing and selling Mid-Autumn Toys. She also holds handicraft classes for students from various schools in Hanoi, either at her residence or at the schools’ premises.

Creating Mid-Autumn Toys is a labor of love for this dedicated artisan. Her main motivation is to fulfill her passion for her craft. Moreover, these intricately crafted toys serve as a connection between cultural traditions and children in the fast-paced Industry 4.0 era. In an age where traditional toys are often overshadowed by their modern counterparts, it becomes paramount to preserve the significance of emblematic items like the five-pointed star lantern or the paper scholar in the moon-gazing feast tray. By continuing this trade, she seeks to ensure that generations to come do not forget the rich heritage encapsulated in these timeless toys.

I am pleased to observe that there has been a noticeable increase in the recognition and appreciation of traditional toys by local governments and schools in recent years. This positive development is evident through the growing number of lantern orders placed by educational institutions and residential communities.

Moreover, there are numerous venues dedicated to hosting cultural activities where visitors can delight in the exhibition of lanterns and traditional toys. The artisan expressed, “This represents the epitome of practical education, and it encapsulates my professional aspirations.”