Introducing Hoi An Lanterns to the Global Market

Hoi An lanterns have become an iconic symbol of the historic town of Hoi An, with a rich history that spans over 400 years. Creating these lanterns is an absolute must-do for foreign visitors looking to immerse themselves in the unique cultural experiences that Hoi An has to offer during their travels.

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Hoi An Ancient Town retains its unique charm in every corner. Visitors can experience the warm hospitality of the locals, admire the natural landscapes, beautiful beaches, impressive architecture, and indulge in the delicious cuisine. Since the 1980s, Hoi An has become a popular tourist destination, with its lanterns being one of the highlights of this enchanting town.

Catherine, an Australian female tourist, was captivated by the Hoi An lanterns. Photo: Hoang Bin

According to the world’s leading tourism information site, Tripadvisor, learning to make lanterns in Hoi An is one of the top 10 most enticing experiences for tourists when they visit Vietnam in 2023. This list is based on feedback from tourists who have already had the opportunity to participate in this activity.

Catherine, an Australian tourist traveling alone, had originally planned to spend 2 days in Hoi An before heading to Cambodia with her friends. However, after discovering the lantern making activity, Catherine decided to extend her stay in Hoi An for an additional week.

Before her departure, the tour guide introduced Catherine to the process of making handmade lanterns. From sharpening bamboo slats, shaping the frame, cutting the fabric, applying glue, to putting the lantern together – Catherine learned each step with enthusiasm. Over the next week, she regularly visited Hoi An’s oldest lantern manufacturing facility owned by artisan Huynh Van Ba, where she created unique lanterns based on her own imagination.

Foreign tourists crafting their own lanterns. Photo: Hoi An

The artisan shared that Catherine is just one of the many tourists who have been captivated by the charm of Hoi An’s traditional lanterns.

With the growing excitement and passion of visitors towards the lanterns, Hoi An has started offering lantern-making workshops for them. Many tourists, after experiencing this activity, choose to extend their stay in order to complete their own lanterns, which they can take home as a unique gift from Hoi An.

One of the well-known cultural events that takes place monthly in the Ancient Town is the Hoi An Lantern Festival, also known as the Hoi An Full Moon Festival or Hoi An Light Festival. This festival is celebrated on the 14th day of the lunar month to coincide with the full moon. On this occasion, all shops, restaurants, and homes turn off their lights, and the town is beautifully decorated with lanterns of various shapes, sizes, and colors.

Lanterns are a common product of traditional craft villages throughout Vietnam, especially in Hoi An. Photo: Hoi An

The locals light up the lanterns with wishes for good fortune, wealth, joy, health, and good weather. People also release floating lanterns on the river, making wishes as they let go.

Lanterns spreading the image of Hoi An to the world

Lanterns are a popular product of traditional craft villages throughout Vietnam, particularly in Hoi An. Hoi An lanterns can be seen in restaurants, festivals, and homes, especially during traditional holidays like Tet or the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The Hoi An lantern symbolizes “illumination.” The people of Quang Nam consider light to be a symbol of mankind, and offering lanterns at shrines is a way of praying for protection from the gods.

In addition, Hoi An lanterns hold different meanings depending on their colors. For example, red lanterns represent fortune and wealth.

Hoi An lanterns come in various shapes and styles, each meticulously crafted by local artisans who take great care in preserving this traditional art form.

Hoi An lanterns come in a wide variety of shapes and styles. Photo: Vinpearl

To create Hoi An lanterns, skilled artisans carefully select and work with bamboo as the primary material. The bamboo is cooked, soaked in salt water for ten days, and then dried and shaped into lanterns of different sizes and forms. A fabric cover is added to the lantern, with the color of the fabric determining the color of the lantern’s light.

In addition to offering lantern-making classes for tourists, the Hoi An authorities have actively promoted and shared the art of lantern-making through cultural exchanges. Nguyen Van Son, the Chairman of Hoi An City People’s Committee, shared that in 2023, the Hoi An Lantern Festival will once again be held in Wernigerode City (Germany) to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the partnership between the two cities.

During the 3-day festival, the houses, shops, and central square of Wernigerode City will be adorned with hundreds of exquisite lanterns handmade in Hoi An.

Charlotte Pho