Turing Off the Lights on Traditional Burmese Lanterns

As factory-made lanterns flood the market the traditional craftsmen are going out of business.


Sabtu, 26 Okt 2013 15:17 WIB


Zaw Htet DVB

Turing Off the Lights on Traditional Burmese Lanterns

Burma, lantern, Light Festival, DVB

At the end of October people across Myanmar adorn their houses with lanterns to mark the end of Buddhist lent. The lanterns stay up until after the Light Festival in mid-November.

Traditonally people would buy their paper lanterns from local craftsmen but now they are opting to buy the cheaper, sturdier Chinese-made ones.

As factory-made lanterns flood the market the traditional craftsmen are going out of business.

Htun Shein has been making lanterns for 40 years.

Every year, before the end of Buddhist lent, the lanterns are distributed all around the country. But this year, he says, the order has dropped dramatically and he has only produced a few.

He says his business cannot compete in the market anymore because people prefer the foreign-made lanterns instead.

“We make lanterns with paper but the foreign ones are plastic,” says Htun Shein.

“Now, children don’t like these lanterns, they are more interested in Chinese ones. Last year there were lanterns in the design of Angry Birds.”

At the Yangon Lantern market, Chinese lanterns have been sold for the past three or four years.

They are stronger and waterproof, says Myint Myint Khin, a lantern shop owner.

“The Chinese made are cheaper, easy to sell, more beautiful. Children and adults like them. People prefer using the Chinese-made lanterns for decoration.”

There are many steps to make a traditional lantern.

Htun Shein smoothes the bamboo, then, makes the shape of the lantern. He then, puts it on talc paper and draws the design. It is a long and intricate process so the costs are high. And the lanterns are easily damaged.

“Burmese lanterns are made of bamboo but worms can destroy them so the don’t last long.”

But Htun Shein says he will keep making traditional lanterns as a hobby.

“I can’t live without it,” he laughs.

But as the foreign lanterns flood into Myanmar, there is a danger that the art of the traditional lantern maker will be lost forever.

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