Floral Lanterns

As the Cantonese saying goes, “Light up the lanterns when you walk on the streets, don’t be scared of police arresting you,” Granny Thong Aw Loy reminiscing about the mid-autumn festival celebrations in her childhood, where everyone gathers together playing with lanterns and wandering around the streets in the village while humming this playful little tune.

Despite her octogenarian age, Granny Thong is bright and optimistic, paying full attention to the lantern in making, not slacking for even a moment. The small space between the parlour and her room is Granny Thong’s personal workshop, the materials and tools she needed tidily kept in boxes of all sizes arranged around her, the handy distance easing her production. Rows and rows of various traditional lanterns are hanging above her, from her handmade floral lantern and hexagonal lanterns, to the cellophane lanterns her family crafted and sell.

Born and bred in Teluk Intan, Granny Thong comes from a family of lantern makers. Since a tender age, she and her siblings help their parents to assemble lanterns, almost 70 years ago. Her signature floral lantern is now rarely seen in the market, and there are only a handful of gurus who mastered the craft. Besides deft hands, the process of making a floral lantern requires the utmost attention, patience, and effort. The thickness of bamboo sticks used attest her skills and experience, while the six types of colourful paper flowers, such as rose and chrysanthemum, are made carefully, lining layer by layer using featherweight wrinkled paper. The creation of a traditional lantern is meticulous and time consuming, like an artwork masterpiece, seldom seen. It is especially painful to see this craft gradually dying out in this era due to the mismatch in profit and time costs.

Under the same roof, Mr Yim Sai Peng and wife Chek Hiu Lan (transliteration) are the third generation in the traditional family business, focusing on producing cellophane lanterns of all shapes and sizes. More than 30 varieties of the cellophane lanterns are sold and distributed across Malaysia, as well as overseas. Since entering the 21st century, the rapid development of information and technology emphasizes efficiency, digital communication overpower socializing and interactions between human beings. In this day of reunion, maybe you should take a break, light a lantern, feel the warmth of the candlelight awakening the meaning of this traditional festival, and may the culture be handed down endlessly.

Text: Daniel Lim & Pua Hui Wen

有你 UNI Production
Producer : Mok Yii Chek
Coordinator : Daniel Lim
Cinematographer : Amelia Lim / Evon Pang
Video Editor : Evon Pang
Production Assistant : Michael Lerk
Music : Blue Butterfly from Felt Music


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *