Rabbit-shaped lanterns wait for their next maker
The two beautiful rabbit-shaped lanterns also made by Zhang Jianhua. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]
A rabbit-shaped lantern used to be a must-buy present for children at Spring Festival and Lantern Festival in the past. Children loved taking the rabbit for a walk with their friends.
However, such handmade rabbit lanterns are rarely seen nowadays.
There is a 66-year-old craftsman from Taicang who still insists on making rabbit-shaped lanterns by hand.
Zhang Jianhua has been dedicated to this craft for 46 years, after inheriting the required skills from his father in his 20s.
Even though his hands are covered in calluses, he is nimble-fingered as he cuts out pieces of delicate paper and glues them onto the rabbit-shaped frame.
Zhang Jianhua glues paper to the ready-made lantern frame. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]
"It's actually not easy to make a rabbit lantern, even though it seems simple and small," the craftsman said. "At least one whole day is required to complete the complicated process."
Firstly, a frame needs to be constructed using bamboo canes tied tightly together with iron wire. Four small wheels also need to be made, for the children who like pulling their lanterns behind them down the streets.
Then, Zhang would cut out pieces of paper into different shapes, including long pieces for the rabbit's ears, small pieces for the short tails, as well as round pieces for its head and eyes. Next he would affix them to the already completed frame.
In order to make the lantern look more life-like, he would also cut colorful pieces of paper into thin shreds and glue them to the rabbit's bodies to replicate the fur.
Two kids play with a rabbit-shaped lantern made by Zhang Jianhua. [Photo/WeChat account: taicangdaily]
Zhang used to sell them at the local market, but now as there are more and more plastic lanterns on the market, fewer people want to spend more money to buy a handmade one.
Under such circumstances, younger people are not willing to learn how to make lanterns and Zhang is afraid that the handcraft he has dedicated his life to, will eventually die out in the world completely.
Chen Liang, Party secretary of Zhang's community, expressed his disappointment in facing the possiblity that such a timeworn skill could be lost. He said that the neighborhood committee would create more opportunities for Zhang and other craftsmen like him, to demonstrate their skills and encourage other young people to learn from them.