Artisan hopes to keep traditional lantern-making alive in Macau

To preserve the technique of rabbit lantern-making in Macau, Albergue SCM is hosting the 19th edition of the lantern-making workshops on from July 17 until July 28.

Lanterns play an important role in the long history of Chinese culture. Chinese lanterns were the earliest portable lighting devices, invented during the Western Han Dynasty.

Although lanterns have many forms and can be built from different materials such as paper, plastic and electronic equipment, the paper-and-silk rabbit form is the most traditional.

With the aim of keeping this tradition alive, instructor of the workshops, Alfredo Ceynas, will teach interested participants the skills required to create such lanterns.

Speaking to the Times, the Filipino artisan shared that there is an absence of lantern making workshops in the region. As such, he aims to preserve the tradition of creating lanterns by presenting a diverse range of techniques to his students.

Ceynas was taught by Albergue SCM director and local architect Carlos Marreiros.

The artisan said that he only learnt the craft after Marreiros coached him for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, following the presentation of the “Little Rabbit Lantern” Macau Pavilion.

“So from then on, I learnt how to step by step make rabbit lanterns,” he said, adding that his skills were honed every time the “Little Rabbit Lanterns” exhibitions were held.

Ceynas’ workshops teach how to create structures resembling a rabbit with different kinds of papers, fabrics and iron wires.

At the time of invention, lanterns were only produced with bamboo and rice paper but due to innovation, Ceynas explained that there are new ways to design and create the lanterns, a feature that further attracts participants.

The instructor also noted that he has taught residents who share the same passion for preserving the techniques of lantern-making.

“The participants are interested. Some are very keen and motivated to learn how to make such lanterns,” Ceynas, who is able to build different lanterns from sketches, said.

“Since the participants are coming from work, they are really sacrificing their time so I think they are interested and motivated to have this workshop,” Ceynas noted.

Moreover, the artisan is looking forward to more participants this year. “I’m expecting a larger number of participants this year,” he affirmed.

Ceynas explained that his interest in lantern-making did not come from any particular interest in the past, however Macau’s Mid-Autumn Festival, along with Marreiros’ coaching, inspired him to gain knowledge of the craft.

In Chinese culture, lanterns have become the symbol of festivity, particularly during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Lanterns were known to symbolize the prosperity of a family, and thus Chinese share a special affinity for lanterns.

Asked whether there will be changes in his teaching approach compared to the past, Ceynas said that this edition would be an advanced edition as the participants are expected to create rabbit structures themselves.

Unlike the previous editions, where he would provide the students with the structures required to form a rabbit, this time students will start from scratch.

“I used to make the designs, help them make the shapes and just give them the materials and they’d just connect the structures; but this time they are going to make everything, even the structures,” Ceynas explained.

For the 19th edition of the workshop, Ceynas pledged to hold an “excellent and wonderful” event as he seeks to produce more “vibrant designs.”

According to him, the workshops are also a way for him to hone his skills, and he pledged to find more ways to encourage the youth to help preserve the tradition.

According to Ceynas, Albergue SCM is a platform wherein local residents can also practice traditional techniques by only working with specific materials such as split-bamboo, rattan, wrapping paper, colors, wire and fabric.

Sponsored by Macau Foundation, the event has an admission fee of MOP150.

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