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Raise the Red Lantern

Updated: 2013-02-15 10:57
( China Daily)

Villagers on the northern outskirts of Beijing prosper by swapping fruit trees for colored silk

The small village of Hongmiao in the Huairou district on the northern outskirts of Beijing is known as the "Lantern Village", as it is famous for making traditional Chinese lanterns. Farmers in the village, many of them women, were hard at work making red lanterns in the run-up to Spring Festival.

Raise the Red Lantern

Yan Wanqin, 64, brushes glue on a piece of red silk in Hongmiao village, Beijing's Huairou district, on Jan 26. She is the oldest worker in the village's lantern workshop. Photos by Kuang Linhua / China Daily

There are 12 steps to making a lantern, including making the frame, cutting the cloth, sewing and gluing, and each worker has their own task. Everyone was doing something to ensure the smooth production, and from time to time the workers' laughter would rise above the pop music playing in the background.

Yan Wanjun, 45, is the village chief and the founder of Hongmiao's lantern industry.

After carefully researching the market, he led the villagers to begin making lanterns in 2007. In the past, local farmers made a living by planting fruit trees or working in big cities. Now the prosperous lantern making means they can stay in the village. There are about 100 villagers in Hongmiao. Last year, the lantern making earned the village more than 300,000 yuan ($47,600).

The size of the lanterns ranges from 3 centimeters to 2 meters in diameter and as the New Year will see in the Year of the Snake, lanterns in the shape of a snake are popular.

Temple fairs during Spring Festival in Beijing, as well as other festive celebrations nationwide, mean such is the demand for lanterns at this time of year that the villagers find it hard to keep up. The red lanterns, which the villagers make in the traditional way, are also sold abroad, and if you see a Chinese lantern in the United States, Japan or Italy, chances are it was made in Hongmiao.

Raise the Red Lantern

A worker constructs a lantern frame at the workshop in Beijing's Hongmiao village. About 70 lantern frames are made there every day.

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