The Mid-Autumn Festival is around the corner in Vietnam (September 24) is reflected in the urgency among artisans in Hue city as they rush to complete lion costumes used in the celebration. Around 10 families in the formal imperial city, now the capital of Thua Thien Hue Province, has been doing this for a long time. The most important part of the costume is the lion’s head, and the artisans work to make it as brilliant and vivid as possible.
Over the few days, Truong Huu Trang, 45, resident of Phu Hoa Ward, has been intent on producing the lion’s head. While some workshops use cement molds to shape it and cover with paper, Trang fashions a frame with bamboo and rattan.
On average, Trang can craft two lion head frames per day, and these are passed on to others for the next steps in making the costume.
Once the frame is done, a layer of cloth is glued to it, and the heads are then dried in the sun.
The color arrangement and artisan’s skills determine the quality, or the “soul” of a lion’s head, said Truong Huu Khoa, 32, who paints it in shiny bright colors. This lion head took him a whole day to finish.
After painting, the artisans create the eyes of the lion and glue some fur on the lion heads. Once this is done, the lion heads come alive.
A tailor sews the lion’s tails.
Every Mid-Autumn Festival, the family of Truong Thi Kim Chi, 58, supplies more than 2,000 lion heads of different sizes for the market. Prices, depending on the size, varies from VND100,000 to several million.
“Every Lunar April, my family starts to craft the lion heads to supply markets in Hue, Quang Tri and Quang Binh. We make VND40 – 50 million ($1,700 – 2,100) every year,” Chi said.
The lion heads and masks of the Earth god are stacked up to be taken to different provinces for the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In Vietnam, the festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month. During the festival, people gather to see the full moon, eat traditional moon cakes and enjoy certain kinds of music and dance, in particular the lion dance.