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Traditional Craft of Making Rabbit Lanterns

February 16, 2016

The Lantern Festival occurs on  the 15th day of the Chinese New Year and eating sweet dumplings and dragging the rabbit lanter in the alleys is a warm memory of childhood for many Shanghainese. With the Lantern Festival approaching, let's go looking for authentic traditional rabbit lanterns - you know they are believed to bring good luck.

We visted Yuyuan Garden yesterday, finding a tiny store that has been there for more than 13 years selling handmake rabbit lanterns created by the owner, 50-year-old Chen Zhigan.

He is very famous around town and these cute rabbits with their big red eyes are very popular among kids and young couples, he told us.

We are very lucky to catch him making one on the spot.

He has pre-prepared set materials including wire, thin paper, wooden rollers and candles. In order to perfect the shape of the rabbit lamp, Master Chen carefully selected the right wire and then bent it to create the rabbit form.

Patiently assembling, a rabbit slowly emerges!

Now the mould is finished it is time to put on the coat.

Pasting the rabbit skin is the step most needing patience, because every place should be covered with two layers of paper, then he has to cut finely divided shreds to form the next "fur" layer which is pasted over the top.

Master Chen told us that in the manufacture of the paper rabbit, "In fact, the hand-made rabbit light material costs are not high - the real cost is the time it takes to make."

Although the area is arrayed with a variety of machine-made rabbit lights, Master Chen still quietly remains true to his small shop, insisting on hand bending wire and patiently hand making his "rabbits." If you are in more of a hurry you can buy a small series of semi-finished rabbits to take home to see if you have the skill to complete them.

This ancient craft faces an uncertain future with competition from cheap plastic imitations but as long as shoppers support craftsmen like Mr. Chen, there will be people like him to carry on the tradition.