Looking good on paper: Flowers that never fade in a Hue village

By Tuyet Khoa, Thanh Nien News

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Paper lotuses used to decorate a house in Hue. Photo: Tuyet Khoa Paper lotuses used to decorate a house in Hue. Photo: Tuyet Khoa

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For 300 years flowers never stop blooming in the former imperial city of Hue.  
Thanh Tien, a small village around 10 kilometers northeast of Hue, has been preserving a traditional craft that helps liven up the whole central city: it makes paper flowers. 
The flowers, including chrysanthemums, roses, orchids and sunflowers, are mainly used to decorate altars for ancestor worship and as offerings in religious rituals, especially during the Tet Lunar New Year Festival.
The villagers begin to prepare materials for their flowers every lunar October. The peak season for flower making is from early lunar December till around this week -- the last days of the lunar year.
Nguyen Hoa, one of the veteran artisans in Thanh Tien, said a distinctive feature of these creations is that flower buds are made from the pith of cassava.
Whenever the cassava harvest season comes, usually in October or November, Thanh Tien villagers rush to buy the plants to take their pith and then dry them.
Artisans now often buy colored paper to make the flowers. In the past, they used to dye and make paper in different colors themselves. 
 
During the weeks leading to Tet, Thanh Tien natives can be seen selling their products on many streets or at markets around Hue.
Each vendor carries a large pole with 300 to 500 flower branches, selling for VND3,000-5,000 each.
Thanh Tien Village is also famous for its lifelike paper lotuses.
This craft was revived in 2008 by artisan Than Van Huy. It had faded away for nearly 50 years as the nation entered a difficult period of war.
Huy, now 68, was recognized as “the first person who successfully restored the craft of making of paper lotuses” by Guinness Vietnam 2010.

His small house in Thanh Tien has since become a stopover in many tours to Hue. Visitors can both see how paper lotuses are made and try creating their own flowers.

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