Traditional toys make a comeback

Mid-Autumn traditional toys are considered to be special as they not only bring joy to children but are also a cultural treasure imbued with national identity, furthermore they are associated with the stories of childhood of many generations throughout Vietnam.

The revival of Vietnamese goods

On the occasion of the upcoming Mid-Autumn 2015, many streets in Hanoi’s old-quarter are becoming crowded with sellers and buyers as well as thousands of eye-catching and colourful toys for children.

In recent years, cheap and shoddy imported toys from China were mainly being sold; however this year, consumers intend to purchase Vietnamese traditional toys including star-shaped lanterns, colourful masks, wooden drums, fish-shaped lanterns and decorative multi-coloured lanterns.

This year, Vietnamese mid-Autumn traditional toys have been designed to be more diverse and appealing with affordable prices ranging from VND20,000 - VND60,000 each. Illuminated lanterns playing familiar Vietnamese mid-Autumn songs are popular products at this years festival. They all have passed quality tests and are marked with their correct origin of production.

The Ky Thuat Moi (New Techniques) Package Limited Company, specialising in producing toys for children, has provided the domestic market with 120 decorative multi-coloured lanterns. Many of them were designed and decorated following various themes, such as the landscapes of Vietnam and the country’s sea and islands as well as images of national heroes and traditional cultural identities, contributing to educating and furthering patriotism among younger generations.

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The company has decided to discount the prices of many of their lanterns to prices lower than that of Chinese products in order to gain a larger share of the domestic market and reduce the influence of Chinese toys on the market in addition to supplying children with high-quality domestic products.

Notably, traditional paper-mache masks which feature images of Vietnamese characters, such as Teu, Cuoi, the Earth God and the rabbits, are becoming more popular over plastic masks with shapes of comic strip characters, supermen and devils from China.

“This year, mid-autumn toys made in Vietnam are very much in demand due to the large number of diverse designs; meanwhile Chinese goods have been sold less frequently despite their cheaper price tags”, said Huong, the owner of a toy shop on Hang Ma street.

It seems that parents are fully aware of the importance of helping their children to select useful and safe traditional folk toys.

Preservation of tradition

Traditional toys are capturing the hearts of numerous customers not only because they are safer than products made in China but also buyers are interested in preserving and retaining aspects of traditional culture in today’s modern climate.

Many skilled artisans and traditional villages are trying to preserve traditional toys that have become the childhood memories of generations of Vietnamese people.

For example, making traditional handmade toys in Khuong Ha village in Thanh Xuan district, now only the family of Nguyen Manh Hung continues production. Although the work requires an extreme patience and effort, he has been determined to preserve and promote this traditional trade to younger generations.

Residents in Hao Village, Lieu Xa Commune, Yen My District, the northern province of Hung Yen have been famous for making drums and mid-autumn masks over the last 100-years. Despite times changing and difficulties of the market economy, they try their best to preserve and develop the trade.

The Phu Binh, a traditional craft village that produces lanterns in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City, is adorned with colours of traditional decorative paper lanterns on the occasion of the upcoming festival.

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It is very strenuous for villagers to make handmade lanterns, however all of them are happy as they are busy in meeting the increased number of orders from traders, providing beautiful lanterns to children around the city to welcome in the Mid-Autumn festival.

In addition to artisans and trade villagers, many other individuals and organisations have dedicated themselves to preserving and educating younger generations on the national traditional culture.

A project entitled ‘Creating Authentic Vietnamese Masks’ has been taking place at the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi with the participation of more than 300 Vietnamese and foreign children. Children were introduced to each step of making traditional Mid-autumn festival masks, including applying paper to a clay mould to make masks as well as decorating and painting the masks.

The project aims to create a meaningful activity for children at this Mid-Autumn Festival and to introduce Vietnamese children with the art of making traditional masks on the special occasion.

An exhibition featuring traditional paper-mache masks is also being held at Laca Café in Hanoi, significantly contributing to raising young people’s awareness of preserving national culture and history.

Additionally, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology has organised a wide variety of entertaining activities for children on the occasion of Mid-Autumn Festival, including making star-shaped lanterns and ‘to he’ (toy figurines made from glutinous rice powder) under the instruction of skilled-artisans.

The traditional Mid-Autumn toy industry has maintained a firm position in the domestic market thanks to their diversity, aesthetics and culture. In addition to improving the quality of toys, the trade villages, craftsmen and enterprises focus on diversifying the designs of the toys for children.

The social activities not only encourage Vietnamese people to prioritise using Vietnamese goods but also contribute to nurturing the spiritual life of Vietnamese people, particularly in children – the future of the country.

Children experience toy making in Hanoi Old Quarter

Children can learn to make traditional toys at Kim Ngan temple, 42-44 Hang Bac street in Hanoi.

Under the instruction of artisans, children can learn how to make star-shaped lanterns, paper kites, iron ships and To He (toy figurines) while listening to stories on the history behind the toys.

The event is being held as part of a programme opened on September 23 by the Hanoi Old Quarters Management Board for children during the Mid-autumn festival.

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Meanwhile, the Cultural Exchange Centre at 50, Dao Duy Tu street was redecorated as a space for puppetry performances by puppeteers from Te Tieu village, My Duc district in Hanoi.

Objects and documentary photos on Mid-autumn celebrations of Hanoians in the past are also on display at the centre.

The Heritage House at No. 87, Ma May street will help children explore a traditional feast during Mid-autumn festival.

The activities, which are being staged from 9 am to 5 pm every day until September 27, aim to create venues for children to learn about traditional cultural values and raise their awareness of safeguarding national culture.

Nhan Dan