During the Mid-Autumn Festival, most of the lanterns you see in Singapore are imported. But some Singaporeans are still hanging on to the old skills, making, designing and painting traditional Chinese lanterns. Mr Yeo Hung Teo, 75, has been designing and painting Chinese lanterns for about 50 years. He owns Yeo Swee Huat Paper Agency, operating out of a small unit in Toa Payoh Industrial Park. Lanterns, he says in Mandarin, are symbols of identity and status. “Temples, businesses and individuals want them to be hung outside their homes or premises.”
Some lanterns are specially commissioned for occasions like the birthdays of deities, funerals and the Hungry Ghost Festival. Made of paper, bamboo and glue, the lanterns are lit with a candle or light bulb. Mr Yeo imports the skeletons of the lanterns from China. He pastes the “skin” over the skeleton and painstakingly hand-paints the lantern with Chinese calligraphy and motifs. The colour of the characters depends on the lantern’s purpose. Most organisations want red characters as the colour represents good luck and fortune.
Martial arts organisations might want black characters as the colour symbolises strength, he says. Blue characters are only for funeral lanterns. Each character is painted over at least six times to ensure there are no uneven areas, even when the lantern is lit. Some lanterns also have a decorative drawing usually of flowers, trees, animals or fruits.
The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on September 15, 2013.