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Learning Experience

  When Wu was a child, there were still numerous lantern shops in his home-town of Lukang. But they started to close down because of an unusual phenomenon: many of the owners had no sons to learn the family skills, which were traditionally passed down only to male heirs. Some people said that the lack of sons was related to the sound of the word lantern, which in Taiwanese is a homonym for the word “man” and thus used as a symbol for male heirs. Young wives, for example, traditionally walked under lanterns to ensure that they would give birth to sons. So selling lanterns was like sending potential sons away from one's home.
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of China (TAIWAN)

   My father has never formally learned skills from master teachers, and he is certainly self-taught. Lukang was quite flourishing, and he used to watch others make lanterns in their shops and then make attempts at home. Due to bad hearing, he was much more concentrated than others. Several years later, he began to make lanterns for others and then opened his own shop.

   Since his childhood, my father has studied independently and drawn lessons from others. Lukang seemed to be a large art museum, so he travelled a lot to learn lantern making. I barely believe that God required my father to learn how to make lanterns in the dream. He never told me the details why he began to make lanterns. In my opinion, with demand for lanterns in Lukang, my father, not averse to lantern making, commenced this trade consequently. At that age, there was no concept of special education. Not interested in lectures from teachers, he loathed attending school. Without school education, he had to learn certain craft.

   The beginning of Taishou and Showa Period was the most prosperous era among the whole period of Japanese Occupation. As of the outbreak of Sino-Japanese War, namely around the year of 1937, Taiwan economy started to deteriorate and civilians had nothing to eat. All the temples in Lukang were built in Taishou Period, including Tianhou Temple. Due to favorable social economy during the period of Japanese Occupation, the gentry made donations to build temples, and some master workers were hired from Chinese Mainland, so the whole Lukang could be compared to an art museum where artists proceeded with creation together. In addition, influenced by my grandfather’s habit to write poems and practice calligraphy, my father could access to the treasury of learning resources, which indeed are beneficial to his techniques.

   In 1998, on the recommendation of National Museum of History and the former co-chairman of Taiwan Provincial Literature Committee, Mr. Heng-tao Li, my father won the 4th Folk Art Heritage Award. To the greatest delight of my father, his works has been recognized, which also makes people realize lantern making is also promising.

(The aforesaid information was collated by Light and Heritage Team based on the data and translated texts from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on the dictation of Mr. Jung-jen Wu.)

Mr. Gao-wen Mao was conferring Folk Art Heritage Award on Tun-hou Wu.
(The photo is provided by Mr. Jung-luan Wu)