Taiwanese paper lantern master honored with Soul of the Craftsman award 新竹市花燈大師蕭在淦 獲頒文總「匠人魂」錦旗

Wed, Feb 12, 2020 - Page 14

Hsiao Tsai-kan is the first resident of Hsinchu City to receive a ceremonial “The Soul of the Craftsman” award from the General Association of Chinese Culture. Hsiao, who has 80 years of experience crafting paper lanterns, was presented the award by Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien at a ceremony held by the association last week. A specially-produced short film featuring Hsiao, entitled “Heartfelt prayers come true,” premiered at the ceremony. The film is the 21st installment in the “The Soul of the Craftsman” series of short films.

The 94-year-old Hsiao is regarded as a national treasure in Taiwan and continues to craft exquisitly-made lanterns. He has received a large number of awards for his work and his lanterns have previously featured in exhibitions overseas. A collection of Hsiao’s lanterns are currently on display at Du Cheng Huang Temple as part of this year’s Lantern Festival.

In the film, which was produced by the association, Hsiao describes how, as a child, he would watch his elderly relatives make paper lanterns. Once grown up, Hsiao had acquired the skill and was propelled to fame after entering a paper lantern competition. Hsiao went on to win awards for his works year after year.

Hsiao says that in the early years he enjoyed making “three mythical creatures” — dragons, phoenixes and unicorns, but later on started to incorporate social stories into his lantern making. Hsiao says he hopes his lanterns can help bring to life these tales from the past.

Hsiao was born in Hsinchu in 1927. From an early age he enjoyed playing with traditional children’s toys and as a teenager, Hsiao began to learn the skill of making paper lanterns. Hsiao scooped first prize at the Hsinchu Du Cheng Huang Temple Lantern Completion three years on the trot between 1991 and 1993, earning a spot on the temple’s coveted Kinmen Honor Board.

Hsiao went on to receive awards at many other paper lantern competitions up and down the country, and was even invited to exhibit his works in Europe, the US and Canada, elevating Hsiao to the status of a “national treasure.”

(Translated by Edward Jones, Taipei Times)