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Last update: 07/17/2012
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Yipeng Festival
Making a Floating Lantern
            The wao-hom or khom-loi is floated by hot air or smoke, so it is referred to as "wao-lom" or "wao-khuan" as well. It takes some skill to make it rise into the sky. Traditionally, there are two kinds, the square kind and the round kind. However, nowadays many shapes can be designed like airplanes, rockets, octagonal ones, fish, elephants, horses, cartoon characters, etc. There are contests of shape or style or longer floating time or other special devices such as releasing the tail, parachute, small airplane or colored smoke.

            The Square Lantern is easy to make and popular. It takes some thin kite paper or saa paper that is light and durable. Each side takes 6 pieces of paper.

To make it a piece of paper is folded in half to find the center point. A string is used to mark the length from the center to the edge of the paper. Then it is divided into 3 parts. Then one part is divided again into 3 parts. The length of two parts becomes the width of the mouth. A piece of paper is cut into a circle, slightly smaller than the mouth part. A bamboo strip is made into a circle and sealed to the mouth part with glue. The center and the bottom part are plugged to keep the smoke from leaking out. (Somphon Waiyo and Udom Rungroengsi, 1999, pp.6257-6158)

            The Wao Mon is a round shaped lantern. It takes as many as 64 sheets of kite paper: 12 for the mouth, 12 for the bottom parts and 40 sheets for the sides. Certain formulas of measurements have been created based on the wisdom of each area. (Somphon Waiyo and Undom Rungroengsi, 1999, pp.6258-6260)
            Steps in making are shown below, starting with 12 sheets of paper for the mouth and bottom parts being spread with glue and folded as illustrated.

1. Kite paper of 12 sheets spread with glue and allowed to dry. 2. Fold in half.
3. Fold again 4. To form a triangle
5. Measure with a string and cut into a curve as in 6. 6. Spread it out. It is a round shape for the mouth and for the bottom part.

            The measurement made using a piece of string was described earlier or it can be measured using some other method. Then glue each piece to bamboo strips to form the mouth part and the bottom part. Then glue the sheets to both of the side parts. Make a hole in the bottom and plug it after enough smoke (hot air) has been pumped into it.

Lantern Launching
            Launching a lantern is done by releasing hot air or smoke into the lantern so that it will float in the air. Since in November the air outdoors is a little cold, the noontime is picket for launching the lanterns. The activity takes place mostly outdoors in an open space.
            Smoking the lantern is a group activity with one group fanning the air in using large bamboo trays or tin trays to fan it in the old days. Nowadays, electric fans are more effective. Another person uses a bamboo stick to push in the plug to prevent the lantern from collapsing on the ground while another group takes care of producing the fire by wrapping a piece of cloth soaked in oil around a bamboo stick and placing it in a cylinder to allow only the small end out to prevent it form flaming up. Sometimes a sheet of banana tree trunk is used to cover it. During the time of pumping in hot air, one of the group has to make sure there are no holes to allow the hot air to leak out. If a hole is spotted, it must be patched immediately. When enough air gets in the heat will be enough to lift the lantern off the ground. This is called "lu mue". Then some other accessories such as a tail and string of firecrackers can be added by tying them to the mouth of the lantern.

            Then a small tray containing flowers, food and sometimes a letter is tied to the middle of the mouth. When the lantern pushes up hard enough, they will pull it up and down a few times and then completely release it. After it floats upward a short time, the firecrackers will begin to go off with loud tattoo of noise while other accessories gradually get released. A lantern that catches a good wind with lots of hot air in it can go a long way, even across a province or region. One from Kutao Temple in Chiang Mai was said to have landed in a province in the Northeast. A lantern of Thatkham Temple in Chiang Mai went as far as Ban Sa-iap in Kaeng Suea Ten in Phrae Province. Anyone who picks up a lantern and returns it to its place of origin will be rewarded with some money (200 Baht in this case). A lantern from Wualai Village was found in Uttaradit and the one who brought it back received a silver bowl from the villagers. Apart form that, friendship has been established between villages up to the present time. (Phrakhu Adunsilakit (Thanwutho), personal communication, Nov. 4, 2008)
            A record says that in 1947, a lantern was found on the Chiang Mai-Doi Saket road about 8 kilometers from Chiang Mai with a sign written in Burmese saying it came from Malamaeng (Moulmein) in Myanmar. A person from Chiang Mai went to the town to claim the prize. It took him three months and he was ceremoniously received by the people there. A lantern from Chiang Mai Municipality once landed in Luang Prabang and the person who found it came all the way to Chiang Mai to claim the reward. (Somphon Waiyo and Udom Rungroengsi, 1999, p.6160)

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