partially By Doraemon Tran
For a long time, craft villages have been an important element of Vietnamese culture and economy. The existence of these villages could date back thousands of years, as archeologists have unearthed a 3500-year-old large bronze making center in Vĩnh Phúc province of Vietnam (a little west of Hanoi), evidence of a town specialized in bronze crafting, as well as indication of a complex society with stratification and craft specialization. Into the Han period, craft villages have been well-established in Northern Vietnam with a catalogue of numerous products well desired from India to China.
Craft villages continued to exist in Vietnam throughout the feudal time and well into the modern time, particularly highly concentrated in areas with bustling commercial activities like the capital Hanoi. Visiting Hanoi today, you'll hear the phrase "36 streets of Hanoi". Hanoi today has over hundreds streets, but the 36 "streets" here, or should be more correctly translated as "36 towns" imo, were the 36 areas of the old Hanoi, each of with specialized in a craft product.
How did craft villages form in Vietnam? I'll leave this question to more thorough research, but from what I know, even until this day, most villages in Vietnam, especially the Northern part, have something that they call the "traditional occupation" of the village. This occupation could be making silk fans, lanterns, ceramics, conical hats, wood printing etc.
A sad reality is that these villages are dying, and along with them are the beautiful traditional handicrafts of Vietnam.
This is caused by an array of factors, many of which are unavoidable results of development, industrialization, and open market economy. Mass production made possible by assembly lines and machineries have driven down the price of industrial products (many of which are imported from other countries), making it hard for handcrafted products to compete. Artisans receive less and less profit until they cannot maintain a living by their occupation anymore. Not many young people are willing to continue the traditional occupation of their family when they can make more money following other paths.
Preserving traditional villages has been a concern of many Vietnamese, for it's an important cultural element of Vietnam. Many craft villages, like Bat Trang ceramic village, have existed for many many centuries and have produced high-quality arts and crafts throughout their history and it would be a pity to see them die. Artisans in some villages have tried to change their production methods to cope with the changing market and environment. In the past years, the government have made effort to encourage revival of many craft villages to attract tourists. But the task is harder done than said.
Bát Tràng village, one of the four famous ancient ceramic villages of Vietnam, and the only one that still thrives today.
Established in the Tran dynasty, the village has become so famous that if you read Vietnamese history, hear folk songs or come across countryside proverbs, you cannot fail to meet with this name. Vases of the finest quality or delightful plates for home decor have brightened the homes of the aristocracy, rice bowls have held the food of farmers, and in more recent times, electricity has been transported across the country thanks to ceramic insulators produced in Bat Trang. In the area of arts and antics, Bat Trang ceramics are famous in various places in the world and are displayed in the museums of many countries including Japan, the Philippines, France, Belgium and Turkey.
According to Vietnamese annals, migrant potters from Thanh Hoa province established Bat Trang village in the middle of the 14th century. Situated on the banks of the Red River, close to the capital. Bat Trang had very favorable geographic conditions to develop its craft. The region was also gifted with kaolin reserves that are an essential material for ceramic production. Consequently, Bat Trang ceramics quickly became prosperous. In the 15th century, its finest production was selected to be offered as tribute to the Chinese Minh. The village further prospered throughout the 16th century, producing high-grade ceramic articles for the noble class as well as for the people. From then onward, Bat Trang went through many ups and downs in the following centuries, but its kilns kept burning mid ceramics were still exported to Japan, East and Southeast Asian countries. Today, after orienting its production toward artistic items, Bat Trang ceramics have kept a strong foothold in international markets such as Taiwan, South Korea Japan, German, Denmark, Belgium, France, Holland, Australia and America.
Situated 15 kilometers away from Hanoi. Bat Trang actually covers the two hamlets of Bat Trang and Cao Giang, for a total area of 164 hectares. It currently has a population of 6,500 including some 1,300 ceramics production households Hat operate more than 2,000 kilns. More than 30 companies are also producing and trading ceramics in Bat Trang and the village is buzzing with activities. In 2002, the total revenue from ceramics production and trading almost reached VND500 billions, of which domestic consumption amounted for VND200 billions and export for VND300 billion. Major items for export are utilitarian articles mid art ceramics.
Some products of Bát Tràng village today
But be very careful when you enter the market in Bát Tràng today. I'm serious. Many of the products sold there are fake, not authentic Bát Tràng handcrafts but industrial stuff. Of course they will tell you it's Bát Tràng products, but they're lying. You just have to check carefully.
Some Lê dynasty pieces unearthed (15th century)
Sơn Đồng village (Hanoi)
This village has hundreds years history of making wood sculptures
Located next to 32 road, the center of the capital about 15km, Son Dong commune, Hoai Duc, Hanoi is known for its famous wood products, fine art and carved lacquer. Here, people could hear the sound of carve and cut around the village.
So far, the class descendants of wood Son Dong village no longer remember the origin of the craft, only that the product of villages have been identified from hundreds of years. A hundred years, the village of Dong Son not only talented in the paint, carve, create the Buddha statues thousand arms, thousand eyes, the Thien (Good) statue, the Ac(Evil) statue, the Arhat statues, eight pole palanquin.. known throughout the country, but from the ancient times, the Son Dong know each other always prompt professional respect given to their ancestors: painting, pagoda sculpture - has created a job for Son Dong village know how artists have talented hands, the King Khai Dinh's prizes, French were awarded the artist.
From the land of King Hung to the The best cave in the North of Vietnam - Huong pagoda, anywhere in the country, we also see the worship statue by the Son Dong craftsman. A very special with village workers in the wood that even though there is no sign on the statue but the Son Dong people can easily recognize the product were done by your village people manipulate. They look so proud that you have a good job to be crystallized in the hands home workers that others village want to learn are also difficult to follow and also "in heart" to hold round of prestige for the ancestor profession .
The pilgrim as well as respect for this quality of "uniqueness" of products that the Son Dong village that want visited the wood village... What is the trick that makes the product of Son Dong village is love, create credibility with customers, while the country has so many professionals as well as villages such as Dong Son worshiping? The question of who is doing missionary work, keep industry of the village explained very rustic and simple: "Many generations now, the only wood carving village always thought, one thing is to know, to understand the sentence : “ know every thing is to know nothing”.
The consideration of Son Dong village artisans for products of their village is also manifested in behavior, communicating daily trading. Everyone in this land, from the elderly men in village to the baby 2 to 3 years, future generations of wood village, also called wood products very successful arranged clear order of precedence, while shipments to customers have a red cloth covering statues. Generations remain loyal to the natural paint materials used to the painting statues, which must be manually processing workers in the village are confident ... The small jobs that full respect implies that become thought in the each villager wood. For the respect that many people far away to visit the village and respect for feelings, special favor with Dong Son people, who make these products are everywhere aspire for worship. Hundred years old definition remains...
Buddha goods can only carved jack wooden, because the concept, which is wood "sacred" - very appropriate for making worshiping things. Moreover, jackfruit wood characteristics flexible, soft, durable, less cracking, easy to trim. Wood transport that removed rubbish wood, only use core to carve. Single measurement instrument in the hands of the workers are gauge wire and a "Tam rule ". Head and face of statue was always processed first. Carve outline the cap (if any) and the forehead, nose, lips, ears, etc. ... Ear of Buddha large and flowing, to the set a reasonable balance in the distance from the hairline (the 2 side of head) to chin, maybe ear touched the shoulder.
Gilded painting technique is also wonderful as the art of lacquer. After each stage must be grinding statue by the stone and water. Paint then grind away, then paint on ..., so never saw the flat surface and stretch then use a paint layer (called Cam Thep paint) cover. For Cam Thep paint be almost dry (touch by hand feel sticky) then silver paste or gold paste (silver, gold depending on customers). Therefore, each statue by artist Dong Son remake brings a different look. These parallel sentences, horizontal board that horse, large crane, all shone bright yellow, purple, pink in the sun soon. Every product here is both harmony, has portrayed its own dynamic characteristics, requires financial resources both human mind here.
La Xuyên village (Wood carving village in Nam Định)
La Xuyen Village at 70 km from Hanoi, is famous for wood carving from ancient. It has a rich history of thousands of years with dozens of skilled workers who participated in building palaces, temples for feudal dynasties. Ninh Huu Hung, the first founder in setting up hamlet, imparting to local native, was the famous craftsman in both of Dinh – Le dynasty using at an important function.
Traditional carpentry in La Xuyen which the pinnacle is the carving art almost reached perfectly. These local carpenters had been not only in Eastern but also in Western country to make a lot of villages’ beauty. Their huge productions are the architectural works with widen spaces and heighten the height of antique dome. Plentiful and common productions such as incense-table, hammock, sindora wood bed, tea chest… all showed high level technique.
Till now, a part of traditional craft village has remained in communal house. The talented carpenters contributed their minds, skilled hands into a huge architectural works. These artisans really infused a vital spirit into the carving and relief works throughout the time.
Nowadays, La Xuyen is just a small village of Yen Ninh commune, Y Yen district, but this craft village is still alive throughout the time and become more and more famous. With the tradition of a long-standing craft village, La Xuyen has been contributing to bring fame to motherland.
Note: Pictures are directly distracted from the original source. We are not credited for taking these pictures.
Bat Trang village
Son Dong village
La Xuyen vllage
Son Dong village
La Xuyen vllage