Best Traditional Craft Villages in Vietnam: Part 2
Vietnam’s craft villages have earned famous reputations over the years. Since these villages were founded, the skillful artisans not only created new handicrafts, but also techniques from previous generations alive as well. Today we’re seeing a lot of modernisation in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean handicraft villages in Vietnam are dying off. Visit these villages to check out a piece of history, and don’t forget to read the first part of our series for even more suggestions.
Tây Hồ Conical Hat Village – Huế
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Conical hats have been crafted and perfected over centuries, and many craft villages have sprung up over Vietnam to fill the demand: Dạ Lệ, Sịa, Kim Long and others all depend on conical hat weaving as many villagers’ livelihoods. However, Tây Hồ craft village is widely recognised as the most prestigious and historic.
This iconic village is located on the banks of the Như Ý River in Phú Hồ commune, Phú Vang district, around 12 km from Huế City.
Fifteen stages have to be completed to create a well-made conical hat, starting with collecting green leaves (bồ qui diệp) in the forest. Then artisans clean and dry the leaves, make the frame and dry everything under the sun. To make the hats unique, craftspeople paint a poem on the hat, or add the name of the customer.
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As more and more tourists visit Huế, more and more customers have been buying conical hats in Tây Hồ as well. Buy one for yourself! They make the perfect souvenirs or gifts for friends back home.
Địa Linh Kitchen God Village
What is the Kitchen God? According to Vietnamese belief, this deity is the spirit of the kitchen, believed to keep the kitchen fire burning and bless the family with happiness and wellbeing throughout the year. Legend has it that every year on 23rd day of the last month of the lunar calendar, the kitchen god rides a red carp to the sky, where he reports memorable news to the Jade Emperor. To give thanks to this protector and ensure luck for the new year, Vietnamese people annually offer the Kitchen God a meal, clean his shrine and replace his statue, if need be.
This village is located in Hương Vinh Commune, Hương Trà District, Huế. This is said to be the kitchen god’s birthplace; even today, this village is the only one in Vietnam who continues to make kitchen god statues. These statues are especially popular in the days before Tết, and the heavy demand keeps these artisans busy.
To prepare all the statues by Tết, the craftspeople have to buy the clay by August. Once they have it, they get to work, shaping and colouring it to create the finished products. The success of the finished products depends heavily on the weather. If it rains too much, it can take up to three days for the statue to dry. Nowadays, the craftspeople use fans to hurry the drying process to finish the statues by Tết.
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Once the statues have been dried, they’re placed in huge stoves that can fit up to 2,000 at a time. The artisans have to pay special attention to the fire the whole time, so the flames don’t get too big or too little. It normally takes two days to fire the statues, and two days for them to fully cool. After this, they’re ready to be painted.
The craftspeople only receive around VND100.000 per statue. These works of art become family heirlooms, and are passed down from generation to generation.
Đa Phước Brocade Village – An Giang
This village, located in Đa Phước Ward, An Phú District, An Giang Province, houses many Chăm minority people, and helps preserve the ancient Chăm culture in the Mekong Delta.
To get to the village, go along highway 91C and cross the Cồn Tiên Bridge. Head straight for another 500m, and you’ll see the Ehsan Mosque, which means you’ve arrived. This impressive structure mixes Vietnamese and Cambodian architecture. This village began to be known for the brocade fabrics made here when a woman made some for her family. Word spread about the beauty of the product, and now people visit the village to buy unique souvenirs.
As is Chăm custom, when girls turn 12 years old they’re taught to weave brocade fabric. This isn’t as strictly enforced today, but the woman of Đa Phước still practice this ancient craft.
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These brocade fabrics are made from cotton yarns dyed with indigo, and silk died with other natural products; the main colours used are white, yellow and black. The women make everything from bathing suits to jewellry boxes, handbags and much more. According to the Chăm culture, girls also have to weave their own Icat (a kind of towel) which is included in their marriage dowry.
Although industrial silk production has come into vogue, the fine detail of these brocades are more skillfully done, elaborate and beautiful.
When you visit Đa Phước, make sure to also walk to the Chăm muslim mosque, which the people of Ninh Thuận have impressively constructed.
Kế Môn Jewellry Village – Huế
This village is in Phong Điền District, about 40km from Huế. This has been famous for over 300 years ago.
The founder of this craft was Cao Đình Độ, who was originally from Thanh Hóa Province. He taught the villagers here to make gold and silver jewellry in gratitude for their initial hospitality. This jewellry became quite coveted by locals and royal people in Huế.
The artisans from Kế Môn Village are known for their exquisite attention to detail, which puts the quality of their products on par with the finest jewellry-makers. A wide variety of products are offered here, including rings, bracelets, necklaces and housewares.
Once you’ve purchased your jewellry, be sure to have a look around the village. You’ll see ancient temples and royal structures featuring yellow dragons. It’ll definitely transport you back in time.
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