I got an invitation from my good friend, Michelle to join her on a trip to Huong Canh village for a weekend trip. We met up and joined a group of about 15 people most of who are housewives and people associated with the group, Friends Of Vietnam Heritage. It sounded like an interesting day, something different. Anyway, we headed by bus to Huong Canh village, one of the oldest ceramic villages which I hadn't heard of before. It used to be really famous for Chum
: earthenware or Vai
:stoneware, specialising in water jars and cylindrical jars which are used for water and rice.
Nowadays, they have stopped making those famous Chum
turning to a craft village like others around to focus on fine arts and decorative roof tiles. Huong Canh village used to have a lot of red brown clay but it started to run out. Then their product prices dropped to almost half price because everyone was making the same stuff in large amounts and demand for the traditional tiles stopped. Making the tiles also caused a lot of pollution with 70% of the villagers having some kind of health problems especially lung diseases.
We went to visit the Thanh Nhan workshop which belongs to Mr Nguyen Thanh. He told us lots of interesting facts about the village and his work. There are so far three generations of his family who have practiced the ceramics craft. They dig clay from under the lake in the village and let it sit for six to eight months then use a mix of 70% green clay and 30% brown clay so that it won't crack or split and also won't shrink when fired. He also told us that there are only four families left doing this kind of craft out of 103 families in the village. Most of the stuff they make now is for export with special orders from foreign companies in places such as Korea, Japan and even from Europe. His family has about 50 clay products to choose from and a certain amount of interaction between the family and some enterprises in Bat Trang Ceramic village.
Also, people living in this area also use their traditional products in strange ways such as using clay coffins to make fences or house walls. For us, these coffins are usually only used for the bones of dead people. The village also contains many old houses with small gardens including lots of fruit trees which reminds me about my hometown. The people in Huong Canh village are really sweet but the streets are a bit smelly because of all the dog poo around.
A small funny story occurred on our trip when we bought a few small ornaments for the house. Some of the couples on the trip bought some big pottery buffalos and they said they were too heavy and they couldn't carry them to the bus. The ceramic family said, no problem, they would bring the buffaloes to the bus. We all walked out of that shop to look at the little pagodas and temples around and as we stood in front of the pagoda, an old lady about 60 years old walked past carrying 5 huge clay buffalos. I said, wasn't it funny that the big strong western men couldn't carry them! They didn't say much of course!!!
Anyway, we had a great day, saw a very interesting new place and bought some nice and good stuff. Thanks to Michelle for inviting me.
Labels: Ha Noi, The North, Traditional Culture, Travel