Explore Vietnam’s vibrant craft
The handmade is part of Vietnam’s soul. From craft villages to the capital’s core, the country’s crafts will take you to fascinating places. Here’s your guide to exploring Vietnam’s vibrant crafts.
Do paper is made from the bark of the Do tree, a wild plant commonly found around local riverbanks. It was popular for many years before the modern paper came. The Do trees are grown and harvested by small communities who continue to use traditional processes of soaking, pounding and filtering pulp, coloring the fibres with natural dyes, and drying sheets of paper in the sun. All steps take up to three months. As the results, papers are soft, light and durable.
Nowadays, Do paper has the use to make Hanoi’s ethnic greetings cards, water color, folk paintings and bamboo-bound notebooks. You could use this type of postcards to send friends back home as a gift from your Vietnam travel.
Lacquerware in Vietnam is distinct of using resin from Son tree. It is first gathered international recognition in the 1930s when a group of innovative students from Ha Noi University blended this Vietnamese handicraft with principles of French fine art, to create extraordinary pieces requiring hundreds days of work. It is a fact that high-quality lacquer products go through 20 stages of development and become craft dishes, bowls, vases, and more in beautiful colors and intricate designs. In the beginning, the ingredient of plastic latex owned its spectacular stickiness, durability and resistance to rain, sun, salt and even humidity. Since then, Vietnamese lacquer has become an artistic treasure, and enjoys a reputation for class and elegance.
There’s a saying in Vietnam that 2000 years ago there were two rice crops and six silk crops. True or not, the saying gives insight into how important silk production was and continues to be in Vietnam. One of the most famous silk villages is Van Phuc village on the outskirts of Hanoi. Vietnamese silk is well-known for sophisticated weaving patterns and plays a role as an unique souvenir from Vietnam.
Calligraphy is the art of handwriting, expressing the state of mind and emotions of the writer. The craft has history in almost every country, in different forms and under various names. Calligraphy in Vietnam was previously done in Chinese lettering, however a new generation of Ong Do, or masters of scriptures, reimagined this art form using the Vietnamese alphabet, with striking results. In Vietnam, calligraphy masters are called on to write messages wishing good health and prosperity for special occasions, such as the Lunar New Year. Nowadays, they also paint English sayings and fun Vietnamese expressions in calligraphic style.
Vietnamese pottery and ceramics had an influence by Chinese ceramic. But over time, the art also incorporate ceramic features from Cambodia and India as well as developed its own style. Vietnamese pottery can be earthy and unpretentious, or refined and elegant. Bat Trang pottery village and Phu Lang pottery village are the most famous ones. Especially, Bat Trang is the closest one from Hanoi City. The history of this village started since 14th century. Today, Bat Trang pottery village still produce bowls, dishes and vases for the domestic market and for export. It also welcome tourists to come visiting and experience making their own pottery product.
Water puppetry is a tradition as far as the 11th century. The story goes that before planting season, farming villages would set up puppet stages in flooded rice paddies and entertain youngsters with folk tales and moonlit shows.
Nowadays, in the modern theaters, puppeteers tell stories by skillfully moving little wooden dolls using rods and strings hidden underwater. Musicians and singers provide live music to accompany each show.
The diversity of Vietnam’s textiles are best seen in its ethnic minority costumes, which stand out with fringes, pompoms and colourful weaving. The country has 54 ethnic minorities and each traditional costume is completely unique. At Vietnam’s Women Museum in Ha Noi, you can compare all the various styles from Vietnam’s ethnic minorities.
Referred as leaf hat or Non La, this is one of Vietnam traditional costumes. They are made with simple natural materials such as palm leaf and bamboo. However, the process of making them which is 100% hand-made and take quite a long time (5-6 hours) to finish making one. People often use them as an umbrella during rains and sun protector. Attaching with the agricultural origin of Vietnam, Non La is associated with farmers’ lives on rice paddies as well as fishmen. Nowadays, they are still worn frequently by farmers or used as an accessory when going to festivals and pagodas.