Tourists often eager to find out many historical monuments such as royal tombs of Nguyen Dynasty’s Kings, a romantic Huong River, Ngu Binh Mount – famous locations in poetic Hue. Yet, exploring traditional craft villages brings incredible experiences. Taking a trip to copper casting villages in Phường Đúc ward is not an exception.
Copper casting is one of the traditional and famous crafts in Vietnam. It is also generally regarded as the most long-standing traditionally craft. Phường Đúc copper casting craft had the origin from the group of workers in the Nguyen Dynasty from the 17th century. Many workers gathered here to work in the factory of Nguyen Lord in Trường Đồng hamlet. Phường Đúc ward includes 5 hamlets such as Trường Đồng, Kinh Nhơn, Bổn Bộ, Giang Dinh, and Giang Tiền. The two most famous and prestigious craft villages/hamlets are Kinh Nhon and Bon Bo.
History Of Development:
According to the family history of Nguyen, the father of copper casting was Nguyen Van Luong, who was born in Dong Xa village, Sieu Loai (Bac Ninh). When Nguyen lords explored and built Hue imperial citadel, they gathered talented workers to design and construct projects and materials for the court. Copper casting village in Hue was originally Duong Xuan village, but it was familiarly called Phuong Duc because most of the local people followed this craft.
In the past, a huge number of products in Phuong Duc become the masterpieces in those tangible cultural heritages of Hue imperial city featuring copper cauldron in the citadel (1659-1684), the bell of Thien Mu pagoda (1710), Cuu Dinh in The To Mieu temple and other copper worshipping objects in Hue imperial citadel. Pagodas in Hue have many copper statues dating from the beginning of the 20th century; and the nearest one is the four-meter statue of the famous man Phan Boi Chau located in Phan Boi Chau – Hue commemoration place. Apparently, during 300 years’ establishment and development in difficult times, ups and downs of history as well, artisans continue to purchase their passion for copper casting.
Characteristics Of Copper Casting:
Craftsmen well keep the traditional technique. Besides changing the handicraft air-creating machine by air-blowing engine, the other process was mostly made by hand. Nguyen Van Manh, a worker in Phuong Duc, said “to cast intact products which meet the requirements of decoration and layout, the worker needs to carry out three main parts: making the frame, pouring the copper mixture and cooling down. The material to make the frame is golden clay; the clay for making the kiln is white or black. The manipulation such as treading the clay, soaking the clay requires meticulosity, especially blending clay must be correct to avoid rising and copper melting unsteadily.
After making the frame for the products, the worker moves to bake the frame. It is the stage that requires skillful hands to keep the fire steadily. Also, wooden coal is chosen to cook copper because it burns for a long time. It takes about 8 hours to cook copper to ensure that copper is precise and perfectly boiled. Pouring copper mixture and making the frame is at the same time and ensure that copper falls and is not in dregs at the peak of the products. The craftsmen Nguyen Van De who is famous for casting copper, successfully casted the copper drum with a diameter of 60cm and the weight of around 65kg in Quang Trung museum (Binh Dinh). He revealed that the secret of making copper drums perfect sounds is the calculation of each step in the whole process.
Phuong Duc and Thuy Xuan Copper casting wards become the destination for tourists to feel the quintessence craftsmen and explore cultural and traditional values which are conveyed in each product. Many tourists coming to Hue imperial citadel can oversee and touch meticulous copper products such as Cửu Đỉnh and Cửu Vị Thần Công that bear the talent of Hue craftsmen. Both domestic and foreign tourists who pay a visit to Phuong Duc and Thuy Xuan looked at the craftsmen admiringly due to the craftsmen’s exquisite and depth in artworks.
Products from copper in Phuong Duc and Thuy Xuan can be a way to promote Hue tourism to help people understand more about traditional craft. Meticulous souvenirs are manufactured to meet the demand of culture lovers and tourists such as copper drum, vases, or famous people’s statues.
Preservation Of This Traditional Craft:
Besides traditional products, others are quite simple and have not met the market demand for quality, aesthetics and diversity. On the other hand, there is a lack of business connections, shortage of manufacturing branches; primarily, it depends on household management. Each household is considered the whole manufacture under the operation of the grandfather or father in that family. Therefore, it needs to change the method of management and production in the village and households as well.
As a result, Thua Thien Hue province planned to “restore and develop several traditional crafts including Phuong Duc copper casting village”. The principal duty is that the village and local people have to build the brand name for the products and improve the models, but still keep the traditional features in each product. Additionally, the authority will give some support policies to help people enhance their skills and techniques.
Thanks to the authority and local people’s efforts, Phuong Duc built the introduction centre of Hue traditional craft village to display products and introduce the history of copper casting. Tourists can admire unique conventional products such as a bell, incense-burner, Gong; and have a chance to buy other copper products as souvenirs like statues of famous people, vase and symbols of Hue and Vietnam.
With the length of history and development coupled with remarkable artworks, Duc village, Hue deserves to be well kept and developed more and more dramatically, because it is not only the ideal destination for tourists or domestic and foreign investors but also a source of motivation for enhancing skills for workers.
By Mai Cao