Memos from Asia

5 Traditional Handicraft Villages in Hue, Vietnam for a Hands-on Experience

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Speaking of what to do in Hue, the first thing that springs to your mind would be the Forbidden City, royal tombs, the Perfume River that runs mildly by the ancient pagoda of Thien Mu. The endless rainy days come with a serene and quiet ambiance of an ancient capital have turned Hue into “the city of sadness”. But is it really everything that you know about Hue? If you think Vietnam’s former capital has nothing else to offer, you’re wrong! In this article, we will reveal 5 traditional handicraft villages that show another side of Hue you’ve never heard of!

Thanh Tien Paper-Flower Village

The village of Thanh Tien is lauded as one of the settlements rich in culture, belief and tradition. Even though abundant in scenic greenery, it’s not what this village is known for. Upon closer inspection of the blooms and blossoms, the tranquil beauty is brought by these colorful paper flowers. These handcrafted flowers bring about a bubbly feeling which only gets more meaningful by the beauty it represents.

This humble village in Phu Mau Ward, Phu Vang district along the Southern side of the Perfume River reveres tradition by decorating the community with flowers. As with any religious worship, incense, lamps, flowers and such, this all were vital to rituals that conveys the spiritualism of its residents.

Luck as those people may have, the environment on which they reside are not favorable for cultivating such flowers. Be it heavy rainfall or extreme sunlight battering the soils, fresh flowers were not feasible throughout the year. However, this won’t stop the residents of Hue from performing their religious duties, and from their ingenuity came the perfect solution: paper flowers.

Not only are they affordable to produce, but also sturdy enough for the praying activities of the local people. With that brilliant spark of idea almost 400 years ago, it still lives up to date by the fascination it imparts for travelers. Those guests who’re curious about such craftsmanship would be welcomed to stop by Thanh Tien Village. Not only would they be treated to the various facets of Hue culture, but also with the lovely history of this distinct village.

Thuy Xuan Incense Village

Just across the Perfume River to the Southwest from the city of Hue is the village of Xuan Thuy. This well-known village is cuddled by lush forests along the foot of Vong Canh Hill. It’s the settlement of incense makers for the ancient capital city.

Every household in the business of making incense, swathes of sandalwood aroma that engulfs the entire village. One shouldn’t be surprised by the carpet of colored bamboo sticks that are burning with that delightful smell.

Not too long ago, the business was solely to merchants across the city. However, with the boom of the tourism industry over the past decade, they saw it fit to capitalize on the volume of people visiting the mausoleum of the late emperor Tu Duc.

With the village being in the way of tourist destinations, it also helped funnel foot traffic towards Xuan Thuy. Local and international visitors alike with heightened olfactory senses would be delighted to learn the art of rolling these joss sticks.

Now you might be wondering, yes, I did mention colored bamboo sticks earlier! Traditionally, incense sticks are colored either red or brown. Diligent workers came up with a way to catch a visitor’s interest other than their enchanting aroma, hence the multitude of colors available. The sight is indeed lovely to behold, as it resembles flowers blooming complemented by the rush of the fragrance it brings.

Conical Hat Making Villages

The conical hats that are made in Hue have greatly impacted the city’s symbolism. Since its inception more than a couple of centuries ago, it is and remains as the largest conical hat producer across entire Vietnam.

Some of the villages that specialize in the craft are the people from Da Le, Phu Cam, Doc So and plenty more. Not only does this positively affect the growth of their local economy, but also highlights their meticulous and ardent craft.

From picking of leaves, stitching the hat ring to the delicate imprinting of lovely art, it’s a trade well-recognized around the world. The passion and dedication of artisans can be seen with prints of soulful poems, often depicting a woman’s simplicity and delicacy.

Bronze Casting Villages

Skilled workers from the Nguyen Dynasty were the first known people that practiced and refined the knowledge of bronze casting. It is considered as one of the most reputable traditional handicrafts in Vietnam. With craftsmen of the trade gathered from all over the country, Truong Dong is the group of artisans crafting bronze for their liege.

Despite the strife that happened in the past, and the industrialization of products such as aluminum and stainless steel are more commonly used, bronze casting has managed to preserve the craft through succeeding generations.

The foundries of the Nguyen family have helped in the preservation of the craft, notably from the villages of Kinh Nhon and Bon Bo.

Phuoc Tich Ceramics Village

The village of Phuoc Phu in Phong Hoa Commune is located on the delta of the O Lau River. It resulted from the strategic merger of two villages, namely Phuoc Tich and Phu Xuan villages.

Even though the immediate vicinity is scarce of firewood, its residents were compelled to find a solution when the Nguyen lords asked for a delivery of ceramic pots to be used as rice cookers. Since the commune is conveniently near the O Lau River, it has been utilized to easily carry raw materials and sell finished ceramic goods.

It was during this history where the village began its production of traditional pottery crafts and has remained invaluable to date. Products such as jars, pots, money boxes, trinkets that are collectively called “Specialties of Phuoc Tich” are sold from Nghe An to patrons hailing from South Vietnam. Even unglazed clay merchandise shaped into vases are popular in Japan, popularly used for the occasional tea parties.

Now you’ve found another reason to spend one more day in Hue! Make sure to grab your camera along as these villages are totally worth a shot to feed your Instagram!

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