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The development of technology and the economy impacts significantly traditional production in many aspects. Noodles are made in large production machines. Clothes are made, dyed, and embroidered in a massive garment factory with an advanced machine chain. Therefore, the handicraft method and artisans eventually disappear. In Vietnam, we are lucky enough to have a number of our traditions maintained in many regions of Vietnam, Hà Nội for example with silk, vermicelli, and leaf hats villages. Learn more: Hanoi tours
While there is no shortage of things to do in Hanoi, if you’re interested in the traditional crafts of Vietnam, there are plenty of destinations suitable for day trips.
Chuong leaf hats
Whether they serve as adornments for elegant people, or shelter farmers from the sun, leaf hats have become an intrinsic part of Vietnamese culture and one of the most well-known symbols of the country itself. In addition to the iconic conical hats, Chuong villagers also made various types of headgear for any gender and need. However, as the other hats became subsumed by conical ones and eventually fade out of public consciousness, the village has also adapted by adding furniture-making and decorating Hanoi’s walking streets to their repertoire.
Cu Da vermicelli
Next to the peaceful Nhue river, the village of Cu Da has managed to outlast the ravages of history and earn its status as one of the epitomes of Vietnamese craft villages thanks to the excellent preservation of old buildings. Its architecture stands at the intersection of Vietnam and France; even its two-story houses have European balconies and Asian curved rooftops. The people of Cu Da were famous for many crafts, but in the past thirty years, they have been excelling at miến (Vietnamese vermicelli) production from dong riềng tubers. Although much of the process has been automated, a few households still make these noodles by hand. Their beautiful golden color comes from turmeric, but upon request, they can be left undyed for a more “traditional” translucent, glasslike look.
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Van Phuc silk
With over 1000 years of community expertise, Van Phuc is the oldest and most famous silk craft village in Vietnam for good reason. In 1931, their products were exhibited in Marseille, then Paris, as the most exquisite and beautiful silk in then-Indochina. Even as early as 1958, Van Phuc silk was exported to Eastern Europe, and became synonymous with the famous “Ha Dong silk” in the Vietnamese consciousness. The villagers grow mulberry plants for silkworms to feed on, spin the silk produced by the worms into the fabric, then dye them. The final product is durable, soft fabrics with simple yet diverse and beautiful patterns, cool and soothing to the touch.
Ha Thai lacquer
For most of Vietnamese history, luxury has been associated with “red lacquer and gilding” (sơn son thếp vàng). The people of Ha Thai made this possible as the go-to for items worthy of presenting to the royal family. Although they only began work in the 17th century, and were by no means the first craft village in Vietnam in this field, in that comparatively short time they’ve created quite a reputation for themselves. Each lacquered creation (the art is applicable to many categories: paintings, furniture, religious items, even pottery) is truly a work of art in itself, having undergone a rigorous nine-step process before arriving in the hands of the delighted consumer. A well-made lacquer painting, for example, can last 300 to 400 years, making the laborious process worthwhile.
Bat Trang pottery
Pottery from Bat Trang has long been associated with a certain standard of quality, with generations of artisans having collectively created a distinctive style. Clay is carefully chosen, formed, decorated, baked, then glazed to create wonderful works of art that will stand the test of time and human usage. In addition to plain brown earthenware, the village is also famous for the “jade glaze”, a glossy green coating, and crackleware, a beautiful interplay of glaze and natural cracks in the clay.
A museum of pottery has been welcoming visitors since 2021. This stunning complex is a group of buildings inspired by potter’s wheels while also resembling traditional kilns. In addition to being an Instagram-favorite spot, the complex seeks to educate visitors about the crafts of the region through the display of pottery by artisans past and present, art exhibitions, a pottery-making, and plaster statue-coloring workshop, and various shops for craftspeople to sell their wares.
Quat Dong embroidery
Villagers of Quat Dong proudly claim their hometown to be the cradle of traditional Vietnamese embroidery. Ever since Le Cong Hanh brought embroidery from China to Vietnam, the village has produced some of the finest artisans: Bui Le Kinh embroidered the royal robes of Emperor Bao Dai and Empress Nam Phuong, and Thai Van Bon became the only Quat Dong person recognized as a National Artisan and renowned for his artwork of Ho Chi Minh. Even in this era of increasing industrialization when much embroidery is done by machines, hand embroidery is still highly valued for the exquisitely delicate linework that machines cannot emulate. Artists are also outsourced for the making of costumes for historical media, period films, and TV shows from China, Japan, and Korea, both thanks to their talent and cheaper costs.
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Dong Ho folk painting
In 2020, Vietnam filed an application with UNESCO to recognize this art form as one of Vietnam’s Intangible Cultural Heritages. These woodcut paintings have a distinctive, bright color palette of reds, greens, yellows, and blacks, with paints taken from nature – plants, flowers, ashes, and even bronze rust. Even the paper that they are printed on is unique. Artisans take dó, a soft fabric like paper, and coat them with a thin layer of glue mixed with scallop shells to make them sparkle and retain colors well. The paintings depict subjects near and dear to Vietnamese people: folktales, literary scenes, historical characters, good-luck wishes, and so on.
Thu Sy bamboo fishing traps
Đó is a Vietnamese bamboo tool made for fishing; thin slats of old bamboo are sharpened and woven together to create a basket. Fish follow the current, swim into the basket, and cannot get back out. For two centuries, the people of Thu Sy village, Hung Yen province have been weaving đó. Today, about 500 crafters are hard at work to produce these tools for fishers and home decorators. Most of them have been doing this for their whole lives. They sell two types of đó, plain white or smoked to create an attractive reddish-brown hue.