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Tho Ha village’s distant glory

Former pottery village, Tho Ha faces an unusually revival.

Tho Ha village in Van Ha Commune, Viet Yen District, northern Bac Giang Province, is one of three main centres producing pottery in northern Vietnam.


According to village elders, in 11th-12th century, three Vietnamese were sent to China as the King’s envoys and they learnt Chinese pottery arts. They were Hua Vinh Kieu from Bo Bat village, central Thanh Hoa Province, Dao Tri Tien from Tho Ha, and Luu Phong Tu from Sat Village, northern Hung Yen Province.


After returning to Vietnam, the three taught pottery in their villages. Mr Kieu taught Bo Bat people to make white clay pottery. The village later moved closer to Hanoi, and is now known as Bat Trang. Similarly, Mr Tu returned to Phu Lang; and Mr Tien to Tho Ha, teaching villagers to produce pottery with red, yellow and dark colored clay.


At the time, Tho Ha was an economic centre for pottery, full of kilns, businessmen, and boats trading in ceramics. These days young people only know of Tho Ha’s former fame through the splendid walls, roofs and houses made using broken pottery. Nowadays, there are no kilns left  in Tho Ha.


Artisan Lai Thanh, 94, was the last maker in Tho Ha, who abandoned the work some years ago. While, Bat Trang continues to develop and making its mark on national and international markets; and Phu Lang is also successfully restoring its product, Tho Ha has not witnessed any new developments.


“For over 20 years we have not produced pottery. How can we restore it? Young people now cannot suffer the difficulty of the work, raw material to make pottery has been exhausted, as has land for kilns”, said Trinh Thi Ky, 78, of Tho Ha. Raw material has to be brought in from nearby Van village, or from other districts.


Tho Ha pottery used to be fired with dry grass, and then firewood and coal. Businessmen came from Hanoi and surrounding locations animating Cau River with boats and trade activity. In the early 1980s, Tho Ha villagers turned to making aluminum and plastic products, traditional cakes, and raising animals as pottery was gradually abandoned. Now, Tho Ha is known for its pigs and dry pancakes, and most recently the villages special walls have attracted film producers, painters, and photographers.

VIETNAMNET - (24/02/2006)

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