Women unravel thread from silkworm cocoons in Ma Chau Village.
Ma Chau Village in the central province of Quang Nam has been famous for 300 years. Though it has had its ups and downs.
Situated on the road between the World Heritage sites of My Son and Hoi An ancient town, loads of merchant boats used to dock at the silk village on the Cau Lau river before 1945.
All of the merchants were eager to buy the well-known silk of the village, which the sounds of weaving filled from the early morning hours.
The golden era of Ma Chau silk was from 1977, shortly after the American war ended, to 1985.
At that time, the village had more than 3,000 wood looms, and the villagers were in charge of the whole silk-making process – from growing mulberries and breeding silkworms to unravelling silkworm cocoons and weaving the silk by hand.
Most of Ma Chau fell into depression from 1986 because consumers changed their habits, suddenly preferring imported silk with different colours and textures.
Many villagers decided to leave Ma Chau to go to Ho Chi Minh City to try their luck there. With them, they brought the traditional craft and set up weaving silk regions on Bay Hien crossroad in Tan Binh District and Hanh Thong Tay in Go Vap District.
Farther north, in their hometown, the trade eventually also started to recover with consumers once again looking toward locally made silk.
Seeing this, Ma Chau villagers returned their attention to the trade, growing mulberry trees in the whole village and on the river banks and fields and keeping cocoons everywhere.
In fact, 570 among 600 households in the village now earn their livings by growing mulberry and weaving silk. Twelve of them are small registered enterprises.
The village can produce about 20 million metres of silk on average each year, and each person can earn VND 600,000 to VND 800,000 a month, encouraging people in the area to develop the traditional craft.
The nearby Go Noi region also supports Ma Chau’s silk weaving, becoming its main supplier of more mulberries and silkworms.
Shops in Hoi An, the central city of Hue, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi buy most of the silk. The village also supplies silk to companies to make clothes for export.
In addition, Quang Nam Province has chosen Ma Chau, 30 kilometres from Hoi An, as one of the best craft villages to introduce to local and foreign tourists.
Visitors can book tours to the village at travel companies in the ancient town or rent motorbikes or bikes to go there. There, they can see first-hand how Ma Chau silk has been made over centuries.
VIETNAMNET - (05/04/2006)