Among the dozens of craft villages in the Song Cau area, the cradle of the Song Hong (Red River) civilization, Phu Lang is well known among many ceramic artisans. For years the village seemed unchanged. However, since the Patron Saint of ceramics making, Luu Phong Tu, brought the craft from China to Phu Lang and taught his children and co-villagers to make ceramic articles, dozens of generations of craftsmen have settled in Phu Lang and earned their living by practicing this occupation.
In Phu Lang, visitors can see the ceramic kilns built one after another along the dykes or on the low hills near Luc Dau Giang, facing the Cau river which runs all the year round. For years, Phu Lang ceramic ware has been on sale together with those ceramic articles made in Bat Trang, Tho Ha, Huong Canh, Phan Thiet, Dong Nai and Mong Cai, other well-known ceramic making areas. However, the products of Phu Lang are the most appreciated by customers throughout the country due to their durability and unique style.
"Phu Lang's inhabitants, where ever they go, will certainly return to their native place" said Pham Van Hoan, one of the two oldest ceramic artisans of Phu Lang village. The other artisan is Nguyen Tien Hoan. These two men take turns heading of the Phu Lang Ceramics Cooperative. The Pham and Nguyen families each have more than ten generations who settled in this village and practiced this traditional undertaking.
"Ceramic making is not declining with time, but is handed down from generation to generation," said Hoan. "Phu Lang children learn at the village school, and when they grow up, they get married and involved in this craft. Under their skillful hands, diverse and beautiful ceramic ware is made."
"Phu Lang ceramic products are appreciated for their durability and diversity and unique enamel colours of eel skin, purple, pink, black, yellow, frog skin, etc." Hoan added.
A special enamel, called men co (shrinked enamel), is only made by these two artisans. At different temperatures, this enamel produces different natural designs and diverse items which greatly attract buyers.
Phu Lang ceramic products are of high quality because they are dried in the traditional kiln called the Rong, which is specially constructed and uses dry wood as fuel.
The kiln is built in the shape of a lying fish, 2.3 m (at the widest point) and 1.8m (at the narrowest point) in width and 2.5m (tallest) and 1.8m (shortest) in height. There is no support pillar inside. The kiln vault is made of brick. On average, one batch includes 700 main products, such as jars, basins, pots, etc. and 1,000-1,500 extra items such as bottles, water troughs, pots to cook traditional medicine, etc. The products are tempered at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius. As a result of the high temperature-resistant red clay, the finished products are not deformed after being tempered. In the village, there are now six kilns operating continuously for ten months per year, bringing in about VND 2.5 billion annually. There are 300 main workers and 4,000 sub-workers and, on average, a worker earns VND 400,000/month.
The Phu Lang Ceramics Cooperative has quickly joined in the market economy . The cooperative runs six groups of kilns; each kiln comprises 10-13 shareholders who work effectively together.
Phu Lang ceramic products have quickly found their niche in both domestic and foreign markets, including Holland, Denmark, England, Sweden, Thailand, etc. High quality products for interior decoration and ornamental gardens, such as lamp stands, animal-shaped lamp bases, oysters, frogs and bas-relief figurines are much sought after by customers. Phu Lang ceramic products also help in the preservation and restoration of ancient projects in Europe.
"Phu Lang ceramic craftsmen focus their attention, not only on the high-quality and modern world market, but also on the traditional domestic market, because for years the latter has been particularly linked to their life, and to the traditions and customs of the Vietnamese people in general," confided an expert on the ceramics of Phu Lang. This also reflects the soul of the entire Phu Lang ceramic craft nowadays.
(Source: saigontouristjapan )