Vietnam tourism has another traditional village in the North to attract photographers and travelers, namely Phu Lang Pottery Village in Bac Ninh. The attraction is located in Phu Lang Commune, Que Vo District, Bac Ninh Province, around 60km from the north of Hanoi. If you’re interested in Northern Vietnamese pottery trades, Vietnam Travel Guide 2018 recommends you to add “Phu Lang Village” to the wish list.
Phu Lang Village in Bac Ninh
Unlike the ceramic products made from blue clay of Tho Ha (Bac Giang), the white clay of Bat Trang (Hanoi), the Phu Lang pottery is made from the light-pink clay taken from the areas of Thong Vat, Cung Khiem. With the clay on hand, artisans have to dry it, and then mix it with layers of soil, break the mixture into the small balls. The intended clay should have an adequate degree of flexibility and smoothness. The clay ball will be put in the middle of the wheel to be shaped aesthetically. The process needs two artisans; one is in charge of shaping and smoothing the clay ball while the others turn the wheel. The next steps are sophisticated: glazing, coloring the products and heating to a very high temperature.
The Phu Lang potteries are covered by the special glazes which are named interestingly such as stone crab, eel’s skin, etc. The ingredients to make the glaze are also unique, including ash trees, slaked lime, crushed pebbles, and alluvial white mud. After the initial processing, these four ingredients are mixed in a certain proportion and then left dry and broken into pieces to add to water. The next steps are about filtering and processing into the liquid and yellow substance. When the ceramic product is still wet, ceramists will use a brush to coat a thin glaze layer on the cover of the product and leave it dry.
Besides creating the unique glaze, Phu Lang Pottery also has the distinct characteristics thanks to the techniques of firewood heating. They use the varied heat generation to create extraordinary traits of the ceramic surface that no other heating technique can do the same. After the steps of glazing and painting with colors, the ceramic products are put into the kiln of 1.000 Celsius degree for the continuous heating of 3 days 3 nights. The light-pink clay heated at the high temperature will turn into the chicken-liver color, with two major glazes of yellow-brown and dark brown (often called the eel’s skin color).
The Phu Lang ceramic traditions teach that the standard products must have the yellow eel’s skin color or the cockroach’s color and echo when knocking. The shape of the pottery should be simple but solid and stressed on the aesthetic patterns. The traditional themes are Four Holy Creatures “Tu Linh” (Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle, and Phoenix), the countryside landscapes, etc. It’s known that the local potteries have three predominant types: (1) products for worshipping (censers); (2) products for household goods (pots, vases, pipe tubes, etc.), (3) aesthetic fine-art ceramics (jars, pots with the animal patterns like elephants, horses, etc.).
Visit Phu Lang Village in Bac Ninh and make your own potteries
Getting to Phu Lang Village in Bac Ninh, catch the opportunity to witness how the ceramists produce the masterpieces. By seeing the progress, you can enjoy the hands-on experiences in making your own pottery. There are local houses that offer the “pottery making service” and let you try shaping the clay on the wheel. Think of shaping the item like a cup, a bowl, or even the animal-shaped pottery. The glazing and heating steps are done by the experienced ceramists. Take the hand-made pottery home and this will remind of the enjoyable practice in this traditional village in Bac Ninh. Also, learn the historical trade, buy the ceramic souvenirs, and take pictures to record the happy tours!
Video clip about Phu Lang Pottery Village
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