Vietnam Time

1/15/2018 9:46:43 AM

Efforts to preserve Dai Bai bronze casting village

(VNF) - Dai Bai village (Gia Binh district, Bac Ninh province) is nationwide famous for more than 1,000 year old bronze casting tradition. However, the presence of counterfeit products under the name of Dai Bai copper has damaged the craft village’s reputation and local people’s livelihood. Therefore, protection of the brand of Dai Bai copper has been heeded more than ever.

According to the village’s historical records, the bronze casting craft was begun in Dai Bai in the early 11th century by founder Nguyen Cong Truyen.

Dai Bai village, also known as Van Lang, is located on high ground near the bank of the Bai Giang River in Bac Ninh province. It’s famous for bronze casting. (Photo: VNP)

About 200 years ago, some craftsmen from the village moved to Thang Long Citadel, now called Hanoi, to establish a handicraft guild. That became Hang Dong, or Bronze Street, in downtown Hanoi, which specializes in bronze household utensils and fine arts pieces. Experiencing ups and downs, Dai Bai people still maintain their traditional crafts.

Dai Bai has diversified its production to bronze statues, bronze incense burners, flower vases, four-season pictures, tea sets, devotional items, and inlaid pictures, which are now exported to China and other Asian countries.

The village has about 70 enterprises employing 700 households. Nguyen Van Trung, from Dai Bai commune, who began bronze casting at the age of 14 is now famous for his casting and carving skills.

“My family has long made vases, incense burners, and statues of Buddha. Of course, we have trade secrets and vast experience but the most important thing is our love of the craft to turn out beautiful products,” said Trung.

With more than 20 years crafting bronze products, Nguyen Van Trung has always “tossed and turned” to find a pathway for his homeland’s product. From a small workshop, now he has now turned his family business into a quite serious one. Trung was recognised as “Artisan with Golden hands” in 2010.

“There are many bronze casting villages and Dai Bai is an old good name. As a descendant of the craft village, I always want to introduce the traditional products to consumers. I have trained the next generations on what my predecessors passed down,” said Trung.

Despite the increasing use of machines in craft production, four hamlets still preserve their traditional crafts. (Photo: VNP)

Bronze casting requires artisans’ patience and dedication in every minor step: making a mold, boiling the copper and casting it into the molds. Mostly being made with bare hands, it takes craftsmen weeks or even months to finish bronze products.

“Unlike mass products, we have to spend days and nights finishing a product. However, quality is still our priority,” Trung said.

Still, there are people, for the sake of profit, buying cheaper bronze products elsewhere to sell under the name of the craft village. Their behaviour has tarnished the reputation of Dai Bai bronze products.

However, if consumers notice, they will realise the delicacy on each authentic product’s patterns.

Nguyen Tan Dich from Dai Bai Commune said Dai Bai’s bronze products require more steps to complete. After crafting, we use our hands to finalise them. “And also we have always applied secret formula to produce high-quality products,” he added.

In order to protect the name of Dai Bai bronze, Bac Ninh province mapped out a project worth some USD 26,400 to develop and manage the craft village’s brand.

Dai Bai has diversifies its production to bronze statues, bronze incense burners, flower vases, four-season pictures, tea sets, devotional items, and inlaid pictures. (Photo: VNP)

Dai Bai bronze casting was recognised as national intangible heritage in 2015 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The locality has also come up with practical measures to protect the lawful rights of consumers and producers.

Vice Chairman of Dai Bai Communal People’s Committee Nguyen Van Quang said, “First we have got to persuade local households to carry on with the traditional craft. Dai Bai bronze products have exceptional quality which generates high economic value. Counterfeit products have been discouraged in the locality.” He added that in the coming time, they will impose more aggressive penalties on households selling fake products.

With their heads always turning to the traditional craft, Dai Bai people have passed down what they have been taught for generations to their young kids. Together with the local authority’s efforts, the passion shared among people is expected to move the name of Dai Bai bronze upward./.

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