Vietnam handicraft products

Chinese products dominating Vietnamese traditional craft villages

Bat Trang pottery, Ha Dong silk craft villages have been flooded with Chinese goods. Meanwhile, the Dong Ho painting village not only has lost its traditional career, but lost its name as well.

Chinese products dominating Vietnamese traditional craft villages

Part 2: Ha Dong silk is made in… China?

In fact, not only the merchants in Bat Trang craft village prefer trading Chinese products to Vietnamese. The merchants in Dong Xuan market, the biggest wholesale market in Hanoi, have also admitted that trading Chinese goods can bring them higher profits; therefore, Chinese goods are their top choice.


The problem is that Chinese goods are dirt cheap, which explains why Vietnamese people still spend money on Chinese goods, even though they know that the products have low quality.

Two years ago, Hanoi was busy preparing for the great festival to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi establishment. At that time, Bat Trang potteries and Van Phuc silk in Ha Dong were displayed at cultural events, which were described as the “cultural envoys” to Vietnamese and foreign visitors.   Van Phuc silk showed how the craftsmen of the capital city are clever with their hands. Noisy campaigns were launched at that time to make the products more popular to travelers, domestic and foreign.

Nowadays, Van Phuc silk village is still bustling with profuse silk products available. However, visitors now can see the sorrow in the eyes of the old craftsmen who fear that the traditional handicraft may be lost in oblivion one day.

Like in Bat Trang village, a lot of weaving workshops in Van Phuc village have to shut down because their products cannot compete with cheap Chinese silk industrial products. Some workshops have been struggling to survive, trying to maintain production. However, they import fiber and dying chemical substances from China to reduce the production costs.

The silk shops in Van Phuc village are still bustling with full visitors. However, the majority of the products available are made in China, not made in Van Phuc.

“Most of the weaving workshops in the village have shut down. How can there be so much silk for sale?” Van, the owner of a weaving workshop in Van Phuc said.

“Even Van Phuc village cannot stand any more amid the difficulties, let alone other craft villages,” she continued. “As a result, the silk products introduced by the sellers as Van Phuc silk, in fact, come from China.”

The people in Van Phuc village also said that looking for real Van Phuc silk products now is a difficult job like “looking for a needle in a haystack.” Meanwhile, foreign made silk products are always in plenty which have been introduced as the products from Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. However, craftsmen have affirmed that all the products are from China.

“Van Phuc village now look like a market that sells silk products with different sources, rather than a traditional weaving village. The biggest bitterness is that Van Phuc silk has been defeated right in their home land,” said Nguyen Van Sinh, Chair of the Van Phuc Silk Craft Village Association.

China made votive papers harm Dong Ho paintings   kodasaigon - 220]

Unlike other craft villages, the craftsmen in the traditional Dong Ho folk woodcut painting in Thuan Thanh district of Bac Ninh province do not have to compete with Chinese products. However, big tragedy still has come: most of the craftsmen here have given up their career of making folk woodcut painting.

There are only two craftsmen in the village who still make paintings – Nguyen Dang Che and Nguyen Huu Sam.

Dong Ho Village’s people are getting richer every day with their new job of making votive papers.

It was the Chinese merchants who made local people give up the traditional handicraft. Dong Ho has disappeared in the thoughts of people.

Handicraft villages hit by economic slump

A downturn in traditional handicrafts has driven tens of thousands of people with skilled rural trades into the ranks of the unemployed.

A worker in Thach That District's Binh Yen Commune cuts laterite bricks. Traditional handicrafs are on the downturn, putting thousands of local people out of work. (Photo: VNS)

But these once busy workers face more difficulties than people in cities or even farmers. Losing their jobs in handicraft villages has not only left many idle, but led others to become addicted to alcohol and illegal drugs.

This is because most village trades people have no land for agricultural production and no useful skills or qualifications to look for jobs in city factories.

Laterite bricks hide a workshop named Muoi Toan Laterite Sculpture from sight, leading people to assume it must be busy (Laterite is a dense clay highly rich in aluminium and iron. It is used for building traditional homes and garden walls).

However, inside, only three workers sit in a corner cropping laterite bricks. The dry, rasping sound of knives hitting hard baked clay can be heard on a hot summer's day.

Tomorrow, the workshop will be even quieter as one of the three workers will be sacked when the owner is unable to pay his salary.

Nguyen Van Muoi, the owner of the workshop, points to the piles of bricks and says: "They have been there for five months. We mined and processed the laterite bricks for a project in southern Tra Vinh Province. However, due to the economic downturn, the customer has failed to pay. And, we have to stop!."

That was the only contract, worth VND100 million (US$4,760), Muoi's company has signed so far this year. By the same time last year, he had earned more than VND900 million ($42,860) and his 15 workers monthly earned VND6 million ($285) each.

Like other 200 laterite handicraft households in Ha Noi's Binh Yen Commune in Thach That District, the workshop uses laterite to build houses and make tables, desks, lamps, cupboards and ornamental items.

Laterite sculpture has been a tradition in the commune for years. Nevertheless, since the beginning of this year, many workshops have closed down.