In modern society, traditional craft villages are disappearing and many artisans are finding it hard to stick with their jobs. But in HCMC, the nation’s fastest growing city, there still exists a century-old bronze incense burner casting village called An Hoi in Go Vap District where only five households are holding on to the traditional craft.
In the craft village on the quiet Nguyen Duy Cung Street in Ward 12, Go Vap District, people can sense the slow pace of life and the peaceful atmosphere.
Tran Van Thang, also known as Hai Thang, has spent nearly half a century producing bronze incenser burners in the village. In an encounter with the Daily, Thang said the craft appeared in the late 19th century with dozens of families dedicated to the job.
“Making a bronze incense burner is a fascinating yet challenging experience. There are several complicated steps, with each of them requiring artisans to have a high level of concentration and high skills. Those without patience and passion cannot pursue this painstaking job,” said the 70-year-old artisan, who has a bronze incense burner making facility with around ten workers.
Thang inherited the business from his ancestors at a young age, becoming the fourth generation of his family to take over the job. He has gradually passed down the techniques on to his children in hopes of preserving the traditional family business.
His eldest daughter, Tran Thi Thu Suong, said she is concerned about the disappearance of the craft after her father is gone, so she and her brother are resolved to follow in their father’s footsteps to revive the family tradition.
The bustling atmosphere of the craft village can be felt in the lead up to the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet) as dozens of workers race against time to fulfill a large number of orders from customers who want to refresh their altars at Tet, Suong noted.
Ho Minh Tung, a 35-year-old man who has been working for Thang’s facility for more than 20 years, says he started as a tailor but his income was not enough to feed his family. Therefore, he decided to work for Thang. “I had a tough start. This job requires patience and skills,” Tung said.
An Hoi village needs preservation; otherwise, it could fall into oblivion in the future as workers there might quit and find higher-paying jobs.
An Hoi bronze incense burner making village in Go Vap District, HCMC had more than 30 facilities in the past but the number has now dropped to five
Hai Thang, the owner of a bronze incense burner facility in the village, has been with the job for nearly half a century
In the run up to Tet, many artisans have to work round the clock to fulfill a bigger number of orders from customers
Thang’s facility has existed for more than half a century
The job requires concentration and patience
A woman artisan is seen making a clay mould, one of the most important steps of bronze incense burner production
A 40-year-old worker says he has worked at Thang’s facility for a long time and has stable income to support his family