(VOVworld) Phu Khe village in the northern province of Bac Ninh has long been famous for traditional dragon patterns carved in wood. Such patterns have appeared in important architectural works across Vietnam. Let’s explore the village’s history as the new lunar year of the Dragon begins.
|Dragon patterns carved in wood by Phu Khe artisans
Villagers say this ancient village was established in the reign of King An Duong Vuong and became prosperous in Ly Thai To’s dynasty after when the King relocated his capital to Thang Long citadel one thousand years ago. An old saying dating back to the Le dynasty in the 15th century goes: Nghia Lap village is famous for its banh duc, a kind of pan cake made from rice, and corn porridge, Tan Bao village is well-known for making tiles; and Phu Khe is famed for its dragon patterns carved in wood. Nguyen Van Chu, who has made a study of Phu Khe craft village, says: "The village’s wood carving craft has developed vigorously since the Le dynasty. Phu Khe artisans have left their imprint on many architectural works in Vietnam’s northern region such as the Arhat Statues in Tay Phuong pagoda, and other pagodas in Hanoi, and carved wooden tables in a number of famous communal houses. Some of these art works are listed in national historical records."
Throughout history Phu Khe villagers have done their best to preserve the village’s traditional craft. Phu Khe artisans are always ready to pass down their know-how to anyone who wishes to learn this craft. Nguyen Ngoc Kha is son of Artisan Nguyen Kim, who has spared no effort to keep this trade alive in Phu Khe village. Kha proudly talks about his craft: "My great-grandfather and grandfather used to make carved wood panels with dragon patterns for pagodas and communal houses. My father and I have improvised new dragon patterns to satisfy customer demand. A wood panel carved with dragon patterns requires careful planning. The most difficult job is to make all the parts of the dragon look lively while the overall style and shape of the dragon remains strong and stark. The selection of wood for such artwork is also very important as we do not want viewers to notice differences in colors between different parts of a carved wood product."
Phu Khe village currently has more than 400 skilled artisans. Wood carving facilities are mushrooming in the village and many villagers have become well-off. Head of a wood-carving workshop Nguyen Van Ro told us: "Our revenue last year was 400,000 USD and we were able to generate jobs for many people. We produced thousands of sets of chairs and tables, each worth as much as 5000 USD."
The village’s 4 enterprises employ more than 80% of the village population. Phu Khe has made great efforts to adapt to market changes, improve designs, increase product quality, and applying new technology to production. Phu Khe fine wood products have made a place for themselves in domestic and international markets.