Tra Dong artisans complete making bronze drums (Photo: baothanhhoa.vn)
Amidst the haze of charcoal and fire is a common scene: talented local artisans are carving patiently, each stroke meticulously patterns the mould.
Tra Dong bronze casting village is a place that keeps the unique traditional bronze casting techniques in Vietnam and is a tourist destination attracting lots of visitors.
The village now has 25 bronze-casting establishments. Four local artisans were recognized as Emeritus Artisans by the President for their contributions in reviving the traditional craft.
Emeritus Artisan Le Van Duong said it takes time and a number of processes to create a bronze product.
“First, you have to make the kiln and moulds, design patterns, set fire, melt the bronze, pour into the mould and then cool down the products. It’s time-consuming,” said Duong.
According to young craftsman Le Van Dao, the moulding process is very important because it determines the success of the product.
The mould needs to be fired before the casting process. Adjusting the temperatures is the most difficult and requires skill and experience so that the mould will not crack or scratch.
According to Dao, “The casting has to go through many stages, like choosing clay for the mould. The clay must be dried under the sun, then soaked in the water and mixed with husks for several days. It is then ready to make the mould.”
Emeritus Artisan Le Van Duong said bronze casting is currently supported by machines but making moulds, melting bronze, and cooling still require skill and experience. Bronze casting follows the traditional techniques handed down from predecessors.
Duong said: “Apart from skills and techniques, a person must be really dedicated and patient in order to preserve the bronze casting craft.”
| At a bronze casting kiln in Tra Dong village (Photo: baothanhhoa.vn)
Today Tra Dong products are varied in design and function to meet increasing demand. They are divided into three main categories: household items, fine arts and special products for ceremonies and worship. Bronze drums are considered its most unique item.
In 2012, artisan Nguyen Ba Chau managed to cast a double-headed bronze drum which was considered a breakthrough in drum making technique.
Artisan Chau said: “Technically, it’s much more difficult to make a double-headed bronze drum mould. This is the first double-headed bronze drum ever made in Vietnam. I want to prove that we can do anything with bronze material.”
The double-headed bronze drum is the pride of Tra Dong villagers, said Emeritus Artisan Dang Ich Hoan.
“Both my grandparents and parents instructed me how to make earthern moulds. To my generation and my children’s generation, they have created new products to meet the changing demands of domestic and foreign markets and make the craft grow further,” Hoan noted.
|Sophisticated patterns on Tra Dong's bronze drum (Photo: baothanhhoa.vn)
Nguyen Van Thach, a person from Bac Ninh province, loves Tra Dong bronze products and speaks highly of the creativity and the craft passion of local artisans.
He comments: “I highly appreciate the traditional bronze casting which is historically, culturally and spiritually valuable. I hope the craft will continue to be developed.”
With traditional techniques passed down from previous generations, Tra Dong bronze casting craft continues to thrive.