In the development of handicraft industries and traditional handicraft villages in Vietnam, the field of rattan production plays an important role. Among rattan craft villages of Hanoi today, the most typical one is Phu Vinh rattan craft village. The village is located in Chuong My district, which is 27km far from the center of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
Phu Vinh rattan craft village is considered the “land of rattan”, which has been famous for rattan handicraft products for a long history of development. No one knows who is the real ancestor of rattan craft industry in Phu Vinh. The elderly recount that, about 400 years ago, Phu Hoa Trang (now Phu Vinh) had a place called Co Dau beach because there were many storks, later called Go Dau. Stork feathers fell off a mound, people picked them up and make them into hats.
At first, they found it beautiful, durable, and immediately made into gifts for relatives and friends. Gradually, they became nicer and more lovely, so many people came here to buy. Over time, stork feathers were limited, people looked for more rattan to produce household items such as rattan baskets. After that, many new materials were added and product designs were improved, rattan craft techniques were improved, which caused these products have more economic value. The craft industry of rattan and bamboo has since spread to other villages in the region and then to more than 20 provinces across the country.
Each bamboo and rattan product is art, requiring elaborate techniques from skilfull workers. In order to have a satisfactory product, the Phu Vinh villager must first understand the materials he intends to make. After buying materials, they have to dry it on the sunshine. Next, they put materials in a chemical bath for ten days to fight termites. Then, they take out materials to grind the knots, scrape the bark, and polish with armor paper.
The next stage is to put rattan in the oven, use straw to smelt the color. After smelting to get the color, workers take rattan out of the oven to cool and then straighten it. In the packing stage, workers choose materials to cut out the items to match customer’s requirements.
Rattan is a forest product used as raw material for the production of Vietnamese handicrafts and household appliances (furniture) such as tables, chairs or baskets… Rattan core contains more water than the outer shell, while dried rattan is white and flexible. The durability of rattan, which is not wet can be 100 years or more. The rattan tree grows very slowly, each year it only grows 1 meter longer, when it reaches 5 meters long, it must be harvested. Young or old rattan trees are of poor quality.
Rattan processing techniques include two stages: drying and splitting rattan
When drying, with too much or too little smoke, rattan materials are also red. When exposed to rain, the rattan fiber loses its beauty, but when it is sunny, the rattan fiber loses its freshness. If the rattan fiber is not enough dry, the skin will shrivel. Vice versa, if it is too dry, the rattan skin will lose its soft shine. Therefore, drying rattan requires right techniques. People who do these jobs cannot be distracted but must constantly take care and monitor like a silkworm herder.
The rattan tree, whether long or short, only cuts every three meters, straighten the rattan and then pull the knot. Chopping rattan is an elaborate job, requiring quite high skill. Rattan trees often have uneven nodes, so when splitting, it is necessary to pay attention to carefully control so that the large and small parts are equal. The main requirement of rattan splitting is that the fibers of each type must be very even. Workers usually use large yarn for knitting normal products. On the contrary, small fiber is used to make precious items, or to create sophisticated flowers.
After splitting, the spokes are polished to make smooth and flat rattan fibers, then dried in the sun to withdraw water. In order for products to have a variety of colors, after drying, the rattan fibers will be dipped into pots of boiling shiitake leave. This is a completely natural, chemical-free way of coloring that makes Phu Vinh’s rattan products not harmful to users’ health and has a high color fastness of 30-40 years.
The quality and appearance of rattan yarn is one of the two factors that determine the value of rattan craft products. Phu Vinh people, who are inherently highly skillful, deeply understand characteristics of each rattan tree. Phu Vinh rattan craft village has reached the highest peak in the current art of rattan weaving in Vietnam. This success first of all belongs to the merits of the artists here.
Products from Phu Vinh rattan craft village have many types but they are classified into 4 basic groups. Hang dia (thin yarn, no scraper, simple wicker, unstable goods). Hang ro (thin spokes, with a scraper, knitted many times to create small holes, relatively strong goods. However, hang te (thick spokes must be sharpened, knitting is simple, goods are sturdy but not airy). Finally, hang lot (thick spokes, wicker with core, sturdy and solid goods).
In the handicraft industry, rattan and bamboo craft products are now preserving the traditional characteristics quite well. The traditional features in rattan products from Vietnam are the simple and rustic shape. However, the knitting technique is very complex. Undeniably, Phu Vinh rattan craft village has created jobs for a large number of rural laborers, providing a stable source of income for them.
Currently, rattan products from Phu Vinh village have penetrated difficult markets such as Japan, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain… Vietnamese rattan products have also become an item on the list of exports to the markets of other countries. The export market of bamboo and rattan is expanding and the export value is increasing. It is classified as an important export commodity of our country today. But for bamboo and rattan to become commercial goods, craft villages need export enterprises of Vietnam handicraft to promote products.
With more than 400 households, in 2002, Phu Vinh was recognized as a traditional bamboo and rattan craft village. Simultaneously, the village is a destination and a stopover for anyone who intends to travel to a craft village or loves rattan and bamboo products here.