Despite the changes of over 200 years, the bronze casting of incense burners has been preserved and developed by the people of An Hoi Village in Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City.
The craft village of An Hoi is now on Phan Huy Ich Street, Ward 12, Go Vap District in Ho Chi Minh City. Over the years, many famous bronze casting villages in the city such as Cho Quan and Phu Lam disappeared and only exist in the minds of the locals.
Yet, the craft in An Hoi Village has been maintained and developed by the villagers. Here, there are about 10 workshops casting bronze incense burners which are sold mainly in the market in South Vietnam.
During our trip to the village, we visited the workshop of Tran Van Thang, also called Hai Thang whose family has five generations engaged in the craft.
“During prosperous times, bronze incense burners of An Hoi Village were sold in six provinces of the south and were also exported to Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. At present, the craft is not in demand as much as in the past but I will try my best to preserve the craft,” Thang said.
He then introduced us to his son who was concentrating on his work and said: “It is the fifth generation of my family who will continue preserving and developing the bronze casting of incense burners.”
During the last Tet Holiday, the workshop of Hai Thang sold more than 2,000 sets of incense burners. The price of a set is from 4-20 million dong, depending on its size.
Bronze incense burner making consists of many meticulous phases that must be done manually, such as mixing materials, making moulds, moulding, processing and carving.
To make beautiful and durable products, the artisans must master all the techniques and it also depends on the experiences and secrets of each family.
According to artisan Hai Thang, it is not difficult to distinguish between An Hoi incense burners and mass-produced ones. The mass-produced burners are green-gold and turn black after several years of using.
Meanwhile, An Hoi incense burners will be golden and shining if they are cleaned. Furthermore, An Hoi incense burners are made in the ancient style so they are sought much after by the people in the south.
In recent years, the authority of Ho Chi Minh City and locals have made joint efforts to seek markets for the products, making a contribution to preserving and developing the traditional craft.
The bronze casting of incense burners has been existed for about 200 years.
An Hoi incense burners are made by the traditional method.
Moulds are made from a mixture of clay, ash and rice husk.
The technique of making mould requires artisans' meticulosity.
Creating the shape of a casting mould.
Carving patterns on the moulds.
Cleaning incense burners.
Processing incense burners.
Completing the products.
The set of incense burners on the altar of the family of Hai Thang.
An Hoi incense burners are still shinning after being used for a long time.
The typical golden colour of An Hoi incense burners.
A set of bronze cups.
Sophisticated patterns of An Hoi incense burners.