Man preserving the soul of ancient pottery

Wednesday, 2017-02-01 23:40:06
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People’s Artisan Tran Do has made great contributions to preserving the soul of the ancient pottery. (Credit: anninhthudo)
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NDO—Despite many ups and downs in the development of Vietnamese pottery, Bat Trang Pottery Village in Hanoi has constantly developed to affirm its brand, which has a history of nearly 1,000 years. People’s Artisan Tran Do, who was honoured as an outstanding Hanoi citizen in 2016, is among the villagers making great contributions to preserving the soul of the ancient pottery.

Villagers, particularly artisans and pottery makers, have joined hands to preserve the soul of the ancient pottery.

Tran Do was born in La Village, Yen Mo District, Ninh Binh Province and began his career as a pottery worker when he was 13. He used to serve in the army and then became a worker in Bat Trang Ceramic Factory and Anh Hong Cooperative. After getting married, he started up a small pottery kiln. While people in the village made household items for export, he found a separate calling—restoring ancient pottery products—despite numerous difficulties.

One night in 1996, his pottery-kiln was running out of power due to a lack of firewood; therefore, he and his wife decided to use the two planks of their beds—possessions that their parents had left for them, as firewood. The successful restoration of a celadon vase turned a new page in Do’s career.

After that, he attained numerous successes; for example, in 1999, his collection of twenty pottery products was exhibited at Le Kings’ Temple in Hanoi and left a good impression on researchers and cultural workers. On the occasion of ASEM-5 in Hanoi in 2004, he was honoured to manipulate antique decanters according to the style of the Le and Mac Dynasties (1516-1788) as gifts to international delegates.

In 2005, the Government Office ordered him to restore 219 antiques which were presented to international politicians during former Prime Minister Phan Van Khai’s visit to the US and Canada.

Notably, on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long–Hanoi, Tran Do created a giant Kim Quy (“Golden Turtle”) mascot from pottery as his unique gift in celebration and it is now displayed at Ngoc Son Temple. Do said that he had had this idea for ten years and implemented the project over the course of six months. The turtle, weighing nearly four tonnes, was baked at a temperature of 1,300 degree celsius. In order to complete the project, the artisan collected clay and kaolin from Chi Linh District, Hai Duong Province; Dong Trieu District, Quang Ninh Province; and the Hung King Temple area in Phu Tho Province while using sand from the river in at Bach Hac Fork in Viet Tri City, Phu Tho Province, the Red River and Thu Bon River in the central province of Quang Nam, as well as water from the Red River and Truong Sa (Spratly) Archipelago.

In addition, he participated in restoring the statue of the Buddha with thousands of eyes and hands in Me So Pagoda in Hung Yen Province; as well as restoring an antique jar dating back 700 years in Giong Temple in Gia Lam District, Hanoi and many other artifacts in Le King Temple, Hung King Temple, Do Temple, Van Mieu–Quoc Tu Giam (the Temple of Literature) and the ancient capital of Hue.

Tran Do has specialised in restoring pottery products from the Ly, Tran and Le Dynasties, and he has an especial love for products from the Tran Dynasty.

Although Do is not the best senior in Bat Trang Village, his contributions to Vietnamese pottery’s development and his hometown show his enthusiasm and sacrifice. Currently, he is the only villager recognised as a People’s Artist and one of the Capital’s Outstanding Citizens. He shared that, “These titles help me understand the responsibility of making efforts to create more meaningful projects for the community.”