The artistry of Bat Trang is well-known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics
Bat Trang is a village in North Vietnam about 13 kilometers south east of Hanoi, on the Red river. It has been famous for its ceramics for a thousand years, particularly dinnerware and ornamental ware. The Bat Trang producers export ceramic goods annually to the value of over $40 million.
Perhaps the most outstanding strength of Bat Trang village is its tradition of making pottery. The people are very skilful and talented, producing a product that has a distinctive look. Bat Trang traditional quality pottery includes bowl, dish, pot, cup, wine pot, a big flower-vase, leg lamp, lime-pot, big-bellied jar with glazes such as ancient pearl blaze, crackle glaze, dark glaze, indigo-blue flower glaze, grey flower glaze, melt glaze... Craftsmanship developed over many generations.
Wander our narrow streets and see the vendors with their artware, tableware and ornaments. Little animals, figurines, huge vases, tea sets. Studios with antique collections, craftspeople making the pots, applying the intricate designs, setting the kilns. Packers loading trucks for all parts. Walk to the river, see the old kilns and look for their red fires. Enjoy a tea, it tastes better in Bat Trang! Buy some ceramics so you can enjoy your Bat Trang experience at home.
A thousand years ago Vietnam was independent, having successfully resisted the Chinese invasion in 981. China was ruled by the Sung dynasty (960-1127 A.D Northern Sung, 1127- 1279 Southern Sung). King Ly Thai To relocated the capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh) to Thang Long (Hanoi) in 1010 A.D. At that time Bat Trang was known as the white clay district with 72 hills of white clay suitable for ceramics. It would have been an important supply centre for the demands of the new capital.
Professsor Phan Huy Le provides the following folklore. Around 1100, there lived three scholars named Hua Vinh Cao, Dao Tri Tien and Luu Vinh Phuong, They were sent on a diplomatic mission to the Northern Sung. On their return they were delayed by bad weather and stayed in Guangdong, China, where they visited a famous ceramic kiln and they studied the production techniques. On their return, each passed on what they had learnt.
Hua Vinh Cao taught the people of Bat Trang how to make a white glaze. Dao Tri Tien taught the village of Tho Ha in Ha Bac Province to make the red glaze and Luu Vinh Phuong taught the people of Phu Lang (also in Ha Bac province) to make the deep yellow glaze.
In 1127 the Sung retreated from the northern areas because of the difficulty in holding back Mongol invaders. Culturally, the Sung re-established Confucianism and refined many of the developments of the previous centuries . Included were not only the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.) ideal of the universal man, combining the qualities of scholar, poet, painter, and statesman, but also historical writings, painting, calligraphy, and hard-glazed porcelain. Landscape artists mastered portrayal of distance and mountains in cloud. Potters developed glazes and high temperature firing advancing the art of ceramics. China became a significant exporter of pottery to the region (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines etc) and the mercantile class prospered.
In 1206 the Mongolian tribes met and agreed to unite under Genghis Khan. In 1215 Genghis Khan captured Beijing. In 1279. Kublai Khan, his grandson, completed t he Quest of China, ending the Sung Dynasty. The Yuan dynasty lasted from 1279 to 1368 (1368- 1644 A.D. Ming dynasty).
Faced with Mongol rule artists, potters, merchants and exporters left China and set up their operations in Vietnam and Thailand. The Sung kiln and glaze technologies were transferred to Vietnam. Bat Trang prospered and continued to prosper as the Ming dynasty maintained a closed-door policy until 1567. It was not until 1684 that the Chinese competed effectively with Vietnamese ceramics exporters. By this time Vietnamese pottery had achieved such popularity in Japan that even the Japanese potters produced ceramics in the Vietnamese style, which they called Cochi ware
The National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi has a collection of ceramics from Bat Trang dating back 700 years. Under the leadership of Professor. Phan Huy Le (Director of the Center for Cooperation in Vietnamese Studies), a team of eminent art historians collected and catalogued a selection of ceramic pieces from Bat Trang village that has been published as a glossy 11" x 8" hardcover edition. It contains 90 pages of photographs of ceramic masterpieces found in various museum collections, as well as 25 pages of black-and-white pencil rubbings that reveal the finely wrought detail of these artistic treasures. Ninety pages of bilingual Vietnamese-English text describe the past and present history of Bat Trang, explain ceramic production techniques and list the different styles and types of ceramics created.