Dong Nai to relocate centuries-old pottery village

By Minh Hung, Thanh Nien News

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Dong Nai to relocate centuries-old pottery village

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Dong Nai Province's Tan Van Pottery Village was founded nearly 300 years ago, but is slated to be relocated as part of a plan to move manufacturing facilities out of residential areas by the end of 2015. The decision has prompted wide concern among the owners and employees of the village's famous household workshops. Photos by Minh Hung

Most the craftsmen who work here are also residents of the village who worry that they will now face a long commute. Their bosses argue that the government can't reasonably expect them to abandon their current facilities and start all over again in the planned relocation zone.

The village developed pottery making centuries ago using the clay that was naturally abundant in the area. However, Hua My Chieu, the owner of a local pottery studio said the clay has become increasingly rare around Bien Hoa Town and he has begun to collect it in the province's Nhon Trach District. 

A young man making pots. Young sculptors are becoming rarer as most opt for less labor-intensive vocations. 

The village's old masters continue to shape their work entirely by hand. The masters in Tan Van maintain the tradition of making pottery without moulds or rotating wheels. The skills are often passed from generation to generation.

A traditional kiln in Tan Van Village. The recent provincial mandate will require pottery producers to use gas or electrical kilns, which are more costly and produce a lower-quality product, according to several of the village's sculptors.

The village still uses firewood to fuel their kilns, a practice that is believed to produce a pretty brown-red hue.

The objects are shaped into their desired form and fired in the kiln. The first firing--known as the "biscuit firing"--creates chemical changes that alter the color of the clay.

Next, the pots are glazed and heated again in the second "glaze firing." The glaze firing also further hardens the body of the pots.

Glazed awaiting their final firing.

Workers carry objects into a kiln that reaches 1000 degrees Celsius. They must wait 90 minutes after the fire is extinguished before the products can be safely handled.

Some objects are very heavy and require two strong men to move.

Tan Van Pottery Village produces high-quality products mostly for foreign companies that sell them as generic objects. The products are not labelled Tan Van pottery and the name remains obscure outside of southern Vietnam.

Recently, experts have recommended bringing tourists to the village. But the proposal faces big challenges due to the planned relocation. "All the old thatched-roof households that have maintained this tradition will be replaced with new concrete homes. Who would want to visit such a place?" asked Chieiu.

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