Phuoc Tich pottery - for that glazed look

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Doan Van Lua making pottery at
Phuoc Tich Village

Phuoc Tich Village, about 40 kilometers north of Hue has been famous for its dazzling ceramics for more than 500 years.

Besides household products like bowls, kettles, pots, and jugs, the village, established in 1470, once made items for the palaces of the Nguyen Dynasty kings.

Several of these items still remain at the Hue Royal Fine Arts Museum in the central historic town.

At artisan Le Trong Dien's house in Phuoc Tich, there are some pottery items a few hundred years old. One of them is a bowl meant for royalty to eat rice from.

There is a saying Om Phuoc Tich ngon com hoang de (Phuoc Tich bowls made rice tasty to emperors). It is said that the kings of the Nguyen Dynasty each used two royal bowls every day since they were always broken after use a king never ate from the same bowl twice.

Le Trong Co, aged 83, who was the last director of the Phuoc Tich Pottery Cooperative almost 30 years ago, said: "In the past all the villagers made pottery products which were bought immediately after being brought out of the kilns. Boats came and went day and night. The village's pottery items were sold around the country. In the village, there were 12 kilns which were in use all the time."

The main material for Phuoc Tich pottery products is clay from the Dien Khanh region in the north-central province of Quang Tri, about 30 kilometers away. The clay is carefully prepared before being used. The quality of the clay varies with the quality of the products it is used for.

Phuoc Tich pottery products are baked at 1,200OC, making them strong and durable, and their colors are long-lasting. Le Ba Cang, a lecturer at the Hue University of Arts who has studied Phuoc Tich pottery products for years, said that colors are the major difference between Phuoc Tich and other pottery. "Phuoc Tich pottery items are extraordinary since they exhibit the natural properties of the clay. It requires outstanding techniques to obtain such colors."

HOW TO GET THERE

From Hue Town (Thua Thien-Hue Province), tourists can reach Phuoc Tich Village by car or train. If going by car, tourists should take National Highway 1A, or Road 1, go north to the three-way intersection at My Chanh Market, turn right into National Highway 49B, go for a kilometer, pass Phuoc Tich Bridge, turn right to reach Phuoc Tich Village. It takes about 45 minutes.

Visitors can also take a Hue-Dong Hoi train at Hue and get off at My Chanh near the My Chanh Market three-way intersection. The train leaves at 5-6 a.m. and returns at 5-6 p.m. every day.

The village kilns were not operational for a long time during the war. After the war ended in 1975 the Phuoc Tich Pottery Cooperative was established and operated till 1986. Beginning 1989 it all began to go downhill - the last kiln was closed in 1995 and all the kilns were pulled down.

In 2006 kilns were rebuilt to restore the old trade. The first two batches of pottery items were completed and put on show at the Hue Traditional Trade Festival 2009. It marked the revival of Phuoc Tich Pottery.

In 2009 a project was started with the participation of the Hue University of Arts and Phuoc Tich artisans. It has proven successful with more than 250 pottery products now on display at the Southern Culture Center in Hue.

Phuoc Tich artisans make a wide range of items for various decorative pictures, one reason why gas kilns have been installed in addition to the traditional firewood kilns.

Many new kinds of Phuoc Tich products are hitting the market, promising a return to the time when the village was overrun by vehicles coming to carry the pottery all over the country.

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