Duong O, Dong Ho and Tu Khe are three traditional handicraft villages located in Bac Ninh province. Duong O is famous for making paper from the bark of the dó tree. Dong Ho is known for folkart which is printed by woodlock on dó paper from Duong O. The Che family in Dong Ho has purchased paper from the Luu household in Duong O for as long as it can remember.
Dó papermaking dates from the 3rd century, ưith ít heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries. Today, most Duong O papermakers work in industrial paper factories to make toilet paper and other recycled paper products.
Before 1945, about 250 families in Dong Ho made woodblock prints. Today, only a few families continue this craft. Families in Tu Khe (bordering Dong Ho) make traditional masks as well as other toys from paper and clay. The Museum of Ethnology and Craft Link wish to commend artisans in Bac Ninh for perpetuating the fine skills and crafts of their villages.
Traditional paper in Duong O is made from the husk of the dó tree which grows in Northern midland and mountainous ares.
Dó husk must first be soaked in water, then lime water, and boiled for 15-20 hours. After lime is shaken off, the husk is soaked in water for 10 more days and pounded with a morter for 3-5 hours. The resulting pulp is squeezed tightly and rinse. Next, it is dissolved in a tank with water and sap from the mò tree. (The sap prevents sheets of paper from sticking together). A tray called a liềm seo is dipped into the tank to create sheets. The sheets are put in a thick atack, pressed to squeeze out water, and then dried.
Mr. Che in Dong Ho buys most of his priting materials locally. Điệp (seashell powder) is purchased from Mr. Sau Thu who lives in the same commune. Shell powder is mixed with water left over from cooking sticky rice. A locally made pine brush is used to coat the paper with the phết điệp (white shell paint). Traditionally, a soft red stone from Kép mountain (Bắc Giang province) is ground, mixed with water and filtered through a mosquito net to make red ink. Yellow ink is produced from the hòe flower, purchased in nearby Tu The village. The hòe is dried, roasted, boiled in with alum, and filtered through a sieve to produce yellow liquid. Black ink can be made from burnde pine wood. Today, some inks used are synthenic.
Woodblocks are chiselled from a soft wood for black outline, a hard wood for colored areas. To make a print, the block is pressed onto a printing pad, and then onto dó paper coated with shell powder. The paper is rubbed with a loofah against the block. After the ink dries, another color may be printed.
Traditional Đông Hồ prints depict daily activities in rural life and society. They are also auspicious: for example, a boy with a duck, prosperity. More recently created are prints with political themes, as well as sets of long prints for worship or decoration.
Toys and masks
Several families in Tú Khê make toys and masks for the mid-autumn festival. Making paper masks requires a mold made of clay and mashed bamboo. Paper is pasted over the mold with a mixture of sticky rice water and clay. After the paper dries, it is coated with white shell powder, painted and varnished with pine sap.
To make clay toys, clay is soaked in limewater, drained, and kneaded to make figurines. These are painted with the same materials used for masks. Clay toys depict the 12 animals of the cycle of 12 years. Đường Tăng master and his disciples, and other heroes from Vietnamese legends.
Mr. Pham Duy Luu, 72, is devoted to the preservation of dó papermaking technique in Duong O.
Mr. Nguyen Dang Che, 65, has both preserved and extended the woodblock printing tradition in Dong Ho.
Mr. Hoang Ba Kinh, 72, has been making paper toys in Tu Khe since 1985.
Mr. Hoang Ba Phat, 75, has made clay toys and paper masks in Tu Khe since he was 10.
Bản đồ tỉnh Bắc Ninh, chỉ dẫn đến làng Dương Ổ và Đông Hồ, Thôn Tú Khê ở cạnh Đông Hồ.
A map of Bac Ninh province, showing Duong O and Dong Ho villages. The village of Tu Khe borders Dong Ho.
Some products made by the group, with the combination of other materials. These products are being displayed at Craft link’shops.
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