(No.3, Vol.9, Jun-Jul 2019
Vietnam Heritage Magazine)

Text by Khanh Hoa; Photos by Nguyen Van Dong


Thai Village of Thuong Tin District of Hanoi started its traditional paint
trade in the 17
th century. In the 30s of last century, the paint
village of Ha Thai learned polishing techniques and the use of materials such
as egg shell and snail. It was during this time that elder Dinh Van Thanh of
Thai Ha Village was invited to an exposition in France to demonstrate the art
of lacquer painting.

Lacquer painting is an intricate art that includes many steps
and each requires the artisan to be utterly meticulous, stubbornly diligent, tirelessly
patient and, of course, highly artistic in order for the final product to be a
true work of art.

the early years of the 21st century, the trade of Ha Thai went worldwide..
During the years 2007-2010, the 800 household village had nearly 90% of its
households, or about 1600 workers involved in the trade. During this period,
the village artisans introduced many new materials, colors, forms and designs.
Ha Thai produced lacquer paintings, nacre inlaid paintings, buckets, vases and bowls
to export to the UK, France, Russia, US, Spain, Australia, Italy, Japan, and
South Korea.

its preservation of material and spiritual values, in 2010 Ha Thai was one of
two traditional art and craft trade villages chosen by Japan’s JICA as a
strategic leverage points for sustainable development of trade villages.

However in recent years, a gloom has fallen over  Ha Thai trade village because artisans and
workers quit the trade. The reason was that the prices of traditional products
soared, making them  hard to sell. The prices
of traditional products soared because the costs, especially labor, increased

Today, only about 10 households of Ha Thai still conduct the trade. Most
of their lacquer paintings are made by machines, cost little and have little
aesthetical value.

Traditionally, lacquer paintings used to be polished manually.. Today
only a few artist families continue making this kind of painting.

Realizing the prospect of lacquer painting trade of Ha Thai
going “extinct” in recent years, the local government made efforts to preserve
it by bringing lacquer painted products to fairs, and opening tours to Ha Thai
to let tourists learn first-hand about the trade and buy the paintings directly
at the source.