Hai Phong is famous for various long-standing, unique and valuable traditional craft villages, such as My Dong Casting Village, Ha Lung Flower Village… among which the 500 years old Wood Carving Village of Bao Hais considered as the cradle of Vietnamese sculpting profession, an interesting destination for domestic and international tourists with its own unique features.
A workshop in Bao Ha Wood Carving Village (Photo: Collection)
Bao Ha Village (also called Linh Dong) is located in Dong Minh Commune, Vinh Bao District, the sacred land with extraordinary people of Hai Phong City, nearly 3km away from the road connecting Lang Am Bridge to Nhan Muc Bridge. The place is famous for studious traditions and traditional values.
Bao Ha is considered as the cradle of statue sculpture of Vietnam because of its long history of formation and development. According to the village legend, more than 600 years ago, in the 15th century, when Vietnam was under the Ming Dynasty colonization (1407-1427), many young men were arrested and brought across the border to build Chinese mausoleums and temples.
The initiator of statue sculpture Nguyen Cong Hue (Photo: Collection)
Among them, a young man of Bao Ha Village named Nguyen Cong Hue, has learned the precious techniques of statue carving and lacquer painting. After returning to his homeland, Nguyen Cong Hue shared the passion for the sculpture profession and taught his family members, relatives, and Bao Ha villagers necessary skills, knowledge for. Since then, in addition to farming activities, Bao Ha villagers had sculpting statues as a new livelihood, soon making the village famous in the Red River Delta region with the profession of sculpting Buddha statues. When Nguyen Cong Hue died, Bao Ha villagers had built a temple, sculpt a statue and worship him as a professional ancestor to express their gratitude. This temple still remains now and is always warm and fragrant with incense all year round, as a natural and clear proof of the strong vitality of the sculpture village and the quintessential traditional values of the statue carving profession in this place.
Bao Ha Temple, the place to worship Linh Lang Dai Vuong and the initiator of the statue sculpture profession of Nguyen Cong Hue (Photo: Collection)
Duc Linh Lang Dai Vuong carved by Nguyen Cong Hue is a 500-year-old statue considered unique one in Vietnam, because of the combination of sculpture and puppetry, enabling the statue to stand up and sit down (Photo: Collection)
During the feudal period, the profession of sculpting statues in Bao Ha was always maintained and well-known throughout the East. The village had many skillful and talented artisans who were respected by the King and assigned to sculpt his throne. Many of them were conferred by Vietnamese dynasties such as: Artisan To Phu Vuong, Artisan To Phu Luat, Artisan Hoang Dinh Uc… The carving statue artisans of Bao Ha Village had traveled to many places inside and outside the region such as: Ninh Giang (Hai Duong), Tien Lang (Hai Phong), Dong Hung (Thai Binh)… to sculpt statues for big pagodas, make puppets for famous puppet guilds… Their masterpieces have a unique artistic style, quality and win the hearts of people from all walks of life.
Despite the country’s ups and downs, Bao Ha sculptural art has always been maintained and developed. Also derived from the sculpting profession, statue and shallow puppetry carving were also born and flourished these days. Bao Ha Village has now nearly 1,000 profession households, over 200 of have 20 workshops. Products of craft villages are increasingly diverse meeting the current social demand (altars, couplets, contemporary statues, lacquer paintings...) besides traditional products (Buddha statues, holy statues, puppets...)....
The statue carving profession requires workers to have ingenuity and love for the profession to make realistic statues (Photo: Collection)
For more than six centuries, the profession of statue carving has been closely related to the fine traditional beliefs of Vietnamese people, preserving the national cultural traditions, guaranteeing prosperous lives for Bao Ha people.
The Bodhisattva statue with meticulous and skillful sculpture (Photo: Collection)
To create a product, artisans must use dozens of tools for design, smoothing works and painting, including dozens of different types of chisels, painted steel, brushes, following a set of steps: researching sample, selecting materials, shaping, stamping, chiseling simply and detailedly, peeling, scraping, polishing, assembling and attaching details, painting many times, and decorating statutes with gold and silver.
Tourists from all over the world and Hai Phong people from other districts come to Bao Ha to witness the "vitality" of a long and unique traditional craft village, blending into the lives of local people; the vibrant working atmosphere; the talent, ingenuity, meticulousness with technical, artistic and cultural understanding in each stage to create lively, diverse and sophisticated masterpieces ... imbued with traditional cultural values of the Vietnamese nation. With such positive and valuable contributions, in 2007 Bao Ha statue carving village was recognized by Hai Phong City People's Committee as the "Traditional village of woodcarving and lacquer".
Currently, Bao Ha Village attracts a large number of tourists to visit and admire the artisans creating the arts first-hand (Photo: Collection)
The uniqueness of statues comes from the solid, well-balanced shapes, realisitc breath and imbued with traditional cultural values made by the talented and creative Bao Ha sculptors, making it more and more popular with customers.