Simplicity of Phu Lang Ceramic Village
In the middle of the Red river delta, while Bat Trang is now very famous for crowded atmosphere, Tho Ha had ever been the hustle and bustle with the boats transporting vertically and horizontally since the past, Phu Lang is considered as an ancient ceramic village covered by the simple countryside and peaceful beauty. The brown like "yellow eel skin" of Phu Lang’s pottery has still held the rustic nature, soul, and simplicity for several hundred years.
Phu Lang ceramic village is located in Phu Lang commune, Que Vo district, Bac Ninh province, about 60 km far from Hanoi. In this place, it is not difficult to see the small house covered by the brown moss brick walls with the surrounding fence made of colorful ceramic products and stacked on top of each other and various rows of jars. There are even many new pots and other pottery products exposed in the corners of the courtyard, on the straw road that runs along with the river and many pottery kilns are still firing in the small alleys in the village. Every house has a spacious and sunny yard, where the color of the land, of the straw, of the river, of the new green cornfields as well reflected the picturesque villages of Kinh Bac region.
Phu Lang pottery is composed of three main types, ranging from items used in religious activities such as Buddha statues, incensory and worship items; to simple household ceramics which is one of the typical products of Phu Lang pottery and extremely diverse and rich in styles such as vases, vessels, jars....; and decorative pots such as flower pots, ceramic pictures,… which varied featuring the landscapes and daily activities of Vietnam’s rural area.
According to artisan Doan Minh Ngoc, the owner of Ngoc Ceramic Brand, said, red clay, the materials used to make ceramics were transported by boats from nearby Thong Vat, Cung Khiem (Bac Giang) Phu Lang on Cau river. A piece of land has to be kneaded up to ten times to form a ring and be shaped by the hands of the craftsman on the turntable before being plowed. Phu Lang ceramics have specific shades, which are brown enamel, dark brown, yellowish, dark gold, brown gold commonly called eel-skin enamel.
Like Bat Trang and Tho Ha, Phu Lang’s pottery is formed on the turntable. However, the glazing technique has its own and featured characteristic. Ngoc provides, ceramic glaze is made from ash of forest trees (iron-wood, lauan meranti, apitong) mixed with crushed slaked lime, gravel and white silt mud in a certain proportion, which is considered as a secret of villagers, then dried, smashed into the water, dredged into the flour to make yellow vicious liquid like honey. Pottery will be fired after enameling.
Phu Lang villagers still use firewood to burn pottery as what the ancestors passed on. The different heat transformations during the firing process will create smears on the ceramic surface that cannot be replaced by any other methods. Phu Lang pottery retains the natural, durable and strange color of the enamel, therefore, the pottery always shows off strong visual looking, even though it has still contains the pristine, rustic beauty of the land and fire and demonstrates the skill in shaping of the craftsmen.
Nowadays, even though Phu Lang is gradually moving in accordance with the development of the times, it is still hided a very traditional, rustic spirit and beauty of the ancient Kinh Bac by itself. Phu Lang pottery with the quintessence of love and the workmanship of the craftsmen who is deserved to be farmer artisans will certainly make the pottery regenerate and become a cultural feature of Vietnamese ceramics.