Silk weaving in Vietnamese life
Update: Dec 20, 2019
Silk weaving has been a traditional handicraft in Viet Nam for thousands of years. Legend has it that the craft was introduced to Co Do village in Ha Noi’s outlying district of Ba Vi by the sixth Hung King’s daughter, Princess Thieu Hoa.
Van Phuc silk products. (Photo: Ngoc Anh/VOV5)
Through the centuries, the craft has been conserved and incorporated into the daily life of many Vietnamese.
Silk is a fabric which is very soft, light, durable, and 100% natural. To make silk, it’s necessary to grow mulberry trees to nurture silkworms which release silk filaments.
In the later Le Dynasty from the 16th to the 18th century, Vietnamese silk flourished and many foreign merchants came to the Thang Long Imperial Citadel, to Pho Hien trading hub in the northern province of Hung Yen, and to Hoi An town in the central province of Quang Nam to buy silk in large quantities.
Painter Dao Ngoc Han, Deputy Director of the Center for Applied Archeology, said “Growing mulberry trees and raising silkworms began in Viet Nam a long time ago. Over the years we have imported additional techniques for producing and weaving silk. The first traces of silk fabric in Vietnam were detected on ceramic items of the Phung Nguyen culture dating back about 4,000 years. Silk threads were popularly used during the Dong Son civilization (in the Bronze Age). Vietnamese kings and mandarins often used products made of silk.”
Long established silk weaving localities include Van Phuc village in Ha Noi, Nha Xa village in Ha Nam province, Co Chat village in Ha Noi’s outlying district of Thuong Tin, Bao Loc village in Lam Dong, and Tan Chau village in An Giang. Van Phuc is probably the best-known.
“The Van Phuc silk brand was created more than 1,000 years ago. During the French domination, Van Phuc silk was considered the number one product of the Indochina region. The most valuable Van Phuc items are embroidered silk and ‘lua van’, silk cloth with subtle designs woven in the most sophisticated styles.
We have a workshop that introduces the silk production process to visitors, and a center for conserving Van Phuc silk and showcasing the village’s typical products,” said Pham Khac Ha, Chairman of the Van Phuc Silk Weaving Village Association.
Vietnamese silk has been featured in music and movies like “The White Silk Dress”, a film that won the “Audience Award” at the 2006 Busan International Film Festival in the Republic of Korea.
Painters have also used silk for their paintings. Emeritus Artisan Phan Thi Thuan of Phung Xa silk weaving village in Ha Noi, told VOV “Silk is used to make, not only clothes, but also blankets, pillows, and home decorations. In my village, silk was traditionally used to make strings for musical instrument. I did a research project on techniques of weaving silk from self-woven silkworms which was included in the 2016 Viet Nam Golden Book of Creativity.”
Since 2016, the Institute for Ecological Economics has cooperated with the My Duc Mulberry Silk Company to study the production of silk from lotus stems in Phung Xa village.
Professor Nguyen Duy Chuyen, Director of the Institute for Ecological Economics and head of the project on lotus silk research, said “We went to craft villages in Myanmar to do research on a process of extracting cellulose strings from lotus stems to apply in Viet Nam. Emeritus artisan Phan Thi Thuan is the implementer. For flexibility, durability, and commercial value, Vietnamese lotus silk is better than that of Myanmar.”
“Studies show that pink lotus produces more silk threads with higher quality than the lotus in Myanmar. We hope that not only My Duc but other regions can develop the craft to turn out products that can compete with Japan, Italy and Germany,” Chuyen added.
Silk is considered one of the most luxurious and expensive materials in the world. Only a few countries including Viet Nam, are capable of producing silk.