Kieu Ky trade village
Kieu Ky - a suburb commune in Gia Lam district, has been well known
beyond Vietnam’s border for its craft of planting gold and silver
sheets that gives a shining.
Over 500 years ago, Nguyen Quy Tri who lived during the Anterior Le Dynasty (1428- 1527) passed the craft down to Kieu Ky locals. Descendants of those locals now take his date of death, the 17th day of the eighth lunar month, as the annual chance to show their gratitude to the ancestor of the craft. Craftsmen often start their work in the new year on the 14th day of the first lunar month with a ceremony, during which a famous and skilled man, often ready to help villagers, is given the honor of making the first hammer strikes.
Kieu Ky is the only village in Vietnam where the sheets are made from pure gold and silver, called old sheets, used exclusive for products in the village. Craftsmen only make decorative sheets from tin, called new sheets, outside the village where they go to practice the craft. Each household puts its own distinguishing characteristics on the products. That is why craftsmen can easily pinpoint who the manufacturers of the works are among their fellow villagers.
Coming to Kieu Ky, visitors find themselves in the busy life of the locals. Most of the villagers are peasants, but they hardly have any free time because, over 40 households engaged in the craft employ hundreds of the old and young alike. Vu Thi Dac, 75, who has spent over 60 years in the craft, said : “this job requires experience, technique and sophisticated work before becoming a sheet.” First, pine resin is mixed with gelatin glue processed from buffalo skin. The mixture is then mixed with special raw paper pulp, then cut cut into 4cm x 6cm pieces. Small pieces of gold, sandwiched between those sheet, are hammered for nearly an hour before becoming a complete products. The last stage of the work is to take the gold sheets out of the “moulds”, but this is by no means a simple task, as only a gentle breath would be enough to blow them away.
In recent years, together with the growth of the economy, various pagodas, and shrines are being restored, creating a chance for the development of the craft in Kieu Ky, as the demand for the sheets skyrockets. Large volumes of the sheets are exported to Japan and Thailand, and this injects a new vitality to the craft. Kieu Ky craftsmen can feel proud because they have successfully restored and developed the unique legacy passed down to them by their ancestors./.