Hanoi is now one of the big cities that still preserves a diverse culture which creates the city’s own appearance and characteristics.  Through thousands of years, folk culture is still considered as one of the core factors creating the cultural identity of the Hanoian.

The efforts to save and the traditional profession

Within the rapid development of modern toys, The household of Mr. Nguyen Van Hoa (living in Hang Than street, Ba Dinh, Hanoi) is currently the only household still maintaining the profession of making paper masks in the old quarter

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Nowadays, folk culture has been preserved by many people.

Previously, the profession of making paper masks was a side job for Mr. Hoa and his wife. They have maintained the profession for not only earning a living and managing their household expenses but also saving this traditional profession. At present, they are retired; therefore, they decide to spend all their time and their love for making paper masks, drawing, and painting the masks.

Having been in this profession for 40 years, Mr. Hoa and his wife have created their own traditional brands. They are so popular that everyone knows them whenever mentioning the paper mask. Nowadays, a series of modern toys gradually replace traditional toys and make paper masks be no longer as popular as before. However, Mr. Hoa and his wife still make an effort to keep this special cultural feature that has been passed down for generations. Ms. Lan, Mr. Hoa’s wife,  said: “To make a beautiful and soulful paper mask requires not only skills but also love and attention for it.”

Besides, there is a traditional profession of making iron ship toys.  Speaking of iron ship toys, people have to mention to Mr. Nguyen Manh Hung (living in Khuong Ha, Ha Dinh, Thanh Xuan District). Mr. Hung told that in Khuong Ha village in the past, from June onwards, the whole village was bustling with the sounds of manufacturing iron; it’s as throbbing as the sound of a festival. Each family would create a typical toy, for example, ship toys, drumming rabbits, trumpets, and cars. No one can remember when this profession dates back. People only remember that previously, many people Khuong Ha village became rich thanks to this profession. However, in recent years, cheap Chinese toys with eye-catching designs have flooded the market; and they occupied the position of traditional toys in the market.

The villagers gradually quit their jobs because tin utensils are difficult to compete with cheap but convenient plastic.  Tin toys are laborious, time-consuming, and create less profit while the price escalates every day. The craftsmen in the village gradually quit their traditional profession to become workers, builders, shopkeepers, or sellers. No one wants to continue with the job of making metal toys.  Only Mr. Hung’s family is still working hard with the files and saws so that they can create the colorful iron ship toys on the Mid-Autumn Festival occasion.

“My wife and I are the fourth generations in my family to keep doing and preserving this traditional job.  Therefore, I am extremely concerned about how to keep the traditional profession and pass on to my children in the future,” said Mr.Hung.

As can be seen, Hanoian has left and passed on a huge treasure of folklore with folk songs, proverbs, and traditional crafts and a series of other unique physical cultural heritage. They become unique cultural assets and identities of the Capital.  In Hanoi, there is also a mixture of handicraft villages and modern streets to create unique beauty and characteristics of cuisine, temples, or handicrafts.  Until now, Hanoi still retains its such ancient traits which can be seen through not only artisans like Mr. Hoa, Mrs. Lan, Mr. Hung but many other Hanoians who are still preserving such traditional inherent traits.

Preserving and elevating culture

In recent years, when the society is increasingly developing in digital technology, culture and folk culture are increasingly recognized with its right value.  Many art programs and traditional products have aimed at bringing folk cultural values closer to our life.  Therefore, Hanoians, especially youngsters, progressively have access to and feel the eternal beauty of Hanoi culture.  There are many brightest example for traditional products which have been attracting the public, even creating fever in the craft village and reviving the local traditional profession.

Speaking of breakthrough creation, it’s worth mentioning that the elite artist Phan Thi Thuan with the creation of silk blankets made by silkworms and towels woven with lotus silk. Both of these products are unique, creative and appear for the first time in Vietnam.  This creation makes the mulberry growing – silkworm raising – silk weaving be well known by many people. Despite having a history of thousands of years in My Duc, the silk weaving has been forgotten for 30 years due to the market changes.

ky 2 giu gin van hoa dan gian trong long pho thi
Nguyen Manh Hung is one of the last ship toy artisans in Hanoi today.  (Photo: K.T)

Being born as a hereditary child in the family of three generations of growing mulberry-raising silkworm-weaving silk and having spent time working as an accountant for My Duc Silkworm Cooperative, Mrs. Phan Thi Thuan determined to pursue a traditional profession for decades. With her experience, observation, and passion, she spent all her time to came up with a unique idea to make the silkworm to weave the blankets themselves. Then she started to carry out her thinking. Days and nights she trained and manipulated them to weave silk.  It took her a year for 8 batches of silkworms to be tested. The very first silkworm-woven fabrics and blankets were finally completed.  In 2012, Mrs. Thuan officially introduced the product and the method for the first time in human history:  a woven-by-silkworms blanket.  The product was awarded the Certificate by the Vietnam Farmers Association and won the first prize with the innovative solution of silk cotton blanket woven by silkworms in 2015.

After that, she makes and introduces many high-quality quilts and pillows.  Her products have been attracting many consumers.  Particularly, her cotton blankets and silk fabrics were present in many countries such as  Japan, Thailand, Germany, Belgium, China, Saudi Arabia. The profit from exporting these products has reached more than 3 billion VND (about 129,000 USD) a year.  Also, having cherished a long-term plan for inventing a new type of silk for 2 years of researching and testing, artisan Phan Thi Thuan produced the first scarves produced from the lotus silk.  Lotus fiber is extracted from stems, which are usually removed.  This is such a unique product that brings the population for My Duc’s silk weaving profession.

Finally, it can be seen that in the general development of modern society, the folk culture in Hanoi has gradually faded away and cannot be developed as it did before.  However, it still quietly exists and spreads out in the community. And in a certain sense, the folk culture still has a lot of impact on social life in many new forms that suitable for the times.  As folk games, folk arts, customs or traditional festivals, they do not exist under a tight structure and system as before, but they have changed and gradually become popular cultural activities to serve the community’s life.

K. Tiến –Luyện Đình (LĐTĐ)