The iridescent sea snails are cut into many small pieces, straightened, flattened, cut, filed, and then mosaiced into thousands of exquisite patterns. Chuon Ngo village in Chuyen My commune, Phu Xuyen district, Hanoi, is one of the famous craft villages for the pearl mosaic.  The village brings the visitors the atmosphere of a fast-growing craft village.

Common material is taken from mussels and sea snails. Firstly, the worker cuts the sea snail along the three lines of their shell; then they filter out the outer layer and the inner layer, only take the pure layer in the middle; then file and iron the middle layer.

The pearl mosaicists use pieces of shell to inlay objects.  Every step needs to be done meticulously.  They need to draft the images first, then use a special saw to cut the piece of the shells into the predetermined pattern.

The water wave details have been cut and filed. These details are so small and exquisite that the craftsmen have to get good workmanship and a high concentration to cut and file the shell into the wave shape.

After being shaped, the shells are provisionally put together like a complete picture on the wooden surface. The craftsmen will draw the contours of the shells on the wooden surface with a pencil.  Then the carvers will carve the shapes following the contours on the wooden surface after removing the shell. After that, the shells will be attached to the carved wooden shapes with glue.

The craftsman used two knives to sweep the glue on the shaped indentations on the wood, then put the shells on the indentations.  The craftsmen chose the mahogany wood to carve because it can produce the deep brown color which is in harmony with the color of the shells. After the shells are attached to the wooden surface, they will be trimmed with specialized knives.

The outstanding feature of Chuon Ngo pearl mosaic picture is that the shells are not broken, always flat, and are cut to tightly fit the carve.  ; decorative details on pearl mosaic are very vivid and unique.  Thanks to the skillfulness and creativity of the craftsmen, the inanimate shells become the products with high cultural and artistic value.

Match the shaped shells with the drawing.

The phoenix, one of the Four Holy Beasts.

The ancestor of the craft village is Truong Cong Thanh. According to a history book, Mr. Truong used to be a Deputy Chief for Ly Thuong Kiet’s army.  After defeating the enemy, he resigned and wandered about enjoying beautiful sceneries.  He discovered the beauty of  the natural colors of the shells drifting ashore, he came up with the idea of combining them into vivid patterns. This idea gradually developed into the pearl mosaic profession.

The pearl mosaic profession is being passed on from generation to generation by means of on-the-job training.

Gà mẹ (The mother hen) by craftsman Nguyen Duc Biet in Chuon Ngo Village, is one of the creative products and the refreshing designs from the tradition.

Lê Bích -VNE

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