About four centuries ago, the handicraft of ‘guot’ grass (a species of fern) weaving started to exist. The handicraft of weaving ‘gout’ grass brought Luu Thuong villagers in Phu Tuc commune (Phu Xuyen district) a stable life. Through many ups and downs, the enthusiasm of many generations in the village has contributed to preserve, conserve, and develop this traditional profession.  Now when seeing the village road full of colourful products, visitors will get excited by the poetic scene of a famous craft village in Thuong tin district, a land of hundreds of handicraft”.

Completed products are dried under sunlight.

Creation from grass

The handicraft of weaving ‘guot’ grass dates back to 1626. Mrs Nguyen Thao Lam is the first person to find out this special grass growing in this land. The grass has unique features such as softness, toughness and beautiful colour.  She collected the grass and made them into baskets. She instructed the Luu Thuong villagers to make items that are both for use and on sale at the surrounding areas.  From then on, The profession of weaving ‘guot’ grass has been developing.  To commemorate the merits of Mrs Nguyen Thao Lam, the villagers sculpted her statue and worshipped her together with tutelary god, Si Nhiep, at Luu Thuong communal house. Annually, there is a festival held on October 16 of the lunar calendar.

It is usual for visitors to come across the children and the elderly agilely splitting, whittling and weaving the ‘guot’ grass to make eye-catching items. Artist Tran Van The living in hamlet 7, Luu Thuong village, Phu Tuc, said,  “Many generations in Phu Tuc commune has been following the handicraft.  Anyone in Phu Tuc can contribute their help in some steps of doing handicraft. Children can help their parents dry the grass. Children can help their parents dry the grass. The elderly split and whittling the grass, then the young can design, weave and dye the products. The weaved items are smouldered through sulfur dioxide, then dipped in a kind of glue. Finally, they will be dried under the sunlight to prevent termites and increase their strength. The products, of eye-catching designs and high durability, meet the high demands of customers.”

According to the craftsmen at Luu Thuong, ‘guot’ grass weaving is quite similar to the craft of weaving bamboo and rattan.  However, the ‘guot’ grass is tougher, softer than bamboo and rattan. It has natural russet colour. In recent years, the Luu Thuong people have also combined ‘guot’ grass with water hyacinth to make the products of various designs and materials.  With the advantage of natural raw materials and friendly-environment materials, the Luu Thuong handicraft products are favoured in both domestic and international markets.

Tourism development: a new way for the craft village

Over the past 30 years, ‘guot’ grass weaving has been increasingly developing and spreading to other villages in Phu Tuc commune and neighbouring communes.  Mr Bui Hong Luyen, Chairman of Phu Tuc Commune People’s Committee, said,  “All of eight villages in Phu Tuc are recognized as a craft village. Luu Thuong Village is titled a traditional craft village.  In Phu Tuc commune, besides a cooperative of cottage industries, there are 13 companies and many workshops of weaving bamboo, rattan, ‘guot’ grass for exporting.  By 2019,  Phu Tuc has 3,895 households had contributed to producing products of the cottage industry.  The total revenue of the commune from industrial production and cottage industry is estimated at 257 billion VND (11 million USD). The average revenue per capita is 62 million VND (2,600 USD).

Thanks to continuously renewing product designs, the family of artisan Tran Van The annually exports thousands of items and earns the turnover reaching 6-7 billion VND (43 thousand USD) a year.  Mr The said that besides traditional goods, foreign counterparts are fond of office supplies, and household goods are the favourite products.  They are baskets, flower baskets, lampshades, shelves, wardrobes, decorations, trashbin, made of ‘guot’ grass, and rattan.  Currently, his family has regularly created jobs for 200-300 workers.  Whenever Mr The receives a big order, he will employ thousands of workers. He offers the neighbour households to take charge of each part of the products belonging to their strengths. Then, his family will gather every detail to complete the products for export.  After deducting the producing expenses, his family makes a profit of about 300-400 million VND (17 thousand USD) each year.

To promote the advantages of the trade village, Mr Nguyen Thanh Thuy,  Phu Tuc Commune Party Committee Secretary, said that Phu Tuc had implemented the Program 05/CTr-HU dated January 8, 2015. The Program 05 is on “Craft Village Development Associated with Tourism for the 2015-2020 Period”.  There has been lots of investment and up-gradation of the inter-commune traffic roads for meeting the needs of tourist visiting craft villages.

Besides, Phu Tuc’s authorities opened propaganda, training on tourism knowledge for officials and villagers. Many training courses on using information technology to access the market and introduce the products.  Phu Tuc people focus on branding the trade village with brand naming, logo, trademark registration. Thanks to the concurrent implementation of many measures, in 2019, Phu Tuc attracts more than 150 tours of sightseeing the craft village with a total tourist arrival of nearly 2,000.

Tourism Development is the oriented development for craft village of Phu Tuc commune. Mr Bui Hong Luyen shared that in the forthcoming time, Phu Tuc was going to focus on conserving, restoring the historical relics, the traditional festival, and promoting their value to enrich the activities experience for visitors.  The commune’s authorities also want the Hanoi Department of Tourism to facilitate the craft villages to cooperate with the tourist companies. They have drafted a plan to cooperate with neighbouring communes to form a tourism space of famous craft villages in Phu Xuyen:  Luu Thuong village of  ‘Guot’ grass weaving, Hoang Long village of candy processing, Phuong Duc village of Tò he (toy figurine), Tan Dan village of carpentry. “In the forthcoming time, we need a support mechanism to maintain 1 to 2 permanent tour guides. They can be the people living in the craft villages,” Mr Luyen shared.

As expected, in the third quarter of 2020, the industry cluster of Phu Tuc trade village will complete the construction.  The industry cluster will highlight the visitor’s tour when they come to Phu Tuc and be the springboard that boots the tourism in Phu Tuc craft village to move forward.

By Mỹ An (HNMCT)