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Discovering Craft Villages in Vietnam

Sylvie Fanchette
Nicholas Stedman


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1“It is a well-known fact that tourism can be a deadly foe as much as a firm friend in the matter of development. Considering the economic might of the tourist industry—now regarded as the biggest in the world ahead of automobiles and chemicals—careful attention should be paid to this many-sided phenomenon with its global repercussions. The impact of tourism is such that progressive strategies are vitally needed in order to prepare the ground for genuinely progressive international, regional and local strategies.

2It is UNESCO’s intention to assist the 191 Member states in preparing their policies while reconsidering the relationship between tourism and cultural diversity, tourism and intercultural dialogue, and tourism and development. In this way, the Organization proposes to contribute to the fight against poverty, protection of the environment and mutual appreciation of cultures.

3Intercultural Roads of Dialogue projects analyse the global transformations – sometimes conflictual – brought about by encounters between different populations and continents: they offer a historical and geographical perspective on intercultural dialogue down through the centuries and contribute to the debate on the future of intercultural dialogue in modern societies. Cultural tourism provides concrete opportunities for genuine dialogue between visitors and hosts and promotes new types of co-operation. It offers the possibility of becoming better acquainted with the heritage of other territories and of contributing towards economic and human development.”

4Cultural tourism: creating a discerning type of tourism that takes account of other people’s cultures (UNESCO web site)

  • 1 Vietnamese Association for Rural Development
  • 2 Center for Agrarian Research and Development

5During a research programme, begun in 2003 in partnership between IRD (the Research Institute for Development), the Vietnamese NGO PHANO1 and CASRAD2 at the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences, a team of researchers and students carried out a vast number of studies on rural life, the activity and history of over forty craft villages in the provinces bordering on Hà Nội. Some of these typical craft villages could be of interest to Vietnamese and foreign tourists. Close links with the local authorities and the most renowned craftspeople confirm the belief that there is a real interest for them in opening up to cultural tourism. They could receive small groups of visitors and demonstrate their crafts – some of which, such as papermaking, may disappear altogether because they are no longer valued nor passed down by elders.

6We wish to share and spread this knowledge through a work that could be useful both to groups accompanied by local guides, for whom our book will provide necessary and relevant information, and to individual tourists. Scarce knowledge of the heritage of these villages among tourist guides explains why independent travel agencies like Sinh Café offer such a poor range of options in this area.

7The villages suggested to readers are concentrated in provinces bordering on Hà Nội: Bắc Ninh to the east of Hà Nội and Hà Tây to the west, both provinces with a rich cultural heritage.

8Hà Tây has always been known as the province of a thousand crafts – there are in fact currently an estimated four hundred. Hà Tây lies west of the capital, whose consumption of luxury items has boosted the production of high quality goods. It is intersected by the Ðáy River, which acts as a waterway to the mountainous regions, where an abundance of sylvicultural raw materials can be found. Renowned rattan and bamboo artisans, silk manufacturers and weavers abound in Hà Tây Province. Processed agricultural products (e. g. rice wine, cassava flour, vermicelli and assorted noodles) have always been a source of income for a large part of the population of Hà Tây, which is subject to severe flooding during the monsoon. Handicrafts produced in this province of the Upper Delta are very diverse and more traditional than in Bắc Ninh. They form an essential part of village life. In addition, its rich architectural and religious heritage make Hà Tây a prime tourist destination, with sites such as the famous Perfume Pagoda, as well as Thầy and Đậu Pagodas, which attracts thousands of domestic and foreign tourists.

9Bắc Ninh Province, east of Hà Nội, is situated at the intersection between several major road routes and river arteries, and more importantly, is on the road to China. Here, craft techniques have undergone a deeper transformation process. Formerly part of Kinh Bắc, this province is hemmed in by the mountains that surround the Delta. It is considered the cultural cradle of the Upper Delta, the birthplace of Vietnamese Buddhism and has been strongly exposed to Chinese influence. The first Deltaic kingdom of Âu Lạc originated in this province. Archaeological research has shown the importance of ironwork and ceramics in the area. Bắc Ninh owes its renown to several historical relics – such as Bút Tháp and Chùa Dâu Pagodas – where rituals are performed in honour of important figures, such as the two Trýng sisters who fought off Chinese invaders.

10We offer 10 itineraries, each including several craft villages and cultural sites with architectural heritage of superior quality. The selection criteria for villages when drawing up the itineraries were:

  • Presence of traditional crafts dedicated to making everyday or cultural and decorative goods (we avoid villages that have become too industrialised);
  • Presence of ancient crafts and those from which originate ancestor worship during festivals;
  • Possibility of visiting about a dozen workshops, some of them belonging to famous craftspeople;
  • Access to architectural heritage of superior quality (pagodas, temples, đình, etc.);
  • Presence of traditional markets;
  • Accessibility from Hà Nội.


1 Vietnamese Association for Rural Development

2 Center for Agrarian Research and Development

© IRD Éditions, 2016

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