Located in Ninh Hai Commune, Hoa Lu District of Ninh Binh Province, Van Lam embroidery-making village has a long history famous nationwide for this traditional craft.
Local legend of Van Lam village
Legend has it that King Tran Thai Tong abdicated in favor of his son when he was 40 years old in 1258. He became the King’s father and went to the mountainous area of Vu Lam to live a religious life( now is Ninh Hai commune, Hoa Lu district). He also set up a base to lead the second war of resistance againts force of Yuan-Mong Dynasty (the Chinese dynasty founded by the Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan) in 1258. Madam Tran Thi Dung was the Great Tutor Tran Thua’s wife, she came to teach Van Lam villagers her skill of lace embroidery. Thus, this craft has been here for 700 years.
Through historical ups and downs, the popularity of the craft fluctuated but never disappeared. Currently, about 3,000 Van Lam residents, old and young, who make up 95% of the village’s 1,000 households, are making a living from embroidery. This business provides jobs to the local people and brings them considerable income.
The journey preserves the traditional profession
Van Lam embroiderers not only practice the craft right in their native place, but also try to expand it to other places nationwide. Artisan Chu Van Luong, who has devoted his whole life to embroidery, said: “It’s not difficult to learn to embroider, but to make a beautiful product of high artistic value requires the craftsman’s devotion and skills.” The items made by Van Lam embroiders can be differentiated from the similar ones made in other areas due to their harmonious mixture of embroidery, lace and hemstitching, which are always renewed with new designs, making them unique and attractive.
Over the past few years, artisan Chu Van Luong has trained many young villagers with each line of embroidery with the aim of preserving and developing this traditional craft. He also compiled an embroidery guidebook in which he paid special attention to basic processes of the profession including how to arrange the frame, how to sit correctly while embroidering, and how to blend threads and apply the laces and hemstitching.
There are dozens of private embroidery enterprises and workshops in Van Lam Village which are specialized in training young embroiderers, in making and trading embroidery products.
Vu Thi Hong Yen, Director of Minh Trang Embroidery Company, said: “For years, Van Lam embroidered products have forged a niche in competitive markets, such as the United States, Germany, Japan, France and Russia, due to high quality and diverse attractive designs. Such items as bed and pillow covers, curtains, paintings, kimono, etc., are much embellished due to delicate and attractive embroidery designs.”
Each household in the village will be a visiting site for tourists, who can stay for a few hours for meals and drinks, and learn embroidery under the guidance of the house owner.
By taking the on-the-spot instruction, they will explore the delicateness of the craft as well as learn more about Vietnamese cultural identities revealed through the embroidered products.