Main Products: furniture
Ethnic Minority: kinh
From Noi Bai Airport (Hanoi): 42 km
From Tan Son Nhat Airport (HCMC): 1148 km
Upon paying a visit to Bac Ninh province just northeast of Hanoi, one can’t help but be attracted to its one-of-a-kind Quan Ho folksongs - duos of love songs by sister and brother groups. Having inherited the cultural tradition of Kinh Bac, Bac Ninh is also homeland of famous traditional craft villages such as Dong Ho folk paintings and Dai Bai bronze castings. And in this land, Xuan Lai is known for its unique carbonized Vietnamese bamboo furniture.
Xuan Lai – Gia Binh people are always proud of their bamboo craft, but no one remembers when the craft came into existence. The village patriarch, however, feels that this craft must be hundreds years old considering that they already saw all villagers involved in making bamboo wares since they were children. At that time, those patriarchs had to learn by themselves to create utensils for serving the daily life and agricultural production - grain baskets, baskets, benches, beds, and tables etc coming in many original designs.
Passionate work has been part of each Xuan Lai villager because of the long, proud tradition of manufacturing bamboo furniture. There is no handicraft guild, no convention, and no secrets. People share experiences, and children take up their fathers’ vocation from generation to generation with handicraft work hand-in-hand with agricultural work. Through many ups and downs, in certain times, bamboo furniture seemed unable to thrive or even survive in the face of mass production of industrial products made of plastic and plywood. Facing falling into oblivion, the proactive villagers paved the way to researching, diversifying, and improving the quality of their bamboo products. And their furniture, made of carbonized bamboo of a naturally shiny black, is well received by customers.
Masterful strokes are needed for the creating of such appealing carbonized bamboo products. After being harvested, the bamboo is usually soaked in a pond for months to preclude worms and to enhance flexibility. It is then made straight and put into a kiln made of clay and straw. This kiln works on a basis of straw that creates only smoke but no fire, and is airtight for many days. Carbonizing time depends on color requirements - a shorter time for brown and longer time or even many times for shiny black.
It is difficult to create the right colors for bamboo materials, and it is even more difficult to utilize those of carbonized bamboo to make final products, because this step requires much creativity and skill. There are wide ranges of products: from tables, chairs, swings, beds, cupboards, newspaper shelves, and more to screens, lamps, trays etc with variations in dimensions and styles. Xuan Lai workers are able to create powerful and durable products with the natural beauty of carbonized bamboo material – a nostalgic beauty of uniqueness found nowhere else in Vietnam.
Xuan Lai workers notably have a great mind for art as illustrated by the creating of courteous “picture screens” of yellow and dark brown through the scraping of a layer of carbonized bamboo skin. They have really blown the spirit of Dong Ho images into bamboo with themes such as honor and wealth, pine-daisy-ivory bamboo-apricot, old stories, beautiful woman, and eight fairies or successfully illustrating many modern themes.
Furniture made of carbonized bamboo of Xuan Lai is available in major shops in Hanoi, Hue, Hochiminh City, and others, and it has also been part of a new trend in interior decoration recently. These products are particularly well received by foreigners, with Japan, America, Taiwan, and some EU countries serving as notable examples. Its nostalgic beauty creates an image forever remaining in the hearts of many the world over.