Son Dong Statue Sculpturing Village

Son Dong Statue Sculpturing Village

The craft village of Son Dong (in Son Dong commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi) is well-known for its traditional carving and sculpturing, as well as its exquisite gold and silver inlay techniques used in making items for worship. The village's products are highly regarded by customers both in and outside Vietnam.

A workshop in Son Dong village. 

The traditional handicraft village of Son Dong had been in decline during the US war and the period of subsidized economy, but it was restored by the artisans Nguyen Chi Dau and Nguyen Duc Cuong in 1983. Nguyen Chi Dau, an artisan from the French colonial period, decided to revive the traditional craft by organizing woodcarving and lacquer classes to pass on the craft to his descendants.

More than 30 students from back then have now become skilled craftsmen and owners of large production facilities in the village, and are continuing to hand down the craft to younger generations. Choosing the right wood is always the most important step in sculpting a statue. The material for making Buddha statues must be jackfruit wood because of its flexible, soft, and fibrous characteristics, which can help the sculptors avoid errors during carving. The main source of jackfruit wood used by Son Dong artisans comes from provinces such as Phu Tho, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, and Nghe An. They take only the core of the wood for carving. The technique of painting and inlaying on the statue is also meticulous with many stages such as painting and polishing. There are many steps to go through before inlaying the silver or gold, depending on a customer's demands.


Gold inlaying.

Sculpting statues is the most difficult part of the creation. The sculptor must be able to blow the soul into the statue, making it look divine and have the right posture. In addition, the traditional altar and worship items inlaid with gold and silver are also extremely exquisite and beautiful because of the skilled hands of Son Dong villagers.

Currently, there are more than 4,000 craftsmen regularly engaging in the traditional craft, of which over half are skilled craftsmen and many have been honored with the title of artisan. Thanks to their talents, the artisans in Son Dong village have created delicate items that reflect the national identity. After many days and nights of hard work in the workshop, Son Dong sculptors’ products not only are well-known nationwide but also internationally recognized.

The artisans in the village can create any kind of statue for worship without a sample model. They also carve portrait statues based on the portrait or full-body photograph of customers. To complete these feats, the artisans must have experience, and understand the historical and cultural significance, personality traits, and positions of each object to blow the soul into each work of art.

Son Dong villagers have preserved and contributed significantly to the cultural heritage of Vietnam. In recent years, many young people from the village have opened workshops and stores in other provinces and cities to introduce their sculptures and handicrafts that help to further promote the brand of Son Dong's wooden statues and handicraft products nationwide. 

A showroom in Son Dong village.  

In 2007, the Vietnam Book of Records listed Son Dong as the largest Buddhist statue carving and worshiping village in Vietnam. Currently, the products of Son Dong Village are not only used to serve the cultural, spiritual, and religious life in the country but are also exported to foreign countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Russia.


Story: Thao Vy/VNP   Photos: Thanh Giang   Translated by Nguyen Tuoi