26/07/2015 22:36 GMT+7 Email Print Like 0

The Ancient House Making Village of Phu Yen

Phu Yen Village, Truong Yen Commune, Chuong My District (Hanoi) is famous for its skillful carpenters who make delicate wooden furniture. Recognising the local advantages, many households in the village have gotten together to bid for contracts on building ancient houses, which is a new direction for them to develop the traditional craft and become wealthy.
An average ancient house takes about six months to complete with 13 carpenters. Builders must master the skills of cutting and chiseling wood to make complex wooden joints that perfectly fit into one another to fasten pieces of wood together. A major feature of this woodwork is how carpenters can work without screws, nails, or any other metal fasteners to keep the wood together, which makes the foundation much stronger and longer-lasting as well as provides a harmonious finished appearance.

The most popular types of wood for ancient house building are of chinaberry, Lim (Erythrophleum fordii) and jackfruit trees. An ancient house made of chinaberry wood is worth 700-800 million dong and that of Lim wood is about two billion dong while a jackfruit wooden one costs over three billion dong.

Nguyen Chi Duong (Phu Yen Village, Truong Yen Commune, Chuong My District) carves a wooden detail.
Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

One of the most important procedures during ancient house building is to sketch out details before chiseling.
Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

At the ancient house building workshop of Nguyen Chi Duong in Phu Yen Village
(Truong Yen Commune, Chuong My District). Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Inside the ancient house building workshop of Nguyen Chi Nguyen in Phu Yen Village. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

A wooden carving carefully made by Phu Yen carpenters. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Chinaberry logs with the diameter of 50cm are being cut and chiselled by carpenters in Phu Yen Village.
Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

A carpenter is carving on a wooden board. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Collar beams skillfully carved with dragon details are used for ancient house building. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

Nguyen Chi Tuyen, Nguyen Chi Duong’s brother, is chiselling a collar beam. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

A collar beam skillfully carved with dragon details made by Phu Yen villagers. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

An ancient house reconstructed by Phu Yen carpenters with delicate lacquered boards attached to wooden pillars.
Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

The tile-roofed ancient house of three compartments of Nguyen Huu Nhuong in Phu Yen Village (Chuong My)
was built by Nguyen The Vinh’s carpentry team in 2013 and is worth two billion dong. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP

As one of the pioneers to get contracts on building ancient house to create jobs for Phu Yen residents, 67-year-old Nguyen Chi Dien said that the craft of ancient house building developed  in 1991. At the time, Dien was the first one in the village to win a project to build an ancient house and he assembled 20 carpenters to do the job in six months.

Dien has three brothers and all four of them are now involved in ancient house building. Dien’s son, 36-year-old Nguyen Chi Ba, acknowledged that his family has established an enterprise and invested in modern machines and equipment that support ancient house building to reduce working time as well as manual work during construction. At present, the 500-square metre workshop employs 15-20 workers, and each earns an average daily wage of 200,000-300,000 dong. Skillful carpenters can be paid about 400,000-500,000 dong/day.

In 2009, the workshop built an ancient house with 36 pillars in An Phu Dong, District 9 (Ho Chi Minh City), which is the farthest house away from their village that they have gone to build.  At that time, three containers were hired to transport wooden items from his workshop to Ho Chi Minh City.

At the present time, ancient house building has been developed in many localities in the north such as Ha Nam, Nam Dinh and Nghe An. However, ancient houses made by Phu Yen Village’s carpenters are more delicate and beautiful than by other regions’ carpenters. This is the reason why a lot of clients nationwide make their way to Phu Yen Village to have an ancient house built.

According to Nguyen Xuan Van, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Truong Yen Commune, there are over 100 carpentry workshops in Phu Yen Village, about 50 of which have switched to ancient house building. An association for ancient house builders has been established and the local authorities have proposed that Hanoi city’s authorities recognise  Phu Yen as a traditional craft village.

Story: Quynh Anh - Photos: Trinh Bo