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Binh Duong ceramics - the cream of Vietnamese ceramics

In recent years, ceramics made in Binh Duong have made an appearance in many important national and international events.

In recent years, ceramics made in Binh Duong have made an appearance in many important national and international events such as the National Party Congress, APEC Vietnam 2006 and 2017, 1000 years of Thang Long - Hanoi, 17th ASEAN Summit. Binh Duong high-end porcelains of Minh Long I brand were chosen to be national gifts to more than 40 international heads of state during official trips of the Party and the State’s leaders. 

As the 4th wave of COVID-19 waned, we went to Binh Duong to learn about this famous ceramic profession.

Where it all started

It is said that pottery in Binh Duong started around the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Chinese who came here to seek opportunities. Now Binh Duong has three pottery villages that are the oldest and also the most well known, namely Tan Phuoc Khanh, Lai Thieu and Chanh Nghia. A characteristic feature of Binh Duong pottery is the use of the highly flexible and sticky clay found on the banks of local rivers. There is also the traditional pottery making technique from Chinese-origin artisans and the firing technique using wood.

From 1910-1930, in Binh Duong, there were only about 40 pottery kilns with about 1,000 employees, by 1985 there were 273 ceramic establishments with about 6,700 workers. Now, there are nearly 300 ceramic production facilities with about 500 pottery kilns and more than 15,000 employees, supplying the market with 130-150 million products/year.
According to Quach Huu, a potter with more than 40 years of experience in Tan Phuoc Khanh, “The profession of pottery is passed down from father to son, I am the third generation in my family. The job is often jokingly described as 'playing with clay', because during all stages of production, from soil collection, filtering, blending to kneading, the hands are always covered in clay.”

Quach Huu's facility specializes in porcelain pots and products for both domestic sale and export. According to him, handmade pottery requires workers’ skillfulness and meticulous attention, especially during the shaping and glazing stages. Firing a batch of 200 items in his facility takes 3 days using wood. The process demands experience so that the fire can be watched properly - a prerequisite for beautifully fired pottery.

Artisan Ho Van Lon puts soil into the mold at Dai Hung pottery kiln. Photo: Le Minh / VNP

Skilled artisans create eye-catching ceramic works in Tan Phuoc Khanh pottery village. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Pouring materials into the mold at Tan Phuoc Khanh pottery village. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Taking the products from the mold at Tan Phuoc Khanh pottery village. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Drying products before the firing process at Tan Phuoc Khanh pottery village. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Handmade ceramic products in Dai Hung pottery kiln. Photo: Le Minh / VNP

Shaping ceramics at a production facility in Lai Thieu. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP

Unique products with eye-catching patterns done using skillful hands of Lai Thieu potter. Photo: Thong Hai / VNP
If in the past, Binh Duong ceramics were mainly household products such as bowls, cups, plates, stools, statues and flower pots, now consumers demand as well as industrialized and modernized production have driven the birth of a large and diverse range of product lines from basic to high-end, serving all kinds of demands.

In 2021, Binh Duong province was honored with two more national intangible cultural heritages, including “Traditional ceramic crafts” and “Folk knowledge and performance of Tan Khanh Ba Tra martial arts”. 
Additionally, handmade piggy banks in Lai Thieu and pots and jars in Dai Hung pottery kiln, Thu Dau Mot city are also unique products of Binh Duong handmade pottery.

The selling points of Binh Duong ceramics lie in its durability, its beautiful glaze and diverse decorative themes that are close to Vietnamese hearts such as natural landscapes of the southern countryside and famous monuments and landscapes of Vietnam. Modern Binh Duong ceramics blend Vietnamese traditions and Western modernity, which makes them very popular in the European market. The ceramic producers of Minh Long I are considered pioneers in bringing high quality Binh Duong ceramic to the world.

Minh Long I - the national ceramic brand

It took a long time of constant learning and developing to establish Binh Duong ceramic’s current standing in the industry, not to mention the contributions of generations of talented and dedicated artisans who have been tirelessly promoting their homeland traditional craft. Among the most notable is artisan Ly Ngoc Minh, President of Minh Long I Co., Ltd. which owns the well-known Minh Long I brand.

Artisan  Ly Ngoc Minh was conferred the title of Labor Hero in 2007.
Following in the footsteps of 4 generations making ceramics in Tan Phuoc Khanh - Binh Duong, Ly Ngoc Minh inherited the skillful techniques and “heirloom secrets” of pottery making, but most importantly is the drive to build a prestigious brand that can put the name of Vietnamese ceramics on the international map.

Minh Long I Co., Ltd. has applied modern technology to ceramic production. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

Artisan Ly Ngoc Minh guides the craftsmen to make perfect ceramic works. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

Drawing patterns to finish Minh Long I ceramic products. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

A jade cup, a product of Minh Long I Co., Ltd., was chosen as the an official gift by the government to leaders of other countries at APEC 2017. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

A set of teapots with gold motifs served at the banquet for leaders of 21 countries during APEC 2017. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

Sophisticated products made by Minh Long I. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

A royal tea set is a high-class product made by Minh Long ceramic artists. Photo: Minh Long I’s files

Minh Long I is a breakthrough for the Vietnamese ceramic industry. With a large-scale factory along with modern machinery and equipment and a skillful team, Minh Long I always strives for the highest quality in all of their products. Products are manufactured using European standards and using advanced technology such as high-temparature burning, color painting on porcelain, nano production, and are inspected thoroughly piece by piece by experts upon finishing.

Minh Long's Hoang Lien set of products was selected for the State banquet and the "Jade Cup" set was chosen as gift for leaders of 21 countries at apec 2017.
Minh Long I is highly creative with their designs and decorations and has a wide range of products for various needs. These include the home, restaurants and hotels, as well as souvenirs, fine arts, decorations and mascot collections. Minh Long I creates ceramics that are not only aesthetically pleasing, natural and of high quality but also pushes forward the modern ceramic production in Vietnam.

The high-end lines of Minh Long I are exported to many demanding markets such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, the US and Japan. In Vietnam, Minh Long I is known as a luxury ceramics brand with supreme prestige and quality, along with a big chain of stores, distributors and agents across the country./ 

Story: Son Nghia       
Photos: Le Minh, Thong Hai
& Minh Long I’s files      
  Translated by Hong Hanh

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