Crafty destinations

Chuon Ngo Pearl Inlay Village

Chuon Ngo traditional craft village in Chuyen My commune, Phu Xuyen district is famous for pearl inlay paintings. After over a thousand years of ups and downs, products of the village have established a foothold in domestic and international markets thanks to meeting demand of customers. The village’s artisans now not only make pearl-inlay paintings according to ancient legends, but also create sophisticated landscape artworks.

Drawing patterns on a mussel shard.

Cuon Ngo village's history books say that the pearl inlay craft began during the Ly dynasty from 1010 to 1225. The craft's progenitor is Truong Cong Thanh, a local and a former general in Chuon Ngo village. He then passed down his skills to the villagers.

Over time, the inlaid material has been more diverse, with many types of pearls and snail shells. Designs are more varied, and product quality has also improved.

At Duy Khai Phat workshop in Chuon Ngo village.

Many researchers believe that Vietnamese pearl inlay art ranks first in the world. According to the French researcher Henri Oger (1885 - 1963), the craftsman is a true artist with patience and skill. They know how to mix the colors of the shell to create beautiful, harmonious paintings. That is why Vietnamese mosaic art excels, almost exclusively over all others in the Far East. The Vietnamese mosaics' products are much better than the Cantonese mosaics' products.
Pearl inlaid products from Chuon Ngo village. .

To get the best materials, the locals often collect large-sized shells from domestic regions and import them from Hong Kong and Singapore.

The process of making mother-of-pearl inlay consists of six complicated stages, including drawing the design, cutting the shell into its final shape, wood carving, sticking the shell into the carved wood, grinding and polishing, and making an antique look with black powders.

The shell is sawn according to the craftsman's drawings.

Mother-of-pearl carving requires continuous manipulation at a very high level. Based on the drawing, the artisan chisels the wood and attaches the pearl shells to it.

To saw and chisel the shells without breaking them, artisans have to grind them, soak them in wine, heat them manually, and split, then select whole pieces for the paintings. Sometimes hundreds or thousands of samples are needed.

A pearl inlaid product from Chuon Ngo village

Chuon Ngo's paintings are widely praised for their sophisticated features and decorative details. Products of the village vary but are not limited to cabinets, beds, chessboards, pictures, jewelry-boxes and chopstick boxes with royal themes, which symbolize luxury.

 

A customer learns about Chuon Ngo village's products. 

Following the trend of world integration, the artists in Chuoi Ngo have changed their thinking and created more modern themes such as landscapes and portraits.

The Chuon Ngo craft village products are favorites in domestic and international markets such as the UK, Russia, the US, the Netherlands, and Japan.

Inlaying shell pieces on wood.

Story: Thao Vy Photos: THANH GIANG Translated SONG AN

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