Copper products made at a workshop in HCM City’s Go Vap district (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) - Craftsmen from the An Hoi Coppersmith Village in Ho Chi Minh City’s Go Vap district are busy with orders for the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, with customers crowding shops buying their famous brass incense burners.

During Tet, Vietnamese often buy a standard set of worship objects, which include an incense burner placed in the middle and two candlestands on the sides of ancestors’ altars to bring luck and prosperity.

At the bottom of the table, bronze vases, glasses, urns, tortoises and jars of wine are placed, along with statues of cranes.

Tran Van Thang, 70, owner of the Hai Thang workshop, said he began learning coppersmithing when he was a child and passed the secrets of the work to the younger generation.

Before 1975, the village had more than 50 workshops and households and hundreds of workers, producing a variety of copper products.

But now there are only five workshops keeping the craft alive.

With over 50 years of experience, Thang said all stages of the production process, from preparing the wax mould to polishing the final product, require great patience.

“The success of the product depends on the craftsmen’s skills,” he said.

A set of worship objects includes an incense burner and two candlestands placed on a family altar (Photo: VNA)

In recent years, traditional products have faced competition from products made by machine, so most of the artisans have improved designs to meet market demand, Thang said.

“My family stayed with the craft during difficult times because we love it,” he said.

Tran Thi Thu Xuong, 47, Thang’s daughter, said the products for traditional ancestor worship took a lot of time to make.

“This year our sales have been slower than in past years,” she said. “However, we’re able to make a good living and offer jobs with a stable income for 10 people,” she said.

Tran Minh Quoc, 34, son of the owner of the Nam Toan workshop, said the workshop has about 20 craftsmen, mostly family members and relatives.

"I’m aware of the need to preserve our ancestors’ traditional values, so I decided to learn the craft,” he said. 

Each month, his workshop provides about 200-300 products to the local market.

A woman at a casting workshop dries clay pots under the sunshine (Photo: VNA)

Nguyen Thai Vuong, 36, a walk-in customer from Binh Thanh district, said he was looking for two candlestands for his set of worship objects.

“I visited workshops in An Hoi village and recognised that the traditional products here were made more skilfully, and were more beautiful than in other places,” he said.

Over the last 100 years, the craft has been passed down by families in the area, but villagers say they need support policies to help them survive in modern times.

That may come sooner than expected. The city’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism conducted a survey of traditional craft villages, and included An Hoi as one of the sites on the conservation list.

With such assistance, traditional craft villages in the city are expected to not only survive but prosper for many more years. - VNA