A new book on Vietnamese craft villages by Sylvie Fanchette and Nicholas Stedman was presented on Sept. 22 at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi.

The book, Discovering Craft Villages in Vietnam: Ten Itineraries around Hanoi, is a remarkable collection of writings on the vibrant communities surrounding the capital.

Spending several years working in Vietnam, the authors visited various craft villages to learn more about the crafts, the people, traditions and heritage of the villages. What they bring to the book is illustrated by photographer Francois Carlet-Soulages.

The book, the fruit of several years’ research, proposes 10 itineraries, blending potted histories, legends, descriptions of craft techniques, guided walks and maps, all designed to introduce readers to more than 40 craft villages located in Hanoi, Bac Giang and Bac Ninh provinces. Many of these are little known to outsiders, but none are very far from the capital.

The villages around Hanoi possess a rich cultural, architectural and craft heritage. Less than an hour’s journey from the capital are more than 500 specialist craft villages, producing an array of religious and artistic objects, as well as food products, industrial goods, textiles, basketwork and much more. These traditions have survived many vicissitudes. Today, they constitute the basis of material, social and spiritual culture among the village communities of the Hong (Red) River Delta.

The artisans themselves and their local institutions perceive cultural tourism as a way of further improving the fortunes of craft village communities.

“They also see it as an opportunity to attract wider attention to their heritage but, until recently, few guides or tourists ventured into these villages, some of which are lost beyond a maze or poorly signposted roads and tracks amid the rice paddies of Hanoi ’s hinterland,” the authors write.

The 300-page book published by the The Gioi (World) Publishing House costs 200,000 VND (11.2 USD) for the Vietnamese edition and 16.7 USD for the English and French versions.

The book’s publishing was sponsored by the Research Institute for Development, the Ford Foundation, French Development Agency, French Culture Centre in Vietnam, Wallonia-Brusssels Delegation to Hanoi and Hermes Group./.