Around the shore of the West Lake, there have been many famous craft villages of Thang Long for many centuries, such as Linh Hoa weaving, Yen Thai poonah paper making, Ngu Xa bronze casting. Ngu Xa means five villages including Dong Mai, Chau My, Lang Thuong, Dien Tien and Dao Nien (Van Lam District – Hai Hung and Thuan Thanh – Ha Bac Province). People of the five villages who were skillful at bronze casting had migrated to the capital of Thang Long to establish a casting workshop. They settled here and set up a new village which was named Ngu Xa to commemorate their five original villages. Afterwards they reorganized into a separate professional guild called Ngu Xa bronze-casting guild.
Talent and products
Ngu Xa represents the talent of Vietnamese bronze casters. Their products over the last 500 years have become great masterpieces of national art. one of the statues expressing the intelligence, talent, peculiar know-how, diligence and creativeness of Ngu Xa artisans and bronze casters is the Buddha statue placed in Tran Quang pagoda. This statue including the lotus throne bottom is 5.50 meters high and weighs 12 tons and 300 kilograms. This is a grandiose piece of bronze art work, typical and sophisticated in all aspects, acting as symbol of the techniques and art of bronze casting in Vietnam. The Buddha’s face is benevolent and calm, his stature, sitting with folded robes expresses an inner deep calmness. This illustrates the Vietnamese concept of life, as well as the tradition of Buddhist carving.
The qualification of Ngu Xa bronze casters has reached the top. Their success for hundreds of years asserted their talent. Besides the intelligence, creativeness, sharp eyes, skillful hands and carefulness, craft-men also have their own professional know-how and long-standing experience. The know-how of Ngu Xa bronze casting includes shaping the mould, preparing the mixture, melting and pouring it into the mould. Artisans have to carry out two tasks: creating the model and shaping the mould, which is usually made of wax or paraffin oil. Shaping the mould is hard work because they have to base on the model statue which is made of clay, mud from ponds, tissue paper, lime and rice husk.
The artisans often burn the mould before casting. The temperature adjustment is very difficult and sophisticated, which requires carefulness and experience. Ngu Xa bronze casting techniques have been highly appreciated for a long time and admired by international tourists.