A four-hundred-year craft village
The guot plant appeared early in Luu Thuong Village, however, at the early stage, it is the only raw material for making simple household appliances and art products. The villagers mainly sold the type of grass for making conical hats, baskets in the locality and neibouring areas. Through ups and downs, the guot grass has played an important role and become a key material for the establishment and development of the traditional craft – grass weaving, which has brought high economic efficiency to farmers in Luu Thuong Village. In the past, the tradition was handed down among villagers at small production scale. So, the village’s products were so simple. They mainly processed the grass for neighboring traditional craft villages.
The craft has been preserved and handled down to future generations. (Photo:NDO)
According to the villagers, the grass weaving tradition of Luu Thuong Village has over four – hundred – year history. Legend has it that in the early 17th century, Luu Thuong Village was called Gau Te. A few of people settled down here. About 300 years ago, Ms Nguyen Thao Lam taught the villagers how to weave the grass. Since then, the craft has been preserved and handled down to future generations. Their love for the profession and their unceasing efforts to overcome these challenges are finally rewarded. Currently, they are pound of their “made in Viet Nam” products. Ms Nguyen Thao Lam is considered the tradition’s progenitor. To pay gratitude for her contribution, the villagers worship her in the communal house and organize their festival on 16th day of the tenth lunar month every year to commemorate her. The villagers living through the country also attend the festival and pray for the village’s prosperity.
Basically, the craft is similar to bamboo and rattan weaving. However, the guot grass has many potentials and advantages to develop the traditional craft. The guot plant has a natural dark red or brown color, and is pliable and durable. Good-quality guot grasses are often found in the northern mountain provinces of Yen Bai, Lang Son, Cao Bang and Bac Can. Before being woven into products, guot grasses are dried under the scorching sun for several days, and then classified into groups in terms of their size and color depending on what type of items they will make. The plants can be kept whole, or split into two, three or four equal laths.
Diversified products for international market
Like any traditional craft village in Viet Nam, there have been ups and downs over four-hundred-year history. The guot grass weaving has developed strongly since the 90s with an expanded scale of production. Previously, the villagers only used a part of the plant to make common household and farming items common, such as conical hats, baskets, etc. Later, Luu Thuong villagers used more parts of guot plant to make high quality products. These items meet demands of local consumers.
The villagers dry their products under sunlight. (Photo:NDO)
In the end of the 20th century, the craftsman produced diversified items, such as beautiful breeds, flower baskets, soap containers, etc. In addition, the villagers combine guot with other materials such as sedge, corn leaves, rattan, bamboo and water hyacinths, to create various products with thousands of different designs.
In recent years, the craft of Luu Thuong Village has flourished, contributing to improving local farmers’ living standards. At present, eight villages of Phu Tuc Commune with about 7,754 laborers are making guot articles. Luu Thuong alone, for example, with 400 households and over 1,400 laborers, has more than 70 percent of its population making items from guot plants.
In addition to being favored in domestic market, Luu Thuong’s products have been exported to many foreign countries around the world including the US, China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, India and various nations in the Middle East.
Craft village tour
On the Highway 21B to Quan Tron and then turn left into the provincial road 73, visitors will see the billboard of Phu Tuc grass weaving tour which leads to unique destination.
Visiting Luu Thuong during any time, tourists can see raw materials and guot grass dyed with eye-catching colors on both sides of rural roads. Everyone here weaves guot grasses, the young and old, men and women. And they are all experts at the craft, it having been in their blood for generations. With their skillful hands, Luu Thuong villagers have created exquisite and aesthetic products.
Coming to the village, tourists have a chance to witness local artisans put their soul into their works. They will visit exhibitions displaying thousands of designs which are made by various materials, such as guot grass, rattan, bamboo, hyacinth plants, forest rope, corn stover. All lively and interesting products draw the attention of international visitors.