According to the elders, in the 13th century, a Chinese man brought the trade of making incense to the village. Due to development of Buddhism and the customs of burning incense, Yen Phu Village developed vigorously and attracted a large number of people from nearby villages.
At the beginning of the 1980s, there was the sign of oblivion when a lot of households gave up and started breeding ornamental fish or running their own business instead. Only around 20% of the households kept on making incense. The trade was restored in the 1990s. Up to now, many families have still maintained their work and preserved this traditional trade.
Making incense is a hard work with a lot of stages. The most difficult and complicated task is mixing incense sawdust with some other materials like anise or cinnamon; it affects greatly the quality of the incense. This task is performed by the skilful and experienced people only. Young and old people often do the simpler work, such as whittling sticks, drying incense, collecting and packaging the completed products.
Despite of working hard, the villagers have low income. However, they still keep up this trade, which is traditional and suitable for them. The village is more crowded at the end of the year and Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday, as the demand of incense increases.
Along with making incense, Yen Phu is famous for breeding ornamental fish. There are many kinds of fish, such as green swordtail, golden fish and rainbow fish, which are very common in Viet Nam. Raising the fish is not an easy work; people have to get up early in the morning, feeding the fish, checking the aquariums, and sometimes change the water. In the North of Viet Nam, it is sunny and hot in summer and very cold in winter; people have to check the aquariums regularly and manage to maintain proper temperatures.
The traditional village still remains in a noisy and gaudy Ha Noi. Wandering through small roads, visitors enjoy the green space with grass, trees, leaves and ancient temples. High-rise buildings with new architecture are springing up somewhere, but they still could not drown out the deep beauty of the village.
Yen Phu Communal House
Yen Phu communal house is located on a peninsula of West Lake; it was recognized as the nation’s cultural and historical site in 1986. The house has unique architecture, which is different from other communal houses in Ha Noi. There is an ancient gold inlaid palankeen and a stone stele since King Le Gia Tong (1672 – 1675) era.
The communal house organizes traditional festival on 10th day of the second lunar month with many practices: getting fresh water from the West Lake nearby, washing statues, worshipping, procession and traditional dance to pray for good fortune. The festival attracts not only the locals but also people from nearby villages of the district.
Procession in the traditional festival (vietnamtourism.com)