Breathing life into stones in Ninh Binh Province

16:29 | 23/03/2018 Culture & Art

(VEN) - Mother Nature has bestowed Ninh Binh Province with spectacular limestone mountains, and the art of stone carving first appeared in Ninh Van Commune of Hoa Lu District four centuries ago.

breathing life into stones in ninh binh province
Souvenir production at Van Bao Ngoc fine art and handicraft production enterprise in Ninh Van Commune

In the past, stone carving was only practiced in a few households in the commune, mainly producing items made of blue stone, which were sold locally.

These days, according to local statistics, about 80 businesses, 600 collectives and 1,600 households take part in the carving industry, providing work for more than 3,000 laborers, accounting for 83 percent of the population.

The increased stone carving activity over the past 20 years reflects growing customer demand for stone products.

Using techniques handed down by their ancestors, artisans in Ninh Van have created a prestigious position for the traditional craft village in the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Through their talented and skillful hands, inanimate stones are turned into lively works of art.

Ninh Van stone products include decorations (ornamental plant pots, stone sculptures and water fountains) and spiritual items (Buddha statues, worshipping objects and tombstones).

As many as 10 villages in the commune have been recognized as traditional craft villages, which have earned a total gross revenue of nearly VND200 billion (US$ 8.79 million) per year.

Ninh Van products have become popular in many areas of the country. Among the more prominent are the statue of Vietnam’s mother in Ho Chi Minh City, the Truong Son Cemetery monument and Youth Volunteers in the national salvation struggle against the US in Quang Tri Province, Suot Mother Statue in Quang Binh Province, Uncle Ho statue in Nghe An Province, and General Tran Hung Dao statue in Hai Duong Province.

Ninh Van stone carvers have left their mark on many significant cultural and historical constructions, including the Phat Diem stone cathedral, temples worshipping Dinh and Le Kings, and the welcoming gate at the Tam Coc Bich Dong tourist site.

Production development

Prior to 2014, Ninh Van mainly produced foreign-style symbols, sculptures and worshipping objects given the open-door policy adopted in the 1990s. In late 2016, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism issued a regulation (Official Letter 2662) banning symbols, sculptures and worship objects unsuitable for Vietnamese culture, saying foreign-style symbols, products and animal sculptures were widespread throughout the country, distorting traditional spiritual images.

Traditional craft preservation

More than 80 percent of the production process in Ninh Van has been mechanized to increase productivity. At the same time, efforts are made to preserve the traditional occupation and the art of stone carving, and better satisfy the increasingly sophisticated customer demand.

Many production facilities in Ninh Van have shifted from making large-size products for religious and cultural spaces to small-size artifact souvenirs for visitors. Artisan Pham Ba Ngoc, owner of the Van Bao Ngoc fine art and handicraft production enterprise, said his facility has invested to make products featuring the ancient capital of Hoa Lu’s culture, including pairs of stone dragons and young lions in Dinh and Le Dynasty Kings’ temples in Hoa Lu District.

Huong Sen