Bat Trang is a village in North Vietnam about 13 kilometers south east of Hanoi, on the Red river. It has been famous for its ceramics for a thousand years, particularly dinnerware and ornamental ware. The Bat Trang producers export ceramic goods annually to the value of over $40 million a year.
The artistry of Bat Trang is well known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years. Vases of finest quality have graced the homes of aristocracy, rice bowls have help the food of the farmer, and electricity goes across the country using Bat Trang insulators. Young man, in expressing the strength of their love for a woman, promise to build a home from Bat Trang bricks.
Thanh Hoa potters founded Bat Trang some time in the late 15th century. They came for the rich deposits of white day (now exhausted) that was the hallmark of Bat Trang ceramics. Bat Trang is geographically well suited near the Hong River (Red River) and within a short trip from Hanoi central. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Bat Trang's ceramics were of the highest quality, and vigorously sought after. Many of these pieces included the date and signature of the potter. This zest to own a piece of Bat Trang only lasted untiil the early 18th century when China re-established its export market overshadowing Bat Trang.
Today, Bat Trang is once again a blooming market. The narrow dirt roads buzz with activity; every nook and cranny overflows with wares for sale; every mode of transportation is laden with baskets filled with ceramics of every kind destined for Hanoi. The dike road to the village is busy with motorbikes, bicycles, trucks and pedestrians. The drive to the village from Hanoi is near or bus No 47, but it takes a solid 30 minutes weaving through traffic and pedestrians.
Although a machine mixes the clay itself, the molds are hand poured. Heat is added to the larger pieces in order for them to set in the high humidity. Craftsmen will drop a fire pot down into these larger vessels to promote quick setting. Once set, the pieces are carefully removed from the mold and final touches begin. All the seams that appear from the mold are smoothed with the touch of a hand. When small details are added (such as a tail of a snake or the head of a dragon) they are attached carefully with slip.
After the oven cools, each piece is carefully removed from its encasement and inspected for flaws or damage. If an item is less than ideal, but there is no obvious damage, it will go to the general marketplace for sale. If a high quality product comes from an especially successful firing, it will be set aside for the higher market.
The beauty and artistry of each piece is in the eyes of the creator, and it is no wonder that Bat Trang families have been dedicated to the art of ceramics for generations. Artists throughout the centuries have toiled over the day until it is perfect, and couples have professed their love for one another over Bat Trang bricks. This dedication and love for the craft will continue to keep Bat Trang as an important part of Vietnamese history and art.