Bàn Thị Bình is performing embroidery on a piece of cloth. Bình is known as the "fire keeper" for the traditional embroidery handicraft of the Dao ethnic people in Bắc Giang Province. Photos baodantoc.vn 

Bàn Thị Bình, an ethnic Dao woman in the northern province of Bắc Giang, has made great contribution to preserving traditional embroidery through a club to teach the craft to local young people.

Bình, 74, has mobilised the local elderly in her native village in Tây Yên Tử Town, Sơn Động District, to establish and join in the training club where they teach embroidery for free. The club was founded in 2012 with a desire to preserve the traditional culture of the Dao ethnic minority in the area. After over ten years of operating, it is now attracting participation of more and more locals, particularly the young generations.

Speaking about her motivation to run the club, Bình recalled her childhood when she learned the embroidery techniques of the Dao people through her mother and grandmother.

"On those days, my grandmother and mother used to embroider on their clothes and their old outfits were used to reproduce clothes for children. Although the motifs and patterns they made on the shirts and dresses are not complete or diverse, they still helped me feel the traditional beauty of the craft. At the age of 10, my mother began teaching me sewing and embroidery techniques," said Bình.

At the age of 14, Bình said she could sew and embroider on her own dresses, and when she got married, she could complete four or five new sets of clothes for herself.

Cultural researchers say embroidery is closely associated with the lives of the Dao ethnic people, especially women, and it is considered the "soul core" that contributes to building up the unique identity of the Dao, reflecting their lifestyle, thought and beliefs.

According to ancient customs, before getting married, Dao girls must hand-embroider wedding outfits for themselves, as well as give them as gifts to their mother-in-law. 

Fearing the traditional craft could disappear in the future, Bình and the local elderly had the idea to teach embroidery to local young people. 

Bình teaches embroidery techniques to a young girl at the club.

On weekends and summer holidays, the club members often go door to door talking to people, inviting parents to send their children to embroidery classes at the club.

At first there were only one or two learners, but then the class gradually grew larger. Notably, the class attracted not only those of the Dao ethnic group, but has also drawn Kinh women married to Dao men and settled down in the area. 

Nguyễn Thị Thành, a Kinh woman who has become a member of the club, excitedly said: "I got married to a Dao man so my daughter is a Dao woman and when she gets married, she will surely wear traditional clothes on her wedding day like other Dao girls. Therefore, I study embroidery with the hope that I would personally teach traditional skills to my child."

Since its inception, Bình and her club members have taught traditional embroidery to 125 women, including young girls, of whom more than 10 could sew and embroider their own traditional costumes.

Speaking about her, Triệu Dư Ngân, Chairman of the Fatherland Front of Tây Yên Tử Town, said: "While traditional cultural features of ethnic minorities in the area are at risk of gradually disappearing, Bình has made great contributions to preserving the embroidery craft of the Dao ethnic group in the locality. Especially, her free embroidery club is operating very effectively and meaningfully."  VNS