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Unique bamboo dragonflies are income earners for villagers on Hanoi’s outskirts

The steps to create bamboo dragonflies are simple but require meticulosity and accuracy in every detail.

Thach Xa Village in Hanoi’s suburban district of Thach That is famous for its unique traditional craft: the making of eye-catching and cute bamboo dragonflies, which are favorite souvenirs of domestic and international visitors.

The bamboo dragonflies made in Thach Xa are unique as they can stand in a spectacular way on any surface with its mouth. From raw materials of bamboo, the craftsmen create lively dragonflies that surprise visitors.

"Perseverance is the first condition for workers to be able to create a true and quality bamboo dragonfly," said Nguyen Van Tai, one of the first dragonfly artisans in Thach Xa.

The colorful bamboo dragonflies of Thach Xa Village have so far “flown” not only across the country, but are also being exported to demanding markets including the US, Italy, Japan, China, among others.

Thach Xa bamboo dragonflies are diversified and very eye-catching. Hanoi Times Photo: Dang Linh

Tai feels very proud. “Tourists, especially foreigners, come to my house to see the production process. They didn't like it at first, but when they learned that dragonflies could stand on almost any point, they loved it," he said.

“I was the first villager to practice the craft. Bamboo dragonflies were made for children to play and then sold overseas. Since then the craft has developed. Our product is often said to be more beautiful than the one made in other places in terms of color, durability, beauty, and diverse patterns. All of them can perch on twigs,” Tai told The Hanoi Times. 

He added that each dragonfly or other animals that are made illustrates a lively and typical picture of the Vietnamese countryside.

“Our bamboo dragonflies are available across the country, especially in major tourist destinations such as Hanoi, Hoi An, Danang, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc, and Ho Chi Minh City. The item has been exported to the US, France, Germany, UK, and Japan. Foreign tourists have even come to my workshop. Many of them who have no idea of bamboo dragonflies find it interesting when they see them perched on anything, even just a string,” Tai affirmed.

Nguyen Van Tai, a skillful bamboo dragonfly maker in Thach Xa Village, is creating bamboo butterflies. Hanoi Times Photo: Hieu Tran

The trade started in the village almost a hundred years ago. Thach Xa villagers have still preserved and had a strong attachment with the traditional trade.

Thanks to the skillful hands of artisans, bamboo dragonflies become colorful, lively and alluring. To make such beautiful bamboo dragonflies, craftsmen have to perform different processes including splitting bamboo, body, and wing of dragonflies, assembling and decorating them.

To ensure the durability and flexibility of its product, Thach Xa villagers buy material bamboo from Vinh Phuc, Hoa Binh, or Tuyen Quang provinces, which are home to extensive bamboo forests, a plant that is thin, flexible but very durable. The selection of raw materials is considered an important step for an enduring product.

To make such lifelike bamboo dragonflies that can keep balance while perching on anything, craftsmen have to go through different processes requiring meticulous care and precision in every detail. The dragonflies are then coated with colorful paints and vivid patterns.

Finished products of bamboo dragonflies after the first stage. Photo: Artisan Van Tai

Do Van Lien, a local skillful craftsman, said the craft has now become his major source of income. "I used to want to quit the job because no one bought the dragonflies. However, the profession has thrived as I am determined to make and find a way for this souvenir product.”

“Currently, I have found an outlet for the product with a large number of orders. In recent years, some families making bamboo dragonflies in Thach Xa have collaborated with organizations, cultural and tourist centers to carry out research projects on preserving Vietnamese traditional toys as well as finding directions for the future, especially in overseas markets,” Lien told The Hanoi Times.

He stressed that the steps to create a cute dragonfly are simple but require meticulous and accurate in every detail. The first is the precision in cutting, assembling, bending and aligning how to dragonfly perch on all terrain.

According to many experts, Thach Xa dragonfly craft village should develop a community-based tourism model, to increase earnings from the trade, according to which craftsmen can provide accommodation to visitors and let them experience the dragonfly making at their workshops.

Numerous visitors like to buy Thachh Xa bamboo dragonflies with various bright colors as souvenirs. Hanoi Times Photo: Dang Linh

Vice Chairwoman of the Thach That District People's Committee Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc told The Hanoi Times that the village craft started booming 20 years ago thanks to the skills and ingenuity of craftsmen.

“Thach Xa villagers made dragonflies as souvenirs for tourists who came for sightseeing or to attend a ceremony at the famous Tay Phuong Pagoda nearby. Tourists bought a lot of dragonflies, which were cheap at less than half a dollar. As demand outpaced supply, more and more households turned to make dragonflies as their primary job,” Ngoc said.

“Initially, due to small-scale production, the income from dragonfly making of Thach Xa households was low. But gradually, the bamboo dragonfly craft was more widely known, so the scale of production was expanded and the income of these families has improved,” the chairwoman added.

She cited that thanks to the profession of making bamboo dragonflies, each household in Thach Xa earns VND10-20 million (US$441-883) per month.

Depending on the requirements of the clients, Thach Xa artisans are willing to create beautiful and attractive dragonflies to bring customers the product of the best quality, Ngoc stressed.

Source: Hanoi Times

The village of bamboo dragonflies in Hanoi

The village of bamboo dragonflies in Hanoi

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