Old Saigon Pottery Village

Since the spring of Mau Tiger in 1698 when the Citadel of Nguyen Huu Canh was appointed by Lord Nguyen Phuc Chu to the south of the royal army, “Using Nong Nai land as Gia Dinh palace, establishing Dong Nai as Phuoc Long district, building Tran Bien palace, establishing Saigon… ”has been around for more than 300 years. Three hundred years with many ups and downs, traces of old Saigon have gradually faded under the dust of time. “The object changed and moved”, here and there are still a few temples, pagodas, tombs … which have been repaired and repaired many times despite losing the ancient features but partly showing the care. . Following the history of books and a few vestiges, we rediscovered a “Old Saigon” that has not been known by many people for a long time. It is a famous craft village that has contributed to the development of this land: Xom Lo Pottery.

As the center of the vast and rich Dong Nai basin, Saigon – Ben Nghe, right from its inception, soon had the look of a vibrant city because of the trade and production activities of many handicrafts. . By the end of XVIII century, there were 62 state-run workers and hundreds of folk worker wards. Many professions are concentrated in certain areas where places such as Xom Chieu, Cam hamlet, Lo Ren village, Dau village, Chi hamlet, Voi hamlet, Bon hamlet … but Lo Gom village still leave a a number of places such as Lo Gom street – Lo Sieu street – Xom Dat street – Lo Pottery wharf – Lo Pottery canal – Lo Pottery canal – the kiln area … in today’s district 6.8.11. The earliest historical record referring to pottery making in ancient Saigon is the book “Gia Dinh to chi” by Trinh Hoai Duc written around 1820. The paragraph about Ma Truong Giang – Ruot Ngua canal is as follows: “Originally from Rach Gate The sand to the North to Lo Gom has a stagnant water line where buffalo nails can not be used. In the autumn of Nham Thin (1772), the canal was dug straight like a horse, so it was named… ”. Ruot Ngua canal has made it easier for boats to travel between Saigon and the West. The map of Thanh Gia Dinh, drawn by Tran Van Hoc in late 1815, has the place name Xom Lo Gom in the vicinity of Phu Lam village – Phu Dinh (today is the area of ​​District 6 contiguous to District 8). The article “Ancient Phu Gia Dinh, a landscape of the bay” composed around the beginning of the XIX century describes “Strange in Lo Gom village, the ancient table was tortured to build heaven …”. Of the 62 companies concentrated in Saigon working for the state at the end of TKXVIII, there were companies of Lo Jars, carpentry tiles, carpentry bricks, brick kilns …

Some French documents, though scattered and partial, also reflect the pottery production in Cho Lon at the end of the XIX century: At Cho Lon, there are about 30 pottery kilns concentrated in Hoa Luc, Phu Dinh, Cay Mai … Cho Lon area produces pots and popular wares such as pots, super pots, curls, jars, saucepan … Cay Mai region has a ceramic oven. These kilns take raw materials on the spot, depending on the soil that they produce into all kinds of products. Each ceramic kiln can annually produce hundreds of thousands of products. By the beginning of the twentieth century, there were still many famous pottery kilns such as Tin Di Hung, Quang Di Thanh, Hiep Hung, Buu Nguyen, Dong Hoa, the kilns specialized in the production of rice rolls and household appliances … According to Vuong Hong Sen: ” Since the Cholon canal was filled, Lo Pottery canal, Vong Thanh canal is not popular, and the pottery kiln remains only a slippery name and no more pottery production… ”.

From the above historical documents and by actual survey, it can be seen that the area of ​​old Lo Gom village was quite large, including the villages of Hoa Luc (District 8), Phu Dinh-Phu Lam (District 6), Phu Giao-Go. Cay Mai (District 11) stretches the banks of Ruot Ngua canal and Lo Gom canal. These canals are the main traffic route of the old Saigon area – now Cho Lon: a low-lying area surrounded by canals, large and small, all travel is by boat. Ruot Ngua canal and Lo Gom canal also connects Cho Lon canal with Cat canal (Sa Giang) and Ben Nghe canal. From the confluence of “Nha Be, water flows into two”, canoes follow Ben Nghe canal and Tau Hu canal across Ruot Ngua canal to Cat river to the West. Today Cho Lon canal is no more, many sections of Lo Gom have disappeared – especially in Go Cay Mai area, there are almost no traces of this important waterway. The Ruot Ngua canal is no longer straight as its name suggests due to the encroachment on both banks. The Lo Gom canal is increasingly narrow despite dredging many times … However, boats still follow the water up and down, although this place has developed a system of roads cramped like a spider web, though the craft villages-neighboring trade streets The canals are gone… enough to know how important this waterway was in the past.

Material traces of old Lo Gom hamlet today remain only Hung Loi pottery kiln relic in Hoa Luc village (ward 16, district 8), located along Ruot Ngua canal. Opposite is Phu Dinh village a few years ago there are a number of families working as “molded the oven” – ceramic kitchen. The relic is a large mound filled with ceramic fragments of various types of pots, pans, pots … The excavation in 1997-1998 found here ruins of 3 tube kilns (Tau kilns). from the flames to the chimneys, steep and narrow, the kiln floor was reinforced many times, the furnace wall was thickened with waste. The remaining segments of the kiln wall are built of large thick enameled bricks, the kiln core is filled with product fragments that can be identified by some typical products of the Hung Loi kiln. These three kilns are produced in succession for quite a long time but may be discontinuous because the kilns of later stage are built on part of the old kiln or repaired and reinforced with the old kiln.

At the beginning, this kiln mainly produced water jars made of brown terracotta material, oblong to the bottom or round pots, quite large in size: often referred to as “triple lugs” or “5 double lugs” (each pair water – 2 barrels – about 40 liters of water). Ceramic roll made by hand shaping method with “roll strip combined with stamping table, rubbing table”, so its thickness and shape are evenly round, inside the rim of the mouth, there are finger marks left behind when using hand to stroke the rim round and fasten. on body roll. Out of the thousands of statistically recorded lugs, the lid flakes account for nearly two-thirds, indicating that the lid is produced more to meet demand because the lid is often broken when used. Due to the large number of lugs and covers, this kiln is also called Lo Lu. The kiln producing water jars dates back to the earliest in this kiln, about the second half of the eighteenth century. Waste piece of the kiln is still distributed on a very wide area around the kiln, dug down more than 1 meter deep, still encounter ceramic pieces.

Accounted for the largest proportion are the types of ceramic and ceramic products with brown glaze, yellow glaze or no glaze. It is a jar, a khap, a box, a pot, a pot with a handle … on the bottom there are three Chinese words “Hung Loi Dieu” (Hung Loi oven). In addition, there are types of round or hexagonal cotton pots, octagonal glazed with blue or bronze glaze – a characteristic glaze color of “Saigon Pottery”. The flower pots are mostly small in size, with embossed patterns in unleavened boxes such as apricot flowers, chrysanthemums or quartets, bowls … This is the product of the second stage, the period named Hung Loi furnace nineteenth century. These products still use the technique of hand molding but with a combination of printed molds, light-fire ceramic material, do not use “baking bags” (baking boxes) but popular types of “millet” in stacking products. in the furnace. Characteristic is the “millet” shaped tube can be stacked to create many different heights to take advantage of the furnace volume.

The third stage here produces ceramics, including cups, bowls, plates, cups, cups, spoons, teapots, incense burners … white glaze with blue glaze pattern and multicolored glaze, ivory white enamel bottles … by turntable, there are many types of sacks for one or more products. Household ceramics are simple in style but have many different sizes, with time there are slight differences in design details or patterns. Some products have Chinese characters such as Viet Loi, Kim Ngoc, Product Chan, Nhat Ice Sheet … these words are not common on the product, there is no letter Dieu attached, so it must not be the name of the furnace. most likely the name of the large ceramic bowl or the pottery store printed on the products they place the kiln, ie during this period the kilns were made to order both in quantity and for each type of product. The situation of production according to the order of the shipper who is the trader said there was a specialization between the production and circulation of goods when the demand of the market was increasingly diversified and changed frequently. Pottery material is a relatively white clay that is not available, but must be exploited from the East. Based on the product type and production properties mentioned above, it can be seen that this ceramic kiln dates back to about the first half of the twentieth century.

Although there are three stages with specific product types for each stage, the production techniques in this ancient kiln are quite uniform: Ceramic kiln structure (tube-kiln furnace type), shaping technique (turntable , printing molds), patterns, methods of stacking and firing ceramics, products of the first two stages (lu, khap, super, pot with handles …) are strongly imprinted with the Chinese pottery technique. According to many researchers, the origin of the commodity-producing pottery profession in Gia Dinh-Dong Nai is the combination of the pottery profession of the Vietnamese people with the traditional pottery production technique that the Chinese brought to the region. This land is in the stray way to make a living. Since being settled by the Nguyen Lords in Cu Lao Pho, Saigon (former) and scattered in a few other places, the Chinese live mainly on commerce and handicrafts. At Cu Lao Pho on Dong Nai river (now in Bien Hoa city), there are also Rach Lo Gom, Mieng Sanh wharf. Through survey, the types of products are almost not different from those in the ancient Hung Loi kiln. The pot-making wards of the Chinese usually consist of “countrymen” and specialize in producing several types of products: the Hu people specialize in making saucepans, sautées and jars.

TS. Hau Nguyen Thi

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