Hoi An used to be a bustling, prosperous trade port during past centuries, before its role was replaced by Da Nang. Merchants from many countries on different continents came here to seek silk, spices and handicraft products including porcelain and potteries. Off the coast of Hoi An (the Cham Island), archaeologists discovered a shipwreck that contains plenty of export vases, bowls and more. The bulk of them was baked in Chu Đậu village in the north and Thanh Ha village in Hoi An. This collection then was divided into smaller ones, and sent to exhibit in leading museums throughout the country. In town, the Museum of Trade Ceramics provides the chance.
This travel guide aims to introduce Thanh Ha Pottery Village and its traditional pottery production from past to now. It’s only massive kiln in the Central region and has a slight competition with Phước Tích village in the northernmost of Hue. In the busiest year, it is the destination of 2,5 million visitors and two third is foreigners. No matter which nationality, people come here to learn about the history of local traditional handicraft and make a clay object by their own hands.
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What is Thanh Ha Pottery Village?
Thanh Ha Pottery Village (or Làng gốm Thanh Hà) is a famous pottery making community 2,5 km to the west of Hoi An Old Town. It’s established in 16th century by Vietnamese immigrants from the north. When the town was busy with foreign merchants in later times, its inhabitants produced high-quality potteries for exportation. Thanh Ha’s clay products have their own characteristics that are unlike other “workshops” in Vietnam. Nowadays, there are 35 families continuing their ancestor handicraft tradition and creating souvenirs, building materials for sale. The artisans also guide visitors how to make ceramics by themselves. It’s an experience in which so much fun is provided.
Thanh Ha pottery making now is a national intangible cultural heritage, only in Da Nang and Hoi An area.
Location and Get to Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Where is Hoi An Pottery Village?
Thanh Ha Pottery Village is 3 km from the Old Town, to the west via Hung Vuong St. Pham Phan Rd and Hung Vuong Rd connect it with the busiest highway in Vietnam – QL1A, Da Nang and My Son Sanctuary. In its “entrance”, the newly-built Cam Kim bridge leads to the island of the same name where peaceful rural villages are located. To the north, Hai Muoi Tam Thang Ba Rd provides a short distance to the beaches. Thanks to being by the Thu Bon river, traveling to it by boat is possible.
Car, Bus and Bikes
Thanh Ha Pottery Village has a very convenient location that is easy to get from anywhere in Hoi An and Da Nang to it. From the Old Town, travelers need less than 10 minutes to see the ticket booth and start exploring then, by taxi or car. The main street – Duy Tan is also wide enough to allow the access of buses. Bikes definitely are okay to ride around the village. Parking in the ticket counter (5,000 VND fee) and touring by foot is recommended for motorcycle riders. If have a bicycle,
Hoi An Old Town Boat to Thanh Ha Village
Traveling by boat to Thanh Ha village from Old Town’s harbour is often recommended by local tour operators. The ride may include Kim Bong carpentry village in some packages. It’not long, around 15 minutes and provides a chance to view tranquil sceneries on the banks and enjoy cool breezes. In the sunset time, the experience is definitely nicer, with a brilliant beauty of golden river and orangish skies. Sunset ride should be from the village downstream to the town. The bicycle can be brought to the boat without an additional fee.
Thanh Ha Pottery Village History
Establishment of Thanh Ha Village
In 1602, a place near Thanh Ha village today was chosen to be capital of Quang Nam province. It’s the seat of power for Nguyen Hoang lord who moved to the south of the country at that time to establish his own state. In a dream, he saw a goddess and she gave him a clay bowl. Then, told him to go to her temple where the land around it is perfect to develop pottery production. The day after, the lord and his son rode the horse and finally found it according to her guidance. After that, he sent the soldiers to return to his hometown, to call for immigrants and especially experienced potters. The first families (founders) are 8, including Nguyễn Viết, Nguyễn Văn, Bùi, Võ, Ngụy, Nguyễn Kim, Lê and Nguyễn Đức. All have been honoured in Nam Dieu Temple today by their successors.
A fact that the current location of the village was not the first place where the founders resided. They moved to it later because of its conveniences in traffic. It’s close by major roads, between Hoi An port and the political capital, and by the largest river – Thu Bon. It’s great to off-load the materials and load complete products for sale.
Producing Potteries for Exportation
People made pottery in Thanh Ha village from mid-16th century, as a part time job to improve their income. In 17th onwards, Hoi An town nearby became a thriving trade port and attracted merchants who seeked good-quality clay products to buy. Taking this chance, locals are more active in spinning the wheel and firing the kilns. That’s the reason why the village was moved to its current location, by the river that is perfect for loading and off-loading of the goods. Local production reached its peak in the 19th century and early 20th century. Following the merchants, Thanh Ha’s potteries were presented in many countries worldwide. Then it declined due to wars and increasing popularity of plastic and metal objects. In the 1980s, villagers changed to make tiles and bricks, and in the 1990s, they invented clay whistles to sell for tourists. Fine art and glazed ceramics are also manufactured.
Tradition of Making Potteries Today
Nowadays, there are 35 families still producing potteries in the village, the holders of the national intangible cultural heritage title. The artisans are 15th and 16th generations of the founders who migrated from two Northern provinces – Nghe An and Thanh Hoa. Apart from pottery, people here also make tiles and bricks as building materials to reconstruct and renovate ancient houses in the Old Town. As a result of tourism growth in recent years, souvenirs, gifts and other lovely things are seen around. On the other hand, the tradition is partially shared to visitors who like to create their first potteries ever in their lifetime. Artisans will instruct from the scratch if requested.
About Thanh Ha Village Potteries
The material used to make Thanh Ha potteries has to be yellow, flexible clay with a high adhesion. In past centuries, the villagers could extract it in the village or the surrounding rice paddies. Today, they buy the soil from Thanh Quýt (11km northwest) or Thi Lai (15km southwest). The sellers often move by boat to the village.
How to Make a Pottery in Thanh Ha Village
The first stage to make potteries in Thanh Ha is to process the soil into the clay. After adding water, the makers use the trowel to trim and cut the soil into smaller pieces. They knead each piece 3 times until becoming perfect for the next step – forming the shape. In common, two people (maybe husband and wife) do it to produce the potteries quicker, but now solo makers are seen more popularly. He or she uses a manual pottery’s wheel to spin and create what he/she likes, such as a pot to cook food or make tea. This step requires many skills and experiences. After feeling the products are nicely shaped, people put them in the sun and the final “fitting” starts when the “crust” becomes dry. After fully dried, potteries are ready to be sold in markets or souvenir stores.
Distinctions of Thanh Ha Potteries
Thanh Ha potteries are non-glazed and fired in the wood kiln. These may be lost in many traditional villages across the country due to modernization and mass production. In the visit, travelers can see artisans drying the pots on the open yard or burning kilns.
Thanh Ha Pottery Village Entrance Fee
Price of Thanh Ha Pottery Village ticket is 35,000 VND for adults and 15,000 VND for childrens. It covers entry to the village, visiting historical sites (Nam Dieu Temple, Xuan My Communal House), a pottery making class with artisans, a gift (clay whistle) and two-way transfers from the counter.
The ticket booth is at the crossroads of Duy Tan and Pham Phan roads, the Terracotta Park. It opens daily from 8 a.m to 5:30 p.m. If traveling by boat, travelers will see a cashier in the landing place to buy tickets. The class is available in workshops, houses of the artists where it’s possible to see wheels and many potteries around. Some of them are along the riverfront. The whistle gift is received in an artisan house near G.O.M coffee. The owner of the place will give a board showing years of birth and corresponding zodiac animals in traditional thought. It’s fun to guess what animal is yours and other family member’s.
At the counter, ask the cashier to give you a map and request her to note workshops, places to get the gift and temples. Tour guide is available for free for a group of 8 people minimum.
Activities in Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Making a Pottery by own Hands
Thanh Ha Pottery Village entrance fee covers this must-do activity. It’s available in the workshops (houses of artisans) by the riverfront or in brick-paved lanes of the place. In each workshop, the owners will instruct visitors how to make their own pottery from a piece of pre-processed clay. All steps follow the tradition. He/she gives the demonstration first and then visitors start touching on the wet soil. A manual potter’s wheel is used instead of the one run by electricity. The learners can spin it by themselves or have help from artisans. While forming a pot or vase, they are also assisted to create a beautiful shape and add a spout if that is a teapot. Lastly, visitors can choose to pack and take it away immediately or let the people dry it in the sun and send it to the hotel later. In the house, there are numerous pieces of pottery to buy.
Visiting Historic Buildings
Thanh Ha Village has some historic buildings to have a look at and learn about its history and local architecture. These are the highlights:
– Xuan My Communal House: by and facing the river. Under the shaded banyan tree, it’s built in the mid-17th century, and the last (largest) renovation was in 1903. On the paved yard, there is a front screen (bình phong) and two small shrines to worship the Six Fairy Ladies and God of the Land. In the second place, a stone elephant of the Chams in 8th century is seen. Its architecture is typical of a Hoi An’s communal house where the founders are honoured. Two ceremonies are held in the year here: lễ tế xuân (the 12nd day of the second lunar month) and lễ tế thu (the 12nd day of eighth lunar month).
– Le Ban House: a garden house built in the end of 19th century, by a rich pottery seller at that time named Lê Từ. It’s the only old resilience in the village today.
– Nam Dieu Temple of Potter Ancestors: in the northernmost part of the village. It’s constructed in 1866 to honour the first pottery makers in history. On the 10th day of the first lunar month (tháng giêng), a festival takes place here.
In the workshops, visitors can see lots of potteries for sale with a variety of size, shape and price. Some of them may be nice to bring home as a reminder about Hoi An. Due to direct sellers, visitors pay lower rates than in town. There are many souvenir stores around the village too.
When to Visit Thanh Ha Pottery Village
Anytime of the day it is okay to visit Thanh Ha Pottery Village and start making a clay pot by yourself. Tickets are sold from 8 a.m to 5 p.m, but if coming earlier or later, you can pay directly for the artisan to learn his/her techniques. In some workshops, you just need to buy something. Although being close by the river, floods don’t affect the village in the rainy season.
If traveling to Thanh Ha Pottery Village by boat, the best time to board from the Old Town is in the afternoon and return in the sunset. Sparkling scene of sundown on Thu Bon River is definitely a wonderful ending to the day of exploration.
Thanh Ha Terracotta Park
This is the newest cultural landmark in Thanh Ha Pottery Village. It’s built in 2011 by Nguyễn Văn Nguyên – an architect who was born in the village. He used non-glazed bricks to build that tell visitors a distinction of local potteries. The park has 2 different buildings, representing 2 styles of kiln and all stand on a potter wheel. Its exterior features ponds and flows of water, flowers and the miniature of many wonders of the world, like the Sydney opera house or Colosseum amphitheatre in Rome. Inside the buildings, visitors will see exhibitions of potteries across the country, including the ancient ones made by the Chams or Sa Huỳnh culture.
Thanh Ha Terracotta Park opens from 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m everyday. Its entrance fee costs 40,000 VND for adults and 20,000 VND for childrens.
Thanh Ha Fish Market
This bustling fish market is under the new Cam Kim Bridge, in the “entrance” of Thanh Ha Pottery Village. It opens from around 4 a.m and ends at 7 or 8 a.m. Travelers are recommended to visit in early hours due to the chance to see the most diversity of fishes and seafoods. Scene of fishermans, their boats, sellers, and buyers is really lively. A picture here is what local photographers must have. Pottery workshops are nearly 1 km away (following Duy Tan Rd).
Hoi An Private Tour Guide
Hoi An and lots of nearby attractions have a rich history and a strong link to local culture and religion. Two Unesco world heritage sites are no exception. So, traveling with a tour guide is suitable to open traveler’s horizons about places they set foot on. The best trip is with a guide that he/she is knowledgeable and fluent in the preferred language(s). Reading our article for How to Find a Private Tour Guide in Hoi An for further information.
Text us in whatsapp number +84968009827 if seeking a knowledgeable and English-speaking guide in Hoi An.
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