The Bamboo Carver of Hoi An

Carving Countries is back!

I apologise it’s been a little while since my last post, a lot has happened since getting back to the UK earlier this summer. It’s been an exiting time, however, and the Carving Countries journey has proved to be a life changing project. Inspired to learn more about my own carving roots, the project has led me on a new and exciting path, studying a diploma in ornamental woodcarving at the London School Art, which I begin this coming month.

I am happy to say, however, that I will be continuing to write about the rest of the Carving Countries journey, resuming from where I left off in central Vietnam and the coastal city of Hoi An. After exploring a unique carving village hidden in the countryside north of the city Hue, I cycled south towards Hoi An where I had heard rumour of a special woodcarver called Huynh Phuong Do.

Vietnam

The ride south took only a couple of days and led us along a beautiful coastal road, weaving in and out of quite rural villages and through the city of Da Nang. Hoi An had a very different feel to Hue city. It is a lot smaller and very much focused towards handicrafts and tourism.

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The bustling riverside market of Hoi An

The carver I was in search of, Mr Huynh Phuong Do, began carving at the age of 15. After a number of years perfecting his craft he was still struggling to make his carvings stand out in what is a very competitive industry in Vietnam. One day, however, Mr Phuong had a stroke of inspiration after seeing a pile of bamboo roots that had washed up alongside the river bank beside his house. He set to work carving a variety of Buddha faces into the roots, adjusting and perfecting his style over hundreds of faces.

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Over the past nine years, Mr Phuong has developed carving into an extremely successful business, opening a small shop in the busy tourist area of central Hoi An. Demand for his work is increasing by the day and he struggles to meet the demand up to 300 faces a month, selling them in his own shop and throughout 20 gift shops in Hoi An.

An old photo of Mr Huynh Phuong Do

#carvingcountries #PhuongDo #bamboocarving #woodcarving

#carvingcountries #PhuongDo #bamboocarving #woodcarving

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The faces you see in the images above are in fact of a number of different Buddhas and historical characters, predominately Lohan (known for his wisdom, courage and supernatural powers), Zhang Fei (a well known war commander from the 2nd century) and Guan Yu (renowned for his honour, loyalty and strength). Besides carving these popular faces, Mr Phuong has won acclaim for also being able to carve customers’ faces into the bamboo roots, a practice proving to be extremely popular.

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For those interested, Mr Phuong’s details are: 26 Bach Dang Street, Hoi An, Vietnam. Email: Tranthithuvan72@yahoo.vn Tel: +84 905548129 & +84 1269141287

In the next instalment, we will travel to the historic carving village of Kim Bong, established way back in the 15th century and famous for its highly skilled craftsmen who are renowned for helping to build the Imperial capital of Hue city. We will meet the carver Mr Huynh Suong, who has an incredible history of woodcarving in his family, being a 14th generation woodcarver!

Mr Huynh Suong with a beautifully ornate headboard