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Mystery woman of the Chu Dau ceramics

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Author Topic: Mystery woman of the Chu Dau ceramics  (Read 200 times)
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« on: October 02, 2007, 01:34:55 am »

Lost craft

Prior to Annabukiís letter, archaeologists knew nothing of Chu Dau ceramics. There were antiques in government and private collections, but they were wrongly categorised as ceramics from Bat Trang, 16km north of Ha Noi. The closest matches local archaeologists could find were inscriptions found on oil lamps by craftsman Dang Huyen Thong in Thanh Lam District, located only two kilometres from Chu Dau.

After reading the letter, archaeologist Tang Ba Hoanh, the then director of Hai Duong Museum, conducted two excavations to help confirm the existence of Chu Dau ceramics, and in 1983 several ancient ceramic kilns, including Chu Dauís, were discovered. Hoanh agreed that the letter "played a vital role in discovering the Chu Dau site".

Archaeologists now agree that Chu Dau ceramic guild started in the 15th century and lasted for almost 200 years. The craft all but vanished until Anabukiís letter brought renewed interest to the ceramics.

In 2000, Chu Dau ceramics made world news when thousands of pieces were discovered in a sunken ship off Hoi An. Because the Government at the time could not afford the salvage costs, 90 per cent of the antiques went to the American salvager. They were pictured in detail in two catalogues calling the 2,316 piece collection, Treasures from the Hoi An Hoard. They were auctioned that year, the smallest pieces selling for US$1,000 or more.

Chu Dau subsequently experienced a wave of treasure hunters creating years of chaos for the village. Villagers dug up their yards, their gardens and even their floors in hopes of discovering more antiques. The craze cooled down after the digging spree yielded nothing more than old kiln remnants, broken bowls and pot supports. Though these were not of great value for collectors, they offered strong proof that Chu Dau was once a ceramic centre.

Living only 20km south of Chu Dau, successors of the Bui clan, Bui Xuan Nhan and Bui Duc Loi, had no idea their ancestors founded a successful ceramic guild. But as Nhan continued to ponder Anabukiís second question of where the woman learned her craft, he recalled that his own ancestors had once had a ceramics business. With this in mind, he spoke to Loi, and they went in search of the author of the article containing the letter, Tang Ba Hoanh, who was now Chairman of the Hai Duong Historical Society. With them, they brought a copy of their family annals, so Hoanh could help them makes sense of the Han-Chinese characters.

Hoanh wrote in a recent article for the Viet Nam Historical Society magazine, that he felt the search for the artisan on the vase had begun to fade after 26 years of continuous efforts despite continuing disagreements regarding the gender of the vaseís maker.

But shortly thereafter, Hoanh remembers hearing a knock on his door. The two Bui clan presented him with the information which years of search had not yet yielded. "The issue had become almost hopeless, but then at 2.30pm on May 29, 2006, Bui Duc Loi and Bui Xuan Nhan gave me two leaflets from their family annals and some ceramic samples," Hoanh wrote.

After reading the excerpts, Hoanh went and retrieved an older, cloth version of the annals. The paper version had been copied in 1932, the year of the Monkey under King Bao Dai, by Nhanís father, village chief Bui Duc Nhuan. It had been copied from another cloth version in 1832, the year of the Dragon under King Minh Menh.

According to the oldest version, the founder of the Bui clan in Quang Anh fief was Bui Dinh Nghia, son of general Bui Quoc Hung of Son Tay Province. Bui Dinh Nghia was born in 1387 and in 1407 he moved to Quang Anh (what is today Quang Tien Hamlet, Dong Quang Commune in Gia Loc District, Hai Duong Province) to flee from Ming invaders. There he had two children. The elder daughter was Bui Thi Hy, born in the year of the Rat, 1420, and a son, Bui Dinh Khoi, was born in the year of the Cat, 1423.

The annals stated that Bui Thi Hy was a talented lady of literature and writing, blessed with a special talent for drawing. She disguised herself as a man to sit in the royal exams. She made it to the third round before being exposed and expelled. She later married Dang Si, a rich man who owned a ceramic business in Chu Dau, Thanh Lam District of Nam Sach, and there she showed great skill as a potter. In the 10th year of Thai Hoa reign in 1452, she and her husband went to Quang Anh to help her brother Bui Dinh Khoi set up a ceramic kiln on the northern edge of the fief near Dinh Dao canal. From here, they were able to transport ceramics by boat to Chu Dau, and they co-operated with Chu Dau to make ceramic offerings to the Royal Court. They also exported to merchants in the northern country (China), Japan and the West. Year by year, the Bui clan in Quang Anh grew wealthier.

Lady Hy never had children, so in her old age, she moved back to her fatherís home and died there at the age of 80 on the 12th day of the eighth month of the Year of the Goat, 1499.

« Last Edit: October 02, 2007, 01:37:36 am by Jasmine » Report Spam   Logged

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