Veteran artisan revives Phung Xa silk weaving craft

(VOVWORLD) - Phung Xa village in Hanoi’s My Duc district was once known as the "mulberry capital of the north”. Phung Xa silk village has struggled since Vietnam opened its economy to the outside world, but artisan Phan Thi Thuan has devoted her proud heart to preserving and promoting the traditional craft of her home village.

Veteran artisan revives Phung Xa silk weaving craft - ảnh 1Artisan Phan Thi Thuan. (Photo courtesy of artisan Phan Thi Thuan)

Growing mulberries and raising silkworms began in Phung Xa village in 1929. Thousands of hectares of mulberries stretched along the Day River, nurtured by people from all the communes of My Duc district.

But by 1884, mulberry farming and silkworm raising was no longer popular. People changed to growing rice for a living and began to forget their traditional craft. 

Seeing that the silk weaving craft was dying out, Phan Thi Thuan, who at that time worked as an accountant for an agricultural cooperative, decided to do something to revive the craft.

“My parents taught me how to grow mulberries and raise silkworms when I was young. They told me that mulberry farming, silkworm raising, and silk weaving could provide jobs for many people,” said Thuan.

To try to preserve the craft Thuan attended many exhibitions and fairs to introduce Phung Xa silk products and assess the demand. She also designed new products to cater to customers’ changing demands.

“Hand-made silk items must compete with items made by machine. Its time-consuming and difficult to persuade people to get involved in this craft and create new products to satisfy the diversity of customers,” said Thuan.

In 2012, Thuan introduced the first blankets woven by silk worms. By understanding the nature and habits of silk worms, Thuan was able to “train” the worms to weave, and very few days are now needed to complete a silk blanket. Her silkworm-woven products, which include blankets and pillows, bring in a profit of 130,000 USD per year.

Veteran artisan revives Phung Xa silk weaving craft - ảnh 2Artisan Phan Thi Thuan attends many exhibitions and fairs to introduce Phung Xa silk products. (Photo courtesy of artisan Phan Thi Thuan)

Phan Thi Thuan has also woven silk from lotus fiber. This idea won first prize at the 6th National Creative Farmers Contest in 2015 sponsored by the Vietnam Farmers Association and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. 

Former Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc gave gifts made of lotus silk to foreign leaders attending the 2019 G20 Summit in Japan. In 2021 Phan Thi Thuan was named one of 9 outstanding citizens of Hanoi.

These days Phung Xa silk village is busy again. Local people have returned to their traditional craft.

“Phan Thi Thuan is not only enthusiastic but also very creative. She has created new, unusual silk products like lotus silk and products woven by silkworms,” said Thuan’s neighbor Do Huu Tin.

The My Duc Silk Company run by Thuan has created thousands of jobs in her locality.

“Artisan Phan Thi Thuan has created unique silk products. Her efforts have helped to preserve the traditional craft of her home village,” said Vu Manh Hai, Chairman of the Artisans and Skilled Workers Association of Hanoi.