Canh Hoach has been making birdcages for hundreds of years. Artisan Nguyen Van Ty is considered the village’s progenitor.
He handed down the craft to his son Nguyen Van Nghi, also known as Ba Mi, whose talent was widely-recognized.
Now Ba Mi’s son Nguyen Van Nghe, the only villager, has been granted with the title ‘Skillful artisan’.
Nghe feels proud when his family made 10 birdcages as ordered by Mr. Vu Ky, Secretary of President Ho Chi Minh, to hang in the stilt house in the Presidential Palace in Hanoi.
Birdcages made by Canh Hoach village are beautiful and durable.
Artisan Nghe said the selection of materials is important.
He said, “A birdcage is made of bamboo, neohouzeaua, or ivory bamboo. We must go to Cao Bang to get the best ivory bamboo or to Vinh Phuc to buy bamboo of high quality. A good bamboo tree should have enough long sections, nodes and seedlings. The bamboo is divided into slats which will be boiled for 12 hours, soaked in pond water for between 10 and 15 days and then dried under the sun for another few days to ensure durability."
"A beautiful and standard birdcage is the one when you look at the cage from one side, the splints on one side will hide the splints of the other side. Each type of birdcage is suitable for a certain kind of bird,” Nghe explained.
Visitors to Canh Hoach village may see unfinished birdcages along the village roads, workers industriously sharpening bamboo splints, and cutters running noisily.
Nguyen Van Khanh, the owner of the largest workshop in Canh Hoach, said, “The village’s heyday was five years ago. Each day the village sold about 3,000 cages with dozens of trucks transporting the products to provinces from the north to the south. About 500 local households are now involved in the craft instead of the whole village like in the past."
"My family offers wholesales with high-quality birdcages costing US$66 each. Popular cages are nearly US$27 each. My products are sold domestically and exported to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia. Singapore buys the most, between 50 and 70 cages a month,” he said.
Canh Hoach birdcages are diverse with different shapes, and sizes. Bamboo splints are thoroughly woven. The base is made of jackfruit or fig wood which can resist termites and are soft enough for carvings.
The carved images illustrate old stories about 18 arhats, 5 dragons fighting for a pearl or Dong Ho folk paintings. The most meticulous cages are the ones called ‘Bat Tien’. Each of the 3 feet is carved with 8 fairies.
Tran Van Thao who used to work in Canh Hoach village, said, “Making birdcages undertakes many steps including whittling the bamboo splints, making and decorating the brims, and assembling the parts. Drilling, and bending the cage frame is the most important. Product designs and patterns are improved, winning customers’ trust.”
Canh Hoach village has prospered thanks to the birdcage making craft.