The artistry of Bat Trang is well known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years. Vases of the finest quality have graced the homes of aristocracy, rice bowls have held the food of the farmer, and electricity goes across the country using Bat Trang insulators. Young men, in expressing the strength of their love for a woman, promise to build a home from Bat Trang bricks.
On the left bank of Hong River about 10 km from Hanoi to the East lays the pottery village of Bat Trang , which is the most famous and long-standing pottery village in Vietnam . Its tradition spans more than 700 years of history.
The village belongs to the Gia Lam District and even today contains thousands of pottery-kilns on fire day and night.
According to Vietnam ’s famous history book, “Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu”, the name of Bat or Bat Trang Commune was first known in 1352. However, unofficial records indicate that in the Ly dynasty (1010-1225), villagers from Bo Bat commune in Ninh Binh Province resettled in this area and called it Bat Trang Commune. They chose the area because of its excellent quality porcelain clay. The location also provided easy access by a waterway as it lies next to the Nhi or Hong (Red) River.
People cannot help talking about Bat Trang, when they discuss the pottery of Vietnam . Throughout its history Bat Trang ceramics have been sought by people in all walks of life from royal families to farmers toiling in the fields. Archaeologists have found Bat Trang pottery at many sites built in Ly Dynasty. Sir Nguyen Trai, a great politician, strategist, diplomat and poet, wrote in his Du Dia Chi Book at the beginning of Le Dynasty that Bat Trang provided 70 sets of bowls and plates as tribute to China . This fact indicates that pottery from this area was very sophisticated in the past. At present, pagodas and temples in Vietnam still have carefully-carved incense burners and lamp stands made in the 16th century by the artisans of Bat Trang, for example Boi Khe Pagoda in Ha Tay Province. Throughout history Bat Trang’s reputation has grown due to the high quality of its products. The traditional craft of ceramic making in Bat Trang has survived many challenges in the past and continues to grow.
Its pottery has been distributed nationwide as well as in many foreign countries because of its harmonious and unique designs, patterns and glazes which are strongly imbued with the Vietnamese people’s national identity. The most precious pottery, famous both in Vietnam and in the World, are those made with gem enamel from the Ly and Tran Dynasties, pottery with brown enamel from the end of Tran Dynasty and at the beginning of Le Dynasty, pottery with glazed enamel from the Le-Trinh Dynasty and pottery with deep blue flowered enamel from the end of the Le Dynasty and the beginning of Nguyen Dynasty. Originally Bat Trang pottery was made only for high-ranking officials and members of the royal court. Eventually because of growing demand Bat Trang artisans began making more common items for family use. The variety and design of the pottery cause all how see it to admire the skill and craftsmanship of the Bat Trang potters.
The pottery technique of the Bat Trang potters has incorporated traditional methods and designs into their work as progress in the art and technology of pottery making has changed through the centuries. The result is many types and styles of top class pottery, which is both beautiful and useful. The Bat Trang pottery includes bowls, dishes, wine and tea pots, cups, big flower-vases, leg lamps, big-bellied jars and so on. The typical glazes are ancient pearl, crackle, dark, indigo-blue flower, grey flower and melt glaze. Bat Trang ceramics are mainly decorated with paintings of dragons and phoenixes, parallel character sentences, floral designs, images of people and landscapes, all of which reflect the Vietnamese people’s daily activities and spiritual life.
Praising the value of Bat Trang ceramics during the Ly – Tran dynasty, Mr. John S. Guy from the Victoria and Albert museum in London said they reflected the independence of the nation, “Bat Trang ceramics are truly the pride of Vietnam ”