Visiting village of stones in Danang Vietnam
2009-12-31 (GMT + 7)
”Be careful! Stay away from that direction, or else you will probably be hurt by pieces of thrown-out stones,” Nguyen Van Tien gently warned travelers as he saw a traveler who was trying to access too close to a ton of marble for taking snapshots. Then the ear-piercing clatter sounds went on, and the marble was slightly shaken under every beat of the hammer and chisel.
“I am going to carve a lady who is sitting with her hair down,” Tien stopped beating the chisel for a while, explaining his work to visitors and pointing to the table-like cold marble whose surface is marked with the very first carves.
Tien, 46, has for ten years earned his living as a craftsman with a simple tool set including a hammer, a chisel and his health in the region of Ngu Hanh Son, or the Marble Mountains, some 11 kilometers from the central coast city of Danang. The destination is a group of five smaller mountains representing Kim (metal), Moc (wood), Thuy (water), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). It is also a travel itinerary linking Danang City to the ancient town of Hoi An and Hue City.
Time has left its marks on cultural and historical relics in pagodas, temples and towers which were built in the early 19th century and in the Cham sculptures made in the 14th and 15th centuries. The Marble Mountains have stood the test of time, looking like a big garden mountain facing the ocean and being a tourist attraction for many local visitors, especially religious travelers.
As the name suggests, the Marble Mountains used to be a place providing input materials for craftsmen in the village, but the local government banned marble exploitation for fear that the five mountains could disappear.
Known around the country as a place offering beautiful and sophisticated works of marble, Ngu Hanh Son is not a place creating marble crafts as one may think.
“We cannot say for sure who the forefather of marble craftsmanship is,” said Nguyen Hung, the owner of a business active in marble craft products located at the foot of Ngu Hanh Son Mountain.
“As far as I know the man who brought marble craftsmanship to the region came from the northern province of Thanh Hoa,” Hung said, adding that most craftsmen in the village had handed down the craft from generation to generation.
There are some 3,000 handicraft workers in the village. However, there are only 70 skillful craftsmen who can blow souls into marble sculptures after those workers finish shaping the products.
Like other craftsmen in the handicraft village, Hung, 37, thought he would waste away the artful job he learned from his uncle because of the prohibition from the local government in 1983 ordering not to exploit marble from the mountains. However, the stone carving community managed to find substitute marble sources to maintain their jobs. And it works. Most of the marble for the village now comes from northern provinces such as Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and Thai Nguyen among others. As a further step to diversify products, the marble fine arts village has imported marble from Pakistan. Each year, the village imports three to five thousand tons of marble from Pakistan for materials.
Although the local government reorganized another place for the village one kilometer from the Marble Mountains to separate production workshops from shops for fear that noise and dust will discourage visitors. You can still hear the clatter sounds echoing from families along the rough road leading to Marble Mountains.
There, in the shops, you can see different marble products in all shapes and sizes, from contemporary works to religious sculptures, from a tiny item worth VND10,000 to works which are priced up to hundreds of millions of dong. And of course you will have a chance to see craftsmen performing their art and turning soulless marble into sophisticated sculptured products.
To get to the Marble Mountains take Son Tra Dien Ngoc Street stretching along the beach, then turn to Huyen Tran Cong Chua for the marble fine art village.