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VietNamNews

Patience is necessary when making bamboo toys

Update: October, 29/2016 - 09:00
Almost done: Bamboo dragonflies put out to dry after being painted. VNS Photo Trần Hoàng Nam
Viet Nam News

Making toy dragonflies from bamboo is a long process.

First, the right bamboo must be found and the wood must be the right age.

Then, the toys have to be made carefully by hand because machines would break the wood.

People who make them need a lot of patience.

By Lê Hương 

Here and there in souvenir shops on downtown streets are colourful bamboo dragonflies perching on bamboo pillars.

The toys can be given as presents to both children and adults, being a special gift displaying agricultural culture and skillful farmers.

The toys may remind elders of their childhoods, when losing themselves while catching dragonflies in the countryside.

A "kingdom" of bamboo dragonflies can be found just 35km west of the capital centre – in a quiet village near ancient Tây Phương Pagoda, in Thạch Xá Commune, Thạch Thất District.

Just at the entrance to the brick steps leading to the pagoda on top of a hill, one can find many vendors offering bamboo toys, such as dragonflies, birds and tortoises.

Also inside is the “motherland” of the toys just at the foot of the hill.

The house of Nguyễn Văn Tái, who has made toys for the past 16 years, is located in a nearby lane, where visitors can see many bamboo branches drying in the sun.

Tái’s products are famed for their beauty, durability, variety in genres and reasonable prices.

 “I started to specialise in making bamboo toys in 2000,” Tái told Việt Nam News, “Before that, I had other jobs, in building and farming.”

“I did not learn from anyone how to make toys from bamboo. I just imitated some models I found at that time. Then, the more I work, the more experience I had to make the products more beautiful and interesting to play with.”

There are many stages in the toy making process, including choosing proper bamboo, carving, and decorating the toys.

“Every stage requires great patience, hard work and care,” Tái said. “It looks so simple, but the bamboo toy would lose it balance and would not have a good shape if the craftsman performed a single stage in a hurry.”

According to Tái the most difficult stage is carving the toy’s form, so that it is beautiful and balanced, because the most important feature of the toy is for the dragonflies or birds to perch on any small place, such as the top of a finger or a chopstick, as they do in nature.

Tái often sells all of these products, offering them wholesale to partners throughout the country and overseas.

“Foreign customers have stricter demands,” he said. “The bamboo we use should not be treated in chemicals, so that the products are not harmful.”

Tái stressed that the bamboo selected cannot be too young or too old.

It must reach a mature level so that it is strong, soft, easy-to-carve and free of termites or other insects, and have a shiny surface. He always chooses bamboo from forests in the Northern provinces of Hà Giang, Hòa Bình and Vĩnh Phúc.

The bamboo’s outer skin is then removed, and dried for 4-5 weeks before being cut into small pieces for carving parts of dragonflies, butterflies or tortoises.

His most popular toys are dragonflies. Though many households in the area make the same products, Tái’s dragonflies are considered the most beautiful, as he takes great care in the details.

Tái explained that he could not create any part of the toy with a machine, because bamboo is easily broken.

The selling of toys has created a stable income for Tái’s family and hundreds of people in the area.

On average, a family produces 7,000 toys every month for domestic and foreign markets.

“This business can employ many family members, from children to elders,” Tái said.

Nguyễn Như Quỳnh, a worker from Tái’s workshop, said she hoped to earn a long-term and stable living through her job.

“More importantly, it helps maintain folk toys in these modern times,” Tái said.

“As a young worker, I hope to find new ways to open foreign markets, rather than having to go through middle people," she said.

Tái has co-ordinated with the children’s protection organization Cenforchil, under the Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations and MyHanoi organisation, in projects for researching and preserving Vietnamese traditional toys. — VNS

 

 

GLOSSARY

Here and there in souvenir shops on downtown streets are colourful bamboo dragonflies perching on bamboo pillars.

When a bird or an insect perches on a branch or a piece of bamboo, it sits on it ready to fly off again at any moment.

Pillars are columns that hold up roofs and other structures.

The toys can be given as presents to both children and adults, being a special gift displaying agricultural culture and skillful farmers.

A skillful farmer is one who knows all the tricks and rules how to farm very well.

The toys may remind elders of their childhoods, when losing themselves while catching dragonflies in the countryside.

Remind means bring back memories.

Just at the entrance to the brick steps leading to the pagoda on top of a hill, one can find many vendors offering bamboo toys, such as dragonflies, birds and tortoises.

Vendors are people who sell things on the streets.

Tái’s products are famed for their beauty, durability, variety in genres and reasonable prices.

If Tái’s products are famed, they are made famous.

Durability means being tough and long lasting.

If there is variety in genres, there are many different types of toys.

 “I just imitated some models I found at that time.”

To imitate means to copy.

Tái often sells all of these products, offering them wholesale to partners throughout the country and overseas.

To sell something wholesale means to sell it to someone who will sell it on to the person who finally uses it.

It must reach a mature level so that it is strong, soft, easy-to-carve and free of termites or other insects, and have a shiny surface.

Mature means well aged.

Termites are ants.

The selling of toys has created a stable income for Tái’s family and hundreds of people in the area.

People have stable incomes when they earn enough money and it comes in regularly.

“More importantly, it helps maintain folk toys in these modern times,” Tái said.

To maintain folk toys means to keep the use of old fashioned toys going.

“As a young worker, I hope to find new ways to open foreign markets, rather than having to go through middle people," she said.

Foreign markets are made up of buyers from other countries.

When someone buys something from one person and sells it to another person, making profit along the way, he or she is a middle person.

 

Tái has co-ordinated with the children’s protection organization Cenforchil, under the Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations and MyHanoi organisation, in projects for researching and preserving Vietnamese traditional toys.

Co-ordinated means worked together.

Researching means finding more about something.

Preserving means keeping things going and making sure they do not fade away with time.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

  1. An insect other than a dragonfly that is represented in bamboo as a toy.
  2. Substances that should never be used in the treatment of bamboo used for making toys.
  3. A type of insect that can get into bamboo.
  4. A utensil used for eating, especially in Asia.
  5. One of Nguyễn Văn Tái’s jobs before he started to make bamboo toys.

 

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ANSWERS: Butterfly; 2. Chemicals; 3. Termite; 4. Chopstick; 5. Building.

 

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