Updated  
November, 24 2013 18:19:09

An age-old obsession for amassing antiques

Shining light: One of the ancient lamps in Khanh's collection.

by Thoi Son

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta has a unique museum which can be found in the home of a farmer who has spent the last 40 years collecting antiques.

Tran Cong Khanh's collection is tucked away in My Thanh An Commune in the provincial capital of Ben Tre where thousands of valuable items are placed in order, spread out across the large house.

The 58-year-old, well-known to most local residents, was inspired by and guided into the world of antiquities when he was a boy by a long standing family custom.

"To the best of my memory, my house was full of the ancient items which were bequeathed by my ancestors.

"My family settled in the royal capital city of Hue in 1820. Collecting antiques was considered my family's tradition.

"Yet, most of the items were sold or damaged, and lost during wartime,"Khanh said, adding that his desire to maintain his family's tradition came from that time.

Charmed life: Some of the valuable items that Tran Cong Khanh has collected across his lifetime.

Since 1968, Khanh began seeking out old items that he fancied. He read up about antiques and educated himself further through taking trips to museums in the area.

"At first, I met many difficulties in coming to know the ins and outs of assessing the value of ancient items because there was a lack of information about antiquities. Also, I couldn't even buy some of the items I particularly wanted because of the high prices," Khanh said.

The farmer worked to minimise all his expenses in order to reserve money for satisfying his compulsive hobby.

"To save money, I don't smoke and drink alcohol", Khanh said.

To Khanh, each item is invaluable.

"Many times, people tried to persuade me to sell some items. Yet, I collect, and restore the pieces not for re-sale. All of them have become an indispensable part of life that I cannot live without. And I want to bequeath them to my descendants. I hope they will also continue maintaining the family's tradition," the collector said.

"My collection is bigger than my ancestors', which brings fame to my family name, and makes me so proud and happy,"Khanh said.

In recent years his museum has become a cultural destination for tourists especially foreigners visiting the area.

Linh, a tour guide in the area, said that tourists mostly from France, Germany and Canada, always showed interest in Khanh's collection when they were taken there to peruse the antiquities.

Prized possession: Khanh proudly shows off an ancient jar from his collection of antiques. — Photos Thoi Son

Khanh enthusiastically guides the tourists through his museum.

He shows them the ancient bronze and ceramics one, by one and then presents them with a locally made handcraft.

"I often give the tourists quat mo, fans made of spathe of areca trees, as souvenirs,"Khanh said.

Currently, his sizable collection is composed of thousands of antique household utensils mostly dating from the early 19th century and 18th century, such as bowls, vases, cups, clock pendulums, pickled fish jars, and sets of incense-burners.

In addition to buying pieces, to enrich his collection, the collector also managed to glue and restore broken antiques in his house. Most of the items were made in Viet Nam, China or Japan. — VNS

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