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Entrepreneur shatters pottery-collecting record

Update: November, 03/2014 - 13:40
Display: DinhCong Tuong at his house in Hiep Thai Ward, District 12, HCMCity. The house has enough artefacts that it resembles a small museum. — VNS Photos Le Minh

HCMCity resident Dinh Cong Tuong has amassed the largest collection of Vietnamese pottery in the country. Do Van reports.

Many people believe Dinh Cong Tuong, who lives in Hiep Thai Ward, District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, is crazy.

Tuong admits lacking formal education, but over the years, he has antique knowledge about ceramic pottery that can make others turn green with envy.

He has also spent about 24 of his 47 years on earth searching for, buying and collecting thousands of ceramic artefacts dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

In 2011, the Viet Nam Record Book of Guinness recognised him as the owner of the largest collection of Vietnamese pottery antiques.

This collector was born in Ha Noi in 1968, to a family whose grandparents love ancient artefacts. He says the passion for collecting ancient pottery was imprinted on him since his early years.

In 1976, his family moved to HCM City, and he brought with him an antique bowl, a gift from his maternal grandmother. The bowl served as a reminder of the past and of his grandmother's love for old objects.

At the time, his family was quite poor. Tuong was a working student who sold newspapers and, later on, worked as a trash collector, waiter and fruit salesman to make ends meet.

Those difficult days allowed him to meet people from all walks of life, particularly those who specialised in the growing and selling of bonsai and other ornamental plants.

At the beginning, Tuong only tried it out as a hobby but later, his ornamental plants ended up getting sold at good prices. As his decorative plant business grew, he began supplying various customers and even resorts, enabling him to earn enough money for his passion: artefact collection.

He began travelling to countless rural areas in the north and south of Viet Nam during his search. His easy-going manner enabled him to make friends with everyone, from the wealthy to the poor. This has led to numerous accidental discoveries of antiques.

"You have to create bonds. Sometimes I saw an object that I really wanted to acquire, but without these bonds, the people would not want to sell it," he notes.

Once, Tuong recalls, he discovered an antique bowl previously used in the ancient citadel of Hue that ended up in a house in Tien Giang Province. The owner used the bowl to feed the dog. He offered the owner VND25 million (US$1,190) for the bowl.

Tuong reveals that he did not have any kind of training for artefacts, but he has an eye for details and a natural instinct. His artefacts have already been proven to be authentic.

Valuable dish: A piece of pottery from Bien Hoa Province that dates back to the 18th century.

Even when the original owners reject the idea of selling the artefacts to him, Tuong says he was able to persuade them with the sincere attitude of a collector.

Many of his antiques include light-holders, as well as bowls, plates, spoons and jars. They date back from the 12th to the 20th centuries and originate from China, as well as France, Japan and Viet Nam.

Among the most precious artefacts were a collection of tea sets from Japan dating back to the 19th century and dozens of bowls from China's Ming or Qing dynasties that date back to the end of the 17th century.

He has also amassed pottery from the Oác Eo culture, as well as from Bat Trang, Bien Hoa and Dong Son. Sometimes he even ventures to neighbouring countries to look for artefacts.

His three-storey, 600sq.m house now boasts of a collection of thousands of pieces that can match that of a small museum. His reputation has spread far and wide, and many people who had heard of him even brought him objects for consideration.

His house has become a frequent spot for visitors and people who appreciate the beauty of antiques that clearly remind him of the past and of the beautiful narratives of history.

"I often spend much of my free time searching and digging," he admits. He has never sold an artefact during the years that he had built his collection, and he plans to set up a coffee shop where people can enjoy looking at his collection.

"I saw the value of these things. They tell many stories that I don't want to be lost," he says. — VNS

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