Just a scenic 15 minute boat ride across the Thu Bon River from Hoi An Town, Kim Bong carpentry village is renowned for its wood carving and sculpture
According to traditional stories, Kim Bong in Cam Kim Commune was first settled in the 15th century by four soldiers of King Le Loi’s army. The soldiers fell in love with the area and, thanks to their wood working skills, their descendants became Kim Bong’s four most notable craft families: Huynh, Nguyen, Phan, and Truong. Artisans by these names can still be found in the village today.
In the 17th century, Kim Bong carpenters proved their talent when they built a warship for the Spanish navy. Since then Kim Bong carpentry has developed.
The village craftsmen were also responsible for most of the architectural details of the former Imperial capital, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh’s imperial tomb.
Since 1999, when Hoi An was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kim Bong artisans have made a vital contribution to the restoration of historic buildings.
Huynh Ri is a 12th generation carpenter in Kim Bong and the last carpenter left to uphold the tradition after the war. Ri is now over 70 years old but he still devotes his life to carpentry and has passed on his knowledge to his son Suong, 40, who is now one of the village’s best carpenters.
Since Suong was a child, he has studied the decorative patterns used for each piece of work. He has also helped his father restore ancient houses in Hoi An and famous temples and pagodas in Da Nang.
“The things that I learnt from skilful craftsmen were not only technical skills, but also about the soul of the patterns on each piece. Each wooden sculpture that our forefathers created and passed on to their descendants encompasses the soul of the countryside,” said Suong.
Certain special characteristics typical Kim Bong carpentry, such as stylized carvings of flowers, grass, trees and leaves using the cai trang (a tool to carve wood). This thin, straight tool is used to carve the delicate veins in a leaf or the eyelid of a dragon. Most other carpenters use a heavier, V-shaped tool.
“Carpentry is a job like others. It is about indulging the imagination and then hard work, patience and natural talent,” Suong said.
(Photos: Asia Signature Crafts)