Xuan La Village Hanoi

Xuan La Village - Toy Figurine

Xuan La village is located in Phuong Duc commune, Phu Xuyen district, Hanoi. Xuan La village has three thousand people and around 200 people are earning their living by making To he (toy figurine). Everywhere there is To he – that place has Xuan La villagers. Take a day cycling tour to discover Xuan La village as well as Hanoi rural villages.

Xuan La village map

The toy figurines which have brought a small joy to many generations of Vietnamese have experienced many ups and downs, but Xuan La people are faithful to this job, though this job can’t make them rich.

For children, To he can open a colourful world where they can see characters from history, movies and cartoons, from the famous monkey named Ton Ngo Khong in “The Journey to the West” Chinese novel to Picachu and Pokemon, characters from famous Japanese cartoons to princesses in fairy tales, etc.

Today, when children are flooded in the world of modern games, toys, etc. To he craftsmen have to be very creative to make their characters lively.

To make To he, craftsmen must be very patient, but most To he craftsmen are men. Xuan La families have one oral rule: secrets in making To he are only transmitted to sons and daughters-in-law, not daughters. According to old craftsmen, this job appeared around 300 years ago.

To he is a traditional toy that is closely tied to the lives of farmers. To make To he, craftsmen only need glutinous rice powder, which is dyed with seven basic colours (green, sea blue, red, purple, yellow, white and black), and bamboo sticks.

In the past, Xuan La villages used trees, ash, etc. to make colours for rice powder but now they use food dyes, to still ensure that children can eat their toys.

The tools to make To he are very simple, comprising a bamboo stick, a small comb, a bee wax piece and a small knife. With a small box containing the above things, a To he craftsman can go everywhere for several days or even a month.

Like other traditional crafts, To he has experienced many ups and down. Sometimes To he makers seemed to have lost their job because they couldn’t compete with Chinese toys, which are eye-catching and cheap.

Thanks to the efforts of Xuan La villagers, this craft is surviving. Now children can see To he at every park or at the gates of schools.

This folk toy has confirmed its position and is considered a cultural ambassador of Vietnam.

From sticky rice flour and pigment, the artisan can shape the dough into a doctor’s figure, dragons, a phoenix, birds and trees. Though To he is not a particularly difficult job, artisans should know well how to combine different colours in order to produce a lively effect.

Trips to Xuan La village

Yen Thai Paper Village Hanoi

The Yen Thai paper village, also called Buoi Village, was located to the north west of Hanoi, just beside the big west lake. Take a half day bike tour to visit Yen Thai village.

Yen Thai village map

Paper making has started here since the 15th century, which was mentioned in “Du Dia Chi” written in 1435 by Nguyen Trai. Yen Thai guild in Thang Long specialized in producing different kinds of paper, such as edict paper (to write royal edicts) and order paper (to write orders from the King). In the past, Yen Thai guild resounded with the sound of rhamnoneuron-pounding pestle. This sound mentioned in folk songs has brought a source of inspiration for a lot of artists and poets for many centuries.

However, in order to produce such kind of paper, a few people can understand the hardship of paper makers.

The traditional production of poonah paper in Yen Thai, as well as in some other places, soon became specialized because the paper production had to go through different steps using rather complex techniques, and requiring experienced and skillful workers at every stage. It is right to say that every step in the production is very hard, from striping the skin of poonah to washing, pounding and refining it, then packing the paper and taking it to the market. In the past the paper production was made mainly manual. It requires a lot of clean water to produce paper and fire to burn the kiln for boiling paper pulp.

Once upon a time, in Yen Thai Village, To Lich river bank was chosen as a place for manufacturing, pounding, refining and boiling poonah. Big pots for boiling poonah paper were placed o­n soil kilns along the river bank. There is a deep well with pure water which was very famous in Thang Long capital. The arrangement and organization of paper-making place is very suitable. The kiln is 5 meters high, o­n which is a big pot with the diameter of 2 meters. The skin of poonah is boiled in bain-marie. When it is well-done, it will be picked up, soaked in lime water and pounded by hand.

The process of soaking paper pulp in the refining tank of Yen Thai Village is similar to that of other villages, which creates vicous water made from the resin of “mo” tree. It is a kind of fermenter to dissolve the poonah paper, produce paper and deal with the stickiness.

The traditional production of poonah paper in Yen Thai Village is mainly tissue paper used for printing books and writing Han scripts or printing folk paintings. Moreover, rice paper or alum paper is o­nly used for packaging.

Trips to Yen Thai Village