The artisan makes efforts to preserve the century-old craft village

More than 40 kilometres from the centre of Ha Noi, Quang Phu Cau incense village in Ung Hoa District has become a destination that attracts much attention from both domestic and foreign tourists.

An artisan in Quang Phu Cau Village carefully arrange incense sticks into bundles.

The village is famous not only for its uniquely arranged bundles of incense sticks but also for its hundred-year-old tradition and artisans like Nguyen Thu Phuong, the owner of the Tu Bi Huong production facility, who is one of those striving to preserve and develop the incense craft.

Having been involved in the incense-making profession since childhood, Phuong has more than 13 years of experience in producing and making incense bundles, for both domestic markets and exports abroad. She said: “The first people who taught me how to make incense were my parents. Since I was a child, my parents went to the mountainous areas to find incense ingredients. At first, my parents mainly traded incense ingredients. After that, my mother decided to learn the traditional incense-making profession. When I was young, I often followed my mother to learn how to make incense. The incense-making profession has attracted me more and more, and that is also the reason why I have been pursuing this career since then until now.”

Phuong’s Tu Bi Huong production facility produces an average of about one tonne of raw materials for making incense monthly. Previously, her facility mainly produced by hand, but in recent years, thanks to investment in new machines and technology, the efficiency and productivity have increased, meeting domestic demand and exports to other countries, such as India, Malaysia, etc.

Notably, Phuong’s business facility is also the first unit in Quang Phu Cau incense village to have eight products achieving 4-star One Commune One Product (OCOP) certification.

She proudly shared, “In 2021, I was instructed by customers to submit products to compete in the OCOP programme. At that time, I brought four products including cinnamon incense, agarwood incense, herbal incense and gleditsia incense. I brought each product for inspection to prove to the judges that the incense was safe and did not contain toxic substances. After participating in the OCOP competition, some newspapers came to learn about the traditional products of my hometown. After a while, many people in Vietnam and international tourists have known about the unique traditional products of my hometown. I think the most important thing is the customers’ trust in my brand.”

Stacks of incense sticks are ready to be delivered to customers.

To achieve the current results, Phuong and her family went through many difficulties. Specifically, when she started her business at a young age, her biggest difficulty was the lack of experience, capital and human resources. She said: “Young people have little experience and often get discouraged quickly, and it is difficult to convince older people.”

Production and business activities did not always go smoothly. Phuong said in the first six years, after getting married, she set up a factory to produce incense and export it to India, Malaysia and other countries. At that time, I did not have a good grasp of the international market situation, so sometimes the goods were out of stock, sometimes the orders were delayed, or sometimes the prices of raw materials increased and there was a shortage of workers. However, with her passion for traditional craft, she tried to maintain and learn more ways to mix diverse flavours, such as cinnamon, agarwood, and Chinese herbal medicine.

In the context of increasingly strong digital transformation, Phuong’s business model has also been changed to adapt to the market and customer needs. She has promoted her products closer to customers, through not only direct forms (agents, supermarkets, stores) but also e-commerce platforms, such as Shopee and Lazada.

Phuong is a representative of young artisans in Cau Bau Village, with a passion for making incense sticks. She and many other artisans in the village have been still creating high-quality incense sticks.

For her, serving customers is a source of happiness and pride. Combining economic development with craft village tourism, Quang Phu Cau incense village is increasingly attracting the attention of domestic and foreign tourists.

Foreign tourists are delighted with Vietnamese maps, made from hundreds of colourful incense bundles in Quang Phu Cau Village.

Artisans like Phuong all hope that future generations will continue, cherish and develop the traditional beauty of their hometown’s craft.

Phuong Trang Nhung – Translated by NDO

Source: NDO – – May 7, 2024

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