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Exploring the Origins and History of Kim Lan Pottery Village | Kim Lan Hanoi Ceramics

Exploring the Origins and History of Kim Lan Pottery Village

Exploring the Origins and History of Kim Lan Pottery Village

1. Kim Lan Pottery Village's Location:


  • Kim Lan, a historic pottery village, is situated in Kim Lan Commune, Gia Lam District, Hanoi. Located about 16 km east of Hanoi's city center, Kim Lan covers an area of 2.92 km2. It stretches along the northern bank of the Bac Hung Hai River, with Van Duc Ferry at the southern end, spanning approximately 1596 meters. Its width, measured from the northern dike to the Red River bank, is 348 meters. The village borders Xuân Quan Commune to the east (Van Giang – Hung Yen), the Red River to the west, and the 179 Road from Bo Do to the Red River at 684 meters from the southern end. It is also adjacent to villages such as Thuy Linh, Linh Nam, and Hoang Mai District.


2. Historical Significance of Kim Lan:


  • Hao Phong, residing in Kim Lan, takes pride in the village's rich history of over a millennium in pottery craftsmanship. Evidence of this legacy is displayed in artifacts showcased at the Vietnam History Museum and the Kim Lan Pottery Museum in Hanoi. Known as the "Capital of Household Pottery" in the ancient Thang Long, Kim Lan played a crucial role in supplying bricks for General Cao Bien's construction of Dai La fortress. With this historical context, Kim Lan has earned a distinguished place in Vietnamese folklore and culture.


3. Unveiling the Name "Kẻ Sươn" - Kim Lan in the Past:


  • Kẻ Sươn, a Nôm name associated with Kim Lan, is a unique term with historical roots. In traditional times, Nôm names were commonly used in communication, while only official documents and literature employed Chữ Hán (Chinese characters). The term Kẻ refers to a specific community within a defined area, such as Kẻ Noi (Noi Village in Hanoi) or Kẻ Sươn (Sơn Village in Kim Lan). These Nôm names were assigned during the feudal era for practical purposes, and Kim Lan's Nôm name, Kẻ Sươn, remains somewhat elusive in its precise interpretation.


4. Transition from Pottery to Agriculture:


  • Over centuries of extracting white clay for pottery, the natural resources became depleted. Kim Lan adapted by shifting to agriculture, cultivating strawberries and raising silkworms, while Bát Tràng Village turned to trade and found sources of white clay in provinces like Truc Thon (Hai Duong) and Phu Tho. In the cooperative era, Bát Tràng became the designated location, and the name "Bát Tràng Pottery" gained widespread recognition. Kim Lan, despite being located near Hoan Kiem Lake, remained relatively unknown due to a lack of marketing and commercial expertise compared to Bát Tràng.


5. Resurgence and Present-Day Success:


  • Around 1977, some households in Kim Lan rekindled pottery production, focusing on items like bowls, plates, flowerpots, and porcelain. Gradually, Kim Lan saw a resurgence in pottery-making. By 1990, nearly every household in Kim Lan had 1 to 2 kilns, providing employment and significant income for locals. Today, the village boasts almost 300 households investing in pottery production. While Kim Lan's pottery primarily serves domestic consumption needs, the demand often outstrips supply, with clients having to pre-order even a single container of goods.

  • Kim Lan's pottery products, including bricks, tiles, and various items for worship, have a close connection with daily life and cater to a broad consumer base. Despite the commercial success, some artisans, like Pham Van Nguyen, continue the tradition of handcrafted pottery, creating unique, high-value products. The handcrafted pieces require dedication, creativity, patience, and endure a rollercoaster of emotions during the production process. Nonetheless, these exclusive handcrafted items are highly sought after and valued four to eight times more than machine-made pottery.

  • Presently, Kim Lan has over 170 members in the Kim Lan Pottery Association, established in July 2014, reflecting the village's commitment to preserving and developing its pottery heritage. The village's pottery is diverse, ranging from daily-use items to handcrafted masterpieces, showcasing the skilled hands and passion of Kim Lan's artisans.

  • In recent years, amidst pandemics, Kim Lan utilized downtime to construct a more sophisticated pottery market, offering visitors the chance to purchase unique and traditional ceramic products.


How many production households are there?


Currently, in the entire village, out of 430 households, 45 are engaged in pottery production, while the remaining 385 households are involved in porcelain craftsmanship. The primary focus is on producing items such as flowerpots, ceramic stools, flower vases, melon-shaped jars, incense burners, and construction ceramics.

Kim Lan Pottery Village is a hub for the diverse and extensive production of ceramic products. Ranging from household items like plates and bowls to decorative pieces such as flowerpots, vases, and lanterns, these products are highly functional, adding elegance and sophistication to the living spaces of each household. Moreover, Kim Lan's ceramic products serve as meaningful gifts for family and friends during festive occasions.


What products are produced?




Flowerpots are one of the distinctive products of Kim Lan Ancient Pottery Village. These pots are made from clay, shaped, and fired at high temperatures to achieve high hardness and durability. Flowerpots come in various sizes and designs, ranging from small to large, and from simple to intricate. They are favored for their natural beauty and aesthetic value, commonly used in interior decoration and landscaping.



The pedestal is a traditional ceramic product of Kim Lan Ancient Pottery Village. Made from clay, the pedestal has a low, wide shape and is often used for placing tables, chairs, beds, or for interior decoration. With its ability to withstand weight and excellent load-bearing capacity, the pedestal is widely used in both interior and exterior decoration.

Wine-soaked Jar:


The wine-soaked jar is a distinctive product of Kim Lan Ancient Pottery Village. Made from clay, the jar is shaped and fired at high temperatures to achieve high hardness and durability. It comes in various sizes and designs, from small to large, from simple to intricate. The wine-soaked jar is often used for traditional wine soaking and holds high aesthetic value.

Flower Vase:


The flower vase is an interior decoration product made of ceramic in Kim Lan Ancient Pottery Village. The vase comes in various sizes, styles, and colors, ranging from simple to complex. It is used to hold decorative flowers, creating focal points and high aesthetic value.


These traditional products not only serve practical purposes but also showcase talent and intelligence.

If you visit Kim Lan Pottery Village, you will have the opportunity to experience interesting activities such as shaping ceramic products by hand and participating in pottery classes.

The History of Kim Lan Pottery Village through Different Periods


According to local folklore, the ancient Vietnamese people settled in Kim Lan from time immemorial. In the 18th reign of the Hung Kings, Princess Tien Dung, while traveling along the Red River through Kim Lan, was captivated by the extraordinary beauty of the landscape. She decided to stop and rest before proceeding to Chử Xá Village to meet Chử Đồng Tử. Around 40 years after the common era, during the Hai Ba Trung uprising, a detachment of Hai Ba Trung's forces traversed various villages, including Giống Bạc, Phụng Công (now part of Văn Giang District, Hưng Yên Province), Kim Lan, and crossed the Red River to Long Bien to continue the campaign against the enemy.


The legend of the early settlement of the ancient Vietnamese in the Red River delta is supported by archaeological evidence. Numerous ancient ceramic artifacts have been found along the Red River banks in Kim Lan, from Hàm Rồng to Cạnh Triển. In 2001, the Vietnam Archaeological Institute excavated the Kim Lan ceramic kiln area. With the rich artifacts discovered, scientists estimated that Kim Lan is an ancient village with a history of 1000 to 2000 years.


During the Northern domination period, Kim Lan sustained continuous habitation. According to historical records, during the reign of Emperor Lý Tông of the Đường Dynasty, in the 6th year of Hàm Thông (866), General Cao Biền, known as Đo Hộ, was sent to govern Vietnam. Cao Biền, a skilled astronomer and geographer, often traveled to scenic places to admire the landscapes.

Once, during a journey through Kinh Bắc, passing Thuận An precinct, reaching the area of Kim Lan, he found the terrain to be charming with abundant natural beauty. Impressed, Cao Biền decided to establish a workshop there to "promote agricultural and handicraft skills, prosper convenience, eliminate harm, and preserve customs." After Cao Biền returned to the North, the people of Kim Lan carved statues and built shrines to honor him.


Kim Lan Village has a tradition of prohibiting children from flying kites, serving as evidence for this historical event and the alignment between historical core and cultural practices. Through the Dinh, Le, Ly, and Tran dynasties, the enlightened figures who contributed to the nation's welfare were honored with the title "Bloodline Blessed Deity." Numerous currency jars with the reign names Khai Nguyên (712), Thái Bình (970), and Thiên Phúc (984), along with various ceramic items dating from the 7th to the 10th century up to the 15th-18th century, affirm the village's continuous history.


In the early 20th century, under the Nguyen Dynasty, due to the taboo on using the Nguyen Phuc Lan name, Kim Lan changed its name to Kim Quan. Through remaining artifacts, it can be deduced that the renaming occurred around 1870. According to the Han characters on a bell in the village temple cast in 1797, it was inscribed as "Kinh Bắc territory, Thuận An precinct, Gia Lâm district, Kim Lan village." The dong bell of the temple cast in the year of Tan Dau (1861) also mentioned the village as Kim Lan, but by the Canh Ngo year of Tự Đức (1871), it was changed to Kim Quan.


The book "Names of Villages and Communes in Vietnam in the Early 19th Century" states that during the late Le Dynasty and early Nguyen Dynasty, Kim Lan was an independent commune under the administration of Dong Du precinct, Thuận An precinct, and Kinh Bắc precinct. In 1912, Gia Lâm district was separated from Thuận Thành precinct (Thuận An) and moved to Từ Sơn precinct.


In 1948, three communes, Kim Quan, Bát Tràng, and Giang Cao, were merged to form a new commune named Quang Minh in Gia Lâm district, Bắc Ninh province. By February 1949, Gia Lâm district was moved to Hưng Yên province, and in November 1949, it was returned to Bắc Ninh province.


In 1958, after digging the Bac Hung Hai River, Kim Quan Village was located to the south, while Bát Tràng and Giang Cao were on the north bank of the river. To facilitate daily activities, the government issued Decree No. 301-NĐ-CQTT, separating Kim Lan Village from Quang Minh commune to establish an independent commune.


At this point, with no more naming restrictions, Kim Lan reverted to its ancient name, Kim Lan commune, under Gia Lâm district, Bắc Ninh province. On April 20, 1961, during the 2nd session of the 2nd National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, a resolution by the government to expand the administrative boundaries of Hanoi for the first time was approved. Kim Lan commune, along with 14 other communes from Gia Lâm district, was incorporated into Hanoi.


Today, Kim Lan commune covers an area of 2.92 square kilometers, stretching from the north along the Bac Hung Hai River to the south at the Van Duc ferry, approximately 1596 meters long. The width at the northernmost point, from the Xuân Quan dike to the Red River bank, is 348 meters, and at the southernmost point, along Highway 179 from Bờ Đó to the Red River, is 684 meters. To the east, it borders Xuân Quan commune (Văn Giang district, Hưng Yên province), and to the west is the Red River, across which is Thuý Lĩnh hamlet, formerly part of Lĩnh Nam commune (Thanh Trì district) and now part of Lĩnh Nam ward (Hoàng Mai district) since January 1, 2004.


Kim Lan is situated in an ancient land. According to the geographical records of Đại Nam, in the Bắc Ninh province section, it is mentioned that in Xuân Lũng commune (later renamed Xuân Lan), Gia Lâm district, there is a temple dedicated to Emperor Triệu Vũ. Emperor Vũ's courtesy name is Đà, and he was from Chân Định district in China. During the Qin Dynasty, Triệu Đà served as an officer in Long Châu and later became a magistrate in Nam Hải. The Han Dynasty appointed him as the King of Nam Việt, and he later proclaimed himself emperor. When he toured the region and reached Kim Lan, he anchored his boat on the southeast bank. Suddenly, a golden dragon appeared, prompting him to build a palace named Long Hưng. After his death, the local people constructed a temple in his honor. Today, in front of Xuân Quan temple, a horizontal lacquered board with three carved Chinese characters hangs, indicating this history. South of Kim Lan, beyond Trung Quan village, is Chử Xá village, also known as Kẻ Sứa in Vietnamese.


More than 20 centuries ago, at Chử Xá port, the love story of Chử Đồng Tử and Tiên Dung unfolded during the final years of the Hung Kings. Recorded in ancient tales, Chử Xá still houses the tomb of Chử Cù Vân, the sibling of Chử Đồng Tử.


Throughout the history of the Red River delta, there are five "Lan" villages in total: Tiểu Lan Châu, Đại Lan Châu, Trung Quan Châu, Xuân Lan, and Kim Lan. The term "Châu" in the village names is formed due to the alluvial deposits from the Red River. Each time the river changed its course, the land in these villages eroded, leading the inhabitants to move to the opposite bank.

Examining the map of the Hong Duc period (1470-1497), from Kim Lan village downriver, there is a sizable alluvial area. Two villages, Tiểu Lan Châu and Đại Lan Châu, are located there, just below Cao Biền Nhuệ. By the late Le Dynasty, Tiểu Lan Châu, due to the erosion approaching the dike along the Nhị River, gradually stabilized and settled permanently on the southern bank. Around the same time, Tiểu Lan Châu was renamed Yên Mỹ Châu. For Đại Lan Châu, in the declining years of the Le Dynasty (1782), the land on the southern bank eroded, forcing the residents to relocate to the northern bank, merging into the communal network of the remaining four Lan villages.


A map of Đại Quan Châu drawn in 1861 shows Trung Quan Châu and Đại Quan Châu lying parallel to each other, with Đại Quan Châu situated outside, bordering the river. To the north is the land of Kim Quan village (north of the current Van Duc ferry).


In 1874, the land of Đại Quan Châu eroded again, compelling the villagers to move to the southern bank. However, people from Đại Lan continued to cross the river daily to cultivate their fields on the northern bank. From 1955 onward, due to the inconvenience of transportation, the people of Đại Lan stopped crossing the river for farming. Trung Quan village, related to the Ngô family in Đại Lan village, split from Đại Lan. Han characters found on a ceramic artifact at the Vietnam History Museum indicate the name Trung Lan.


In the late 19th century, to respect the Nguyen family's taboo, Lan was changed to Quan. From then on, Trung Quan has been a hamlet in Văn Đức commune, Gia Lâm district, Hanoi.


In ancient times, when organizing administrative units, the naming of a village often depended on the characteristics of the local land. Villages with "Châu" in their names were located along the riverbanks. During the Nguyen Dynasty, administrative units included villages, districts, precincts, and provinces, with names reflecting the geographical features of the regions. Adjacent to Kim Lan was Đại Quan Châu, then part of Văn Giang district, comprising Đại Quan Châu, Chử Xá Châu, Trung Quan Châu, and Sơn Hồ Châu. Kim Quan village, part of Dong Du precinct, Gia Lâm district, was also nearby.


At this point, you might wonder why Kim Lan, both in the past and present, is located near the riverbank, benefiting from the silt deposits of the Red River, but lacks the character "Châu" at the end,


and is connected with ancient villages inside the dike. Why is that?


According to research by Japanese scholar Nishimura Masanari and local legends, the dike of the Red River on the northern bank used to be outside Kim Lan village. However, due to changes in the river's flow, in the 18th century, the land eroded, and the dike had to be moved to its current position. In 2003, during a period of low water, Nishimura Masanari discovered many trees with intact bark and hollow trunks, with holes for crossbars, stakes, and braces, about 100 meters above the current Kim Lan ferry. 


These trees were arranged in a way to prevent erosion, with a layer of half-rotten straw and green clay (locally known as "thó" clay) inserted between them. This clay was also used by the people of Kim Lan for pottery glazing. Based on the survey, it is believed that this structure served as a countermeasure against erosion for the dike. Similar methods were employed in Japan.

During the construction of a new dike section near the present-day Đường Cái hamlet, a district official visited to set boundary markers, indicating that the new dike would cause the loss of farmland and some houses in Kim Lan. To avoid this "disaster," the village leader, Tổng Ba Phướn, who was also the Chief of Dong Du at that time, used his influence to establish good relations with the official. On that occasion, the official and his entourage stayed overnight in Kim Lan.

Tổng Ba Phướn warmly welcomed them and provided generous hospitality. After a satisfying meal and drinks, when the official and soldiers were asleep, Tổng Ba Phướn secretly instructed his team to ignite a fire in front of them, using it as a reference point to place boundary markers. The new dike, more than 1 km long, ran straight from the northern land of Kim Lan (Bắc-Hưng-Hải culvert) to the road of Mr. Quý (current National Road 179), dividing the land of Xuân Quan village into two sections.


Because Kim Lan village is located in the former area inside the dike, it belongs to the Dong Du precinct, which includes many ancient villages. This is confirmed by the fact that the land of Kim Lan, below a depth of 3 meters, is ancient alluvial soil (also known as loess), containing small, hard, golden stones that were used for pottery glazing. After the disappearance of the dike, the land in Kim Lan is inundated with floodwaters for two to three months each year. The fields have been enriched with silt deposits, and over time, the land in the village has gradually risen.


According to Dr. Ngô Thế Phong's summary at the Institute of Archaeology, over the past 200 years, the land in Kim Lan has increased by 2 meters, making it convenient for growing flowers such as corn, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and beans.


In addition to its literary name "Kim Lan" (golden orchid), for many centuries, the locals in this region colloquially referred to Kim Lan as the "Sơn" village. During the Tran and Le dynasties, Nôm names were commonly used in communication, and they were shorter than the court-designated names. The longer names were reserved for official documents and official communication. 


Nôm names became widespread for daily use, while court-designated names were reserved for official records and ceremonies.

Regarding the Nôm name of Kim Lan village, many have attempted to study and interpret it, but until now, a convincing explanation has not been found.


 Recently, Mr. Nguyễn Việt Hồng, a resident of Kim Lan and an expert in Chinese characters, suggested that the name "Sươn" might be a misreading of the word "Xương" due to handwriting deviation. According to him, on a bell currently hanging in Cả Temple (Linh Ứng Tự), cast in 1797, there are four carved characters, "khánh lưu xương ấp."


In Thiều Chửu's Chinese-Vietnamese dictionary, the character "Xương" is listed, and it includes the term "Xương hạp." The character "Xương" consists of the radical for "door" with "Xương" inside, meaning prosperity. This "Xương" conveys the idea of "heaven's door, main gate within the palace." This explanation of the character "Sươn" might be just one way to interpret it.

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Địa chỉ: Số 05,Ngõ 169, Kim Lan, Gia Lâm, Hà Nội

Hotline: Ms Huong 0962.334.368 (Zalo)

Mr Phong 0977.373.386 (Whatsapp)


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