Forging craft of Nung ethnic people in Cao Bang

Published: 15/03/2013 02:55



Nung ethnic minority people in Phuc Sen commune in the northern province of Cao Bang have practiced the forging trade for hundreds of years. Located 10 km from Ma Phuc pass on National Highway 3, Phuc Sen commune is always noisy with the heavy sounds of forging .

Phuc Sen commune has 10 hamlets, 6 of them involved in forging. Local productsincluding knives, scissors, and farm tools have been famous in the region and neighboring provinces for years. While in other regions, farmers are involved in forging only between crops, in Phuc Sen, the forging furnaces are fired throughout the year as the local people don’t do much farm work. Nong Luu Luyen, a forger in Thanh Minh hamlet, says: “At this time of the year, we receive a lot of orders from different provinces. They buy big knives to cut bones and meat. If they can’t come to get them, we get trucks to deliver them”.

Mr. Luyen is very proud of his sharp and durable knives. Though there are not many designs for the products, Phuc Sen farm tools have become a trade mark around the country. Vu Dinh Chinh, a customer from Bac Kan province, says: ” I have bought farm tools here several times since 2009. They are very good. I have bought thousands of knives, hammers, and farm tools and sold them throughout the country. Farmers likefarm tools made in Phuc Sen because of their good quality”.

Nong Van To, a forger says in contrast to other regions, forgers in Phuc Sen make the entire knife from the blade to the handle. According to the Nung people, quality is the top priority. Once they are satisfied with the blades, which must be sharp, they will continue making the handle. To learn the forging craft, one should be healthy and have good vision and hearing because the craft requires all the senses. The blacksmiths must use his strength and all of his senses, especially his eyesight. The products must be hard, but not brittle, flexible but not weak. Mr. To says: ” This is a traditional craft handed down through generations. The laymen can’t see the difference in the product quality. I have experience to see the quality of steel through its color. If we use good steel, it’s very easy to sharpen the knives and the knives will be durable”.

For Nung people, good materials are very important in the forging craft. They often use waste steel bars from automobiles to make knives and blades. After being cut, steel isfurnace tempered. According to Nung people, the temper watering is very important. They have to use coal fire ashes soaked in lime for one night. Then they use the surface water to use as temper water. Chinh says Phuc Sen forged products are identical. By examining the temper water, he can see the quality of the knife. In addition, he has another test: ” We are professional forgers so we can test by moving the knife on a nail. One that moves smoothly is a good one. It’s important to make an evenly thin blade and use good tempering water”.

In recent years, local forgers in Phuc Sen have focused on promoting their products. Long Chien, who owns a forging workshop, says: ” In this commune, some people have traveled elsewhere to promote Phuc Sen products. Some people represented the commune to promote local products around the province. This has helped attract more customers to Phuc Sen. In recent years, we have been very busy with a lot of orders”.

Mr. Chien says that previously, Phuc Sen village also forged cannons and matchlocks. Over the years, products made in Phuc Sen have changed to keep pace with changes in life. But Chien says one thing that never changes is the product quality, of which the people of Phuc Sen are very proud.


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