Cults to forefathers are the folk belief of our nation over millennia and deeply rooted in our inclination to pay tribute to forefathers, and thus a prominent tradition of our spiritual life, and also a building block of the cultural identity of Vietnam. In this divine belief, ceramic items prove of paramount importance.
Religious ceramics involve items meant for religious practices, to be laid in most solemn places in a family, including these following: incense pot, candlestick, jolt stick pipes, liquor jar, water glasses, flower vase, fruit plate or kerosene lamp… Connoisseurs in ceramics are typically fond of products of Bat Trang or Chu Dau…
Religious ceramics are quite on their league and culturally suits generis. Their style, glaze and decorative patterns on the surface are all meant to keep a nostalgic vibe and feeling for elusive yesteryears. Religious ceramics are also made of totally natural materials, notably clay, natural glaze extracted out of rice hulls, to name a few. These products are not just authentic, but also deeply meaningful in their decorative patterns. To complete a religious ceramic item at request of customers, potters are supposed to undergo a variety of steps, including selection and handling of materials (refined clay), shaping, glazing, decoration, coloring and baking.
To make perfect religious ceramics, technical specifications aside, potters are required to regard ceramics as a living organ, which means harmonious blending and flexible portrayals of physical lines, colors and in particular religious elements, notably yin and yang and five elements of Metal - Wood - Water - Fire - Earth. As a result, each ceramic item requires not just versatility and creativity shown on both the inside and outside, but also the very cultural sophistication from within.
Because of difficulty level in the graphics and delivery of message through the glaze, not all workshops and potters are capable, but only skilled potters with demonstrated level of knowledge and know-how are able to produce properly crafted religious ceramic items.
These days, the most popular niche sector of religious ceramic products is the one with visually pleasing embossed patterns such as the Dragon - Qilian - Tortoise - Phoenix or Spruce - Bamboo - Chrysanthemum - Ochna… and coated in broken glaze, which sets them apart from Chinese ceramic products.
(Vietnam Today 5.2022)