Exploring the Ancient Forging Village of the Nung People

Traditional blacksmithing in Phuc Sen commune in Quang Uyen district in the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang has existed for more than 1,000 years.

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The traditional handicrafts of the Nung ethnic group have gained widespread recognition and have been highly sought after both domestically and internationally. Particularly renowned for their forging expertise, these products are revered for their quality and intricacy. With China being a major destination for their exports, the Nung ethnic people have firmly established their presence in the global market.

The Phuc Sen commune is home to approximately 150 family-sized workshops, which are evenly dispersed among six hamlets: upper Phia Chang, lower Phia Chang, Dau Co, Pac Rang, Tinh Dong, and Lung Vai.

Local craftsmen employ traditional, manual techniques to meticulously create high-quality products such as knives, scissors, hoes, sickles, and more. With an extensive knowledge of selecting the finest raw materials and carefully forging steel, these skilled artisans leverage their own expertise to craft exceptional offerings.

Phuc Sen Village

Phuc Sen Village is situated 30km from Cao Bang City in the province of Cao Bang. This vibrant village echoes with the rhythmic sounds of skilled workers diligently hammering and shaping knives using authentic traditional methods and repurposed materials.

Presently, Phuc Sen Village is home to 420 households, housing approximately 2,000 individuals.

This village has a rich history dating back to the 11th century. Initially, the villagers played a crucial role in supplying weapons to the soldiers of Nung Ton Phuc and Nung Tri Cao during their battles against the Song army. Following the war, the village shifted its focus to producing essential farm and domestic tools such as ploughs, hoes, knives, and scissors.

During the resistance war against French colonialism, the villagers also mastered the art of casting cannons and grenade casings. As a result, this skilled craft village has a longstanding tradition of forging, highlighting their expertise and commitment to their craft.

According to another folklore, the genesis of this artisan village can be traced back to an intriguing tale. It narrates the existence of an enigmatic elderly gentleman who wandered the village in ancient times. Apprehensive of the destitution endured by the Nung An community due to their reliance on hunting, he sought to address their perpetual poverty.

Despite his initial skepticism, the old man was pleasantly surprised to discover the amiable nature of the local community. Notably, their exceptional night vision, enabling them to navigate the forest effortlessly without any illumination, struck him as remarkable. Inspired by their unique abilities, the old man resolved to impart his knowledge of tool forging to the Nung An people. Subsequently, he departed Phuc Sen without bidding farewell, leaving behind an air of mystery as his name and whereabouts remained unknown to all.

Today, the Nung An community in Phuc Sen has built a sacred temple in honor of their esteemed ancestor. Each family proudly possesses their own cherished incense bowl, symbolizing their deep appreciation towards the ancestor who not only introduced their ancestral craft to the village, but also significantly uplifted their quality of life.

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A renowned store offering high-quality agricultural tools crafted by the skilled artisans of the Phuc Sen community.

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One of the defining features of Phuc Sen knives is their meticulous manual forging process. While certain steps were once completed entirely by hand, many have now been enhanced with the use of machinery.

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Heating Iron in the Kiln

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Creating a Knife Handle

Creating a Knife Handle

Below are the steps to create a knife handle:

  1. Gather the necessary materials, including a piece of wood, sandpaper, a saw, and a carving tool.
  2. Measure and mark the desired length and width of the handle on the piece of wood.
  3. Using the saw, cut out the basic shape of the handle according to the marked measurements.
  4. With the carving tool, start shaping and smoothing the handle, making sure to remove any rough edges or imperfections.
  5. Continuously check the comfort and grip of the handle as you carve, adjusting the shape if necessary.
  6. Once the desired shape is achieved, use sandpaper to refine the surface of the handle, giving it a smooth and polished finish.
  7. Ensure all corners and edges are properly rounded for a comfortable grip.
  8. Apply a finishing product, such as wood stain or varnish, to protect the handle and enhance its appearance.
  9. Allow the handle to dry completely before attaching it to the knife blade.


 
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At Phuc Sen, our knives are distinguished by their exceptional quality and craftsmanship, achieved through a meticulous manual forging process. While we are dedicated to preserving the art of handcrafting, we also utilize advanced machinery for certain steps to ensure precision and efficiency.

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Testing the sharpness of a bush-cutter

The sharpness of a bush-cutter is crucial for effective cutting and trimming of hedges and bushes. Here are some steps to check if your bush-cutter is sharp:

  1. Inspect the blades: Check if the blades are clean and free from rust or debris. Blunt blades may need to be sharpened or replaced.
  2. Perform a visual inspection: Look for any nicks or chips on the blades. Damaged blades may hinder the cutting performance.
  3. Conduct a paper test: Hold a sheet of paper mid-air and try cutting it with the bush-cutter. Sharp blades should slice through the paper easily.
  4. Observe the cutting performance: Test the bush-cutter on a small branch or hedge. Sharp blades should make clean cuts without excessive resistance or tearing.

If you find that your bush-cutter is not sharp enough, consider sharpening the blades using a sharpening stone or seeking professional assistance if necessary.

Remember, a sharp bush-cutter ensures efficient and precise cutting, saving you time and effort in your gardening tasks.

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Essential Utensils for Mountainous Communities

These products are vital tools for the everyday lives of the ethnic people residing in mountainous regions.