Despite historical ups and downs throughout the village’s 500-year history, Ma Chau villagers in Duy Xuyen district, Quang Nam province, have exerted every effort to keep their traditional silk weaving art alive.
Director Tran Huu Phuong examining an old satin weaving machine (Photo: plo.vn)
The brand of Ma Chau silk used to be immensely popular in 16th century with the village’s products being exported both domestically and internationally. At that time, silk weaving could provide a generous income for the residents as thousands of households in the village practised the craft.
However, during the wartime, the villagers were evacuated all over the country, and while some of them still earned their living with the craft in their new residential areas, others turned to different jobs. There were also people that returned to the village and continued to uphold their ancestors’ traditional craft.
Like his friends, 48-year-old Tran Huu Phuong, Director of the Ma Chau Silk Limited liability company, started learning about silk weaving at the age of 11. When he was 19, Phuong headed to Hue city to study at the Agriculture and Forestry University, but his academic learning was interrupted when his father passed away. He decided to give up his studies and returned to his home village to preserve his family’s tradition.
According to Phuong, the 18th decesdant of the village, the consumption of Ma Chau silk products witnessed a drastic reduction during the 2000s due to the dominance of imported cloths in assorted types, which were sold at cheaper price, and industrialisation, which kept villagers away from their looms and bought in textile weaving machines instead.
Consequently, within a couple of years, the Ma Chau Silk Collective saw a dramatic drop from 300 members to just 16 members.
“It was like a storm sweeping through our village and it took away the vitality of Ma Chau silk,” recalled Phuong. The Ma Chau Silk Collective was pushed into a serious crisis as more and more villagers chose to quit silkworm breeding and traditional silk weaving and turned to higher-income jobs.
At that time, Phuong, as the head of the collectives, tried in vain to encourage households not to quit and find new sources of raw materials. Ten years later, the collective was dissolved. Today, there are only five members of the collective still persistently practicing the craft.
Ma Chau silk products (Photo: ipaquangnam.gov.vn)
Undeterred, Phuong established Ma Chau Silk Limited liability company, with a strong determination to revive and promote traditional Ma Chau silk products.
Over the past few years, Phuong has actively participated in fairs and exhibitions at both home and abroad. He has consigned his company’s products at shops in Hoi An ancient town, the most-visited tourist attractions by foreigners in Quang Nam province.
He has also diversified his products, from the colours and models to the styles and materials, in a bid to provide more comfort and satisfaction for wearers. Although machinery has been applied in some production steps in order to reduce labour costs, the key steps are still made manually, including weaving and dyeing.
His efforts have been rewarded. Over the past two years, his products have gained great appreciation from customers. “Although there is a still a long way to go, we are full of hope for the day when Ma Chau silk will be highly marketable and become a well-established product,” Phuong said.