Those who visit Thach That District will never forget the images of houses, village gates, wells and walls built with laterite bricks with a dark yellow colour. These bricks are rough and lumpy but they create a rustic beauty suitable to the countryside scene.
For hundreds of years, people in Thach That District, Hanoi have been digging laterite out of the ground to build houses. This strenuous work has brought them an affluent life.
Laterite is a soft and porous type of rock. Due to its main composition of iron oxide and aluminum, it is rather soft when deep underground. When unearthed, it is exposed to the air and gradually hardens. So it is used to make building materials instead of using bricks.
Thach That District has many laterite mines. In the past people worked the mines mostly to use the laterite as construction material. Over time, they discovered that laterite is not only a cheap, durable and beautiful construction material but can also be used in making statues and decorative items for homes and buildings. With this in mind, people in Thach That created a new way to earn a living – making fine art items from laterite.
For over ten years, Binh Yen Commune in Thach That District has been known for its craft of making ornamental items from laterite. All products made by the villagers are always sold, making them prosperous. The commune has about 200 households engaged in mining and processing laterite. Nguyen Van Dan in Yen My village, the owner of a well-known lateriate-mining and processing business in the area, has been engaged in this occupation for 12 years and now four members of his family are involved in this work.
He said that mining and processing laterite requires diligence, meticulousness and the skillful hands of the workers. Over the years the technique of mining and processing laterite has basically remained the same. It is a craft so people with good health, creativity and some simple tools can open a shop. Visiting Dan’s workshop we saw rows of laterite bricks and many beautiful animal artworks made of laterite. There are even old-style lamps, pagoda gates, and delicate flower pots. Dan said: “In the old days people in this area used laterite to build houses and pigsties. Now laterite is used to make high-grade products for wealthy people.”
There is great demand for laterite in construction, especially to build pagodas or houses of an ancient style. To create a rustic, friendly and familiar beauty, laterite is the most suitable material. More and more people are spending a lot of money to buy laterite. This earns more money for the people in Binh Yen Commune in particular and Thach That District in general, enriching their life and the society as well.