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Antiques collection hobby
Date: 09/09/2020

“Thú chơi cổ ngoạn” simply understood as a hobby of collecting antiques is a leisure pleasure. It means searching every corner of rural markets for relics, robust bronze statues, worn out porcelain cigarette to bring home, clean them up, and put them in the precious cupboard.” Scholar Vuong Hong Sen comments this very elaborate hobby in his book "Thú chơi cổ ngoạn _Antiques Collection Hobby" (Hiếu cổ đặc san, 1971).
A space for displaying ancient oil lamps in Co Ngoan Coffee Shop.

We immediately think of Mr. Vuong Hong Sen’s comments when visiting the space of antiques in Mr.Pham Van Hai’s Co Ngoan Coffee Shop on Xuan Hong Street, Long Tuyen Ward, Binh Thuy District. Though humorously called "interesting leisure", this hobby is actually meticulous and takes a lot of effort. Mr. Hai's antique space is a typical example. Three years ago, he happened to drink coffee at the antique market in Can Tho and buy some items he felt like. Gradually, the ancient and old items have become a special attraction to him. He has bought and collected them from his relatives and friends, on social networks, or at antique auctions. After 3 years, Mr. Hai has owned a huge "fortune" with nearly 10,000 antiques of all kinds, which a lot of people dream of. A part of his collection is displayed in Co Ngoan’s. Visitors are impressed with the walls covered with more than 3,000 terracotta plates, including plates with paintings of a chicken, "thất hiền trúc lâm (7 scholars in the bamboo wood)", fish ... typical of the Southern region. The entrance which is decorated with aged ceramic flower pots arranged artfully is equally impressive. Stepping inside, they are overwhelmed by more than 5,000 antiques arranged on the ground floor and the first floor. He has arranged them in separate areas. For example, some are filled with very valuable Southern porcelain, some are ceramic flower pots, others are full of copper pounds, old oil lamps, cement lamps ... All make up to feature a special Co Ngoan space leading visitors to old scenes of old people.

Mr. Hai has told us that in order to own antiques, sometimes he needs not only money but also fortunes. Several sellers are "abnormal" because they only sell their goods to those they like or share their interests. To be a professional antique collector, Mr. Hai has equipped himself with historical and cultural knowledge as well as knowledge of antiques such as enamel color, pattern, or bronze rust ... Of various collections of antiques, his favorite is the ones with inscriptions on events or timelines such as dishes in the years 1967, 1961 ... Particularly, to help preserve our cultural values, he devotes himself to collecting artifacts of Vietnamese pottery like Cay Mai pottery, Lai Thieu pottery, Bien Hoa pottery, Bat Trang pottery ... He now owns a set of Chu Dau ceramic dishes of 300-500 years or a set of Lai Thieu pottery ceramic with a unique colored glaze pattern. In particular, Thuy Liem antiquities were exhibited at the 2009 Hue Traditional Craft Village Festival by the UNESCO Vietnam Center for Antiquities Research and Conservation. They are now being preserved and displayed by Mr. Hai, A lot of people are attracted to come to his place to enjoy these antiques. He says, “My purpose to open this exhibition space is for visitors to see the items similar to what they have owned at home. When they know their value, they will be aware of preserving such things for future generations’ admiration and insights into the culture.” His wish is realized as visitors to his place to recollect past memories. A dish with chicken’s painting, a bowl for fermented rice, oil lamps, and a handle scale …  all remind them of their own house in the past ... Mr. Nguyen Quoc Nam, a visitor from Hung Loi Ward, Ninh Kieu District, comments, “This space reminds me of childhood memories. It is very impressive.” Mr. Nhat Hong, a writer and a member of Can Tho City Writers Association, states, “Displaying this huge collection can help create a tourist site and preserve cultural values​."

Scholar Vuong Hong Sen has wondered “for what is this hobby?” and answered it himself, “ As our life is limited, one day when we pass away, our children and grandchildren are free to use or sell them as they wish! ".


Source: Can Tho Newspaper - Translated by Diep Truong


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