The 3 towers
During your investigation of the « Malediction of the Jiangshi » you may see in the distance 3 brick towers. We invite you to make a short detour to look at them more closely.
These towers located on the banks of the river « Song Thu » are neither ancient watchtowers nor the remains of a fortress. They are in fact old brick kilns. Few years ago, there used to be there a traditional bricks factory.
At the time, mostly women used to work there making bricks to build the houses of the surrounding villages.
At the time very common in the Vietnamese countryside, this type of building is becoming scarce today. It has been gradually replaced by modern factories that manufacture those bricks on an industrial scale.
Before there were two kinds of ovens, one in tower shape, like the 3 towers you can see and other ovens that looked like long built houses.
The clay used to make the bricks came from the surrounding fields. At the end of the summer, after the last harvest, fields were dug to recover the clay that would be used to make bricks.
During the following winter, when floods occurred, fields were filled again with alluvium from the river, which used to fertilize the land for the next harvests. The recovered clay was transported by cart or small truck. The bricks making used to take several stages and required larges spaces.
First of all, workers manually filled with clay a kind of funnel, using a shovel. In this way, the ground was crushed and shaped to come out on a treadmill like a long “sausage” that had the shape of a long brick. At the end of the treadmill, the long clay “sausage” was cut with a thread-made frame into equal-sized bricks. Bricks were then put on small carts to be transported into a field where they were lined up under the sun to dry.
Every 4 to 5 hours, they were manually turned over so all their sides could dry. Drying used to last in total about 2 days but duration was variable depending on the weather. In case of rain, bricks were covered with tarpaulin. Bricks were then cooked into ovens for a dozen hours and were finally sold around 400 dong per piece or approximately 1.5 centimes of euros for those of better quality.
The disadvantage of this system was that the cooking temperature was not controlled at all, for that reason, there was a lot of breakage. The broken bricks were resold to make backfill.
Today there are no such kilns operating around Hoi An, but if you go to the pottery village in Cam Ha (3 km west of Hoi An), you can still see some small kilns following the same operating system where they cook pottery.