A Hanoi Old Quarter street that has stayed true to its name
While wandering around in the bustling Old Quarter, noise is a given.
But when you hear the sounds of people going hammer and tongs, literally, you are most likely on Hang Thiec Street, or Tin Street. Tinsmithing is the profession/craft that the street is named after and tinsmiths are hard at work here to this day.
Hang Thiec is only 136 meters long, starting from the intersection of Bat Dan and Thuoc Bac to Hang Non Street.
In the past, this was the place for all things made out of tin and steel, from furniture to household appliances like teapots and cookie trays. The demand of tin goods decreased in the 20th century, so many tinsmiths switched to make appliances for foreigners. The French named this street Rue des Ferblanties, or Tinsmith Street, but they referred to it as Tin Goods for Foreigners Street.
While the tinsmiths make many items, most in demand are votive paper burners, water cans, steel boxes and watering cans.
Watering cans and buckets of various sizes are piled up outside a shop on Hang Thiec Street. The street and its profession enjoyed their heydays from the 1930s to 1940s, some people say. Later some households switched to making glass goods. When the plastic wave hit Hanoi, it affected the business here, but for the most part, residents have stuck to the traditional craft.
Most buildings on the street have lost their original structure and façade, but at No.20, there is a rare, original house.
Most stores here have lasted for generations, and the tinsmith’s skills have also been passed on.
A tinsmith welds a part as he makes a mobile stand ordered by a customer.
A store is also a manufacturer, men do the crafting and women do the selling.
In many stores, the manufacturing space is small and narrow, but the tinsmiths have learnt to make do.
The tinsmiths of Hang Thiec also make appliances to order and install them at the customers’ places.
A foreign couple consider buying a tin pepper grinder encased in plastic.