Back Arts & Culture » Music & Art » [Photos] Dong Nai Farmer Breeds Mussels That Produce Buddha And Jesus-Shaped Pearls

When we talk about humans harnessing nature, it is often on a macro scale, such as dams, solar arrays and reservoirs. One Vietnamese farmer has found a more subtle, but nonetheless impressive way of bending nature to his will - Buddha And Jesus-shaped pearls.

Pham Van Huong, a 71-year-old farmer who resides in Dong Nai Province, was first made aware of the practice in 1990 when Tan Phu District held a training session for farmers on a technique to make pearls from freshwater mussels. Though he wasn’t selected for the course, Huong borrowed class materials from a friend and embarked on a 25-year journey to master a craft where many others have failed.

"It took me almost 25 years to succeed with pearl statues. The amount of mussels I used to test was nearly two tons, and it cost me tens of million dong," he told Zing. "I was about to quit when I accidentally discovered a pearl-covered nail in a mussel. Since then, I rushed to explore and find ways to create pearls."

Here’s how Huong goes about creating his masterpieces:

Every day, he goes to the markets in the region to buy big mussels to study.

After researching the pearl nail, Huong selected the biggest mussels and perforated the shells to add objects inside. "If the shell is perforated too large or the perforation tears the fleshy part of the mussels, they will die instantly. Therefore, the work must be done meticulously,” Huong said.

After perforating the mussels, Huong added objects with the desired shapes into them and used plastic to cover the holes. After a period of one to two years, mussels will release the pearl to enclose the foreign objects. Huong put Buddha, Maitreya and Jesus-shaped cement pieces into the mussels to collect pearls of the corresponding shapes. The mussels weighing 0.3 to 0.5 kg will be perforated on the shell to graft with at least two objects.

The process of releasing pearls around the object will occur successively over time. If the pearls are harvested early, the pearl statues will be clear but thin and fragile. If this process takes too long, the pearl will not be clear and beautiful. Therefore, the best time to collect pearls is two years.

Though highly sought after, Huong has held off on selling any of his pieces - "I'm registering for intellectual property rights to create a brand for myself. I am also seeking to create iridescent pearl products so I don’t want to launch my products to the market yet."

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