It was Đông Hồ village, located in Thuan Thanh distritct, Bac Ninh province, 35 kilometers far from Hanoi, where people make painting more than agriculture. It’s the origin of Vietnamese renowned Đông Hồ paintings. Since the Lê dynasty (980–1009), Đông Hồ paintings have become widely popular as they express the thoughts and desires of the farmers and low income class. The paintings are made from carved wood with basic but natural colors, including the black color of bamboo leafs, the green color of indigo leafs, the yellow color of flowers and the red color of wood. It is considered as the aesthetic reflection of Vietnamese philosophies, interest and desires in the agricultural society, with People is the symbolic theme of all the artworks: people’s religion beliefs, people’s wishes, mythical and historical figures that people admire, folk tales people love to hear, and daily activities that people do.
Religion spirit paintings
Good luck wishes
Mythical and Historical figures paintings
Folk tales paintings
Social activities paintings
During 19th to the 40s of 20th century, Đông Hồ paintings were widely popular and mainly displayed in Lunar New Year with paintings in bright colors to represent a wish of luck, happiness and prosperity. It was the heyday of Đông Hồ paintings with all of the families in every house of the village make paintings, sold them in the art market and brought them to the whole country. In July and August, they started to prepare for Tet selling and the whole town was roofed by colorful papers, from the garden to the alleyway, from the road sides to the rooftop.
In recent years, since the demand of Đông Hồ paintings reduces significantly, only two families are still keep making paintings and pass it on to the next generations, which are the families of Artist Nguyen Huu Sam and Nguyen Dang Che. The rest has changed their focus to joss papers for selling to the Northern area, which are still widely used for funerals until now. This issues has leaded Dong Ho paintings to the verge of disappearing forever. To protect this cultural value, Bac Ninh has approved and launch the project to raise awareness among the local and introduce Đông Hồ paintings to the world. n 2013, Đông Hồ Paintings became one of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages for preservation of Vietnamese traditional values.
If you are an art-enthusiast, visit Đông Hồ Village to learn from the old remaining artists of the village the process of making an art, and the inspiration burning their hearts to bring Đông Hồ paintings back to life again. It’s where you bring yourself back to the old days’ countryside life and listen to the voice of the locals’ deep desires “echoing” in the line, the color, the soul of Đông Hồ’s art.