Buying traditional paintings used to be a simple task in the past when Hang Trong and Dong Ho paintings were sold on every street in Vietnam.
The works would carry greetings of prosperity for the New Year or eulogize the five noble characteristics, namely Nhan (compassion), Nghia (righteousness), Le (respect), Tri (wisdom) and Tin (trust).
It was not just the wealthy who could afford these paintings and it became a custom for even poor people to buy them for house decoration during Tet. The craft of producing these folk paintings spread too many variants with their own brand names. Each kind was different in term of drawing, techniques, material, color processing, and carving.
Dong Ho and Hang Trong have been the two most enduring folk painting styles.
The stand-out feature of Dong Ho is use of diep paper. In the old days, artists obtained it from the bark of do trees that was ground, cooked and filtered to create thin sheets that were soft, light and durable called do paper, Some used seashells, which were than baked to create powders with exotic sparkling colors. Diep was mixed with glutinous rice and put on do paper to create diep paper.
Hang Trong paintings are more well-known for its line worship painting. The main colors used are beep blue, pink, and occasionally, red, orange, yellow and green.
The colors are mixed with sticky glue that makes Hang Trong paintings shiny and clear, an effect that cannot be achieved by using modern colors. Hang Trong painting comes on a range of styles like tranh to nu (portrait of beauty), tranh bon mua (four seasons), and ca chep hoa rong (carp turns into dragon).
Things have changed but most people still prefer paintings called nhi binh ( the image of dancing peacocks or carps looking at the moon) or four of them called tu binh (four flowers representing the seasons in the form apricot, orchard, daisy, and bamboo, or four girls singing and playing different instruments).
Some prefer paintings that depict scenes from Chinese literature. Rural families like paintings that narrate different kinds of stories. Outside the gate, there are often two paintings, one depicting the Talent God and the other depicting the Fortune God, wishing the family will achieve prosperity in the New Year. Some families hang painting the Vu Dinh-Thien At gods, who look tough with their red faces, slanting eyes and can sweep evil from households and their members.
In the part, most people only decorate their house with folk painting during Tet. But when a new spring arrived, they replaced the old paintings. Now people can buy folk paintings all year around. With time evolving, craftsmen have adjusted themselves and their techniques. Paintings are now made on better paper and frames.
Buying folk painting remains popular custom on Vietnam. People buy and collect them to maintain hundred years tradition. However, the number of craftsmen helping create part of the soul has dwindled. In Ho village only few families still maintain this tradition and there is only one craftsman left to do Hang Trong’s paintings.
In Hanoi, craftsman Le Dinh Nghien has 30-40 craft boards for marking Hang Trong Painting and some ancient ones from his ancestors, He’s the only person in the city who can make a complete Hang Trong painting.
Information of address: 22 Cua DongStreet, Hanoi
Written and contributed by Vietnam Vacation