Vietnam, through years of creation and improvement, has been growing up to become a developing country through the industrialization and modernization. There’s still somewhere, however, which preserves its traditional and cultural features along with the modern life. Having to say, the culture of Vietnam is spread through a variety of groups of people as well as the national region. Dong Ho Painting Village, originated in Bac Ninh Province, is one of the most significant and cultural heritage existing from time to time.
Dong Ho painting village, formally called Mai village, is located in Song Ho commune, Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh province standing along the southern bank of Duong River Dyke, 30 km to the East of Hanoi. As per the villagers, the making of Dong Ho folk painting was traced back to the 11th century under the rule of the Ly Dynasty, while specialists suggest that those workers started to print pictures amid the lead of the Le Dynasty. At that time, it was one of only a handful couple of spots which had the convention of making folk paintings, alongside Hang Trong, Kim Hoang and Sinh town. As a town worked in making woodcuts and compositions, all Dong Ho villagers were engaged with the assembling of artworks from cutting the woodblocks, delivering “diep” papers, getting common hues to making new topics, and printing.
There is an interesting fact of taking colors to use for painting the pictures. Initially, the pictures only had white and black colors of woodcuts, yet from the fifteenth century, various colors were presented by specialists in the town. Particularly, red color is taken from earth of hills and mountains; black color is from coal of burned bamboo’s leaves; the glitter white color is made of sea shells. What’s more, the original point of Dong Ho folk painting is the durability of colors. Due to the fact that the paintings are covered by a layer of sticky rice paste (called “ho nep”) in order to protect themselves and their colors, they could eventually last so long so that it is very difficult to make them dimmer even time or daylight.
Dong Ho paintings, even today, have still played an essential role in people life because they are where artists can reflect their wishes for lucks or retell the perception of daily life in the village. That leads to the creation of those paintings from a variety of themes, such as spirit, mythical and historical figures, good luck wishes, folk allegories and popular stories, social activities and commentaries. Jealous Fight, A Market Day, Saint Giong or The Frog Teacher are just some painting examples of this aesthetic feature of Vietnam Culture. Especially, since Dong Ho painting are mainly purchased so that people can display on the Lunar New Year, the content and color are, therefore, bright and optimistic.
Considered it as one of the special folk cultural features of Vietnam, the material to make a painting is simple but the process is not simple at all. From the beginning to the end, it has to be done by hand only. That is to say, Dong Ho painting are printed by hand on a wooden plate with the background being generally white. Black color is printed in the end. The wooden frame, therefore, is really important to print out those colorful and incredible pictures.
Dong Ho Painting Village, despite being just a feature of folk culture existing for a long time, has become a part of Vietnamese culture till the present. It is as normal and natural as people’s daily life, but it become a true work of art and a precious treasure that Vietnamese people should preserve from time to time. For those who are interested in Dong Ho paintings, they can buy these at some shops around Hanoi old quarter or take a tour visiting Dong Ho Painting Village and discover the cultural beauty and the art of making a picture quite interestingly and uniquely.