Tourism News

Preserving Dong Ho Folk Paintings
Date 2023.01.06 Hits 491
Bac Ninh 2023.01.06~-0001.11.30 Place


Among the lines of folk paintings in Vietnam, Dong Ho are those printed from wood carving boards. Few hundred years ago, Dong Ho villagers in Song Ho commune, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province created, produced and developed it to a craft village with unique historical, cultural and artistic value.




Dong Ho paintings are vividly integrated into and show the traditional Vietnamese agricultural society, the working life of an honest and simple farmer, customs and living habits of Vietnamese people. To make a painting, woodblocks are used to create the main outline of the picture, in addition to the main black color woodblock, the number of woodblocks used is equal to the number of colors in the picture. In particular, Dong Ho paintings are made on “Do” paper covered by the powder of seashell, and colors used in the paintings are made from natural origin, such as the yellow and red made from flowers, white made from shell powder, black made from bamboo charcoal and so on, creating a simple and unique impression.




In terms of theme, Dong Ho paintings are divided into 7 main categories including worship, good luck wishes, mythical and historical figures, social commentaries, folk allegories, landscape and daily life.




The painting production process has many stages, but can be divided into the following main stages: sample creation/carving and printing/painting. When composing painting sample, artisans often use quills and India ink to draw on thin and flat paper so that the carvers can engrave and punch the board according to the sample. The creation of painting samples is not the work of the only artisan, but is the joint effort of the whole village and many generations.




There are two types of wood carving board: outline and color printed boards. Wood carving tools are chisels, also known as ticks, made of hardened steel. Each set of ticks has about 30-40 pieces. Materials and tools used to print painting are consisted of Do paper, assorted colors, printing boards, paperboards and “thét” (brush made of pine needles). Except that artisans of Dong Ho village use their hands to draw pictures for creating sample, all the other stages in the production of Dong Ho folk paintings use printed boards. The painting is printed completely by hand with color board, each color uses one board, the number of printing board is equal to the number of colors on the painting.




In terms of artistic value, Dong Ho folk paintings are symbolic and decorative but still retain the rustic, easy-to-understand features, close to the lives of people in the Northern Delta, unique with all-natural colors of flower and tree and bright on the Dó paper covered by the powder of seashell. In terms of content, Dong Ho folk paintings deeply reflect the spiritual and material life of people and society from the folk aesthetics point of view of the people here, which reflects the workers' millennial dream about the harmonious, prosperous and happy family life as well as a fair and beautiful society. Dong Ho folk paintings have significantly contributed to preserving the traditional culture of the nation, enriching the spiritual life of Vietnamese people.




Previously, there were 17 families making paintings in Dong Ho folk painting village. After 1945, Dong Ho folk paintings and Hang Trong and Kim Hoang paintings were gradually degraded, facing the danger of disappearing. Due to the impact of the market economy and the change in people's aesthetic needs, the sale for paintings faces many difficulties. Nowadays, people in the village mainly make votive paper. According to recent statistics, there are now only 3 artisans, about 20 practitioners. Only 2 artisans are still able to pass on this work (Mr. Nguyen Huu Sam and Mr. Nguyen Dang Che), both of them are old.




Facing this risk, Bac Ninh province has promulgated a number of policies and measures to preserve and promote the value of the intangible cultural heritage of Dong Ho folk painting craft such as the release of the Resolution on the development of handicraft villages including Dong Ho folk painting craft, the Decision on construction and development of integrated industrial parks and craft industrial clusters in the province; the assignment of Bac Ninh Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism to realise the project "Preserving the intangible culture of Dong Ho folk painting village"; the direction on the Party Committee, People’s Committee and people of Song Ho commune, Thuan Thanh district to propose to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for conducting a survey, assessing the current situation, and holding a scientific seminar on Dong Ho folk painting craft and preparing the dossier to submit to UNESCO to recognize Dong Ho folk painting production as the intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.




Up to now, Dong Ho folk painting craft has been restored, protected and promoted its value in contemporary life. In 2013, Dong Ho folk painting craft was recognized as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage (phase 1 in December 2012) in the form of traditional crafts. Especially, Dong Ho folk painting craft has been approved by the Government to prepare dossiers which is now submitted to UNESCO for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.


[Source: Bac Ninh] 


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