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A Guide to Dong Ho Folk Paintings - Traditional Vietnamese Arts


Dong Ho Folk Painting is one of the most popular features among Vietnamese traditions. It does not only bear historical and cultural values but also represents a genuinely distinctive genre of art. The paintings illustrate the craftsmen’s aspiration for wealth and luck through drawings of animals, folk tales, daily lives,… Following is our brief guide to Dong Ho Folk Paintings – Traditional Vietnamese Art.

Dong Ho Folk Paintings – A National Heritage

Dong Ho Painting is first invented in the 17th century in Dong Ho Village, Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province. These paintings used to be hung on the walls in families on Tet holiday and when a new year came, family members would replace them with new ones in hopes of a better year. This tradition may stem from the fact that Dong Ho Painting is the reflection of the artisan’s imagination and wishes. They used colors, shapes, and ideology to create fascinating drawings that symbolize their definition of prosperity or fortune. Moreover, artisans also use Dong Ho Folk Painting as a way to depict life lessons. Every picture has its messages, varying from moral lessons to agricultural experiences. As time goes by, these paintings have become a precious value to Vietnamese culture.

rat wedding a guide to dong ho folk paintings

Rat wedding - a famous Dong Ho painting about feudal society in Vietnam

pigs a guide to dong ho folk paintings

The pig in traditional Asian belief symbolizes prosperity

Apart from the beauty of significance, Dong Ho Folk Painting is also appealing in its different coloring shaping and dispositioning. With all available natural materials, Dong Ho Paintings have vibrant yet mild colors that only Vietnamese can create. The paper in Dong Ho Paintings is made from the bark from the “Do” tree, and the whiteness is produced by a mixture of seashells’ powder and glutinous rice. Other colors including black, red, yellow and green all come from nature and help to give off a striking, harmonious impression. This also reflects a Vietnamese lifestyle, which is living close to nature. The color mixing technique also varies according to weather conditions, paper materials, the craftsmen’s personal experiences, or even family skills that have been passed from generation to generation.

vibrant color a guide to dong ho folk paintings

Although every component in Dong Ho painting is simple and easily refined, it still achieves a vibrant and lively look

The procedure of making a Dong Ho painting requires much complexity and delicacy: drafting design, crafting the wood mold, and then printing the picture. Firstly, a wooden block is carved into patterns of different shapes and sizes. Then, the craftsmen will brush some ink onto it and press it to the paper. Lastly, the result is finished by sealing the paper by a layer of sticky rice paste. Although Dong Ho paintings are produced on a large scale, each step of creating the picture is completely done manually. Therefore, it is imbued with a lot of effort and passion of the artisans.

mold a guide to dong ho folk paintings

dong ho 4

These molds are delicately hand-carved to create the exact shapes of animals or objects

Where and How to Experience Dong Ho Folk Paintings?

dong ho village 2 a guide to dong ho folk paintings

Dong Ho Village used to be a bustling cultural and political spot

The best way to explore this precious tradition fully is to visit Dong Ho Village. Dong Ho Village, also known as Mai Village, is located on the bank of the Red River, 35 kilometers to the East of Hanoi. This place used to be the center of culture and politics of Northern Vietnam. The village is rather small with no more than 200 households. In the 1950s, there were over 100 families whose incomes mainly came from painting. However, the number dropped undoubtedly to just a handful of households that still maintain this traditional craft.

Coming to Dong Ho Village, tourists can have the chance to explore and understand the process of making a simple Dong Ho painting before bringing it home as a souvenir. Moreover, there are some other Vietnamese souvenirs that you can easily find here, such as Dong Ho paintings (obviously), fans, bamboo notebooks, …

Apart from sightseeing, you can combine visiting Dong Ho Village with visiting But Thap Pagoda or Dau Pagoda. Exceptionally, Dau Pagoda is situated in the center of Bac Ninh cultural tourism area, which is the place keeping old Buddhism features, including the ancient city and Sy Nhiep Tomb.

Tips to Have The Best Experience in Dong Ho Village:

- The best time to go to this handicraft village is during the weeks leading up to Tet festival (from mid - January to February)
- Tourists are recommended to wear comfortable outfits but formal enough when visiting this village since you are likely to visit Buddhism sites as well.
- If you travel by motorbikes, you had better be careful when transferring on the dike because it is famed to be a place where a lot of accidents happen

Location: Song Ho Commune, Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province
Opening hours: Daily 8 AM – 6 PM
Entrance fee: Free

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Conclusion on Dong Ho Folk Paintings

Dong Ho Folk Painting has become an aesthetic symbol in Vietnam culture. Although Dong Ho paintings are simple, they are an elegant reflection of Vietnamese lifestyles and values, as well as the craftsmen’s pure talent and aspiration. Although Dong Ho Folk Painting has not maintained its popularity as it used to, it still has a significant position in Vietnamese folk culture as traditional art.

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Guest - Mina Vandergel on Tuesday, 07 April 2020 13:43

I love these pictures, everytime I visit Hanoi I'll have to bring one home as a souvenir

I love these pictures, everytime I visit Hanoi I'll have to bring one home as a souvenir
Guest - Wilson Hughes on Saturday, 26 October 2019 15:34

A lovely day trip from hanoi

A lovely day trip from hanoi
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