Calligraphy arts in Vietnam, though not as prevalent as in the Feudal period, is still a popular art form nowadays, especially during Vietnam’s most famous holiday - Tet. Head down below as we go on our quest to find out what it is and where you can buy or practice the art.
Calligraphy is mostly used on parallel sentences
Calligraphy in Vietnamese is “Thu Phap”, which can be roughly translated as “the rule of writing”. But the artist doesn’t simply jot words down, he has to embed his soul and feelings into the piece, while assuring that each character looks beautiful. This is the reason why calligraphy has been treasured since its introduction.
Calligraphy brushes come in different sizes
To practice calligraphy, one will need the “four treasures of the study”: ink brushes, black ink, papers, and an inkstone. Using these simple tools, the artist will work freehand, under the guidance of his mastery and inspiration only. Here is where calligraphy arts in Vietnam is different from its Western counterpart, which employs an array of measuring tools.
The Han Nom characters that Vietnam used in the Feudal period
Some may say that calligraphy arts in Vietnam are similar to Chinese. This is true, considering that this artform originates from China, and we used to use the Sino - Vietnamese characters (Han Nom) so many calligraphy masters still work with it. Yet, as the modern Vietnamese script became our national writing system, calligraphy arts in Vietnam is now a harmonious marriage of the East and the West, of modernity and tradition.
The topic for calligraphy paintings usually are health, prosperity, and luck
In Vietnam, calligraphy is one of the most treasured art forms. People believe that each character shows the calligrapher’s feelings, and conveys his inner voice. It is also often associated with virtues like patience and intellect.
Each piece has its own meaning
Especially on Tet holiday, calligraphy becomes the most desirable because of the Vietnamese’ Tet tradition of calligraphy giving. It is believed that getting a piece of calligraphy from a scholar means luck and expresses the owner’s fondness of knowledge.
The calligraphy giving tradition kept calligraphy alive
Calligraphy can be carved into woods to make beautiful house decorations
Calligraphy is a popular choice as travelers’ Vietnamese gifts for family and friends. You can find it at big markets, or you can check out the shops and events listed below:
Thu Phap Viet
Address: 85/27, Tran Ke Xuong Street, Ward 7, Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City
Thu Phap Chu Viet
68/13, Ut Tich Street, Ward 4, Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City
38, Ngoc Hoi Street, Hoang Mai District, Hanoi
Truong Thinh Art
Address: 137, 223B Alley, Chien Thang Street, Ha Dong District, Hanoi
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Yearly, around the end of January and the beginning of February, in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, two of the country’s biggest calligraphy fairs take place. There is no entrance fee, yet you get to witness various young and old calligraphy masters at work. You can buy a piece of calligraphy made right there, or buy a pre-made one that’s just as beautiful.
The Tet Viet Festival at the Cultural House of Youth in Ho Chi Minh City attracts both adults and children
In Ho Chi Minh City, it’s held at either the Cultural House of Youth (4, Pham Ngoc Thach Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1) or the Labour - Culture Palace (55B, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, Ben Thanh Ward, District 1).
People visit the Temple of Literature for calligraphy giving on the Lunar New Year
In Hanoi, it’s always held at the Temple of Literature.
The Cultural House of Youth
Address: 4, Pham Ngoc Thach Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Duration: 14 classes from 6 PM - 8.30 PM (Tuesday - Thursday - Saturday)
Fee: VND 800,000
Duration: 2 hours
Calligraphy arts in Vietnam is a traditional art form that has stood the test of time and become an integral part of the Tet holiday. It shows Vietnamese's love for both beauty and knowledge and is a living piece of Vietnam’s cultural development throughout the course of history. We hope our guide has helped you understand more about this cultural gem. Stay tuned for more articles on Vietnamese culture and travel coming on our Vietnam Travel Guide!
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© Written by Ngan Mai for itourvn.com
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I purchased a painting at the festival during Tet. Very nice souvenir indeed