Dong Ho Painting - Invaluable Asset of Vietnam

Dong Ho village (or Ho village) is famous for painting or folk woodcut painting, which is located on the southern riverside of  Duong river, adjacent to Ho pier (now is Ho bridge), Song Ho commune, Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province.

Tourists learn how to make Dong Ho painting

Tourists learn how to make Dong Ho painting. Photo: Internet

Apart from the beauty of lines and layouts, the folk feature of Dong Ho painting also lays on its color and paper; both are handmade and derived from materials available in nature. The paper is made of bark of tree named “do” and powder of seashells and glutinous rice whilst colors of paint used in Dong Ho pictures are processed from various kinds of natural materials easily found in Vietnamese villages. While seashells bring a sparkling white background, glutinous rice makes the paper more supple and to conserve colors for a long time. The black color is taken from ash of burned bamboo leaves; the red is from red gravel; the yellow is from flowers. Basing on simple colors, people here mix them to get new more colors.

Making the woodblock.

Making the woodblock.

Making the woodblock. Photo: Internet

It takes many steps to finish a product and the most important one is printing. The woodblock is applied with paint and pressed on a sheet of paper like a stamp. The process is repeated with different colours until the craftsman is satisfied with the painting. One woodcut is for outline and several others are for each colour printed, and they are carefully engraved by hand so the woodcuts can be preserved through generations. The finished picture is covered with a layer of rice paste (ho nep) to strengthen the durability of its illustration and colours and afterwards dried under the sun.

It takes many steps to finish products.

It takes many steps to finish products.

It takes many steps to finish products.

It takes many steps to finish products. Photo: Internet

Regarding themes of Dong Ho painting, it should be noted that the folk picture is a fine reflection of daily life, culture values, social philosophies and human aspiration for a better life in years coming; therefore, everyday life, folk allegories, social commentaries, mythical and historical figures, signs of happiness, luck, prosperity are main subjects of the painting. If you would like to wish your beloveds prosperity, happiness and luck, pictures named “Lon dan”, “Ga dan”, “Chan trau thoi sau” would be your best choice for a gift. Should you are keen on Vietnamese social commentaries; pictures of “Hung dua”, “Danh ghen” are good bets. There are 7 main kinds of Dong Ho painting: printing for worship; painting for congratulate; historic painting; story painting; proverbial painting; scenery painting and daily routine painting.

Making red colour

Making red colour. Photo: Internet

There are some craftsman addresses for tourist who would like to discover Dong Ho painting, for example: Nguyen Huu Sam, Nguyen Dang Che, Tran Nhat Tan… Craftsman Nguyen Dang Che owns 150 painting themes. Many new products inspired by Dong Ho painting such as calendar, postcard, and notebook… attract tourists’ attention.

Dong Ho painting in the Ao dai collection of Lan Huong designer

Dong Ho painting in the Ao dai collection of Lan Huong designer. Photo: Internet

Phuong Hien - VietnamToday