Vietnamese ancient jewelries

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The exhibition entitled “Vietnamese Ancient Jewelries” (*) at the Vietnam National Museum of History holds clear evidence that thousands of years ago, Vietnamese people beautified themselves with jewels.

There is a proverb saying that people are beautified by silk, however, along with silk, jewelries were also used as embellishments. Costumes and jewelries are mixed harmoniously to honor human appearance. It seems that since primitive times, ancient people have used chains of shells to wear around their necks. Such a chain of shells, displayed in this exhibition was found at Xom Tham ancient village, Quang Binh province and dated nearly 5000 years of the Bau Tro culture.

Later, apart from successfully making stone tools, ancient Vietnamese people also understand the other function of stones, particularly gemstone. Then, from the insentient stones, ancient people of the Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau and Go Mun cultures (about 4000 – 3000 years ago) made beautiful bracelets and earings. They might be excellent artisans, who understood every type of gemstones, which might be sparkling, hard and soft. Many special bracelets and earrings manifest the esthetic sense of those ancient people. The exhibition displays a collection of bracelets, in which some of them have T-shape and chains with 4 knots, round earrings with chinks and cylindrical or pillow-shaped earrings with sparkling colors. Jewelries displayed in the exhibition are the most wonderful objects from the huge heritage collected from archaeological works.

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Surprisingly, all of these stone jewelries were made by stone tools. Archaeologists found drill twists, flat graters and round graters, which are all made of stone. Evidences of these stone tools have been excavated, except for cores of bracelets found around the stone workshops at that time in Trang Kenh (Hai Phong) and Bai Tu (Bac Ninh). These cores from Phung Nguyen culture are also shown in the exhibition. It can be said that practice makes perfect.

With the patience and knowledge of manipulating stones, they left masterpieces for later generations. It seemed that ancient people, according to researchers, had to exchange gemstones with remote areas because they were not available in the Northern lowlands, allowing for an appreciation of saving. Some broken jewelries were repaired by copper wires. I am really impressed by the repaired earrings, which had been broken into five pieces. It turned out that our ancestors had the ability to repair engrained for a long time.

In addition, the exhibition also showcased stone and crystal jewelries from Sa Huynh and Dong Nai cultures with the three-knot or animal-head-shaped earings. These Vietnamese relics were often brought around Southeast Asia. There is a question about the animal on the animal-head-shaped earings, a goat or mule? However, it cannot be denied that ancient people created wonderful works, from colors to details.

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Vietnamese jewelries were taken to many neighboring countries and in the exchange, ones from abroad were also brought to the local culture and diversified the local collection of jewelries. Chains of agates and glass beads are also seen in the exhibition. These jewelries originated from the East of India, where existed many traditional villages of jewelries.

The most impressive collection and also the largest one is the collection of court jewelries such as jewelries of Dai Viet, Champa and Phu Nam countries. Many objects were displayed at the first time such as the crown of Champa’s king dated at the 19th – 20th century. The crown is made of gold with many sophisticated patterns of lotus petals, waves and plants. Some golden objects of Oc Eo culture, Phu Nam in the 7th – 8th century were made as beautifully as those of modern society. Many kinds of jewelries were displayed such as the golden ring written with Sanskrit scripts, necklaces, earrings and gemstone ring of the Mekong River Delta.

Jewelries of the Nguyen dynasty, mostly of king and mandarins, were largely exhibited. These jewelries are more various than those of other dynasties with the main materials of gold and silver. Some golden brooches were decorated with phoenix holding the lantern in his mouth and peach blossoms. Some golden bracelets were inlaid with gems and words such as “Longevity” or stuck with tintinnabula and carved with a couple of dragons and Buddha.

This is the first time a silver glove, made in Khmer’s style with a dancer and used to be a gift from a country to the Nguyen dynasty, has been displayed nearby other silver jewelries such as necklaces, rings, bracelets, musical stones and gem ornaments of the Nguyen dynasty. Among them, two spells used for expelling evil spirits were made of tiger fangs covered with silver. This has been one of our customs for a long time. Vietnamese people believe that animals’ fangs are effective spells as well as beautiful jewelries.

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Once again, the crown named Xung Thien crown of the Nguyen dynasty are displayed. The crown is made of precious cloth, encrusted with gold, gemstone and pearl. This crown was often used when the king gave audience. The crown was made with patterns of five-claw dragons, clouds and sun.

The collections shown in the exhibition are only a small amount of the whole treasure of jewelries. The sparkle of gemstones and glasses, the luxury of gold and silver and the colors of many other materials were skillfully made in various shapes. That has made Vietnamese jewelries become a precious and extraordinary part of our heritage.

Prof. Assoc. Trinh Sinh

 

Further information:

(*) The exhibition titled “Vietnamese Ancient Jewelries” takes place in the Vietnam National Museum of History until December 2013. 

 

Vietnam National Museum of History

1 Trang Tien – 25 Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

 

Open from Monday to Sunday:

Morning: From 8:00 – 12:00

Afternoon: 13:30 – 17:00