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Dong Ho folk painting village

 

Dong Ho folk painting village

 

Dong Ho village lies in Bac Ninh province, north of Hanoi. In the leisure time between crops, its farmers become artisans producing simple yet unique traditional pictures. The Dong Ho villagers have so far been successful in preserving their art of making pictures, a feat matched only by the Hang Trong guild of picture makers in Hanoi. Dong Ho style of making pictures is the most well-known branch of Vietnamese traditional pictures making art.

Woodcut print technique plays an important role in the process making Dong Ho pictures. To produce a picture, layers of colours are printed without overlap in an precise order (red, green, yellow, white and lastly the black lines) so one picture needs several woodblocks each of which for printing a different colour. The designs on the blocks have to match each other in order to create a good picture so only experienced artisans are in charge of engraving the designs. The advantage of this technique is that the woodblocks can be reused almost indefinitely as they are made from good and carefully treated wood. In some Dong Ho families, there are bloks that have been passed down several generations as a kind of heirloom.

Paper used for printing the Dong Ho pictures is usually coated with powder made from white shells to create a bright and slightly glittering background. The size of the Dong Ho pictures is typically small (about the size of an A4 paper). Dong Ho artisans use only five colours in their pictures but the colours are strong and lively. Only the details that are crucial to the understanding of the topics are featured on the pictures, all parts considered unnecessary are omitted. Nothing is too flowery or complicated. The pictures are as frank and simple as the farmers who create them.

Dong Ho pictures never portray supernatural forces like gods and holy animals. They are mostly about the ordinary life of common Vietnamese people in the past, especially of the farmers: a boy playing flute or reading while herding a water buffalo, wrestling competition in a spring festival, a hen and its chicken or a sow and its piglets, girls playing traditional musical instruments. Several pictures are about national heroes worshiped by the people like the Trung sisters or King Dinh Tien Hoang. The folk artists also humourously satire the contemporary society straitforward or backhandedly. The picture Jealousy, presenting a man trying to protect his lover from his jealous and aggressive wife, criticizes infidelity. The mouses' wedding,featuring the mouses bribing the cat to be able to peacefully hold a wedding,laughs at corruption. All in all, the Dong Ho pictures always conjure a cheerful and optimistic atmosphere.

Dong Ho pictures are traditionally used for decoration in the Lunar New Year holiday. In the past, they were sold mostly for common people of the lower classes. Nowadays, the Dong Ho pictures have inspired modern artists of Vietnam. They also provide valuable insight into Vietnamese folk art.

 

 

 

 

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