Dong Ho painting

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Đồng Hồ painting
Đồng Hồ painting

Dong Ho painting (Vietnamese: Tranh Đông Hồ or Tranh làng Hồ), full name Đông Hồ folk woodcut painting (Tranh khắc gỗ dân gian Đông Hồ) is a line of Vietnamese folk painting originating in Đông Hồ village (Song Hồ commune, Thuận Thành District, Bắc Ninh Province).

With the consent of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the Provincial People’s Committee of Bắc Ninh and the specialized agencies conducting research, have set records for Đông Hồ folk paintings to be submitted to UNESCO for the recognition of intangible cultural heritage.

Đồng Hồ painting
Đồng Hồ painting

Đông Hồ painting is considered a fine reflection of the traditional aesthetic value, social philosophies, and humanitarian desires. The traditional themes of Đông Hồ painting are good luck signs, historical figures, folk allegories, popular stories, and social commentaries. Elements of everyday life are well integrated in Đông Hồ paintings to express the thoughts and wishes of people. Following is the table of main themes in Đông Hồ paintings and exemplary pictures of each theme.

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Because Đông Hồ paintings are mainly bought and displayed on the occasion of Tết (Lunar New Year celebration), contents are often humorous and optimistic with bright and powerful colours such as red, yellow, and white.The most popular and best-selling paintings are Lợn đàn, Gà đàn, and Chăn trâu thổi sáo, which represent the wish for prosperity, happiness and luck in the New Year. Together with the illustration, a Đông Hồ painting also has some Hán tự to literally describe the meaning. Sometimes, Đông Hồ paintings are shown in couplet or quartet to fully express the signification of the set, for example the Vinh hoa (eminence) and the Phú quý (prosperity and honour) should be taken in couple.

Đồng Hồ painting
Đồng Hồ painting

In addition, Đông Hồ paintings are a medium to express the social concern of craftsmen through subtle social, political, and cultural criticism. For example, before World War I, Đông Hồ villagers produced a set of four prints entitled Văn minh tiến bộ (The Progress of Civilization) in which the Westernization of the Vietnamese society was delicately criticized through the satirical portrayal of contemporary Vietnamese people dressing and behaving like French people. Some Đông Hồ paintings became famous for their interesting themes like the picture Đám cưới chuột (Rat’s wedding) which features a wedding march of rats with the rat bride and groom and other rat guests delivering gifts to a big cat in hope that the cat will leave the happy “couple” alone.

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