a traditional lacquer product 2 of Cat Dang village

Traditional Lacquerware Villages of Vietnam

The painting industry and paint products in Vietnam have a long tradition. The first vestiges of paint materials were unearthed hundreds of years before the Christian era. Since ancient times, plastic latex was extracted from bark for its stickiness, durability, and resistance to rain, sunshine, salt water, and high humidity. Therefore, Vietnamese people used it to plaster boats and paint on wooden furniture, rattan, and bamboo to increase aestheticism and durability. Previously, the Nguyen lords took plastic resin from forests in Quang Tri in Quang Ngai Province or Nam Dong district of Thua Thien Hue and later mainly from Phu Tho and Yen Bai provinces.

Vietnamese painting process is complex and requires experience and esoterica. In the early 1930s, the first Vietnamese artists studying at the Indochinese art school in Hanoi explored and learned how to use other materials such as gold leaf, silver leaf, eggshell, conch, pearl shell, bamboo, and wood. and perfected grinding techniques to create special Vietnamese painting lacquer.

Traditional Lacquerware Types in Vietnam

Decorative Lacquer in Palaces and Places of Worship.

Painted decorative items associated with religious beliefs to serve spiritual life, such as worshiping in pagodas, temples, and palaces. These include architectural columns, lacquered, hammock doors, parallel sentences, sanctuaries, sets of eight weapons, King’s palanquins, and worship pictures.

Applied Paint.

Products are handicraft items. In processing, all major stages are handmade or hand-painted.
Lacquer Painting in Vietnam. Lacquer painting strictly follows the process and technique from stitching to expressing to create lacquer paintings with high artistic value. Lacquer paintings are now flourishing and very popular in Vietnam.

Some Traditional Lacquer Villages in Vietnam

Cat Dang Traditional Lacquer Village, Nam Dinh Province.

According to ancient records, Cat Dang lacquerware has a history of more than 600 years, founded by forefathers Ngo Duc Dung and Ngo An Ba. At present, in Cat Dang Village, there are temples and traditional festivals to show gratitude and merit to the career founders. Cat Dang lacquerware uses traditional materials and is practiced manually with optical paint products, mainly worshiping, and decorating religious works. Traditional products are altarpieces (strokes – drawings) and fragmented. Currently, Cat Dang has 360 households and 63 enterprises producing and trading the products of lacquer craft villages. There are about 2,400 people practicing, mostly women. Fourteen senior craftspeople hold the craft village technique. Domestic and foreign consumption markets create a large demand for goods. In 2017, the handicraft village of Cat Dang was included in the list of national intangible cultural heritage by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Ha Thai Traditional Lacquer Village, Hanoi.

According to the researchers, Ha Thai Village, lacquer dates from the sixteenth century. Previous studies show that Ha Thai Village has more than eight hundred households but only about four hundred household producers. Currently, Ha Thai Village is planned to be one of the six tourist villages in Hanoi. The production stages, raw materials, and products here have many similarities with those in other traditional paint villages. The lacquer works of Ha Thai have been inventoried and listed as intangible cultural heritage of Hanoi.

Traditional Lacquer Works in Tuong Binh Hiep, Binh Duong Province.

Son Mai in Tuong Binh Hiep is well known and preferred by customers, because each stage, from wood material processing to final product, requires meticulous and sophisticated artistic skill. Each painting process takes from three to six months to ensure quality requirements. From 1975 until now, after many changes, the lacquer industry here is stable and developed. Traditional lacquer is still popular, and a variety of modern designs have been developed, suitable for new taste of customers. The most famous and unique is the embossing lacquer. Traditional lacquer here is very advanced and creates more jobs. In 2016, traditional lacquerware in Tuong Binh Hiep was included in the list of national intangible cultural heritage by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Conclusion

Traditional Vietnamese lacquer is still practiced some areas and has been nationally recognized as representative intangible cultural heritage. However, the tradition is still facing an increasing threat due to the greater use of industrial and material processes and there being fewer skilled artisans every generation.

Pham Cao Quy, Expert, Department of Cultural Heritage, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism

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