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Exploring Dong Ho Painting Village in Bac Ninh Province

Dong Ho village (or Ho village) has had a reputation for its folk woodcut paintings for hundreds years. In 2003, Dong Ho Folk Painting was recognized as the National Intangible Cultural Heritage. This is a bustling tourism destination, which attracts thousands of visitors every year. Come to Dong Ho village, you will be given a chance to turn back in time to remind about your wonderful childhood. In Vietnamese people’s mind, this kind of folk painting is not only a pride but also an unforgettable memory. Every child in Vietnam learns about Dong Ho folk woodcut paintings such as Rat’s wedding, Yin-Yang pigs, The couplet of Vinh hoa (eminence) and Phú quý (prosperity and honor), …  ever since they were in elementary school. So, if you’re a nostalgic person, do not miss this place.

 

What’s special about this kind of painting?

Themes: The paintings reflect everyday life such as traditional aesthetic value, social philosophies, and humanitarian desires. Traditionally, the themes of Dong Ho paintings are good luck signs, historical figures, folk allegories, popular stories, and social commentaries. Through the paintings, people express their feelings, thoughts and wishes.

The Yin-Yang pigs

 The rat’s wedding

 

  • Color: In the past, Dong Ho paintings were sold in Tet holiday so the main colors were red, yellow and white, which are bright and powerful. All the colors used are from nature like black (coal), green (indigo leaf), yellow (sophora japonica) and red (“sỏi son” and brezel wood).
  • Material: The artists use a very special paper called “giấy điệp” (scallop paper). To make this kind of paper, they crash the scallop’s shell and mix with glue (glue is made by rice flour or glutinous rice flour and sometimes tapioca) then use pine-needle broom to sweep on the surface.

Scallop paper

Where is Dong Ho painting village?

Dong Ho painting village lies by the bank of Duong River. It is situated in Song Ho commune, Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province. It is about 33km from Hanoi – the capital of Vietnam.

What can we do there?

Ho Lake used to be the political and economic center of the North. This place is mainly for you to visit and buy the products of the village such as retro paintings, bamboo notebooks, paper fans, …

When mentioning about “Dong Ho”, the first thing pop up in our mind is Dong Ho folk woodcut paintings. Therefore, activities related to the folk woodcut paintings are the highlight of the whole trip. Reaching Ho village, you get the chance to enter some of the artists’ houses and observe the process of making the paintings. Therefore, you can make your own painting under the artists’ instruction. Then, you can buy them as a souvenir.

An aritist is making a painting

Tourists are making their own paintings

When visiting this destination, you should visit But Thap pagoda and Dau pagoda, which are located in the center of historic site in Bac Ninh Province. Dau pagoda is the core of Buddhism in our country, including Luy Lau citadel, temple and the tomb of Sy Nhiep. If you’re a person that hungers for learning about Vietnamese culture, you should visit these places.

But Thap pagoda

 

Dau pagoda

The temple and the tomb of Sy Nhiep

When is the most suitable time to travel there?

Dong Ho has a busy market in December with five markets on the 6th, 11th, 16th, 21st and 26th. In the very early morning, the village is bustling with people coming from all over the place. They come to buy Dong Ho paintings or just simply because they’re curious about this place and want to enjoy painting Dong Ho. Many people do not mind about the long distance, come to Ho village to buy some paintings.  When they get home, they will hang the paintings or give them as a present for their friends. Why? Dong Ho painting is not only a decoration but Vietnamese people also believe that if they keep a painting in their home, they will have a year full of hope, luck and success. So in my recommendation, you should visit Dong Ho village in December to join in the exciting atmosphere.v

Some important notes:

  • You should wear comfortable but still modest clothes. Because tourists usually combine visiting Ho village and some pagodas so you need to wear appropriate clothes.
  • You should prepare the information about this place carefully so as not to get confused.
  • Ho village is a peaceful and quiet place so if you’re kind of person who likes the busyness, this is not a suitable choice for you.
  • The price of the paintings is quite expensive so you ought not to bargain.

 

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