Dong Ho painting: The colors of traditions and vibrant tales on paper

Dong Ho painting

Come and discover the allure of Vietnam travel through the captivating artistry of Dong Ho painting, a cherished Vietnamese folk art. Read on to find all the information about this art form, an enchanting window into Vietnam’s heritage and creativity.

1. What is Dong Ho painting? What is its value?

Dong Ho painting is a traditional folk art in Vietnam, with its origins traced back to Dong Ho Village in Bac Ninh Province. In the past, Dong Ho paintings were commonly sold during the Lunar New Year, and people often purchased them to adorn their homes for the holiday. Over time, these paintings have evolved into cherished expressions of traditional artistic beauty, collected and displayed within homes on various occasions.

Dong Ho folk painting carries both decorative and artistic values while maintaining a rustic simplicity that is easy to understand. They are intimately connected with the life of the people in the Northern Delta region of Vietnam. Dong Ho paintings encompass a wide array of patterns, genres, and subjects, reflecting nearly everything about Vietnamese people.

Dong Ho painting

Dong Ho paintings often depict pictures of Vietnam’s daily activities such as buffalo herding, coconut picking, wrestling, and family life. Each painting carries a wish for harmony, love, prosperity, comfort, happiness, and the determination to thrive in life. Furthermore, Dong Ho art also preserves the beauty of Vietnamese cultural heritage through depictions of proverbs, anecdotes, legends, and stories.

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2. Why is Dong Ho painting so special?

There are several reasons that make the art of creating Dong Ho folk paintings unique and recognized as Vietnam’s intangible cultural heritage.

2.1. Painting paper

The first distinctive feature about Dong Ho paintings is the paper used for printing. This paper is made from “dó” tree bark, possessing characteristics of being soft, thin, porous, and able to absorb colors without smudging. Due to its moisture-resistant quality, “dó” paper prevents artworks from becoming damp and moldy, ensuring their relatively long lifespan.

Dong Ho painting

The paper’s surface is brushed with a layer of starch resin mixed with crushed pearl shells, imparting luminous and shimmering lines on it. It offers a tactile sensation when touched, radiating a sparkling brilliance and attracting the eye when viewed under light.

2.2. Painting colors

The colors used in Dong Ho paintings are entirely natural, sourced from plants without any artificial mixtures. There are only four basic colors: black from charred bamboo leaves, green from indigo leaves, yellow from umbrella tree flowers, and red from red stone or wood. 

Depending on preferences and the desired intensity of the painting, artisans will either deepen or lighten certain details. Because these colors are entirely derived from nature, the painting’s simple pigments are distinctively long-lasting and carry the fragrance of their natural constituents, setting them apart from other types of paintings.

Dong Ho painting

2.3. Layout

Another remarkable aspect of Dong Ho paintings is that they do not embrace impulsive or abstract drawing. Instead, each painting features a clear layout. Typically, artisans draw inspiration from daily life to make relatable strokes that convey deep insights into life. The composition of the painting is meticulously arranged with a high level of artistic intention, paying meticulous attention to each detail, essentially encapsulating a layered narrative within a single artwork.

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3. The unique techniques for making Dong Ho paintings

The techniques of producing Dong Ho folk paintings are unique and demand high skills, encompassing two main stages: pattern creation (woodblock carving) and printing (painting).

The pattern creation stage involves the artisan using a sharp chisel made of hard steel to carve each detail of the painting onto wooden blocks. Each painting requires five woodblocks of two types: outline blocks and color blocks. This stage is entirely done by hand, requiring the meticulous precision and artistic flair of the craftsman.

Subsequently, in the printing stage, the artisan spreads natural colors onto the carved wooden blocks and presses them onto “dó” paper sheets. Using five wooden blocks, the painting is printed five times to gradually develop the composition and achieve varying shades of color as required. After printing, the paintings need to be dried to prevent smudging and ensure color durability.

Dong Ho painting

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4. The meanings of some famous Dong Ho paintings

Here are some prominent Dong Ho folk paintings along with their deep meanings:

  • Mother Hen and Chicks: Portrays maternal love and affection among family members.
  • Yin-Yang Pigs: Reflects aspiration for a prosperous and peaceful life.
  • Carp Leaping Over the Dragon Gate: Symbolizes the spirit of overcoming challenges and getting achievements in education.
  • Glory: Depicts the virtues of a true gentleman – benevolence, righteousness, loyalty, courage, and knowledge.
  • Buffalo Boy Playing the Flute: Represents the serene and contented life amidst poverty.
  • Toad Teacher: Praises the virtue of a thirst for knowledge and the respect for teachers.
  • Ancestor Worship: Demonstrates the Vietnamese tradition of showing gratitude toward parents and teachers.
  • Wrestling: Celebrates the noble spirit of martial arts.
  • Mouse Wedding: Reflects the lives of people in ancient times.

Dong Ho painting

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5. Guide to exploring Dong Ho Painting Village

If you want to delve deeper into the origin and process of creating Dong Ho folk paintings, visit Dong Ho Village.

5.1. Where is Dong Ho Painting Village?

Like other Vietnamese villages, Dong Ho Village preserves the beauty of traditional culture. This folk painting village is located along the Duong River in Song Ho Commune, Thuan Thanh District, Bac Ninh Province, about 16 kilometers from the center of Bac Ninh City and 35 kilometers away from Hanoi. From Hanoi, it takes just a little over an hour to travel here by motorbike, car, or bus.

5.2. Things to do in Dong Ho Painting Village

  • Take photos: A photo with the unique paintings handcrafted by artisans will look truly artistic!
  • Learn how to make Dong Ho Paintings: Guided by Dong Ho artisans, this will help you understand the distinctiveness of this traditional craft and create a beautiful painting of your own.
  • Participate in an exciting Dong Ho painting exhibition: At the exhibition, you will get to admire over 100 artifacts and paintings from different periods of the village.
  • Witness the Dong Ho Folk Painting Festival: The festival takes place annually from the 14th to the 16th day of the 3rd lunar month. It is a chance for you to enjoy unique folk paintings in a lively festive atmosphere.
  • Meet outstanding artisans of Dong Ho Village: Engage in conversations with the artisans here to learn about the history and intriguing stories behind Dong Ho art.

Dong Ho painting

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In addition to Dong Ho Village in Bac Ninh, Vietnam boasts a diverse array of other renowned destinations that showcase unique cultural and artistic beauty. These destinations include Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Ha Long. To indulge in a truly comfortable and luxurious experience within these enchanting locales, consider the upscale hotels and resorts offered by Vinpearl, a leading hospitality brand in Vietnam with presence in various tourist hotspots across the country.

Vinpearl provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in harmonious natural landscapes and exceptional amenities. Furthermore, don’t overlook the chance to explore VinWonders – one of Vietnam’s most contemporary entertainment complexes. At VinWonders, you can partake in an array of cultural activities, revel in water parks, experience exhilarating games, and much more.

Dong Ho painting


Dong Ho painting

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Dong Ho painting is a remarkable symbol of Vietnam’s rich cultural heritage, weaving stories of tradition, family, resilience, and aspiration through vivid strokes and intricate details. With each brushstroke, these artworks encapsulate the values cherished by generations. The enduring charm of Dong Ho folk paintings lies not only in their visual appeal but also in their ability to transcend time, connecting us to the heart of Vietnamese life and identity.

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