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Folk painting is a celebration of traditions. In Vietnam, it keeps village life alive in people’s memories while the invasion of industries draws people in the cities. It is a reflection of what the artist actually sees not what she imagines. In that sense, it is a backward looking art resting on history not modern art explorations of twisted visions in the artist’s mind when he looks at something or feels something.

Dong Ho is in many ways a traditional small Vietnamese village. One thing making it unique is the remaining 16th century stelae depicting a folk art of two mice pounding rice. A little less than an hour from Hanoi following Highway 1 to Bac Ninh, Dong Ho is one of our best day trips.

Location and History
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
Nguyen Dang Che guide: how to make a traditional paiting
Dong Ho Village with its famous paintings has become an aesthetic symbol in Vietnam culture. Located to the left side of Duong River, Dong Ho stood for centuries making their unique art work. From over 100 families in the 1950s, currently there are only a handful of families still making the traditional craft. Most villagers have now turned to joss paper making, since the regulation has relaxed and again allowed for religious practices that were once deemed “unfit of the revolutionary”. The families of Nguyen Dang Che and Nguyen Huu Sam both run their own galleries and employ a number of workers. To everyone’s relief, the essence still remains and thrives.

Arts and Symbols

Dong Ho paintings are places for artists to reflect their wishes for lucks and their perception of everyday life in the village. Common themes that are found consistently include animals (which has goodluck symbol on them), everyday life (such as Jealous Fight or A Market Day), and folk tales (Saint Giong or The Frog Teacher). The paper used for the painting is made from bark tree so that the texture can retain color for a long time. Each family develops their own mold for the painting. Each mold are then replicated and filled with a separate share of color. The paintings are made by stamping the mold into the paper, one at a time to add more and more color to the picture. 
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province

Dong Ho paintings are simple, meaningful and created for the mass. Patrons use to come from agricultural and low-income families, some of them are illiterate and can not afford other more exquisite art works. But the meaning is the paintings is, by no means, sub-par. It reflects both reality and dream of the people.
Dong Ho these days has also expanded its tradition, and many new products have taken form, among them xyloglyphics and combined-medium works.

Visitor information
A visit to Dong Ho family can take 3-4 hours. For the true art-enthusiasts, skip the amateur Nguyen Dang Che’s tourist-exploiting mill and go sit down and have a talk to the famous but elusive Nguyen Huu Sam or his son Nguyen Huu Qua, who are both masters of their trade. 
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
Nguyen Dang Che artisan at his house
Dong Ho's pride is the family folk painting gallery of Nguyen Dang Che, a celebrated artist revelling in depicting the joys of small village life. Through both paintings and wood block reproductions, he and his family create work that is really worthwhile bringing home from Vietnam. When you travel, you should always try to bring home the best that you can afford of countries you’ve visited.

Nguyen Dang Che’s art is among the best. Che himself is a small man filled with energy, working closely with his 4 sons and daughter. Each family member seems to have a task in producing the prints and paintings. The technical skill in cutting the wood blocks for the prints is a delight to watch. 
 Picture

Dong Ho families still own many of these traditional blocks used for folk painting. This village used to be the centre of folk painting which is popularly used by the Vietnamese to wish happiness, good luck and fortune during TET, the Vietnamese New Year. In the past, just before TET, the village used to hold in its communal house a market for its folk paintings. 
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province

The mixing of colours of traditional herbs, tree leaves, charred bamboo, ground oyster shells and red earth is an art in itself. You can see in Nguyen Dang Che's workshop all these traditional items used for folk painting. The traditional paper, Zo, is wonderfully textured and helps focus on the quality of the over-all effort. It is made from the fibre of the bark of a papyrus like plant coated with oyster shell dust called "diep" by the locals. The Thai minority in Vietnam were the first to make this type of paper and still continue to do so. Originally, it was only used for writing poetry until the Dong Ho families discovered that once coated, it is perfect for folk painting.
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
it's take around 01 month to finish...

Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
It costs around 10 to 50 million VND (USD1.000$ - USD 3.000$) for one
The grounds where Che paints have traditionally built workshops and are of themselves worth a visit to see the village craftsmanship that has remained largely unchanged for a thousand years. Filled with light and warmed by the wood, it’s a perfect setting for an art community. 
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
Nature material to make Dong Ho paiting

Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
Nature material to make Dong Ho paiting
Dong Ho is next to a river, the Duong, and is a verdant and fertile village giving the feeling of timelessness. Village markets are perched precariously on bridges and along the road with all the seasonal fruits and vegetables being eagerly promoted by cone hatted farmers.
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province

Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province

So visiting Che and his family is a great experience that includes not only the final art work but also a quick peek into the thousand year old village life that forms the basis of the craft. A little more than an hour from Hanoi, it’s really a half day’s visit and if combined with the famous duck lunch in Bac Ninh, it will be an experience you’ll remember well each time you look at Che’s wood cut or painting on your wall.
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province
Old Dong Ho Painting (Quang Trung - Nguyen Hue) cost more than USD 2.500$ not for selling...
SOME FAMOUS DONG HO PAITING:
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Relaxing on the field
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Rat wedding and cat
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Fighting between jealous wives
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
04 supernatural power animal (Long - Ly - Qui - Phuong)
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Wrestling
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
A typical mandarin
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Lion dance
Dong Ho painting village (Lang tranh Dong Ho) in Bac Ninh province - Most famous Dong Ho paitting
Peacock
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