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Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life

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Hang Trong folk prints are the traditional trait of an ancient capital. The seemingly forgotten technique has been awakened recently.

Just plain folk

Hand-painted or wood-engraved paintings are on display at a wet market stall next to meat and vegetables are barely seen anywhere in the world. In Vietnam, though, it’s a common sight.

People put these pictures on the family altar as well as hang them on the walls. At certain times of the year- particularly Tet, the Lunar New Year – they are considered an indispensable element of the occasion.

Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life
The painting called Mau thuong ngan – Mother Goddess of the Forest. Documentary photo

Hang Trong folk print – a combination of traditional cultural values with ancient artistic methods contributed to the development of folk painting craft, making it flourish once upon a time. 

Ever since the 1970s, Hang Trong prints have been on sale all over Hanoi three weeks before Tet. The paintings were once very popular among Vietnamese and had been displayed for sale on the ancient streets of Hang Trong, Hang Non or Hang Quat in Hanoi’s Old Quarter area.

The paintings had set their place deeply in the soul of Hanoian and remained its feature unchangeable in spite of the upheavals of the times.

Hang Trong folk painting uses wood carving technique to print colorful inks on ‘do’ paper. In making a painting, the craftsman starts with woodblocks to print black outlines, then draws the details and finally colours the picture in by hand.

Woodblock making is the most important part of the painting producing process, which must be made by skillful craftsmen. The person who created the first-ever painting on woodblock is usually the best one among craftsmen. His dedicated skillful drawing will decide the beauty of a Hang Trong painting later. It might take months for a craftsman to finish a sophisticated printing sample.  

The imprints of the ritual and daily life

Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life
The Ngu ho – Five Tigers. Documentary photo

Hang Trong paintings have vivid colours that reflect the beauty and rich culture of the community where they are originated. The folk paintings portrayed themes that associated with Vietnamese daily life such as: Tet paintings, worshiping paintings and paintings that depict people daily activities.

The subjects of paintings are also in variety including Tu quy – four specious kinds of trees and flowers of pine, bamboo, chrysanthemum and apricot; Ngu ho – Five Tigers; Ly ngu vong nguyet – Carp Looking at the Moon; To nu – Four female musicians; Chim cong -peacock, Tam Da – three gods symbolising longevity, prosperity and happiness; Cho que – rural market, Mau thuong ngan – Mother Goddess of the Forest; among others.

One of Hang Trong’s best loved images is the Carp Looking at the Moon. The carp symbolized the strong will. According to legend, it refused to accept the fate of ordinary fish and won a contest to cross the Rain Gate, thus becoming a dragon, king of all aquatic creatures.

Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life
The Ly ngu vong nguyet – Carp Looking at the Moon and Chim cong – peacock.

Another revered image of folk painting is that of the tiger, a sacred image and a symbol of strength. There used to be many tigers in Vietnam, they were believed to be capable of defeating demons. A tiger image of the front door protects a house from evil forces.

The painting of “Little Seven” is originated from the old opinion as “the more children, the greater the parents’ happiness”. For rice growers who need manpower for planting and the harvest, children were literally a source of wealth.   

Strives for the folk prints’ preservation

However, the craft is fading now as there remains only the family of artisan Le Dinh Nghien who still practices it. There are no longer any household in this increasingly fashionable and touristy street devoted to the craft. “There is not much demand these days,” said the artisan, “But that means I have time to improve the quality of my picture, as well as to teach the skill to younger artisans.”

In order to resurrect this genre of traditional art, some painting projects and classes are also opened by Hang Trong ward authorities to help transmitting knowledge of making pictures from old craftsmen to young artists.

Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life
Visitors admire Hang Trong paintings at Nam Huong communal house. Photo: Lai Tan

One among preservation efforts of Hang Trong folk prints was the project entitled “From tradition to tradition”, launching by Hang Trong ward authorities and Vietnam University of Fine Arts in late 2020.

The project ‘From tradition to tradition’ means creating Hang Trong folk painting on Vietnamese traditional materials, namely try painting the ancient patterns on silk and lacquer, which is the intermingling of the two traditional values, instead of sticking to zo paper.

“One interesting thing about this folk art is that Hang Trong painting was born, developed and flourished right on this street. After a half of century, it almost disappears right on the same street,” said artist Nguyen The Son, teacher from Vietnam University of Fine Arts.

Hang Trong folk print- a touch of the legacy in the modern life
New experiment: Hang Trong folk painting on lacquer and silk. Photo: Thoi Nguyen

 
According to the artist, through the painting project, the artists wished to reconnect the ruptured history flow. Young painters, beside paying attention on their individual creativity, need to recognize and connect with the past heritage, and having the sense of national indigenous culture and tradition.

When approaching Hang Trong folk paintings, young artists and art students not only respect the cultural, artistic and historical values, but insert some creative features into the paintings.

They also draw them in the new material of silk or lacquer. Thanks to that, the folk prints began to have a new vitality, getting out of the classical motifs, not just the paintings themed a flower vase or decorative plates on zo paper for adorning the walls.

Hang Trong painting is a familiar folk painting line of Vietnamese people. However, with the skillful drawing techniques and vivid stories shown in the paintings, it is believed that the contemporary Hang Trong folk prints will bring a new vivid appearance that would enrich nonmaterial life of Hanoians as well as Vietnamese people. 

Hanoitimes 

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/entertainment-sports/hang-trong-folk-print-a-touch-of-the-legacy-in-the-modern-life-714556.html

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Exquisite images bathed in light

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Ancient Vietnamese royal costumes, landscapes and traditional culture have all provided inspiration for Nguyen Duy Duy to create enchanting 3D lightboxes.

Exquisite images bathed in light
COLOURED IMAGERY: Duy’s lightboxes showcase ancient Vietnamese royal costumes, landscapes, and traditional culture.

A native of Thach That District on the outskirts of Hanoi, Duy came up with the idea of combining LED lighting and the Japanese art of “kirigami”, inspired by shadow puppetry, to create magical lightboxes as his university graduation project in 2018.

With the help of a friend, he experimented making lightboxes for over three years and then established his own brand — Fox Design. He and his friend are now considered the innovators of such creations in Vietnam.

Exquisite images bathed in light
KEY CREATIONS: Duy’s lightboxes are a source of pride for him because he understands the importance of culture for a country.

The 25-year-old’s latest completed project, entitled Việt Nam — Đất Nước và Con Người (Vietnam — Land and People), is a combination of three distinct parts, in which the “People” part aims to honour the beauty of Vietnamese women in traditional or ancient royal dresses.

Meanwhile, the “Land” part features beautiful landscapes in Vietnam, from the north to the south.

When seeking ideas for the project, Duy happened to hear the song Nhớ Về Hà Nội (Remember Hanoi) presented by singer Hong Nhung, which brought back childhood memories of hanging out with his father and rekindled his affection for his hometown.

Exquisite images bathed in light
DETAILED PROCESS: The first step is designing paper layers on a computer, then printing them and placing them in a certain order to complete the image.

Much of the scenery inside his lightboxes is associated with outstanding Hanoi landmarks like the Old Quarter, the Instagram-famous “train street”, and St Joseph’s Cathedral.

Stunning national landscapes also make an appearance, such as terraced rice fields, Hoi An ancient town, and the former imperial city of Hue.

According to Duy, presenting Vietnamese culture and costumes in his lightboxes is both a joy and a source of pride, because he understands that “culture is an integral part of a nation”.

Exquisite images bathed in light
STUNNING DESIGN: A woman in a royal costume, dating back to the 18th century, is the subject of one of Duy’s lightboxes.

“The ‘Vietnam’ part was the hardest for me, as I had to select what I consider to be national symbols,” he recalled. “After talking to my friend, I decided to integrate four cultural and artistic forms into our creations, including tuồng (classical drama), water puppetry, Hue court music, and the Central Highlands gong space.”

Before making any product, Duy must conceptualise, design, set up the background scene, and arrange paper layers on a computer. He then meticulously cuts out designs, which must be printed by hand on art paper in order to ensure precision in the final product.

After the cutting, the paper layers are attached to each other to create a complete image. Each layer must be carefully chosen so that its original quality is maintained, with no shrinking, stretching, or wrinkling due to unfavourable temperature or humidity.

Exquisite images bathed in light
PUT TOGETHER: Each lightbox includes from five to seven or even as many as 15 layers of paper, depending on the desired image and colour. VNA/VNS Photos Hoang Dat

Each lightbox includes from five to seven or sometimes up to 15 layers of paper, depending on the complexity of the context and image. Duy and his friend must strike a balance between component parts, so that the light can pierce through the paper layers and create the intended effect.

The set-up for the LED lighting at the back of the box is also carefully calculated. The ratio of light determines the colours in the final product. Thanks to laser printing technology, each member of Duy’s team can make three for four lightboxes a day with an increasing level of precision and sophistication.

Prior to the “Việt Nam — Land and People” project, Duy made lightboxes featuring famous scenes from classic films like The Lion King or celebrations of traditional Vietnamese festivals, from which he gained a lot of experience.

Sometimes he and his friend decide to start over again if they feel the colour is unsuitable or if light can’t make it through the set-up the way they prefer.

But that doesn’t dampen their spirits, and Duy and his friend are fully invested in pursuing their artistic craft.

“We plan to experiment with other subjects, such as childhood memories, depicting memorable moments that most kids in rural areas would have had, or more sophisticated topics like ‘feng shui’ or Buddha,” Duy said.

VNS

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/entertainment-sports/exquisite-images-bathed-in-light-727631.html

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Vietnamese grandmaster to coach American university chess team

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The Vietnamese grandmaster is well known for his speed chess skills.

Le Quang Liem, the number one chess player in Vietnam, has been appointed the new coach of the Webster University in the US from June.

Liem will take over the position from Susan Polgar, former women’s World Champion, who has decided to retire after nine years on the job, citing health reasons and wanting to spend more time with her family in Florida.

Le Quang Liem used to be a team captain when he was a student of the Webster University chess team.

Liem is well known for his speed chess skills. He won World Blitz Chess Championship in 2013 ahead of several elite players.

 Le Quang Liem received the SPICE Cup 2015 Championship Award from Susan Polgar. File photo

Liem is regarded as having an extremely sharp tactical eye. He has won several open tournaments all across the globe, namely Aeroflot open, HD Bank open, the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) cup, Kolkata open and the World Youth Under 14 Chess Championship.

“Susan and Paul consider me family. I have learned a lot from them, both in terms of chess expertise and real life. I am honored to accept this position, and begin working with students from SPICE,” Quang Liem wrote on his personal page.

“However, the new assignment will not affect my dedication to Vietnamese chess. I will balance my schedule. For important and official tournaments like SEA Games, World Chess Cup and the Chess Olympiad, I will still be a Vietnamese representative,” Liem added.

Quang Liem had been invited to the Tepe Sigeman chess tournament at the end of this month, where he would compete with chess legend Anatoly Karpov. But the tournament in Sweden was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Liem was the premier chess prodigy from Vietnam and achieved his Grandmaster title at the age of 15. Ever since he has played for the national team of Vietnam and has also been their highest ranked player for the past several years.

Susan Polgar has been the director of the SPICE for 14 years, which she founded. She has also been the head coach of the student chess team at Webster University since 2012. She will officially retire at the end of May.

Polgar and husband, a former Wesbter coach-assistant, have helped the university win eight out of nine most recent national chess competitions.

Hanoitimes

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/entertainment-sports/vietnamese-grandmaster-to-coach-american-university-chess-team-727682.html

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Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival

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The third day of the third lunar month is the Cold Foods Festival of Vietnamese people. 

During this day, every household prepare traditional floating cakes, ‘banh troi’ (made of bits of brown sugar wrapped in glutinous rice paste and cooked by scalding in boiling water) and ‘banh chay’ (glutinous rice balls with mung beans filling, served in fragrant sweet soup) to offer to their ancestors.

Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
Ingredients for ‘banh troi’ include wet glutinous rice powder for wrapping and brown sugar for filling. Meanwhile, making ‘banh chay’ requires wet rice powder for wrapping, pounded mung beans and sugar for fillings; cassava powder, water and sugar to make soup. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
In order to make banh troi, first, one should wrap pieces of brown sugar with wet rice powder. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
After moulding, round glutinous rice balls are brought to boil. When two third of them float, they are ready to serve. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
Cooked ‘banh troi’ are served on plates. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
They are sprinkled with roasted sesame before offered to altars. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ and ‘banh chay’ are offered to ancestors in the Cold Foods Festival. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ is served on plate while ‘banh chay’ in bowl. (Photo: VNA)
Floating cakes for Cold Foods Festival
‘Banh troi’ nowadays is more colorful as being mixed with natural food colourings, such as gac fruit, taro, etc. (Photo: VNA)

VNP/VNA

Source: https://vietnamnet.vn/en/entertainment-sports/floating-cakes-for-cold-foods-festival-727690.html

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