Folk paintings, which appeared many centuries ago, are a precious treasure of Vietnamese national culture. Through many historical periods and the ups and downs of the country, these types of paintings still retain the playfulness, wit, and gentleness to express Vietnamese human values and culture. 

                 There is a type of folk paintings in the centre of Hanoi, Hang Trong paintings, which are printed all year round, but most focused on Tet holiday. Before the August Revolution in 1945, this type of paintings was sold mainly in Hang Trong street and then Hang Non, Hang Hom, Hang Quat streets ... Hang Trong folk paintings were born around the 16th century, but the period believed to be its heyday was in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It then declined in the second half of the 20th century. Hang Trong folk paintings are an indispensable spiritual part of Hanoi people and an elegant joy every spring. The themes of Hang Trong paintings are very diverse and rich, but there are two main topics: Worship painting and Tet painting. There is also a third group of paintings, "life paintings" based on the time of appearance. 

             Worship painting is a type of painting that serves the needs of worship in halls and shrines. Due to this requirement, the worship painting has religious colors, while the images shown are people and animals that are close but still very mystical.

             Regarding Tet painting, Hanoians used to hang Hang Trong paintings to decorate their houses every New Year to express the meaning of blessing and wishing for good things. Not only is the desire for a warm and full life, but Tet painting also expresses the dream of fame, wealth, longevity ... of the old townpeople.

              The Life painting does not have many themes like Worship painting or Tet painting, but it contains many interesting things about the daily life of Vietnamese people, especially in the early 20th century.

Currently, Hanoi Museum is conserving about 250 Hang Trong paintings of all types, including all three of the above themes. Regarding the Worship painting type, there are topics such as: Three Palaces, Four Palaces, Four Councils, Five Tigers, Holy Sant Tran ... The most prominent of which is the Four Palaces, the content of which includes:

Heavenly Palace: The First Mother (Heaven Mother) rules the sky and masters the powers of rain clouds, stormy winds, and lightning.

Mountainous Palace: The Second Mother (Mountain Mother) looks after the mountains and forests and gives wealth to sentient beings.

Water Palace: The Third Mother (River Mother) reigns over the rivers and helps rice cultivation and fisheries.

Land Palace: The Fourth Mother (Land Mother) manages the land, which is the source of all life.

Description: tu phu.jpg

Four Palaces painting

          In the Tet painting currently conserved at Hanoi Museum, there is a painting collection named Four Precious Trees, showing the four types of trees, including Conifer, Daisy, Cane, and Apricot that represent the four seasons of the year: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. These four trees symbolize the good, noble personalities of people. Apricot corresponds to spring, while Cane represents summer, symbolizing human integrity and uprightness. Daisy corresponds to autumn, and this flower is meant to symbolize uprightness, stance. Finally, Conifer represents winter. Although the trees usually grow on arid high mountains, they still grow strongly and are full of life. Therefore, they are also meant to symbolize the spirit of overcoming difficulties of people.

Description: bthn 10911.JPG

Four Precious Trees painting collection

           TheCountryside Market belongs to the Life painting line, depicting the market scene of a busy, bustling countryside full of social classes with diverse shops, stalls, and industries. For Vietnamese people, the old markets are part of their cultural life and have entered the minds of the people with rustic and familiar images.

Description: cho que.jpg

        Countryside Market painting

                Hang Trong painting uses the printing-painting combined technique. The painting is first printed with lines and images, and it is then painted with watercolors using a wide soft brush. Half of the brush is dipped in colors, and the other half is dipped in water. The painting is only printed in black first, after which it is colored by hand. From the woodcuts, the paintings are printed in pure Chinese ink. Due to the hand-coloring method, Hang Trong paintings have their own creativity and are very flexible.

                Along with other folk paintings, Hang Trong paintings have contributed to making traditional Vietnamese paintings rich, unique, and prosperous. Despite carrying many values of beauty art and humanity, Hang Trong paintings are in danger of disappearing. The whole busy craft street in the past has only left an artisan named Le Dinh Nghien, but he was also in his old age. Le Dinh Nghien was followed by Le Hoan, his youngest son who inherits the family's traditions and continues to extend the life of this folk painting. 

Nguyễn Phương Mai