On March 11, 2024, the Hanoi Museum, in collaboration with the School of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Arts (Hanoi National University), organized a workshop, "Dragon image in Eastern aesthetics". The seminar was part of the exhibition "Telling Dragon Stories in the Year of the Dragon," which introduced more than 100 documents and artefacts that clarified the dragon symbol in religious and belief architecture through the Hanoi Museum's collection of artefacts. The collection also includes dragons in contemporary fine arts, expressed through craft village products and unique handicraft products.Speaking at the seminar were Dr Tran Hau Yen - The School of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Arts; Dr Ngo Viet Hoan - University of Social Sciences and Humanities; Associate Professor Dr Le Thoi Tan - Hanoi Capital University and a large number of students from the School of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Arts, Hanoi National University. Representing Hanoi Museum was Mr. Dang Minh Ve, the deputy director and staff, who participated in the discussion.

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Dr. Ngo Viet Hoan spoke at the seminar.

Dr Ngo Viet Hoan, Lecturer in the Department of Literary Theory, Faculty of Literature, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hanoi National University, said there are differences in East-West aesthetic trends. Traditional Western culture persists in taking "authenticity" as a measure of beauty. In contrast, traditional Eastern culture, especially in countries influenced by Confucianism, always persists in "taking goodness to beautify". Therefore, the dragon image in Eastern and Western aesthetics also has differences, expressing the values ​​and beliefs of each different culture.

Western dragons originate from European folklore, depicted as "evil creatures" often representing evil and frequently appearing with Satan, originating from Christian teachings. Meanwhile, in the East, dragons originate from ancient Chinese folk culture and religion; the Dragon image has meanings appropriate to the nature of the times, such as a symbol of national origin, kingship, supernatural power, luck, and prosperity.

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Associate Professor, Dr. Le Thoi Tan spoke at the Seminar

Associate Professor Dr. Le Thoi Tan, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hanoi Capital University, said that the Eastern Dragon is a synthetic image created thousands of years ago. It is based on the collection of many different elements of a number of animals or natural phenomena. The image of the Eastern Dragon is reminiscent of various animals, such as deer horns, carp scales, and eagle claws.

"Dragons do not exist. They have emerged from the imagination and are portrayed in culture, architecture, sculpture, and writing. I think the special personality of dragons is that they are pure fiction. It's not real, so it's sacred because things that can't be proven are forever attractive, forever sacred, forever scary," Associate Professor Dr. Le Thoi Tan emphasized.

Eastern dragons are commonly portrayed as having a fierce image, often with an old face, suggesting something like the eternity of the universe. As a symbol used to refer to the king, it represents the lasting wishes of a dynasty. Besides, dragons are also a symbol of nature, known to be intelligent animals capable of controlling water, rainfall, storms and floods.

Dr. Tran Hau Yen The, a Lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Sciences and Arts, Hanoi National University, said that in the minds of Vietnamese people, dragons are also the origin of the nation, with the legend "children of the dragon and grandchildren of the fairy."


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Dr. Tran Hau Yen The shared about the dragon image at the seminar

In Vietnamese culture, dragons were invented from the collective thinking of ancient Vietnamese agricultural residents as the psychological foundation of the desire to control nature and rise to master their destiny. The Dragon is the god of rain that helps abundant crops. Therefore, in Vietnam, the dragon image is used a lot in the architecture of palaces, pagodas, and royal costumes, and there are also differences between dynasties.

In decorative arts, dragons appear on all materials, with different ways of expression and meaning. Dragon images carved into individual blocks or reliefs on stone are one of the most common expressions.

Dr Tran Hau Yen said that the bannisters of Kinh Thien Palace, this national treasure, have both the aesthetic spirit of Ly, Tran dynasty and the special creativity of the early Le period.

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The seminar attracted the participation of many young people

According to Dr Tran Hau Yen, Hanoi was once the land of rivers, so the Vietnamese Dragon had a rolling wave shape, holding the echoes of the Red River. The river element is also bold, reflecting the Vietnamese people's way of survival. It is reflected in art and is associated with the wishes and living environment of the Vietnamese people.

"In the imagination of ancient people, dragons are depicted with formidable and fierce characteristics. Initially, they were a combination of the characteristics of fierce beasts; however, later on, the fangs and claws of Vietnamese Dragons were unclear. The Vietnamese Dragon's mouth often holds pearls, so the intimidation factor faded. At that time, the sacred Dragon no longer meant intimidation," Dr. Tran Hau Yen commented.


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Deputy Director of Hanoi Museum Dang Minh Ve thanked and presented gifts to the speakers.

The speakers clarified the dragon image and its influence on Vietnamese cultural life. At the same time, the Vietnamese dragons' image is apparent in stories, architectural decorations of religions, beliefs, patterns, and living utensils.

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Department of Display and Education