The best village in Vietnam to visit before Tet

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					The best village in Vietnam to visit before Tet, Lunar New Year
Dong Ho Paintings
Dong Ho Painting or Vietnamese woodblock prints refers to
a Vietnamese folk art originating in Dong Ho Village, Song
Ho Commune, Thuan Thanh County of Bac Ninh Province
(north of Hanoi). It is one of the most popular Vietnamese
folk arts.

It was a "must have" of every Vietnamese household for
Tet, Vietnamese New Year.
The prints in Dong Ho are made with local wood and paper.
The paint is also made from local organic materials and is
applied to wood and pressed on paper. The process is
repeated with different colors

Tet painting
You may have seen them before. They adorn the walls of Vietnamese restaurants everywhere in
the world and Vietnamese overseas hang them up as Lunar New Year approaches. In Vietnam,
production of these folk paintings peaks right before Tet as merchants stock up in anticipation of
heavy customer demand. These paintings are traditionally used to decorate homes for the New
Year festival.

Producing Dong Ho paintings is a trade of time-honoured tradition of the village of Dong Ho. It
is Dong Ho paintings that make Dong Ho village famous across Vietnam as well as in the world.
In fact, only Dong Ho village's people can turn out real Dong Ho paintings.

The village of Dong Ho is in Ha Bac, the province just north of Hanoi. Come there, besides
impressive paintings, you can enjoy beautiful rural scenery and fresh air of the Vietnam's
coutryside. However, whenever people mention to Dong Ho village, first of all they remember
Dong Ho paintings.
The production of Dong Ho paintings is rather sophisticated. It can be described as follows
The print making process
The prints are made by brushing paint made of local material onto carved wood blocks, then
pressing the blocks on paper. The print is left to dry after each color is applied before another
color is added. Three to five colors are used to make each print.

The wood blocks
The wooden blocks are made from the thi tree, a soft fibrous wood. The block is used as a
printing plate, with one block for each color, print and size. A big shelf in the printing room
holds hundreds of wood blocks. Among them, some are 200 years old. Wood block carving is an
art handed down within the family by the master to his children. In the village, there are some
families have been making prints for many generations. Coming to visit Dong Ho village, you
can see many sons and several daughters working, learning the craft from their fathers and
carrying on the family tradition.

The paper
The prints are all done on traditional giay gio paper made from the bark fiber of the do tree. This
tree grows in the northwestern part of the country. The sheath is stripped off the tree trunk and
soaked in a pond for a month. It is then dipped in limewater for two weeks, followed by a wash.
After ten days or so the pulp is poured into frames which are stacked for several more days. Then
the stacks are arranged on a wall to dry, and pressed smooth with a stone mortar.
The paper is coated with a pulverized powder made from shellfish found in the Hai Phong area.
The shellfish is brought to the village and coated with mud for two years. The entire mixture is
then ground up by stone mortar and put into a water tank to be filtered and pressed into balls that
weigh about a kilo and they are left to dry on the walls or floors. They are then used as needed
and mixed with glue. This mixture is called diep powder.

The brush
The prints are painted with a beautiful brush made of spruce. The thet brushes are made from
dried spruce leaves bound together. These brushes are made in a village not far away and come
in various sizes. The leaves are pounded with salt water and a hammer to make the brush tip soft
enough and are bound together and flattened at the top.

The paint
The folk art simplicity has strong and simple contours with bright colors that are made from
dried bamboo leaves, the local fruits, flowers and leaves. The paint is mixed in large earthenware
pots. The colors are mixed by hand and each artisan has his or her own formula. The red paint is
made from soi son, a soft stone that is found in the region. The blue paint is made from indigo
leaves found in the minority areas. Both of these paints must be soaked in an earthenware pot for
a couple of years and strained of all impurities.

Tet painting
Yellow paint usually comes from the sophora tree whose flowers are as small as rice kernels.
The flowers are roasted in a pan until they turn brownish-yellow. When water is added and the
mixture is boiled, the yellow color appears. The liquid is filtered and the pulp thrown away. The
violet color comes from the mong toi fruit. Black paint comes from the bamboo tree. When the
bamboo trees shed their leaves, they are burned to a cinder, then sprinkled with water and put in
a glazed clay jar half filled with water. After a year or more the water is strained and the black
ink is ready for use after being mixed with glutinous rice glue.

Grinding glutinous rice into a fine powder and mixing it with water makes the rice glue. As the
rice powder settles to the bottom, the clear water is skimmed off every day, to prevent the
contents from fermenting.

The stories each print tells a story of historical significance. The prints are used to carry on the
cultural history of Vietnam, passed on at the welcoming of each Lunar New Year to younger
generations through story telling. The themes of happiness, good luck, fertility, good fortune and
prosperity are common. They celebrate the optimism for the coming New Year.
Every year, when Tet comes closer the village's people are busy producing Tet prints,
transporting them to Hanoi for sale to wholesalers who distribute them all over the country,
keeping the tradition alive. Dong Ho paintings are still something that cannot lack in Vietnam's
Tet. And many foreigners like these paintings and often buy them as souvenirs for their.

This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Vacation
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