Dong Ho is located on the southern side of the Duong river (40km to the east of Hanoi) is one of the villages that preserves ancient cultural relics of Kinh Bac area (Red river delta, north of Vietnam).
Dong Ho painting is printed by hand on the surface of wooden plate. Each printing colour has its own engraved board. The black one is printed last. Thanks to this way, paintings are made in bulk and do not require sophisticated techniques.
Dong Ho paintings mainly reflect the aspiration for a peaceful, happy and prosperous life. Dear animals in people’s life, such as cow, pig, dog, cat and chicken are also depicted in a lot of paintings. Especially, some paintings like “catching coconuts”, “mice wedding” and “jealously” attract the attention of many domestic and foreign visitors.
The painting fair is annually held on Tet holiday in the communal house in Dong Ho village, which draws a large number of tourists. From the afternoon of March 14th (lunar calendar), shoddy goods competition is also held at the same place. Painting fair is a distinctive cultural feature of Dong Ho villagers.
Printing paper and painting colour
The printing paper is made from the bark of a tree called "Dzo". The background paper is originally white. People use natural materials to change the colours of the paper which are usually orange, pink, yellow, purple, etc. colours of the paintings are refined from various kinds of tree leaves that can be easily found in Vietnam. Particularly, the red colour is taken from earth of hills and mountains; the black colour is from the coal of burned bamboo's leaves; the glitter white colour is made of sea shells. The original point of Dong Ho folk painting is the durability of colours. The painting is finally covered with a layer of sticky rice paste (called "ho nep") to protect the paintings and their colours. They are so long lasting that it is very difficult to make them dimmer due to time or light.
The most common idea carries congratulation meanings, for instance, “Honour-Prosperity”, “Spring Ritual”, “Chicken Family”. Another plot is daily activities, which include “Jealously”, “Playing flute”, “Farmer and Water Buffalo”. Those paintings with Chinese characters have clearer meanings. For example, the painting “Justice” that portraits a child carrying a frog, which means humanity and justice.
Remember to come to Dong Ho on Tet holiday to mingle yourselves in the atmosphere of a painting fair, which is an opportunity to choose one to your taste.