arts and crafts
treasure-house of traditional arts and crafts
Vietnam is rich in traditional arts and crafts. Many have
their origins in other traditions, Chinese, Indian, Malay,
European, and so on, but over the centuries they have evolved
into something distinctly Vietnamese.
Vietnamese lacquerware is a good example of the evolution
of a craft. Introduced into Vietnam from China, the skill
of creating highly-polished articles by coating them with
several layers of resin developed into sophisticated art.
The brilliant colours and gilded embellishments in pagodas
and temples, delicate items of polished furniture, large
wall-hung artworks, and tourist souvenirs are all being
created by modern craftspeople, and show influences from
all over Asia and beyond.
Wood and stone carving
The tradition of wood carving can be seen in Vietnamese
statuary, furniture, architecture and ornaments. Typically,
they are heavily incised and often stained to very dark
colours or lacquered. Inlaying, usually with mother of pearl,
is also a highly-developed Vietnamese craft.
An abundance of high-grade limestone and
the early influences of the Hindu motifs of the Cham people
have encouraged a long tradition stone carving. In the past,
the craft was closely associated with embellishments to
royal and religious buildings, but is now more often expressed
in the form of public statuary. The fine work in the large
cities shows a variety of styles from classic styles through
Soviet realism to modern art.
A particularly Vietnamese tradition is the ‘craft village’,
small communities where the inhabitants work together to
manufacture particular products such as knives, rush mats,
bamboo birdcages, ceramics, rice wine, and dozens of other
commonplace and unusual articles. Most craft villages are
in the north, mainly clustered around Hanoi.
The richness and diversity of ethnic craft in Vietnam can
be seen in many shops and galleries in Hanoi and Ho Chi
Minh City. Advanced skills include embroidery, batik, appliqué
work and different styles of weaving, often with highly
stylised patterns, as well as intricate jewellery, usually
fashioned from silver and local gemstones.
Both the mainstream and ethnic musical traditions in Vietnam
are associated with religious ceremonial and ritual. The
Kinh majority group has a musical tradition stretching the
back to the lithophones and stone gongs of the ancient past,
and the magnificent ‘rain drums’ of the Dong Son people
that are on view in the museums of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh
City. Cham music and songs are part of that tradition, as
is the Chinese oriented classical forms linked to the Imperial
The construction of religious and royal buildings has always
been regarded as a pre-eminent art form in Vietnam, and
is intertwined with complex beliefs about the spirit world
and religious ceremonial. Many pagodas, temples, palaces
and tombs display exquisite examples of symbolic and devotional
motifs and embellishments.