Dong Ho Painting Village preserves folk wood carvings of the Vietnamese soul
As one of the most favorable Bac Ninh attractions, Dong Ho Painting Village is an old-aged folk craft painting village. This craft profession also offers one of the valuable yet almost-vanishing centuries-old cultural practices visitors should experience while in Vietnam, recommended by New York Times. Since ancient times, decorating Dong Ho paintings in houses on Tet holiday for the wish of happiness and well-being has been a custom of Vietnamese in the Northern Delta.
The simple and rustic paintings reflect the artist’s desire for life and the artist’s view of everyday life in the countryside through consistent drawings of animals, scenes of daily life, and folk tales. different. They not only depict cultural beauty but also become a proud national identity to introduce international friends.
1. About Dong Ho Painting Village
Dong Ho Painting Village is located in Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province, about 35km east of Hanoi city, next to the Duong River dike.
The village is considered the cradle of folk wood carving art (since the 17th century) that has been passed down through Viet generations. Currently, this is home to more than 220 households; People are attached to the profession of making painting and paper. Dong Ho paintings are divided into more than 180 categories, in which there are 5 main categories: worship paintings, historical paintings, congratulatory paintings, daily life paintings, and comics. Each piece is carefully made with the diligence and meticulousness of the artisan in a certain period of time.
Around 1945, there were 17 families making paintings, however, through ups and downs, until now, only two families keep this traditional profession, the family of artisans Nguyen Huu Sam and Nguyen Dang Che. They have preserved more than 1000 woodblocks and restored 500 ancient pieces.
2. Best time to visit
Tourists can come here at any time of the year for different interesting experiences. Still, the weather in the early and last months of the year is more favorable, a bit chilly and dry. This is also the festival season of the Northern region. Tourists should also present at the painting village around 9 am – 11 am or from 2 pm – 5 pm to have the best experience.
3. The fineness and uniqueness
Dong Ho paintings are made completely by hand, with Diep paper and natural colors from wood, charcoal, glutinous rice straw, copper rust, leaves, flowers, pebbles, and scallops. To make Diep paper, people crush the scallop shell and then mix it with paste (the paste is cooked from plain rice flour, or sticky rice, sometimes tapioca) and then brush it on the do paper with pine needles. The paintings will be reprinted through sophisticated engravings, requiring a high level of technical skills from the model painter as well as the woodcarver.
Visitors can go to Dong Ho Painting Folk Cultural Exchange Center to interact with artisans, hear them tell the craft’s history, and the meaning of each painting, or even participate in making paintings. The paintings of all shapes and sizes are carefully displayed in traditional tiled houses. A Dong Ho painting can remain like new for many years with prices ranging from 20,000 – 150,000 VND. In addition to painting products, numerous related products are sold, such as Dong Ho stitching books, notebooks made of Diep paper, Diep paper, Dong Ho calendar, Dong Ho painting folding screen, etc.
4. Getting there
Dong Ho Painting Village is about 35km from Hanoi, so you may need just one day to explore the whole village by multiple modes of transportation.
You can rent a motorbike from the capital at the price of 100.000-200.000 VND/day. Then, follow this recommended route: Highway 5 – Highway 18B – Sui Street – Keo Market – Dau Market – turn left to the road along the dike – turn right and run for 3 km to reach Dong Ho Painting Village.
To save travel costs, you can opt for this means at 22.000 VND/ticket/round, with an estimated travel time of 60 minutes. Get on the bus 204 (Hanoi – Thuan Thanh, Bac Ninh) to the end of the station, then take a few kilometers to reach Dong Ho Painting Village.
5. Specialty in Dong Ho Painting Village
Besides enjoying the unique Vietnamese folk painting art, tourists can also try innumerable local dishes at Dong Ho Painting Village.
– Diem Village Khuc Cake (Khuc Sticky Rice)
Khuc cake is a long-standing traditional dish in Bac Ninh, which is mainly made from cudweed collected from rice fields or riverside alluvial grounds. The leaves are washed, chopped, and crushed together with non-glutinous rice until reaching a nice green color and smoothest fineness, then being molded into cakes with the fillings of green beans and seasoned bacon. The cake is best served hot after steaming. The Khuc cake price is from 10.000-15.000 VND/ piece.
– Dinh To Porridge
Porridge is a dish that Bac Ninh people often cook at ceremonies to offer to their ancestors. Unlike other porridge, this dish has quite a special cooking process. The rice is soaked until soft for half a day, then pureed and dried. People will then knead the dough with water; after that, they slice the dough into thin pieces, place them in a pot of boiling water and simmer with minced chicken and pork; Finally, add little green onions and pepper. A bowl of porridge is from 10.000 to 20.000 VND.
– Ninh Xa Nem Bui (Spring Rolls)
Nem Bui tastes sweet and sour, often served with a cup of beer. It is made from minced pork and pork skin mixed with thinh (minced roasted rice flour). The dish can be bought as gifts for about 40.000 VND/piece.
– Dinh To Tro Cake
The cake is made from yellow flower sticky rice powder soaked in Tro water (from glutinous rice tree and lime water); then wrapped in banana leaves or dong leaves, and brought to steam. Tro cakes are served with molasses, giving a gentle sweet taste. The price of Tro cake is about 55.000 VND/10 pcs.
– Ho Chicken
Ho chicken is a rare breed in the Northern Delta region with a distinctive muscular body and delicious meat. It’s so famous and rare that many Bac Ninh visitors want to enjoy this special dish; however, it’s quite expensive, costing about 1 million – 2 million dong/chicken.
– Da Ke Cake
Da Ke Cake is a rustic dish featuring a shiny golden color, rich taste, and aroma of peanuts, sesame, and sweet potatoes. You can purchase the cake as gifts at 10.000-15.000 VND/cake.
6. Notes when coming to Dong Ho Painting Village
– Costumes: You should wear comfortable yet discreet clothes when visiting Ho village. Because Ho village tourism is combined with religious tourism, you also need to choose the most suitable outfit.
– If riding a motorbike, you should be careful while on the dike since serious traffic accidents often occur here.
– Ho village is peaceful and quite, exceedingly different from the noisy city, so if you are a fan of excitement, this is not a wise choice.
With a development history of nearly 500 years, Dong Ho Painting Village now brings along unique craft village features, creating a rich intangible cultural heritage treasure for the country. Dong Ho paintings strongly reflect the rustic and simple life associated with Vietnamese life, so it has a special attraction to innumerable generations of Vietnamese people as well as foreign tourists. Currently, Vietnam has submitted to UNESCO to include “Dong Ho folk painting profession” on the list of intangible cultural heritages that need urgent protection.