Vietnamese Arts

By | November 27, 2021

Vietnamese art [viεt-], the art of the peoples (Vietnamese, Cham, Tai and Mon-Khmer groups) living today and in the past on the current territory of Vietnam. – Archaeological finds indicate the existence of a Bronze Age culture in the Red River Delta, which began in the 6th century BC. Began and especially between 208 BC. And 939 AD unfolded. The oldest evidence of artistic activity goes back to the Dongson culture. In its early days, the art of Vietnam was predominantly religious and served cultic purposes.


The earliest temple complex is the Dau Pagoda, Bac Ninh Province (formerly Ha Bac Province), which was built at the time of the introduction of Buddhism in Vietnam in the 2nd / 3rd centuries. Century AD (expanded in the 14th century; subsequently redesigned several times; today only preserved in reconstructions). Numerous temples were built under the rulers of the late Lidynasty (1009–1225). The best-known example is the Chua Mot Cot (“one pillar temple” or also called “lotus temple”) in Hanoi, founded in 1049, whose spectacular architecture represents the peculiarities of early Vietnamese architecture (including the use of stones, attached support beams and terracotta figures as Crowning of the roof ridge). The temple complexes of later epochs mostly followed this architectural style, the forms from China and Champa (Cham) merged with the Vietnamese art style of the late Ledynasty (1428–1788).


The Buddhist sculpture experienced in the 8./9. Century a heyday. Characteristic are figures carved from stone, representing representatives of the Buddhist pantheon, and portrait sculptures of deserving monks. Stylistically, these sculptures are related to those of the cave temples of Longmen and Yungang, and they also show influences from the sculptures of India and the Cham. That style continued into the late Lidynasty. Representative works of this time are the sculptures in the Van Phuc Temple (also called Phat Tich Pagoda), Bac Ninh Province (7th – 10th centuries, later redesigned several times), including that of Buddha Amitabha (11th century), which shows the influences of Cham art with its large eyes, bulging lips and flowing lines of the body contour, while the wrinkling of the robe and the lotus pedestal are arrested in the Chinese tradition. The sculptures of the Trandynasty (1225–1400), on the other hand, are less elaborate, but more monumental and naturalistic. In the late Ledynasty (1428–1788) Buddhism was no longer promoted as the state religion. As a result, many local schools developed in Buddhist sculpture; in addition, from then on there was a stronger tendency towards the popular style.

From the 17th century wood carving appeared in temple decoration, with the motif vocabulary and style varying depending on the client. One of the most famous wooden sculptures is the 3.6 m high figure of the “1000-armed Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara” (1656) in the But Thap Pagoda (also called Ninh Phuc Pagoda), Bac Ninh Province (formerly Ha Bac Province). Under the Nguyen rulers (1802–1945), sculpture was mainly used as an element of equipment in the extensive imperial tombs. The early Nguyen emperors consciously imitated the art of the Chinese Qing period; The palace complex in the capital Huê was built on the model of the “Forbidden City” in Beijing, and the tombs around Huê also mimicked the Ming and Qing times of the imperial tombs.


In addition to sculpture, ceramics have an important role in Vietnamese art. The early pottery (e.g. that of the Dongson period) has a reddish body, is deeply fired and unglazed. Glazed ceramics developed under Chinese influence since the 3rd century. As a rule, the vessels have compact shapes and therefore often appear clumsy and have a cream-colored glaze that is occasionally enlivened by green iridescent areas. The art of pottery experienced a high point in the late Lidynasty. Initially under Chinese influence in terms of technology, design and decor, an independent Vietnamese style began to develop in the 11th and 13th centuries. The typical early ceramics include the brown and white ware, with the mostly floral decor being scratched first, then filled with a brown glaze and then the entire vessel was coated with a thin, transparent layer of glaze. In the 11th and 12th centuries, white glazed goods with modeled decorations were also common. The Vietnamese celadon came in the 12./13. Century and differed from the Chinese model by the carved foot ring, the thick vessel wall and the opaque, dark green to apple green glaze. The first ceramics with underglaze painting appeared during the Trandynasty and were mainly made for export in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. With increasing demand, new forms and techniques developed. Especially in the middle of the 15th In the 19th century, the Vietnamese export porcelains with blue underglaze painting enjoyed great popularity in the neighboring countries of Southeast Asia. The shape of the vessel and the decoration were similar to the Chinese blue and white porcelain of the time. Thick-walled, larger vessel types and a cream-white glaze with dark craquelure are characteristic of the blue-and-white export porcelains of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century the famous “Bleu de Huê” was created, which is characterized by small vessel shapes and finely crafted decor. Tea sets with depictions of landscapes and poems were among the particularly popular export goods. larger vessel types and a cream-white glaze with dark craquelé. In the 19th century the famous “Bleu de Huê” was created, which is characterized by small vessel shapes and finely crafted decor. Tea sets with depictions of landscapes and poems were among the particularly popular export goods. larger vessel types and a cream-white glaze with dark craquelé. In the 19th century the famous “Bleu de Huê” was created, which is characterized by small vessel shapes and finely crafted decor. Tea sets with depictions of landscapes and poems were among the particularly popular export goods.

Woodcut and mother-of-pearl

An independent art of woodcut gained strength during the late Ledynasty. In the village of Dong Ho near Hanoi was in 15./16. Century developed the printing technique with mineral inks on rice paper, which was still in use in the 20th century. The decor (lucky emblems, zoodiacal animal motifs, scenes from village life, illustrations of popular myths and legends, depictions of historical personalities) hardly changed over time. The wood printing technique developed in Hanoi in the 17th century differs from the earlier one in that the printed image motifs were then colored by hand. During the armed conflict with French colonial rule (1946–54) and with the USA (1964–75), political graphics gained in influence.

The art of mother-of-pearl inlay is comparatively young. This technique was used in the 18th century BC. a. Used in the Red River Delta for the decoration of lacquered furniture and other ornaments and utensils. In the 19th and 20th centuries in particular, furniture with mother-of-pearl inlays was very popular on the European market.


Unlike China, Korea, and Japan, according to directoryaah, traditional painting was not promoted to the same extent as poetry and music in Vietnam, despite the strong Confucian tradition. Hardly anything has survived from the early products of Vietnamese painting. It was only given an important status during the French colonization at the end of the 19th century. With the establishment of the École des Beaux-Arts in Hanoi (1925), art education in the western sense began. Vietnamese artists became acquainted with Western painting styles such as Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism. Artists such as To Ngoc Van (* 1906, † 1954), Mai Trang Thu (* 1906, † 1980) and Tran Van Can (* 1910, † 1994) preferred painting with oil on canvas to traditional Vietnamese painting with lacquer or mineral paints on silk in order to give psychological depth to their portraits and scenes from everyday life. After the country was divided in 1954, two different schools emerged. In the socialist north an ideal was propagated, according to which art should exclusively serve the revolution of the proletariat. Following the Soviet and Chinese models, socialist realism was the predominant style. Art academies were founded in the south, in Gia Dinh in 1955 and in Huê in 1957. Western, especially French, painting remained trend-setting for South Vietnamese artists. Since the introduction of the Doi Moi policy (1986), Vietnamese art has experienced an upswing. Among the most prominent artists of the 2nd half of the 20th Bui Xuan Phai (* 1921, † 1988), who is known for his sensitive implementations of everyday scenes, Nguyen Tu Nghiem (* 1922), whose lacquer painting is inspired by traditional mythology and popular art and music, Nguyen Thanh Binh (* 1954), who cultivated a romantic style of painting, and Nguyen Trung (* 1940), who is considered the most important representative of abstract painting. From the youngest generation are v. a. Truong Tan (* 1963), who is the first Vietnamese artist to address his homosexuality, as well as the non-conformist artist Dinh Y Nhi (* 1967) are worth mentioning.

Vietnamese Arts