The Evolvement of Vietnamese Pottery through History

You might know that the origin of porcelain and pottery dates from 20,000 years ago in China, and the word China is, indeed, used to regard such clay and porcelain items. However, the ancient Vietnamese had also developed a great industry of pottery as soon as it appeared. Hence, the development of pottery reflects both historical and aesthetic aspects of Vietnamese culture.

In this article, let’s track the traces of shaping clay from the earliest to the latest changes to have an overall look at the Vietnamese pottery culture.

Prehistoric period

Vietnamese pottery began in the Hòa Bình- Bắc Sơn culture and was known as the Neolithic/ Stone Age era. The first traces of pottery found in the Viet territory age 6,000 to 7,000 years old.

Later on, the Bronze and Iron Ages ( 2000 B.C – I century) had given birth to many cultures such as Phùng Nguyên, Gò Mun, Đồng Nai, etc. In those periods, the pottery industry had evolved and expanded widely over the region so-called as ‘Vietnam’.

Pottery vase under Sa Huỳnh culture ( 2000-2500 years old) photo: Wikipedia

The Chinese domination period (I-X century)

For over 1000 years, the Chinese culture had spread its enormous influence on the southern land (Vietnam.) The pottery industry in this period inherited the original methods and also adapted some Chinese techniques such as ceramic glazing, making pottery by the ceramic turntable or in molds, and so on.

* The Lý – Trần dynasties (XI – XIV century) – the independence period.

During 4 centuries, under 2 dynasties: (XI-XII century) and Trần (XIII-XIV century), the pottery culture developed independently from Chinese culture, which opened the culture rehabilitation stage for Đại Việt (Vietnam). Ceramic products in this period had reached perfection in shape, decoration and colouring. They represented the quintessence of the arts in ceramic, especially items from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection.

glazed-jar-from-the-hnlt-collection
Glazed jar from the Hoa Nâu Lý Trần collection photo: gomdonga.com
*The dynasty ( XV-XVI) – the era of exporting Vietnamese ceramics.

In the XV century, the dynasty boomed in prosperity. During this era, the pottery industry organised in good order with the establishment of several pottery trade villages. Ceramic products from Bát Tràng, Thổ Hà and Phù Lãnh trade villages expanded their markets to foreign countries. There were official records of mass trading pottery to Japan and some south-east Asian countries. Within the years 1596-1873, Japanese potters had adapted Vietnamese ceramic technique and called it Kotchi (Giao chỉ) ( La ceramique Japonaise – Oneda Tokomosouke).

swan-hoa-lam-vase-under-the-le-dynasty
Swan ‘Hoa Lam‘ Vase under the Le Dynasty photo: baomoi.com
* The Nguyễn dynasty (XVI-XVIII century) –  the Blue era of ceramics.

There wasn’t any innovation in the pottery industry in this period. The only remarkable collection was “Bleu de Huế” (Blue of Huế), containing sophisticated blue-white patterned porcelains which belonged to the royal Nguyễn family. These products were marked with Chinese characters: Nội phủ thị (Vietnamese transcription, meaning for internal (royal) use). Sadly, the products weren’t authentic Vietnamese pottery. They were indeed exclusively ordered from China for the royal Nguyễn. The pottery industry suffered in blues as it failed to make a change.

wine-bottle-from-bleu-de-hue-collection
Wine Bottle from Bleu de Huế collection. photo: khanhhoathuynga.wordpress.com

In the modern times:

In the modern times, Vietnamese pottery is competing with other strong competitors such as Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese pottery in the market.  The hidden cards of Vietnamese pottery to succeeding in such a competitive environment lie in the rusticity, simplicity, yet, elegance and more importantly, durability in every product. Some famous Vietnamese ceramic brand names are Bát Tràng, Minh Long, Đông Triều, etc. are working their best to provide products to meet the domestic as well as international demands.

Bat Trang pottery (Photo: hanoi.for91days.com)
Minh Long pottery (Photo: sbf-neu.edu.vn)

Overall

Over the centuries, the Vietnamese pottery culture has been through peaks and bottoms. From the sophisticated minds and hands of our potters, many legacies had been made and kept with our utmost respect. We take pride in the culture that the ancestors had gifted to us, and with much appreciation, we wish to develop Vietnamese ceramics more well-known to the world.

Levi.

Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum – A Must Visit Place in the Heart of Saigon

Saigon traffic is Vietnamese life, a continuous charade of posturing, bluffing, fast moves, tenacity and surrenders.” Andrew .X. Pham

I dropped a smile when reading those lines, cause being a Saigonese myself, I agree with the author that it is truly a delightful chaos. However, finding a peaceful place to temporarily rest your soul in the centre of Saigon isn’t that hard. For those who are looking for a quiet spot in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Museum is the place to be.

A brief introduction to the Museum

This building was constructed by a group of French architects between 1929 and 1934 as formerly a villa owned by the Chinese wealthy businessman Hứa Bổn Hòa (Uncle Hoa). The structure of the blocks combines between Art-deco style and Oriental fusion. It is one of the typical fusion buildings amongst several legacies that Saigon earned pending its colonial period. The museum was first opened to the public in 1989, storing collections of paintings, potteries, religious and non-religious sculptures from ancient to temporary time.

Little fact: the building has totally 99 windows. For those who want to retrieve their childhood, try a hide and seek evening here!
photo: saigoneer.com
Reasons to visit Fine Arts Museum

Saigon owns its fame for the complex historical backgrounds. When travelling here, you might find most museums have historical, but particularly, Vietnam war concept. Fine Arts Museum, however, is unique as it is the only art museum in the city. Personally, it is my most favourite museum in Saigon and here are some reasons that I think you should write it in your Saigon travel list:

*Approachable

Fine Arts Museums is located in district 1, considerably opposite to Ben Thanh Market. So, it is not difficult to find the way to the museum. You can walk there after visiting Ben Thanh Market. From the market’s main entrance, cross the roundabout, continue straight to the big gasoline station, the museum is right behind!

Direct address:  97A Phó Đức Chính, Quận 1

*Unique Vietnamese arts experience

Blocks, floors and exhibition rooms are categorized by certain periods of arts development in Vietnamese society. Maps of the museum are available at the ticket counter. But it doesn’t matter visiting the museum with or without guidance. For me, I prefer getting lost from one little corridor to another while admiring every charming piece of art inside the museum.

Temporary and modern arts are displayed in the main building. Items in here are paintings and sculptors represent arts during colonial time, wartime and post-wartime. You will find in here many spectacular artworks, especially, Vietnamese lacquer paintings – an authentic Vietnamese painting technique.

Famous lacquer painting: Spring garden Central-South-North by artist Nguyễn Gia Trí.
*A journey to the vintage Saigon

Spending an easy afternoon in the museum is like taking a mind gap from the busy atmosphere outside. The 90-year-old building holds the perfect vintage view since it has kept the original design since its first construction.

Patterned ceramic tiles swap colours from rooms to rooms.
photo: vntrip.vn

Right at the entrance, there’s a retired elevator that was one of the first lifts ever introduced to Saigon’s fancy villa. From rooms to rooms, the playful tiles swap colours and patterns gives the kaleidoscope effect. Towards the corridors, sunbeams slant through half-opened windows, reveal the mystery of the hidden art treasure in town.

Mysterious corridor, the mistress of the sunbeam.
photo: tapchikienthuc.com.vn

In the third block of the museum lies a truly mesmerizing work of arts. A spiral stair accompanying a stained glass window leading towards the floral pattern ceiling. Witnessing this corner might make you respect the architects for their wonderful aesthetic in interior design.

Mesmerizing spital stairs in the smallest building – a diamond in the rough.
photo: mytour.vn

A thorough visit takes approximately 2 hours, but it is possible to stay longer. Just bring a book (or sketchbook) of your choice and enjoy a quiet and peaceful afternoon apart from the busyness outside. The museum’s open hours is from  8:00 to 18:00. Tickets price is 45,000Đ per entrance.

Writer: Levi

 

Water Puppetry in Vietnam (Part 2) – How Water Puppets are Produced?

The ingenious combination of hard-to-move puppets and waving water has created a significant attraction to visitors from all over the world to visit Thang Long Kinh Ky (the old name of Hanoi.) Have you ever been curious about how water puppets are made of? If the answer is yes, explore it with me.

In Part I, we learned about water puppetry in Vietnam. You may remember that those miraculous puppets are skillfully controlled under the water. The ingenious combination of hard-to-move puppets and waving water has created a significant attraction to visitors from all over the world to visit Thang Long Kinh Ky (the old name of Hanoi.) Have you ever been curious about how water puppets are made of? If the answer is yes, explore it with me.

Continue reading “Water Puppetry in Vietnam (Part 2) – How Water Puppets are Produced?”

Water puppetry in Vietnam – (Part 1) Wonder Water Puppets

Puppets appear in all five continents and bring the uniqueness of their own countries. However, only by coming to Vietnam can you see a different kind of puppet show.

There is a type of art found in many countries in the world; however, in Vietnam, it has a different style. Looking at a picture below, can you guess which type of art is mentioned?

Photo: Wikipedia.org

Exactly! That is puppetry. Puppet shows appear in all five continents and bring the uniqueness of their own countries. However, only by coming to Vietnam can you see a different kind of puppet show. It is not performed on the ground, but on the water, which makes its name “water puppetry.”

Continue reading “Water puppetry in Vietnam – (Part 1) Wonder Water Puppets”

Layers of Meaning in Đám Cưới Chuột (Rat’s Wedding) Paintings

Đông Hồ, a craft village in Bac Ninh province, has been famous for its folk woodcut paintings since the 11th century. The paintings provide a reflection of contemporary social issues and convey farmers’ desires of a better life. One of the most special features of the Dong Ho paintings is that they are totally made by natural elements with điệp paper (powders of seashells and glutinous rice), and colours refined from various kinds of natural materials.

Continue reading “Layers of Meaning in Đám Cưới Chuột (Rat’s Wedding) Paintings”