Vietnamese ceramic craft has a long history dating back thousands of year. Archeological findings at Vinh Phu province indicates pottery turning wheels existed in Viet Nam about 5,000 years ago. During the Ly's (11-13th century), the Tran's (13-15th century), the Le's (15-16th century) and the Mac's (16th century), Viet Nam produced large amount of ceramic wares for its domestic consumption and trade to many East and South East Asian countries and as far as to the Middle East. Of the many ceramic-producing villages in Viet Nam, Bat Trang village was the most famous.
Bat Trang Ceramics through History
Bat Trang is generally referred to a commune of two villages, Bat Trang and Giang Cao, situated in the outskirts of Hanoi along the bank of Hong (Red) river. According to Vietnamese annals, migrant potters from Thanh Hoa province established Bat Trang village in the mid-14th century. Being conveniently located near the capital city, and with readily access of river transportation, Bat Trang soon became an important industrial and commercial center. At the time, the area had numerous deposits of white clay necessary for production of ceramic wares. These factors helped the Bat Trang ceramic craft to flourish and its products were widely circulated to other regions of the country.
In the late 15th century, Bat Trang had been well known for producing the best quality ceramics in the country. Many of these ceramic pieces were customized for aristocratic families and religious needs. These pieces included inscription of the year of production, the name of the patron and the potter's name. Vietnamese annals also recorded in the 16th century, Bat Trang ceramics were offered as tribute to China in numerous occasions.
Following terrestrial discoveries in Asia in the early 17th century, many European countries rushed to the Far East to set up bases for commerce trading. Vietnamese ceramic industry continued to prosper, especially during the Mac's reign. Multiple shipments of ceramics were exported to Japan where the Bat Trang style was enthusiastically adapted by local kilns as "Kochi (Giao Chi) ware". Dutch, English and Portuguese merchants purchased Vietnamese ceramics in the hundred of thousands to resell in Malaya, Sumatra and Bangal.
From the end of 17th, particularly in the 18th century, Vietnamese ceramics exported to South East Asian countries declined rapidly when the Chinese resumed its ceramic exports. Bat Trang ceramics were no longer exported and its products served mainly the domestic market. Today, Bat Trang still turn out large quantity of ceramic wares for both domestic and export markets. New designs and models as well as reproductions of ancient styles and glazes are very well received by art connoisseurs everywhere.
OF BAT TRANG CERAMIC WARES
The National Museum of Viet Nam History possesses a comprehensive collection of Bat Trang ceramic wares, which date from the 14th to the 19th century. The collection is divided in three groups of ware of different features and styles:
Utilitarian ware (plates, bowls, teacups, kettles, wine bottles, flowerpots and vases): This type of ware has a thicker and heavier body compared to the Chinese ceramics. The utilitarian wares are mostly covered with ivory, moss green or brown glaze. Common designs used on utilitarian wares were sacred and ordinary animals such as dragon, phoenix, tortoise, horse, tiger, bird, floral scroll, and landscape scenery.
Cult ware (lamp stands, candle holders, incense burner and altar boxes): This type of Bat Trang ceramics were produced predominantly for religious needs. Many of these pieces, especially the lamp stands, carried intricate molding applied around the body. Bat Trang cult wares are well known for their elaborate design and meticulous crafting.
Decorative objects (house models, altars, statues and architectural fixtures): These objects usually carried very complex design of mythical and religious theme. Bat Trang tiles and architectural fixtures are also known to be used in the construction of the imperial court in Hue in the early 1800's.
Ðng H woodblock printing has existed since the 1700's. For hundred of years, the village of Ðng H which is located outside of Hanoi, produces the popular decorative paintings that are used especially for the Têt (New Year) holidays and other celebrated festivals throughout the year. The Ðng H painting is well recognizable with its folk subject, its picture painted in bold outline with warm and vibrant colors.
Woodblock printing has always been a familial craft passed on for generations of artist in the Ðng H village. Each year after the rice harvest, all members of the family pitch in the production of the paintings for sale at the Têt. Adults and children, depending on skills and capabilities, share the work from making the silk paper to printing and coloring the paintings. The production of a painting starts with a design pattern that is engraved on the woodblock. The first print is made on silk paper using a paste of finely ground sea shell. Successive presses are then made to add different colors to the picture. All colors used in the Ðông Hô` painting are natural ingredients such as charcoal for black color, ochre for red, yams for brown, and day lilies for yellow.
The most common subjects of Ðng H painting are folk themes depicting ordinary daily life or domestic animals that live around the peasants such as rooster, hen and chicklets, pig and piglets. Other favorite subjects are scenes from popular legends or historical tales of national heroes and heroines of the past such as the Trung sisters, Trieu Thi Trinh, young king Ðinh Bo Linh playing battlefield (c lau tp trn).
DESIGNS & THEORIES OF DYNASTIC DRAGONS
The dragon is the most widely used and associated symbol in the history of Vietnamese Art. It is indeed from the prehistoric time that identified the Vietnamese as descendant of dragons and fairies (con rong chau tien). From the ancient time of Dong Son civilization to modern days of Nguyen dynasty, the dragon motif can be found in numerous sculptures and painting, royal palaces, religious and funerary architecture. The dragon symbol is not unchanging in history, however this motif had evolved through many shapes and forms, each appearance reflected the culture of the era and the belief of the populace and society at the time.
Period (400 BC to 200 AD)
The "Giao Long" dragon, a reptile version of the dragon, was found carved on many weapon hatches and bronze urns (Dao Thinh-Yen Bai).
Period (8th-10th century)
Viet Nam was under Chinese colonization from the 1st through the 10th century, which left profound influence on Vietnamese Arts. As resulted, the Dai La dragon had many resemblance to its Chinese creature as displayed on decorative tiles found at Co Loa.
Ly Dynasty (10th-11th century)
The Ly dynasty marked the first era of independent Viet Nam from the Chinese colonization. During the Ly's reign, Vietnamese Art was allowed to flourish to its peak. The Ly's dragon had a distinctive appearance of the water serpent, a symbolic representation of the God of Rain and Water of the time. Unique features of the Ly's dragon that distinguished from the Chinese mythical creature are: thin and long, undulated body of a serpent, small head with long whisker and mane and fine legs with small claws. An exemplary Ly's dragon can be found on carved stone at the Chuong Son tower (Nam Ha province).
Tran Dynasty (13th-14th century)
The Ly's dragon carried many of its traits to the Tran's symbol such as long and small body and head. The dragon design carved on the front doors of Pho Minh temple (Nam Dinh) show the Ly's Art was still very influential several hundred years later.
Dynasty (16th-17th century)
The Chinese cultural influence reached its height as the Later Le kings adopted Confucianism, Budhism and Taoim as national religions. The dragon of the Later Le was considered as the symbolic representation of the emperor and his authorative power after the Chinese model. The dragon design was used extensively as decorative in many royal tombs and religious temples. The Later Le's dragon had same appearance and shared many traits of the Chinese symbol such as its menacing look, large body and head, thick scales, big and muscular leg with long and sharp claws and thick mane runs along body from head to tail.
Dynasty (18th-20th century)
The dragon symbol during the Nguyen dynasty is one of "Tu Linh", the four mythical Chinese creatures of dragon, lion, tortoise, and phoenix. These mythical creatures appeared in numerous paintings, sculptures and art objects as well as in architecture decorative of the royal palaces and tombs in Hue.
COPYRIGHT NOTICE: ALL MATERIAL AT THIS SITE IS COPYRIGHT BY VIETTOUCH, AND MAY NOT BE REPRINTED IN WHOLE OR IN PART, OR STORED, OR TRANSMITTED BY ANY MEANS, INCLUDING ELECTRONIC, WITHOUT THE PRIOR CONSENT OF THE OWNER, EXCEPT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL OR EDUCATIONAL USES. ALL COMMERCIAL USE TRANSMISSION AND REPRODUCTION OF THIS SITE IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.