Hàng Trống Painting

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Hàng Trống painting is a genre of Vietnamese woodcut painting that originated from the area of Hàng Trống  and Hàng Nón streets in the central Hoàn Kiếm District of Hanoi, Vietnam. In the past, Hang Trong painting was an essential element of the Tết holiday in Hanoi, but today this tradition almost has disappeared and authentic Hang Trong paintings are found only in museums or fine art galleries. However, the art of making Hang Trong paintings is always considered a symbol of traditional culture and aesthetic value of Vietnam.

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The origin of Hang Trong painting dates back to the 17th century during the reign of the Lê Dynasty. Different from the countryside Dong Ho, the manufacturing area of Hang Trong painting is located in the Tiêu Túc (later changed to Thuận Mỹ) district in the very heart of Hanoi which is now the quarter between Hàng Trống, Hàng Nón, Hàng Hòm and Hàng Quạt streets. This was one of the few places where folk paintings were made in Vietnam during the dynastic time. In the past, Hang Trong craftsmen often began to make pictures in the eleventh and twelfth months of the Lunar calendar so that they could meet with the high demand during the Tết holiday when a Hang Trong painting was indispensable for each Hanoi family. For this reason Hang Trong painting, besides Dong Ho, was also called Tết painting. Hang Trong craftsmen also produced worshiping pictures for Taoist temples and Buddhist pagodas in Hanoi.

Key subjects have always been kings, lords, Buddha and saints, children, who represent the desire to continue their family line, and three gods symbolizing longevity, prosperity and happiness.

Hang Trong paintings hang on the walls of houses or they are a focal point in a household shrine.

If people visit pagodas or shrines, they will be able to see Hang Trong pictures that pay tribute to tigers, horses, and kings. The colors of these paintings may have faded over time, but they are still an important part of worship rituals.

Tet paintings, on the other hand, depict a joyful life.

The use of colors is a key difference between Hang Trong paintings and other forms of folk painting like Dong Ho paintings. Hang Trong paintings have bright colors like vivid yellows, blues, greens, oranges, and the light pink of lotus petals, whereas the colors in Dong Ho paintings are more muted.

Moreover, each painting is made by hand so each one is unique, unlike other kinds of paintings. A picture with clean lines, a balanced layout, and cheerful colors will meet the standards. The more sophisticated the technology is, the more valuable the picture.

Today, the tradition of Hang Trong painting is almost lost. New pictures are rarely produced in Hang Trong anymore because of lack of interest among the younger generations; there remains only one experienced craftsman, Lê Đình Nghiên, who can make Hang Trong paintings. As a result, authentic Hang Trong pictures are found only in museums or fine art gallery. Nevertheless, there are several efforts underway to resurrect this genre of traditional art like propagating Hang Trong paintings in festivals, galleries and transmitting knowledge of making pictures from old craftsmen to young artists.