"Rat’s Weddings" galore as Vietnamese woodcut artist prepares for Tet

By Ngoc Thanh, Thanh Lam   January 19, 2020 | 07:38 am GMT+7

A Dong Ho woodcut paintings artist is busy with the “The Rat’s Wedding”, a highly popular traditional motif, for the upcoming Tet festival.

57-year-old Nguyen Huu Qua is one in three people who are still pursuing the art of Dong Ho folk woodcut painting. Qua is 20th artisan generation of the Nguyen Huu family. The Dong Ho painting originated in an eponymous craft village on the banks of the Duong River in Bac Ninh Province, about 35 km (21 miles) from Hanoi.

57-year-old Nguyen Huu Qua is one of just three people who are still pursuing the art of Dong Ho folk woodcut paintings in the eponymous craft village in Bac Ninh Province, about 35 km (21 miles) from Hanoi. 

As the year of rats is coming, paintings of the animal are getting more popular. The Rat’s Wedding is one of those.

As the upcoming Tet is the Year of the Rat, "Dam Cuoi Chuot" (The Rat’s Wedding) is in high demand.

The Rat’s Wedding woodblock.

"The Rat’s Wedding" woodblock.

Paint is applied to the woodblock and pressed on a sheet of paper, like a stamp. The process is repeated with different colors in different woodblocks. To make perfect artworks, Qua chooses high-quality wood with smooth surfaces to avoid scratches.

Paint is applied to the woodblock and pressed on a sheet of handmade paper, like a stamp. The process is repeated with different colors with different woodblocks. To make his work perfect, Qua chooses high-quality wood with smooth surfaces.

The original Dong Ho paintings did not have garish colors. They were warm and easy to the eye, all made from all natural materials: red from the rock on Thien Thai Mountain, white from the shell of scallops, black from the ash of burned bamboo leaves, yellow from flowers of the Japanese pagoda tree, and green from the bark of cajuput trees.

The original Dong Ho paintings did not have garish colors. They were warm and easy to the eye, all made from all natural materials: red from the rock on Thien Thai Mountain, white from the shell of scallops, black from the ash of burned bamboo leaves, yellow from flowers of the Japanese pagoda tree, and green from the bark of cajuput trees.

Red color is created from grinding the rock onto a china plate. The powder is mixed with water and sticky rice paste to prevent fading.

Red color is created from grinding the rock onto a china plate. The powder is mixed with water and sticky rice paste to prevent fading.

The traditional papers have a layer of powder of scallop  shells, making it shiny. The order to print is red/purple comes first, then green, yellow, back and white. After printing each color, the artisans have to wait around half an hour and use a traditional material to rub the paper, ensuring the colors are perfect.

The traditional papers have a layer of scallop powder, making it shiny. The order to print is that red/purple comes first, then green, yellow, black and white. After printing each color, the artisans have to wait for around half an hour and use a traditional material to rub the paper, ensuring the colors are evenly spread.

With large paitings, instead of using woodblocks, Qua has to draw and paint. The largest artworks  he has painted is Ca Chep, 79 centimeters wide and 109 centimeters long, and was finished in 7 days.

With large paintings, instead of using woodblocks, Qua has to draw and paint.

Dong Ho paintings used to be popular in Tet, but the declining demands make many people abandon the traditional art, according to Qua. He added that most of his clients are foreigners and overseas Vietnamese. This year, his family makes 200 sets of calendar with postcards, notebooks. All are about rats.

The Dong Ho paintings used to be popular at Tet time, but declining demand make many people abandon the traditional art, Qua said. Most of his clients are foreigners and overseas Vietnamese, he added. This year, his family has made 200 sets of calendars, postcards and notebooks, all themed on the rat.

 
 
go to top