Saigon calligraphers ready to script fortune into local life

By Quynh Tran   January 15, 2020 | 06:16 pm GMT+7

With Tet just a week away, calligraphy produced on Pham Ngoc Thach Street is believed to bring luck and fortune to Saigon crowds.

Starting January 8, about 30 calligraphy booths have painted the street red and yellow with calligraphy written on red canvas papers and apricot blossoms.The country will enjoy a seven-day holiday for the Lunar New Year or Tet festival, staring January 23, two days before the Lunar New Year.Calligraphy works, mostly Chinese letters symbolizing what people wish in their lives, like good health, happiness and wealth, are much sought after during the Tet season.

About 30 booths are coloring the street in District 3 red and yellow with calligraphy written on red canvas and apricot blossoms.

Calligraphy, featuring Vietnamese or Chinese characters, symbolizes good health, happiness and wealth, and is much sought after as the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday nears.

Tet is the decoration theme for all booths which feature people dressing in traditional dresses, flowers, and calligraphy letters in frames. This year, there are about 10 booths that have female calligraphers which are unusually for a scene that is traditionally occupied by male elders.  The calligraphers dress like ong do, an archaic address for people who passed academic exams under the old imperial regime in Vietnam. These people usually became teachers and were adept in Chinese.

This year, about 10 booths feature female calligraphers, unusual for a scene traditionally occupied by male elders. 

Calligraphers are dressed similar to ong do, an archaic term for those who passed academic exams under Vietnam’s old imperial regime. These scholars were usually teachers and adept in Chinese.

This is the first year Minh Anh produced Tet calligraphy. Ive only been studying calligraphy for nearly a year, so I asked to go to the street to help out and improve my skills. The feeling of giving these blessings during Tet makes me very happy, the 22-year-old girl said.

This is the first year Minh Anh produces Tet calligraphy. "I've only studied calligraphy for a year, so I asked to help out and improve my skills. The feeling of giving out these Tet blessings makes me very happy," the 22-year-old said.

Khanh Vy, 18, a student at Van Lang University holds up a calligraphy drawing she got from one of the booths. It is my first time so I only asked for some short and simple words, Vy said.

Khanh Vy, 18, a student at Van Lang University holds up a piece of calligraphy "happiness" in Vietnamese. "It’s my first time, so I only produce some short and simple words," she said.

Xuan Thanh, 20 has seven years of giving the words in Saigon.  This is the one I like most which has 12 Chinese zodiacs, circling the word ‘bliss’ which is what lots of people usually expect when a new year nears. A customer asked to buy this work for VND10 million, Thanh said.

Xuan Thanh, 20, has spent seven years as a calligrapher in Saigon. "This one I like the most. It includes 12 Chinese zodiac symbols circling the word ‘bliss’, which is what lots of people expect for the new year. A customer offered me VND10 million ($432) for this piece," he said.

According to calligraphers, visitors often ask for the words happiness, talent, and fortune. 

According to calligraphers, visitors often ask for the words happiness, talent, and fortune.

It is said that when Vietnam officially adopted the Quoc Ngu, the Vietnamese writing system based on the Roman alphabet, in 1919, scholars ong do became calligraphers who would draw Chinese scripts for people to hang in their homes for good luck and prosperity, especially during Tet season. 

Paintings and calligraphy works sell for tens of thousands to millions of Vietnamese dong ($1 = VND23,196). The materials range from paper, silk, and wood.

Paintings and calligraphy sell for tens of thousands to millions of Vietnamese dong ($1 = VND23,200). Materials range from paper, to silk and wood.

Corners decorated with typical Lunar New Year motifs have become a prop for people to take photographs.

Corners decorated in typical Lunar New Year motifs have become a popular backdrop for those looking for festive snapshots.

According to the calligraphers, many people will ask for letters after the offerings are made to the Kitchen God on the 23rd of the last lunar month (January 17 this year). The street will open until January 29.

Calligraphers said many people will ask for letters after offerings are made to the Kitchen God on the 23rd of the last lunar month (January 17 this year). The street will be open until January 29.

The country will enjoy a seven-day Tet holiday starting January 23, two days before the Lunar New Year.

 
 
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