Story of Vietnam’s Lacquer

More than 2000 years ago, under the Dong Son’s period, the Vietnamese already knew how to process raw lacquer to produce commodities for daily usage. Some were found in ancient tombs, which were discovered in northern Vietnam. As far back as the Nguyen Lords and Ly dynasty (11th century) or even earlier, lacquer was widely used in the ornamentation of palaces, communal halls, temples, pagodas and shrines.
Lacquered  objects  have  traditionally included various kinds of boxes, vases for flowers, decorative dishes, chessboards, polished lacquer paintings,quang  daured-and-silver  objects, son  kham  trai inlaid mother-of-pearl objects, and lacquered trays, screens and furniture.
The  most  common  motifs  used  to  decorate Vietnamese lacquerware are animals such as the dragon, li (an imaginary sacred animal, similar to the lion), tortoise,  phoenix,  sparrow  and  flamingo; pine,  bamboo, chrysanthemum and apricot trees; the four seasons and clouds; and pagodas and houses… 
All  the  technical  aspects  involved  in  the  profession  of lacquer-making, such as producing gold and silver leaf, or  making  red  cinnabar,  have  existed  for  a  very  long time and these activities were traditionally concentrated in  different  villages,  which  continue  to  maintain  their professions.
Until 1930s under the influence of the “L’ Ecole des Beaux Art” in Hanoi, founded by French artists, influenced by Western modern art, Vietnamese lacquer technique reached unprecedented height of art. It’s not just a simple decoration in daily uses, but to the artistic paintings. Noticeably, there were some famous artists such as Tran Van Can , Pham Hau, and Nguyen Gia Tri pioneered for the development of the lacquer technique.
From the beginning of the twentieth century, Vietnamese lacquer has now found a new artistic mission, which is to turn the traditional art form material into current painting material with the introduction of lacquer painting based on traditional painting techniques. Over many generations, lacquer has always existed and accompanied with home décor style as an indispensable element to make the face of the whole Vietnamese lacquer art industry.
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