February 03, 2011

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Calligraphy: A Tet Tradition In Hanoi


The ong do (calligraphy scholar) is a symbol of Tet. Traditionally, when the Tet holidays approach, one of the Vietnamese customs is writing "nice" words in calligraphy with the hope of bringing good luck to the home. A visual writing art, Calligraphy first appeared as early as feudal times and reflects Confucianism. Several days ahead of Tet, especially around the Hanoi Temple of Literature and the HCMC Cultural Youth House many ong do artists, young and old, male and female (I did not see any women), in traditional long dresses and caps, gather to paint calligraphy for residents and tourists.

At Tet, people often ask ong do to write lucky words such as Phuc (happiness), Loc (prosperity) and Tho (longevity) or poems or proverbs with meanings of good health, good luck and prosperity for the new year.

The work is done on paper and usually hangs like a scroll attached to bamboo rods. During Tet Calligraphy is given as gifts to friends and colleagues. Therefore, ong do must not only be decorative but must also know many meaningful poems and proverbs to suit the buyer’s fancy.

I spoke with many of the Calligraphers and was particularly taken by a passionate young artist who is also a classical pianist. His sister who just completed her degree in International relations spoke terrific English and was able to describe in detail the emotions behind the work her brother does. One of the scrolls he painted took him months and includes in the smallest writing all of the poems written by Ho Chi Minh during his time in prison.

Along with my purchases this lovely artist wrote in English the key words used on brown paper for me to keep. I think I will put these in a large contemporary frame to remind me of my visit.
Young Calligraphy artist and his work above. The poems of Ho Chi Minh are painted on scroll above.
Photo's by The Loaded Trunk
 Happy New Year!














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