One of Vietnamese people’s cultured, time-honored Tet traditions is to buy and hang Tet folk paintings, traditionally believed to bring the owners good luck in the lunar new year.
This tradition is believed to date back to the Ly dynasty (1010 - 1225), when Vietnam was in one of its richest cultural eras.
Tet paintings, which feature radiant colors, diverse topic matters, and dexterous paint strokes, have since been a fixture of locals’ celebration of Tet, which begins on Jan 31 this year.
During the few days prior to Tet, households remove their old paintings and hang new ones to “bid farewell to old things and embrace the new.”
Prices of Tet paintings vary considerably, from a few to several hundreds of US dollars. Thus, people from all walks of life can purchase a painting for their Tet celebration.
According to archival documents, the country boasts many folk painting villages and schools. The most long-standing and celebrated are Dong Ho woodblocks and Hang Trong and Kim Hoang paintings from northern Bac Ninh, Hanoi and Ha Tay, and Nam Hoanh and Sinh village paintings from central Nghe An Province and Hue.
Though all are expressive of people’s wishes for good luck, health, wealth, and prosperity in the lunar new year, each school of folk paintings has its own appeal and clientele. For instance, Dong Ho woodblocks are simple and rustic and are thus usually preferred by working people and those in the countryside, while Hang Trong paintings are more elegant and stylish and are more popular among educated and well-off city-dwellers.
Tet folk paintings also come in a wide variety of subcategories and themes, ranging from religious, historical, and landscape paintings to caricatures and calligraphy paintings.
Most families in rural areas hang pairs of inexpensive folk paintings on the walls of the main chamber and at the doorway, while those in cities typically hang paintings of pretty women and flowers in the living and dining rooms.
People also hang paintings depicting the animal zodiac of the current lunar year. As this year is the Year of the Horse, paintings of galloping horses are currently in high demand.
During the days before Tet, paintings are widely displayed for sale in country markets or on city streets.