Paintings for the dead

VietNamNet Bridge – Woodblock paintings for those who have passed away has been a craft preserved in Sinh village in the central province of Thua Thien – Hue for several centuries. Yet, this traditional industry is dying because of modern printing technology

 This traditional craft is currently preserved by only seven families in Sinh village. Sadly, not all of them are wholeheartedly faithful to this job.

“My grandparents told me that in their age, all Sinh villagers did this job. But now villagers have forgotten this traditional craft,” said Mr. Phan Trach Bao, 80.

Sinh village’s paintings, which are hung on altars, are very simple with plain glyphs and traditional colours, reflecting people’s innermost feelings, wishes and simple dreams.

 The paintings are made using just one printing-board which is created from jack wood. It is durable, worm-resistant and easy to carve on to create the drawing lines and black shapes. After being printed in black, works are sometimes embellished with colourful lines. Some paintings are still printed on rustic paper.

 The paintings of Sinh Village focus on mainly 50 different themes, typically the Tuong Ba (Statue of the Lady) painting, which is to worship the female head of the family. The painting depicting Genie Cuu Thien Huyen Nu is worshipped in the ladies’ worshiping room.  After a year, the painting is burnt and replaced with a new one.

 The Tao Quan (the Kitchen God) painting is for worshiping the Kitchen God on lunar December 23 while the Luc Suc (animals, including pig, buffalo, etc.) painting is worshipped at the pigsty or buffalo stable to pray for healthy cattle.

 Con Anh (image of dummy) painting with figures of men, women, girls and boys is worshipped because it supposedly drives away bad luck early in the New Year.

 Mr. Ki Huu Phuoc, 70, his wife Tran Thi Gai and his son Ki Huu Hai, 27, are the most famous artisans in Sinh village. Mr. Phuoc’s family has produced traditional paintings for nine generations. The family is considered the one which has preserved Sinh village paintings. The wife and son are also recognised as artisans.

 “Sometimes I wanted to quit this job because of its modest income, but I couldn’t. It is my responsibility to preserve this craft,” said Mrs. Gai.

 VietNamNet/Dan Tri 


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