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Introducing one of the last-standing practitioners of Dong Ho folk painting in Vietnam

Tuesday, December 22, 2020, 16:31 GMT+7
Introducing one of the last-standing practitioners of Dong Ho folk painting in Vietnam
Nguyen Dang Che is seen beside his 'Meritorious Craftsman' certificate awarded by Vietnamese State President Nguyen Phu Trong. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che is one of the last three craftsmen who still practice the time-honored Dong Ho folk painting art in its original birthplace.

Che, 85, a former lecturer at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts, is currently living in his hometown in Dong Ho Village, located in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

As a craftsman who has dedicated his career to preserving the namesake art of his village, he was once awarded the noble title of Meritorious Craftsman by Vietnamese State President Nguyen Phu Trong.

The art has permeated every aspect of his life, for his home also doubles as a mini-museum that presents Dong Ho paintings and artifacts to visitors.

A craftsman finalizes a Dong Ho print for the 2021 Lunar New Year celebration. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

A craftsman finalizes a Dong Ho print for the 2021 Lunar New Year celebration. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

For the time being, the rest of the village has abandoned Dong Ho art printing for the more lucrative trade of votive paper manufacturing, yet Che remains unshakably faithful to the discipline.

With the COVID-19 upheaval, his family business also suffered, having to furlough several staffers and mobilized relatives to fill in the vacancies.

They also had to start printing joss paper to stay afloat.

The 2021 Lunar New Year marked the discontinuation of Che’s annual calendar set with Dong Ho artwork, which used to sell thousands per year.

Che, however, does not let bad omens impede his craft.

He is still working on wooden molds, preparing for a post-epidemic scenario where local tourism may thrive again.

“I am deeply passionate about the trade, which is why I strive to preserve the ancestor’s heritage and make a living from it. I’m already grateful seeing people from all over the world learning about it,” he professed.

“This year is such an unfortunate one due to the COVID-19 epidemic, but my family still maintains the space for work and exhibition. We’re ready to welcome tourists back once life goes back to normal.”

Nguyen Dang Che (right) and wood craftsman Nguyen Duc Tam (left) work on a wooden mold for Dong Ho painting. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che (right) and wood craftsman Nguyen Duc Tam work on a wooden mold for Dong Ho painting. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che inks on a Dong Ho print. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che inks on a Dong Ho print. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che takes care of his poultry. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che takes care of his poultry. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Do paper, a special craft used in Dong Ho paintings, is dried in Nguyen Dang Che’s household. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Do paper, a special craft used in Dong Ho paintings, is dried in Nguyen Dang Che’s household. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Food wrap is printed in Nguyen Dang Che’s facility. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Food wrap is printed in Nguyen Dang Che’s facility. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

A craftsman prints Dong Ho painting by pressing the mold on Do paper. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

A craftsman prints Dong Ho paintings by pressing the mold on Do paper. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

Nguyen Dang Che’s facility is seen in this photo. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

This image displays Nguyen Dang Che’s facility. Photo: Hoang Ngoc Thach

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