Dong Ho paintings awarded national heritage status

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A Dong Ho painting tells the story of a "toad school"

Vietnam's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has recognized the art of making Dong Ho paintings in the northern province of Bac Ninh as a National Cultural Heritage.

The news was announced on March 6 by Nguyen Van Phong, director of Bac Ninh's Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, news website Vietnamplus reported Thursday.

The recognition will help preserve the fading art, he said.

Originating in Dong Ho Village, Song Ho Commune, Thuan Thanh District, the art of making Dong Ho paintings was born in the 16th century and developed through the 20th century.

Traditionally, Dong Ho paintings, which reflect a wide range of themes, such as good luck wishes, historical figures, folk allegories, cultural activities and daily scenes, were part of the essential decorations Vietnamese families used during the traditional Tet (lunar New Year) festival. The paintings have long been considered a symbol of the traditional culture of Viet Nam.

Dong Ho paintings use paper, a paper made from the bark of the tree named for its durability. The paper itself is the most essential element in the making of a Dong Ho painting.

Today, most local people have taken up more profitable jobs. The number of artisans who still pursue the traditional art can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Two of those painters, Nguyen Dang Che and Nguyen Huu Sam -- whose families have made Dong Ho paintings for generations -- have opened their workshops to tourists.

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The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has also announced that it is planning to seek UNESCO's recognition for the art.

The preparation of a portfolio to submit to UNESCO is expected to be finished by next year.

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