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Vietnamese sculpture retains longevity (July 07, 2003)


Located in the South East Asian region, Vietnam’s sculpture is naturally much influenced by the two major civilizations of China and India. It’s ancient sculpture is imbued with the styles of the Phu Nam and Chan Lap kingdoms in the south, the Champa in the center, the Dai Viet in the north and tomb sculpture in the Central Highlands. Unique ancient tomb sculpture has been preserved and maintained to the present in the four Central Highlands provinces of Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak and Lam Dong.

The flourishing culture and customs of Southeast Asian indigenous people are preserved, and can still be seen, particularly in funerary rituals, which are very popular among people living around the equator. The creation of statues to be placed around the tombs is of particular importance in these rituals. The exceptionally lively statues feature among them pregnant women, a crying person and a variety of animals seen as images from the spirit world.

Another prominent Vietnamese art is Champa sculpture, which is indigenous to the south central and southern regions. The art came to prominence as early as the 7th and 8th century with the Cham towers, which were built using bricks but no mortar. The towers often have one entrance gate surmounted by a small tower whose roof is made in the shape of a boat. The most common sculpture works in these towers are the God Siva and the Apsara fairies.

A thousand-year-old civilization in the northern region has developed an art form influenced by humanity and religion. Despite the ravages of war, each commune and village in the region has managed to preserve its own pagoda and communal house with unique Buddha statues and other sculpture works

displaying the skills of Vietnamese artisans. The Buddha statues in Phat Tich and Long Doi pagoda and the statue of a bird with a human head are typical works of the 11th and 13th century Ly dynasty. Buddhist-inspired styles continued to develop during the 13th and 15th century Tran dynasty, particularly in wood carving. Representative works from this period are the " Dragon under the Banyan leaf", "Fairies offering flowers" and "Fairies playing music", which can be seen in the Pho Minh and Thai Lac pagodas. Statues featuring humans and animals were also found in the tombs of the Tran dignitaries.

Talking about Vietnamese sculpture during feudal times, the Secretary General of the Vietnam Fine Art Association, Tran Khanh Chuong, says, "Vietnam has a great treasury of sculpture, particularly the pagodas and communal houses in the north. The most valuable works are the 18 Arhat statues in Tay Phuong pagoda and hundreds of other Buddha statues in the Tram Gian and Tram pagodas. Such art works are fine examples of the creativity and delicate skills of different generations of Vietnamese."

Vietnamese sculpture has reached even higher levels over recent years with works by a number of well-known artists such as Diep Minh Chau and Le Cong Thanh. In addition to traditional materials such as wood, charcoal or cement, Vietnamese artists have been successful in creating art works using bronze, stone, stainless steel and composite. Mr. Chuong talks about the trends in Vietnamese art, "Vietnamese artists have begun to focus on out-door sculpture. Most notable is the statue of President Ho Chi Minh in central Nghe An province and the statue of national hero Tran Hung Dao in the northern province of Hai Duong. Other out-door statues are often found in parks, and tourist resorts across the country. Artists have become more inspired by the topics of daily life and culture."

Reprinted from VOV News

     

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