Fine art and handicrafts


The ceramic art has grown considerably from the eleventh century with a wide variety of shapes and glazes. The theme is often representative of the Buddhist lotus petals and stylized flowers.

Since fifteenth century, Vietnamese ceramics have been exported to Japan and other neighboring countries. The village of Bat Trang (15 km from Hanoi) is the main production center for ceramics in Vietnam.

Bat Trang is well known for making excellent ceramics paintings. After having been painted, the pictures are put into the kiln and burned with high temperature. This process makes its color long lasting. The major themes like other types are sceneries of traditional villages with quiet rivers, yellow rice field or green ranges of bamboo. Most of these pictures are typical of Bat Trang style, vibrant yet simple. There are now various practices in which the artists use brushes and non traditional color on the background of Bat Trang ceramic tile make the ceramic paintings really spectacular and outstanding. The beauties of them are deep inside the ceramic tile and fine glaze.

Silk Painting

Silk paintings are made by embroidering on the canvas of silk with sophisticated themes and vibrant colors. Success of silk painting owes much to the quality of the silk because it is used directly as background. Its delicate and refined colors give the picture such harmony with the nature and excellent representation of Vietnamese landscapes and daily life.

 Dong Ho Painting

Originating from Dong Ho commune, Bac Ninh province, Dong Ho painting has existed for more than 300 years. The background of the painting is made of a special kind of Dzo paper coated with mollusks powder gives the painting a sparkling look. Natural colors are much more preferred so that even time or daylight cannot make it dimmer. Dong ho paintings revolve around romantic, satirical or humorous themes which are expressed by familiar images of farming life such as rice paddies, village market, or mice wedding. All focus on the aspiration of people for a harmonious, just and happy life which is not always possible due to long history of repeated war and colonialism.


Vietnamese lacquer traditionally comes in only three colors - brown, black and vermilion. During 1930s, artists adopted a new technique called “chiseling” to produce richer color range and sense of distance.

The painting is made on wood.  It is covered with a piece of cloth glued to it using the sap of the lacquer tree and then coated with a layer of the sap mixed with earth.  The board is then sand papered and recoated with a layer of hot sap.  After polishing, this gives a smooth black surface with a brilliant luster.

The painter uses hot lacquer to draw the outline of a picture and the colors are applied one by one, layer upon layer.  Each coat dries slowly.

The finishing touches consist of polishing and washing the pictures.  This process may seem like brutal treatment for a work of art, but it is done with great care.  This process leaves a brilliant surface on a painting.

Performing art

Water puppet (Mua roi nuoc)

Vietnam’s water puppet theatre dates back to the 11th century, and this thriving art form has moved from rural lakes to royal courts, big town theatres and international arts festivals... entertaining packed houses with its timeless themes.
The performance of water puppetry is closely related to the rice civilization in Vietnam, originally a folk art of farmers to entertain on the fields. The natural water bodies in the villages (lakes, ponds) serve as a stage called "Dinh Thuy." The puppeteers manipulate their puppets with bamboo sticks and string wading in the water behind a bamboo curtain.

A band usually accompanies the show to give it music and rhythm. The performances consist of two acts, each telling a legend or an episode in the history of Vietnam.

Now, this art is also performed on the modern stage of the Thang Long Theatres or on outdoor pond at the Museum of Ethnography in Hanoi.

Ethnic music and dance

Each ethnic group in Vietnam has its own dance troupe and dancing festival. The Thai gathering dance or rower dance (Mua Xoe) is truly a feast for the eyes. This takes place twice a year at the Festival of Tay and Thai in Lao Cai. Originally, it is done by girls to get noticed or allured a partner.

Dance of the Kho Mu minority: Khmu dance festival is a tribute to the goddess of rice. Relying on rice, Kho Mu people believe in the existence of the soul of rice. The festival is organized before the times of sowing and harvest.

Each minority has its own type of music but in general it can be divided into broader categories including children songs, love songs, work songs, festival songs, lullabies and funeral songs. Sometimes, they are generalized as folk songs. Nobody knows their authentic authors who usually get inspired and let their strong feelings flow out in the form of proverbs or folk poems. Folk songs can be sung without instrumental accompaniment with rhythm depending greatly on the mood of the singers. Folk songs are popular among people for the ease of memorizing. Indeed, this type of music is absorbed into Vietnamese’s blood with deep touch in their hearts and souls. They are the very first teaching on the way to ethical conduct and behaviors and even knowledge on how to deal with life situations.

Classical music is much more rigid. It was performed at the imperial court and for the entertainment of the elite. There are also other types of classical chamber music such as hat a dao of the North, ca hue of the Central and don ca tai tu of the South which are loved by many foreign visitors to Vietnam.