7 unique traditional arts in Vietnam to discover and bring back

The arts in Vietnam formed and developed in parallel with the continuous development history of the country. The first works of art found here date back to the Stone Age. After nearly ten thousand years, what remains in the Vietnamese art scene has become extremely rich, sophisticated, unique, and attractive. It deserves to become a great experience for everyone when coming to this country.

arts in vietnam

If you are wondering, what kind of art can be discovered in Vietnam? What art products in Vietnam can be brought back as a perfect gift for a loved one? Is it too expensive to own a beautiful work of Vietnamese art? Vietnamdrive will introduce to you the art form Vietnam should explore.

1. Ceramics

It can be said that ceramics are the oldest form of art in Vietnam. According to archaeological studies, from about ten thousand years ago, the first ceramic products appeared in Vietnam. Experiencing the upheavals and changes of history, Vietnamese ceramics are continuously modified and perfected to create their own perfect works of art.

vietnamese pottery product
An art pottery product for tourist souvenir.

Although during the period of Northern domination (before 10th century), Vietnamese ceramics was greatly influenced by the Chinese pottery style, the products made by Vietnamese artisans still have their unique imprint. It is a combination of indigenous culture and technology imported from China, India, Cambodia, and Champa.

Historically, it can be said that the most brilliant development period of Vietnamese ceramic art was in the Ly – Tran dynasties (1009-1400). At this stage, production scale, techniques, materials, kilns all had big creative changes.

Up to now, the art of Vietnamese ceramics is not only developed in the country but also widely exported around the world. The products are made more and more sophisticated and unique, showing the imprint of traditional culture and modern style.

Outstanding addresses to discover Vietnamese ceramic art:

  • Bat Trang ceramics: Bat Trang commune, Gia Lam district, Hanoi.
  • Chu Dau pottery village: Nam Sach district, Hai Duong province.
  • Lai Thieu pottery village – Tan Phuoc Khanh (Binh Duong): Tan Phuoc Khanh town, Tan Uyen District, Binh Duong province.
  • Thanh Ha pottery village: Hoi An city, Quang Nam province.
  • Bau Truc ceramics: Phuoc Dan town, Ninh Phuoc district, Ninh Thuan province.

The price of Vietnamese ceramic products fluctuates greatly depending on the sophistication and specific design. While a tea set includes a full kettle, the price range from a few hundred thousand to nearly a million dong. The price of a pair of vases can be up to several tens of millions of dollars.

However, you can also buy a To He (animal whistle) from Thanh Ha pottery village, which is sold all over the streets in Hoi An Old Town for 15,000 VND. Therefore, depending on your preferences and needs, you can buy Vietnamese ceramic products at any price range you want.

to he pottery in hoian
To he pottery product in Hoi An.

2. Lacquerware

Lacquer wares are household products such as vases, jars, trays, boxes, caskets, bowls, plates, etc., which are made by lacquer technique.

This technique is developed advanced from the traditional art of painting. It includes a combination of many crafts, such as painting; inlacing eggshells and oysters, …; sticking gold leaves and silver; polishing; decorating; drawing patterns; color coating; water grinding;… 

Very colorful lacquer wares.

To have a perfect lacquer product, artisans usually take up to 3 months to perform with about 20 different stages. All stages require meticulous, careful, and highly skilled technicians.

If traditional lacquer art was limited by dominant colors, such as cockroach color, black and red, nowadays, the colors on lacquer products are no longer restricted. The flexibility, freedom of color, and richness of form have brought lacquer to new heights of art in Vietnam.

Lacquer products today are extremely delicate and eye-catching with iridescent, glossy, smooth colors. It is perfect to be an art decoration for any living or working space.

In Vietnam, prominent lacquer villages are:

  • Ha Thai lacquer village: Duyen Thai commune, Thuong Tin district, Hanoi.
  • Boi Khe lacquer craft village: Chuyen My commune, Phu Xuyen district, Hanoi.
  • Tuong Binh Hiep lacquer village: Tuong Binh Hiep ward, Thu Dau Mot City, Binh Duong province.

Lacquer products are sold quite popularly, and you can find them at shopping malls in Vietnam, tourist markets, or souvenir stalls. The average price ranges from fifty thousand to several million Vietnamese dongs for a common product, such as cups, plates, vases, paper boxes, jewelry boxes, trays, etc.

3. Lacquer Painting

It would be an omission to talk about the arts in Vietnam and ignore the lacquer painting, originating from the creation of the locals.

The original cradle of lacquer painting belonged to the Indochina College of Fine Arts, with the famous Vietnamese painters such as Tran Van Can, Dinh Van Thanh, Nguyen Khang, Pham Hau, Nguyen Gia Tri, etc.

lacquer painting countryside
A lacquer painting

In 1925, the French painter Joseph Inguimberty, a lecturer in the decoration department of the Indochina Fine Arts College, discovered a unique feature in the art of painting laque (a local technique of lacquer). He proposed to put ta in research and development in the art of painting. Through many experimental studies, the local skill has been elevated to a new position to create the unique art of Lacquer Painting.

After less than ten years, the completed lacquer paintings were born, creating a new wave of excitement. In 1937, for the first time, Vietnamese lacquer paintings entered France at an international art fair in Paris.

The value of a lacquer painting lies in the depth of the painting, the subtle gloss on the work. In particular, the splendid beauty of a lacquer painting lasts quite a long time. Perhaps, this is the result of the artist’s elaborate, meticulous and enthusiastic creation process.

Today, coming to Vietnam is not difficult to find a place selling lacquer paintings. In most big cities, lacquer paintings are sold quite popularly in galleries, souvenir stalls, tourist attractions. The price of a lacquer painting fluctuates greatly, from less than one million Vietnamese dongs to tens of millions of dongs and more for a painting of commensurate value.

Typical places selling lacquer paintings:

  • Green Palm Gallery: No. 39 Hang Gai, Hanoi; or 49 Mac Thi Buoi, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Nguyen Art Gallery: No. 31A, Temple of Literature, Hanoi.
  • Apricot Gallery: No. 40B Hang Bong, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi; or number 50-52 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.

4. Silk Painting

If lacquer painting is the result of elaborate creativeness based on hard and rough materials such as wood, paint, eggshell, shell, etc., silk painting is the result created on soft silk fabric and pride.

Silk paintings appeared quite early in Asian countries, where silk weaving was developed strongly, such as China, Japan, and Vietnam.

Instead of painting on paper, the artist will create fine artworks on a smooth, soft, cool, and absorbent silk fabric.

The beauty of the silk background itself combines with the delicate strokes of the artist, that have created pure and flexible masterpieces.

silk painting vietnam
A silk painting

The more silk artists understand silk and know how to fully exploit the strengths of this unique painting material, the more luxurious and beautiful the work will be.

In Vietnam, silk paintings are sold quite popularly in most galleries. The price of silk paintings also depends on the aesthetic and artistic value of the paintings. Typically, there are silk paintings by famous Vietnamese artists that cost up to millions of dollars.

However, with silk paintings of aesthetic value used to decorate living and working spaces, their prices range from 400,000 VND to 1,500,000 VND. With this price, silk paintings become not too picky about buyers.

>> Please see more about the traditional silk painting in Vietnam.

5. Hand embroidery

When it comes to Vietnamese traditional art, it is impossible to ignore the art of hand embroidery. It is an art form closely associated with Vietnamese cultural life, as a long-standing saying: “Boys read books and recite poems; Girls work needles, embroider and sew.”

hand embroidery
A picture of hand-embroidery art.

Historically, most Vietnamese women had to know how to embroider by hand, it was a mandatory rule for every girl. Today, hand embroidery is taught in the general education curriculum as a formal subject.

Hand embroidery is a form in which embroiderers use needles to decorate threads of different colors on the fabric to create beautiful and attractive patterns, such as flowers, birds, landscapes, etc. Hand embroidery can be done on clothes, scarves, tablecloths, pillows, decorative items, or create valuable embroidery pictures.

In Vietnam, the most brilliant development period of hand embroidery was during the reign of King Bao Dai (1921 – 1945). Queen Mother Tu Cung (Hoang Thi Cuc) and Nam Phuong Queen had made great contributions to developing the Vietnamese hand embroidery profession.

Embroidery products at that time both bring the quintessence of traditional style and combined modern embroidery techniques of the West. And at the same time, integrated the meek, delicate and loving nature of Hue women.

Today, the traditional art of hand embroidery with Hue royal colors is still maintained. 

The famous addresses to discover this art of hand embroidery, such as:

– XQ Vietnam:

  • XQ Da Lat Su Quan: No. 80 Mai Anh Dao, Ward 8, City. Da Lat, Lam Dong Province.
  • XQ Hue Embroidery Art Museum: 01 Pham Hong Thai, Hue City.

In addition to the above addresses maintaining traditional embroidery with Hue imperial style, it is not difficult to find products of traditional hand embroidery in other places in Vietnam, such as at Thang Loi Handicraft: 92 Phan Boi Chau Street, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province.

From unique embroidered paintings to decorative products, hand-embroidered scarves are sold quite a lot in the local markets in Vietnam, tourist attractions, galleries, etc.

Hand-embroidered art products in Vietnam are also not too expensive. Depending on the quality of the art and the size of the product, the price can range from a few hundred thousand dongs to several million dongs or more.

6. Hoi An Lanterns

Hoi An, a prominent name that cannot be ignored, is on the tourist map of Vietnam. This beautiful little city attracts tourists with so many lovely attractions. Among the many attractions that make up Hoi An is the presence of lanterns appearing everywhere in the old town.

lantern in hoi an city
Using lanterns to decorate on streets in Hoi An.

Thousands of lanterns with all colors and shapes are hung up as the love that Hoi An people have for the place they live. It represents the wish that happiness, luck, and health will come to everyone in the family and neighborhood. These lanterns also light up the shimmering and fanciful painting of Hoi An every night.

The attraction that Hoi An lanterns bring to you also lies in their artistic value. It is a handmade product directly made by the locals on silk fabric with all colors and eye-catching patterns. The fabric is stretched on a carefully treated bamboo or wooden frame to get beautiful shapes.

The lantern can be easily stowed and carried as a neat piece of luggage. The durability of Hoi An lanterns is quite high, it is suitable for decoration both indoors or outdoors.

The price of Hoi An lanterns is not high to buy. Small lanterns cost only a few tens of thousands of Vietnamese dong, while the price of larger ones is a few hundred or a little more.

In particular, coming to Hoi An, you can participate in the direct experience of making lanterns with the locals. A lesson in making lanterns here ranges from 200,000 VND to 300,000 VND per person. And it deserves to be a fun activity to try when traveling to this beautiful little city.

Addresses to learn how to make lanterns in Hoi An:

  • Den Long Viet (Viet Lantern): 57 Ba Trieu, Hoi An City, Quang Nam province
  • Tieng Vong Pho (Echoing Town Lantern): 08 Tran Cao Van, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province
  • Ha Linh Lantern: 72 Tran Nhan Tong, Cam Chau Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province

7. The art of stone carving

There has not been any historical evidence showing the exact date of birth of Vietnamese fine art sculpture. But it can be confirmed that fine art stone carving is one of the traditional crafts that appeared very early in this lovely Southeast Asian country – Vietnam.

stone carving village in danang
A stone-carving workshop in Danang City.

It is asserted that the cradle of Vietnamese stone sculpture is from Thanh Hoa province, located in Northern Central Vietnam. From here, the art of stone sculpture spreads to many places across the country.

Coming to the stone village, you will see a craftsman bringing the essence of art blowing into inanimate rocks to create fine artworks with the soul of culture and daily life.

Starting from the stage of stone selection to the final steps to produce a product with an eye-catching shape, all require a lot of experience and meticulousness of the craftsman. They must work hard in their intense love for the stone.

Products made in the early days mainly revolved around essential needs, such as stone mortars, flower pots, teapots, etc. Along with the development of society, stoneware products became more and more diverse in models, shapes, sizes.

Today, coming to stone carving villages, you can find a lot of different options suitable for your needs. You can choose from small models used to display in the living room to large artworks used to decorate gardens, gates, restaurants, hotels, etc.

The price of fine art stone products also depends on the size, design, and material, which has quite a big difference. However, most reviews say that the cost of owning a sophisticated stone art product from Vietnam is completely in line with the expectations of buyers.

 Currently, there are still many famous stone carving villages, such as:

  • Nhoi stone village: located in An Hoach ward and Dong Hung, Dong Tan communes, Thanh Hoa City, Thanh Hoa province.
  • Non Nuoc stone village in the marble mountains: Hoa Hai ward, Ngu Hanh Son district, Da Nang city.
  • Ninh Van stone village: Ninh Van commune, Hoa Lu district, Ninh Binh province.

The 7 unique types of arts that Vietnamdrive has just introduced are outstanding traditional arts of Vietnam.

When coming to this beautiful and hospitable country, do not miss the opportunity to discover the beauty of these art forms.

It will be an interesting experience when you can not only hear, see and touch the product but also can directly make the product and take it away as a valuable souvenir.

Besides the art forms mentioned above, many other arts in Vietnam are waiting for you to discover, such as Dong Ho Painting.

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.