Redrawing folk paintings


Vietnamese folk paintings have a very long history and are a symbol of beliefs, desires, aesthetic and artistic values that are popular in the cultural life of Vietnamese people. According to historical studies, around the 12th century, villages specialized in wood carving and painting began to appear.

Along with the ups and downs of the country through historical periods, and the development of society, nowadays folk paintings are no longer seen much in modern life, only preserved in museums. Because of that, craft villages or households that make paintings also disappear or operate in moderation.

With the desire that folk paintings are not only a heritage that needs to be preserved but can be integrated with contemporary life, young artist Xuan Lam has renewed the treasure of Vietnamese folk paintings in a very creative way with the application of modern graphic techniques. The folk paintings, instead of being made with wood plank printing technique, were recreated by Xuan Lam by combining the rough hand-drawing of pencil on paper with the characteristicly soft and vibrant color transition technique of modern graphics. What makes Xuan Lam’s works “redrawing folk paintings ” is the familiarity of the folk paintings that have not been lost, but they have become alive and fresh, relevant, with a more contemporary life.

The collection displayed in the exhibition “The Beauty of Vietnamese craft villages” at the Coffee World Museum is part of two projects: “Redrawing folk paintings” , the first project implemented by Xuan Lam in 2016; and the project “The Meeting between Past and Present” implemented in 2019.

The works in the collection are mainly Hang Trong, Dong Ho paintings such as Five tigers, Beautiful ladies, Carp looking at the moon, Peaceful mankind or Chicken and roses. These are original paintings that were once decorated by Vietnamese people in each spring or given to relatives as a wish for blessings for the new year.


  1. Beautiful ladies- Hang Trong folk painting:

“Beautiful ladies” can be considered as a typical representative of the Hang Trong folk painting series, belonging to the Tu Binh genre with the image of 4 Vietnamese girls in ancient costumes with 4 different poses: one plays the flute, one plays the senh tien instrument (a combination of clapper, rasp, and jingle), one holds the fan, one plays the lute. All of them contribute to portraying the figure, beauty of the soul and talent of Vietnamese women. Besides the ladies, there are also 4 flowers representing the 4 seasons of Vietnam: peach blossom – spring, lotus flower – summer, chrysanthemum – autumn, peony – winter. The picture shows affluence and luck for all four seasons of the year.

  1. Peacock – Hang Trong folk painting

The painting “Peacock” implies a wish for fame and fortune. Peacock makes an impression on viewers with its iridescent feathers, spreading out in the shape of a fan. The point throughout the picture is the image of a peony, which is known as the “Queen of Flowers”.

  1. Five tigers – Hang Trong folk painting

In Vietnamese folk beliefs, tiger is an animal with the divine power to destroy demons. In traditional families, Five tigers paintings were often hung at the altar dedicated to “Mr. Thirty”, under the altar to worship gods or Buddha. Painting of the year of the tiger with five colors showing the five elements, the layout is full and balanced on the paper, each man has a posture: standing, sitting, riding on clouds and surfing the wind.. All of them exude the intense vitality of the “king of the forest”.

  1. Carp looks at the moon – Hang Trong folk painting

The painting “Carp looks at the moon” has a combination of the image of the Carp (symbolizing the consciousness and energy to rise up in life) with the Moon (symbolizing the fullness, integrity, and perfection), as a wish for a new year full of achievements.

  1. The Crane – folk painting of Nghe An province

The crane is the leading species in the feather family, called “the best bird” and has the character of a gentleman and purity. In the picture, the image of a crane with a firm and majestic posture shows resilience and strength. In addition, the image of the crane also has many other meanings such as longevity, erudition and regal life.

  1. Peaceful mankind – Dong Ho folk painting

According to folklore, the peacock is an animal symbolizing beauty and noble dignity. In addition, it is also believed that hanging pictures of peacocks in the house will help ward off evil spirits.

7.The  Chicken and Roses – Dong Ho folk painting

The ancient Vietnamese believed that the rooster was the symbol for the five characters of a brave man: facilities with literature and material art, bravery, humanity, and trust. The rose next to the rooster symbolizes the image of the rooster crowing to the sun, representing vitality and luck.

  1. Chicken family– Dong Ho folk painting

The picture shows a chicken family consisting of roosters, hens and chicks. On the picture, there is the inscription “many children, many grandchildren, like father like son“. The hens create a a spiral layout, representing a coddle. The rooster is placed in a trapezoid layout creating the head of the family position, providing shelter for the hens and chicks. The picture evokes a happy, warm atmosphere in a family.

  1. Pigs – Dong Ho folk painting

Dong Ho painting depicts a herd of piglets gathered around their mother, expressing the wish for a peaceful and prosperous life, with numerous children and grandchildren. People often give gifts to newlyweds to wish them soon have children.

Painter Xuan Lam

  • Born in 1993, majoring in Painting, Vietnam University of Fine Arts
  • Solo exhibition “Redrawing folk paintings” (2017); “The Meeting of Past and Present” (2019)
  • Participating in the implementation of many art projects such as: Public Art on Phung Hung Street (Hanoi – 2018); Contemporary Art in the National Assembly House (Hanoi – 2018); Phuc Tan – Song Hong public art project (Hanoi – 2020). Most recently, his lacquer work was displayed at the Vietnam Pavilion at the International Exhibition (Dubai – 2021) ;…
  • Won the award of the German Embassy on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany – Vietnam ; First prize in 16th “Contemporary Art Day” of the Italian Embassy.
  • In 2021, Xuan Lam was invited by the Dutch Ambassador to Vietnam to perform a work showing the cultural connection and good relationship between the two countries. In addition, he also received certificates of merit from Hoan Kiem District as well as the National Assembly House for his creations.