by Cong Thanh
DA NANG — Calligrapher Do Minh Nhan is preserving Viet Nam's ancestral penmanship in the historic port town of Hoi An.
Write on: Calligrapher Do Minh Nhan completes a work at his gallery in Hoi An.
|Fancy: Calligraphy artworks on paper and stone. — VNS Photos Hoai Nam
Nhan, 69, inherited the art of painting from his father when he was a boy. He began studying calligraphy at the age of 20 as he discovered the beauty of the writing.
However, his artistic talent did not become known until 1999 when Hoi An was recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The city administration invited Nhan and a group of local artists to participate in a project to preserve the old culture and arts of the city.
"Calligraphy and painting sustained me through the most difficult parts of the last 30 years in this country. Before this point, I painted to provide for my five children and to satisfy my own creative impulse. Calligraphy and painting are an indispensable part of my life," said Nhan.
He said the initiation of the conservation project in 1999 marked a turning point in his artistic life.
Two years ago, Nhan started offering two-hour calligraphy classes for US$20 each.
"Travel agencies invited me to teach tourists whenever they visit the old city. I think it's a good opportunity to introduce and promote the traditional arts of Hoi An to a world-wide audience," he said.
"Foreign tourists often find calligraphy very interesting because they see their names or wishes written in a strange style," the calligrapher said.
Nhan also paints characters on wood, stone and silk with his brushes, not only on paper as is traditionally done.
The calligrapher demonstrates his art on the 15th day of each lunar month, Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays and the Viet Nam-Japan Culture Day in Hoi An City. His artwork was also exhibited in 2008 at the Hue Festival.
"Calligraphy features personality, heart and soul. Calligraphers must keep their mind in peace if they want to produce a perfect character," the artist explained, adding that patience was also needed to finish an artwork.
One piece in particular took him two years to complete, which featured a picture of the Goddess of Mercy composed of thousands of Buddhist prayers painstakingly written out.
"Calligraphy and paintings are precious treasures for the next generation because they can preserve the beautiful images of Hoi An forever, not to mention the great emotions of Hoi An-born artists," Nhan said.
A collection of his best calligraphic artworks from the past 13 years was shown at the 2012 Hue Festival, which ended yesterday. — VNS