|The cover of Vietnam Visual Arts in History Religion and Culture.|
Kerry Nguyễn-Long's book is a museum in your hands, covering three thousand years of Vietnamese art.
Vietnam Visual Arts in History, Religion and Culture is a weighty treasure of more than 500 pages. Nguyễn-Long's narrative is general yet specific and concise in orienting readers to Vietnamese history.
She begins with the legendary rulers of the Bronze Age, the first historical rulers (the Trưng sisters in the first century), and then the notable kings in successive dynasties (even including the short-lived dynasties) until the end of the Nguyễn dynasty in August 1945.
Her narrative includes the development of communities, guilds, agricultural techniques, and cultural practices, as well as the wider cultural effects of Chinese and then Western influences.
Indigenous Vietnamese religions and Vietnamese adaptations of religions from China and India play particular significance since đình (Vietnamese village communal house) and Buddhist pagodas house statuary and other significant Vietnamese treasures.
|A gold censer (left) and a gold dragon figurine during the reign of King Thiệu Trị, 1842 (from RACND Collection). Photos from the Vietnam Visual Arts in History, Religion and Culture|
Nguyễn-Long's forty years of research into Vietnamese art is apparent in the clarity of her choices for the 300 four-colour photographs, with many images taken by her husband and partner, Kim Nguyễn-Long.
The accompanying text places images of religious statuary within each religion's context and locates archaeological artefacts and ceramics within a given dynasty's achievements.
Nguyễn-Long not only presents court treasures and their Chinese influences but also explores the artistic crafts beyond the palace gates.
She delineates influences in paintings and more modern sculptures within their cultural context influenced by French colonization. Equally important, she provides crucial, detailed descriptions of the artistic skills involved in each selection from a vast variety of art.
Nguyễn-Long has expanded her book published ten years ago to reflect recent developments that include new archaeological finds from the Lý and Trần dynasties and her research during the past ten years.
Scholars in Vietnamese studies will be pleased to find an extensive bibliography and an index.
Vietnam Visual Arts in History, Religion and Culture is a stunning, accessible book as comprehensive as an encyclopedia handsomely designed and lavishly printed by Hà Nội's Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới (World Publishers).
The pages echo the sorrow of treasure lost to internecine dynastic struggles, while the images delight with the precious works that survive.
By capturing three thousand years of Vietnamese history, religion, and art — a feat accomplished by no other book — Vietnam Visual Arts in History, Religion and Culture belongs on the bookshelves of scholars, art lovers, and libraries worldwide. VNS