A calligrapher writes Vietnamese script at a traditional calligraphy market at the Temple of Literature. Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
HÀ NỘI Easy to read and understand, Vietnamese calligraphy is a lot simpler to understand than the Han Chinese version, which helped boost its popularity during Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.
The tradition of collecting letters has become part of Vietnamese culture whenever Lunar New Year arrives. The calligraphic works, which can be romanised Vietnamese, Han Chinese or Nôm (Vietnamese ideographic) scripts written by elderly scholars, expresses the Vietnamese people’s respect for knowledge.
The scripts are written on traditonal dó (poohnah) paper and become symbols of good fortune.
Many calligraphers who are able to write both Vietnamese and Han-Nôm calligraphy received increasing orders for Vietnamese calligraphy this year.
“Eighty per cent of my customers ask me to write them romanised Vietnamese scripts,” said Hoàng Đình Trường in an interview with Thanh Niên newspaper.
According to Trường, who works at the Temple of Literature and Hai Bà Trưng Temple in Hà Nội, he was often asked to write the word An in Vietnamese, which means peace.
However, his customers have recently requested other meaningful words, depending on their wishes.
“Most of them prefer Vietnamese calligraphy as it is easier to read and understand. They want it to be readable. Ancient Han-Nôm scripts have been largely forgotten so most people can't read them," he said.
“I think both are fine, so it's only important to preserve the tradition, and educating the younger generations about a respect for learning and knowledge,” he aded.
Trần Hậu Yên Thế from Việt Nam University of Fine Arts also agreed that romanísed Vietnamese calligraphy had become increasingly popular.
Vietnamese calligrapher Kiều Quốc Khánh added that other calligraphers specialising in the modern national script had adapted the sophisticated writing techniques for Han-Nôm scripts to enrich their writing styles.
However, according to Phạm Văn Tuấn from the Institute of Han-Nôm Studies, more people ask for ancient Han-Nôm scripts at the Temple of Literature, which gathers renowned calligraphers in Hà Nội.
“The Temple of Literature is a space dedicated to Confucianism and traditional culture. People they should ask for words related to examinations and traditions,” Tuấn said.
“Romanised Vietnamese calligraphy is also asked for but not as much. Some people see others asking for Vietnamese scripts and do the same.”
“I hope that more Han-Nôm classes will be organised for youngsters,” he said.
“The past ten years has seen the increasing development of writing Vietnamese with ink brushes. However, Vietnamese calligraphy has not yet achieved a standardised system like Han-Nôm calligraphy."
However, he said there had been technical advances in romanised Vietnamese calligraphy.
“From the north, calligrapher Kiều Quốc Khánh has been accredited with bringing and introducing the system of Vietnamese calligraphy in the south. Therefore, Vietnamese calligraphy has never been as diverse as it is today. Frequently interacting with other artists, Khánh has come up with many innovations and influences on Vietnamese calligraphy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Trần Hậu Yên Thế has also had many calligraphic creativiteness showcase artistic elements.
One of his works combined with contemporary art is being displayed at the National Assembly Building. Written in vertical lines, the words have shapes similar to Han and Nôm scripts.
“At the beginning, I intended to write Han and Nôm characters on the stele. However, after that, I changed my mind to make it easier for viewers to read and understand,” Thế said.
Phạm Văn Tuấn agreed that the increasing favour of Vietnamese calligraphy was understandable.
However, the co-existence of two calligraphic styles were not mutually exclusive.
"I think they will grow in parallel," he said. VNS