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Sacred animals reveal the true Viet Nam

Hoang Hai Yen, a secondary student from Ha Noi, was completely wrapped up in colouring a picture of lion, a sacred object used in pagodas in Viet Nam.

Sacred animals reveal the true Viet Nam
Sacred animals reveal the true Viet Nam

She and other students were taking part in an activity held together with an exhibition on su tu (lion) and nghe (mythological lion) at the Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts yesterday.

Visitors to the exhibition can learn more about the identification, origin and meaning of the sacred animals.

This is the first time an exhibition of pure Vietnamese objects from different historical periods has been displayed on such a large scale, said Phan Van Tien director of the museum.

The exhibition features 60 lions and mythological lions dating from Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen dynasties (1,000 years ago), made from wood, stone, pottery, glazed terra-cotta and bronze.

The objects belong to collections of the Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts and Nam Dinh Provincial Museum.

Lion statues often hold a pictograph of “wang” (means king) on their forehead and keep a precious stone in their mouths.

Vietnamese lions are not muscular, hairy and fierce-looking like those from China. And their teeth are not sharp.

Nghe statues look corpulent and chubby with big ears and no-horn head. They are described as an animal with no hoof.

“The exhibition is aimed at showing people authentic Vietnamese sacred animals,” said Tien.

“Visitors can contemplate the objects and learn the differences between local and Chinese animals, which have been appearing at more ancient buildings. Recently cultural managers decided that the foreign lions should be replaced.”

Yen said now she can separate Vietnamese and foreign lion statues. She also knows that there are several types of mythological lions from different periods.

“Now I know that nghe can be look like a lion with tail of squirrel, sometimes, it has a head of dragon, of kylin (unicorn) and dog,” she said.

Nguyen Dan Quoc said he felt moved when he saw the collection because it was so rare to contemplate Vietnamese sacred objects.

The exhibition will run until November 17 at the Viet Nam Museum of Fine Arts, 66 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ha Noi.

It will re-open in Da Nang City and Ninh Binh Province where many trade villages have been producing foreign-style sacred objects.

The organisers expected that through the exhibition, the craftsmen will understand more about traditional objects and learn to produce them.