Assc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Hong Hai: Tradition-based creations require profound understanding

Saturday, 2019-06-15 16:59:37
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Assc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Hong Hai (Photo:
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NDO – Over recent years, more and more tradition-based projects and initiatives have been launched by the youth, which have attracted great interest from the society. While acknowledging the positive effects of the projects in encouraging the love for national culture among the public, Associate Professor, Doctor Dinh Hong Hai, a lecturer from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, stressed that every tradition-based creation can only set its value if it is developed with profound understanding of culture.

Assc. Prof., Dr. Dinh Hong Hai granted an interview to Nhan Dan (People) Weekly newspaper to talk more about this trend.

Question: As a researcher who has spent much time and effort in traditional culture, what do you think about the new trend of blending tradition in the projects of young Vietnamese people?

Answer: It is heartening to see the comeback of traditional symbols and patterns in our modern life. However how to integrate tradition in creations in a proper way requires not only talent but also understanding and knowledge.

In the first volume of my book entitled ‘Typical symbols in Vietnamese traditional culture’ there are sketches of two typical pillars which are often seen at the entrance to many Vietnamese temples. Each pillar looks like a lotus bud, but are modified images of ‘tu linh’- the four mythical creatures in Vietnamese belief, the dragon, kylin, tortoise, and phoenix.

This example shows the amazing creation of our ancestors in utilising traditional motifs. The arts should be created based on creative ideas and aesthetic capacity; these are two indispensable factors to form a valuable artistic symbol.

You have just finished a four-volume book entitled ‘Typical symbols in Vietnamese traditional culture’. Can you share with us about the project?

At the beginning of the project, I just wanted to create public information about typical decoration patterns which are widely seen among Vietnamese people but have not yet fully described by researchers. Based on documents and references which I have collected, I systemised the decorative patterns into typical sets and introduced them to the public.

After the first volume of the book was released in 2012, it received strong interest and attention from readers, which urged me to expand my research into further topics, including gods, sacred animals, and ancestors, which are presented in the next three volumes in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

A youngster talks with Nguyen Dang Che, a veteran artisan from Dong Ho folk painting village in Bac Ninh province, to learn more about the traditional painting (Photo credit: Ngo Vuong Anh)

Facts have shown that there is a lack of knowledge on traditional culture among the public. What is your opinion on this?

This phenomenon is a consequence of the reading-laziness of Vietnamese people. Without promoting a good reading habits, we cannot systemise the transfer of knowledge to our modern dynamic society. Without equipping ourselves with systemised knowledge we will easily let ourselves get caught by the knowledge trap.

For example, if you search for “ty huu" (Pixiu), a Chinese mythical hybrid creature which is commonly considered a powerful protector of practitioners of Feng Shui, you will find millions of results referring to thousands of websites selling the products. However, as far as I know, such information mentioned in these websites comes from a common source which has not been verified to be true or not. The information is made up to help the businesses sell as many products as possible.

What should be done to popularise common knowledge to readers, in your opinion?

A deep way of approach to learning is necessary in this case. However, we must first popularise cultural symbols to the public so that they can attain a common understanding of them. Teaching programmes at arts schools can help their students to gain better knowledge on traditional culture. In general, communication campaigns though the press and television can help to provide the public with accurate awareness of the country’s unique cultural value.

Thank you so much for your sharing!