Sơn mài (Laques)

English version

À quel moment la technique de la laque a-t-elle été introduite au Vietnam? Sa date d’introduction  continue à alimenter les débats et reste toujours l’objet de discussions. Pour certains archéologues, l’utilisation de l’ornement laqué remonta à la première invasion chinoise (découverte des objets laqués dans des tombes des IIIème- IVème siècles de notre ère). Pour d’autres, cette technique fut introduite au XVème siècle par Trần Tường Công, ambassadeur à la cour de Chine. Celui-ci fut chargé par le roi Lê Nhân Tôn (1443- 1460) de trouver un métier susceptible de procurer de nouvelles ressources pour les paysans. Il fut initié dans des ateliers chinois de la province Hunan aux mystères de la laque.  Personne n’est vraiment convaincue jusqu’à ce jour car les affabulations chinoises ne manquaient pas  à cette époque pour légitimer leur politique d’assimilation  et de conquête territoriale vis à vis à d’autres peuples.

Par contre, on sait que Hunan fit partie du royaume de Chu (Sỡ Quốc) établi sur la fleuve Yangzi (Dương Tử Giang) à l’époque des Royaumes Combattants. Ce dernier fut annexé plus tard par Qin Shi Huang Di (Tần Thủy Hoàng). C’est aussi dans ce royaume de Chu qu’on a découvert les tombes  de Mme Dai et de son fils à Mawangdui (Mã Vương Đôi) (Changsa, Hunan), (168 av. J.C.) où l’artisanat local  montrait une maîtrise de la forme et la couleur, en particulier les boiseries de la laque.  Cela nous amène à avoir une idée précise et pouvoir conclure  que la technique de la  laque venait probablement des Bai Yue car  le royaume de Chu  était en contact étroit  avec ces derniers et  en recevait une influence notable en ce qui concerne la soie, la laque, les rites chamaniques des Hmong, les épées etc…

Sơn mài

La laque est en fait le suc laiteux obtenu par incision du laquier. Grâce à la solidification à l’air libre et à la résistance à l’acide et aux éraflures, la gomme résineuse constitue une protection idéale pour les bois et pour les bambous. On se sert de cette résine dans la fabrication des objets laqués. Ceux-ci offrent une grande diversité: paravents, coffres, plateaux, vases, échiquiers etc … Le travail de laque nécessite beaucoup de préparations et de soins.

Version anglaise

Over what  time period was introduced the  lacquer technique in Vietnam? Its date of introduction continues to sustain debates and always remains the object of discussions. For some archaeologists, the use of lacquer adornment dated back to the first Chinese invasion (discovery of lacquerwares in the tombs of 3rd – 4th centuries of our era). For others, this technique was introduced by Trần Tường Công, ambassador to the court of China. He was assigned by king Lê Nhân Tôn (1443-1460 ) to find a trade contributing  to provide new resources for peasants. He was introduced to the secrets of lacquer in Chinese workshops of Hunan province. Nobody is not really convinced  until today because the Chinese pretence did not lack  at this time for legitimating  the policy of assimilation and territorial conquest vis à vis other people. On the other hand, one knowns Hunan was an integral  part of the kingdom Chu (Sỡ Quốc) established on the Yangzi river  (Dương Tử Giang)  during the Warring States period. The latter was annexed thereafter by  Qin Shi Huang Di (Tần Thủy Hoàng). It is also in the Chu kingdom  one has discovered  the tombs of Mrs Dai and her son at  Mawangdui (Mã Vương Đôi) (Changsa, Hunan), (168 av. J.C.) where the local craft  showed the master’s degree in  shape and color, in particular the lacquer panelling. This leads us to get a precise idea and to be able to conclude  the lacquer technique came from Bai Yue (Bách Việt) because  the Chu kingdom was  in close contact  with the latter and received from which  an important influence  concerning  silk,  lacquer, shamanic rites of Hmong people, swords etc…

Lacquer is in fact the milky juice obtained from an incision of the lacquer tree. Thanks to the solidification in open air and the resistance to acid and scratches, the resinous gum constitutes an ideal protection for wood and bamboo. One uses this resin to make lacquerwares. They offer a great diversity: folding screens, chests, trays, vases, chessboard etc….

Lacquerwork requires lots of preparation and care.

Champa sculpture: Three part (Điêu Khắc cổ Champa)

French version

Vietnamese version
Mỹ Sơn A 1 Style

Phong Cách Mỹ Sơn A 1 (Xth century)

French researcher Jean Boisselier distinguishes two styles. The first style is known under the name of Khương Mỹ (first half of the Xth century) and it is constituted by the works adopting again some features found in the Ðồng Dương style. As to the second style, it is called under the Trà Kiệu name (second half of the Xth century) and it brings together the works getting completely off the Đồng Dương style. We note a increasingly marked indo-Javanese influence after having taken Khmer influences.

In the Khương Mỹ style, we observe in both harmony and symmetry. The sweetness is also visible in the facial expressions to the sculptures. Regarding the Trà Kiệu style, in addition to the sweetness found in poses and faces, we find the beauty of the adornments, the half-smile, the trend toward the high prominent reliefs etc. ..The development of female beauty is no longer in doubt (breasts fully developed, broad hips, the elegance of the body etc ..) in the Cham sculpture during this period.


Phong Cách Mỹ Sơn A 1 



In the Trà Kiệu style’s prolongation, there’s the Chánh Lộ style (11th century) where we are a witness to the return of main features: thick lips, wide mouth, arch of eyebrow in relief. In this style, there is the absence of the half-smile on the face, the disappearance of the broad hips, the simplification of ornament and cap ( Kirita-Mukuta ). We can say that it is in fact a return to the past. This style is only a transition style between those of Mỹ Sơn A 1 and Bình Ðịnh.

Tháp Mắm style
(or Bình Ðịnh style)

The latter stretches with its extensions, from 11th century until the end of the 13th century. The Champa became a Khmer province for twenty years (between 1203 and 1220). It is for this reason that the significant influence of the Angkorian art is found in this style. It is not by chance that French researcher Jean Boisselier imputes the beginning of the 13th century of Tháp Mắm style to the Bayon style in the Cham art. 

The Tháp Mắm style is both eccentric by the enrichment of the decor and the expression of fantastic animals, deities and dvarapalas (thick lips, pupils not marked, eyebrows in clear relief, nostrils dilated, a beard, mustaches)

Phong Cách Tháp Mắm

The works of this long period show close relationships, not only with Khmer art but also with Vietnamese art. The dragons of Tháp Mắm, towers of gold, silver and ivory, demonstrate the Vietnamese influence (period of Lý and Trần dynasties). In this style, the animal sculptures are very varied but they reflect the unrealistic and mythical character. Sometimes, some ferocious and nasty animals very pushed to implausibility and exaggeration, become charming and cute creatures.



One can have the same ambiguous idea of French researcher Jean Boisselier on the Champa art by asking oneself if one encounters a decadent work or one is at the top of a art pushed to its limits. Vietnamese researcher Ngô văn Doanh has the opportunity to compare this style to the ray of light before the nightfall. Although this one is splendid and blazing hot, it is too “old. It is about to disappear with regrets for giving way to Yang Mun and Pô Rome styles.

Tháp mắm style

Phong Cách Muộn

Yang Mum et Pô Rome styles

( XIVth -XVth century)

One finds in these styles the mediocre and schematic character. There is a tendency to stylize your carved images and to neglect the rest, in particular the lower limbs that are sometimes reduced to a triangular stone block or a pedestal. The kut (or funerary steles  the base uncarved is buried under the growth) show with rudeness a human silhouette without anyone knowing there is a Muslim influence or a return to the animist past.


Hinduism gives way to new forms of religion (cult of local geniuses (the Yang), animism, islam) since the fall of Vijaya (Bình Ðịnh) in 1471 against the Vietnamese (Lê Thánh Tôn) and the loss of all holy places (Mỹ Sơn, Trà Kiệu, Đồng Dương), which thus express a long and irreversible twilight for Cham sculpture. Being left in oblivion since so many years and recently appropriated by the Vietnamese, the Champa sculpture goes back to be their object of admiration since the exposure of Vietnam art treasures (2005 Guimet Museum, Paris) and one of the major components of Vietnamese art. Now, it is an integral part of the artistic and cultural heritage of Vietnam.

Bibliography reference

  • La statuaire  du Champa. Jean Boisselier. Volume LIV, EFEO Paris 1963.
  • Văn hóa cổ Champa. Ngô Văn Doanh . NXB Dân Tộc 2002
  • Champa sculpture. Nguyễn Thế Thục. NXB  Thông Tấn 2007
  • Jean Boisselier . La statuaire du Champa. Recherche sur les cultes et l’iconographie.
  • Bénisti Mireille: Arts asiatiques. Année 1965. Volume 12. N°1.
  • L’art du Champa. Jean François Hubert. Editeur Parkstone Press International. 2005
  • Pérégrinations culturelles au Champa. Nguyễn Vă Kự, Ngô Văn Doanh, Andrew Hardy. Editions Thế Giới Publishers 2005

Champa sculpture: Second part (Điêu khắc Cổ)

French version

Vietnamese version


Mỹ Sơn E1 style:
(VIIth -middle VIIIth century)

The sculptures of  Mỹ Sơn sanctuary are distinguished not only by the finesse in details but also by the vitality in ornamentation. The amazing and brilliant combination of Cham realistic descriptions and characteristic elements found in the Indian philosophical doctrine (hinduism) has marked the beginning of the golden age of Cham culture.

The divinities head  found at Mỹ Sơn site has the following characters: square face, big eyes, thick lips, large ears with pendants, straight nose, hairstyle in spherical shape with the ringed octogonal vertical element, halo behind the head. It may indicate the Chenla influence (or Cambodia at the pre-Angkorian period ). This is the case of Visnu in a lying position, similar a pre-Angkorian lintel and located in the Mỹ Sơn E 1 pediment.

Mỹ Sơn E1 style

Hòa Lai style
(Middle 8th -Middle 9th century)
Hoàn Vương period.

It is marked by the significant influence of Java. The postural waddle, sensuality and elegance in the sculpture and the halo behind the head give to this style a indisputable subtlety. It seems that only remain the sculptures carved in the temples brick. French researcher Jean Boisselier has pointed out that a lot of bronzes dated back to this period and were imported from Indonesia. This highlights the privileged relationship between Champa and Indonesia.

Điêu khắc Cổ Chămpa

Ðồng Dương style
(Middle of 9th century)


© Đặng Anh Tuấn

Déesse Tara,

Bronze height 1m20 (2002)

This is the style where the facial appearance is very typical. It is easily recognized by the common features: protruding eyebrowns joined by a continuous and sinous line going back up to the hair, thick lips with the upturned commissures, a moustache that is confused sometimes to upper lip and flat, broad (from face) and aquiline (from profile) nose, narrow front and short chin. The God is identified by his frontal eye. The absence of the smiling face is mentioned. This style corresponds to Indrapura period where Buddhism knew a significant development and became the personal inclination of Indravarman II king. The latter built, in the second half of the 9th century, a Buddhist monastery in Ðồng Dương, located 65 km from Ðà Nẵng city. There is a lot of artworks concerning the Buddhism of the Great Vehicle. It is here that we found an inscription testifying to his simultaneous homage to Laksmindra Lokesvara (another name of Avalokitesvara) (Buddhism) and Shiva Bhadesrava (Shaivism). 

This is the sign of the Cham syncretism during this period. A lot of questions arise about the provenance of the Cham Buddhist influence. We long believed and proposed a Chinese influence prior to Liang dynasty via the center of Nanjing in Wanfosi (Chengdu) or in Quingzhou (Shandong). But one could suggest a southern influence coming from the Funan kingdom in Mekong delta. The Ðồng Dương style gives to Buddha statues a condensed aspect of masculinity, vigilant sweetness and well-controlled force. More reading

Đồng Dương style

Pictures gallery

Champa sculpture ( Điêu khắc cổ Champa)

Version française

Version vietnamienne

Until now, one does not known precisely the ethnic origin of Cham people. Some believe that they came from the Asian mainland and were deported with the other populations living in the south of China (the Bai Yue) by the Chinese while others (ethnologists, anthropologists linguists) highlighted the insular origin through their research studies.

To sculpt a statue, it is a religious act

For these latter, the Cham were probably the people living in the Southern Ocean (archipelagic countries or that of Malaysian Peninsula).,At the legendary era, the Champa oral traditions speaking of  the linkage between Chămpa and Java, consolidate this latter hypothesis.

Known as Vikings from Southeast Asia,  Champa people lived along the coasts of center and south of Vietnam today. Their main activities were essentially based on trade. They were in contact very early with China and territories as far away as Malaysian peninsula, perhaps the coasts of South India.

Being devoted to religious purposes, the Champa sculpture thus did not escape political recupercussions and influences from outside, in particular those of India, Cambodia and Java. These ones thus became the main forces in creation, development and evolution of styles for their art. For French researcher Jean Boisselier, the Champa sculpture was very closely with the history. Significant changes have been highlighted in the development of Champa sculpture, in particular the statuary with historical events, dynastic changes or relations that  Champa   have had with its neighbouring countries (Vietnam or Cambodia). Thanks to  vietnamese researcher  Ngô văn Doanh, each time an important incidence came  from outside, one did not take long to see the emergence of  a new style in Chămpa sculpture. To achieve this,  it is sufficient to cite an example: to 11th-12th century, the intensification of violent contacts, especially with Vietnam and Cambodia and the emergence of new conceptions in relation to the foundations of royal power, can explain the originality and  richness found in Tháp Mắm style.

Pictures gallery


 Being the expression of the Indian pantheon (brahmaniste but especially shivaiste and Buddhist), the Cham sculpture resort to local interpretation of the concepts with elegance rather than slavish imitation. Above all, it is a support for meditation and a proof of devotion. “To sculpt a statue”, it is a religious act. Being subject to religious norms, the Cham sculptor, with his skillful hands, has succeeded in giving, with fervour, to inert stone a soul, a divine representation enabling to convey the religious concept he loved to transmit with faith. The Cham sculpture is peaceful. No scene of horror is present. There are only animal creatures slightly fanciful (lions, dragons, birds, elephants etc. . ). One could find no violent and decent form in the deities. Despite the evolution of styles throughout history, the Cham sculpture continues to keep the same divine and animal creatures in a constant theme. 



 The Cham art manages to keep its specificity, its facial own expression and its particular beauty without being not a slavish imitation from external models and affecting its singularity in the Hindu sculpture found in India and Southeast Asia. In spite of lack of animation and realism, Cham artworks are predominantly carved in sandstone and much more rarely in terracotta and other alloys (gold, silver, bronze etc. .. ).

Generally speaking, being in the modest dimension, they relate religious beliefs and conceptions of the world. They cannot leave us impassive because they always give us a very strange impression. It is one of the features of the beauty in the Cham art.

One finds sculptures in the round, high-reliefs and bas-reliefs in the Cham art. A “rond-bosse” is a scuplture around which we can turn to see the sculptor work . A high-relief is a sculpture having a relief very salient and it does not untie itself from the background. As for low-relief, it is a sculpture with a relief less salient on a uniform background. In the Cham sculpture, one retains the trend toward the adoption of the creatures roundness at the level of the reliefs. Few scenes are included in this sculpture. The lack of continuity or awarkness are noted at the assembly level in the opposite case.

The creatures found in the Cham sculpture tend to be always detached from space that surrounds them with brilliance. They have something monumental. Even in the case where they are grouped together (in the artworks of Mỹ Sơn, Trà Kiệu chronicling the Cham daily life ), they give us the impression that each one remains independently from others. 

One can say that the Cham sculptor is solely interested by creature he wants to show and glorify without thinking at no time to details and imperfections becoming excessively unrealistic (hand too big or Trà Kiệu dancer arm too flexed for example) and without the perfect imitation in Hindu original models, which gives to Cham sculpture the character “monumental” not found in the other sculptures. It is an another feature found in this Cham sculpture. 

The artworks are limited but they testify to a plastic beautiful quality and the expression of various religions. It is difficult to give them a same style. By contrast, some features are closely linked to tradition of Amaravati Indian art . It is only in the second half of 7th century that under the reign of Prakasadharma Vikrantavarman I king , the Champa sculpture began to take body and to reveal its originality. More reading

  • Mỹ Sơn E1 style (7th -middle 8th century)
  • (Middle  8th- middle  9th century).  Hoàn Vương period
  • Ðồng Dương style  (9th -10th century)
  • Mỹ Sơn A 1 style (10 th century)
  • Tháp Mắm style (or Bình Ðịnh style)  
  • Yang Mum and Pô Rome style ( 14th -15tn century)

Joyaux de la nation (Bảo vật Quốc Gia)

English version

Etant la terre des civilisations, le Vietnam recèle au bout d’un siècle de fouilles archéologiques entamées d’abord par les archéologues français puis par ceux du Vietnam, un grand nombre de trouvailles dont certaines se distinguent par leur beauté incommensurable et par leur originalité exceptionnelle. Certains spécimens deviennent les joyaux de la nation et représentent l’une des trois civilisations découvertes au Vietnam. On peut les admirer dans les musées de l’histoire du Vietnam (Hànội, Đà Nẵng, Sàigon, An Giang). Parmi ces objets exhumés, on peut citer le célèbre tambour de bronze Ngọc Lũ, symbole de la civilisation dongsonienne. Il est suivi ensuite par

1°) Le lampadaire de la tombe n°3 de Lạch Trương, Đồng Sơn, Bronze, Hauteur: 0,33m. Musée de Hànội

2°) La situle Đào Thịnh de Yên Bái, Đồng Sơn, Bronze, Hauteur: 81cm. Musée de Hànội. Cette situle évoque le culte de la fertilité. (Văn hóa phồn thực)

3°) Le vase en céramique (gốm) à décor de paysage peint en couleur “bleu et blanc” provenant de l’épave de l’île Cù Lao Chàm (Quảng Nam). On y trouve à travers le motif du cygne les traits de l’âme vietnamienne. Musée de Hànội.

4°) La statue de la bodhisattva Tara (culture chame), bronze inscruté d’or, d’argent et de pierres semi-précieuses. Hauteur: 1,15m. Style Đông Dương (Milieu du du IXème siècle). Musée de Đà Nẵng.

5°) Statue de bouddha, Đồng Dương, Quảng Nam (VIIIe-IXè siècle) . Bronze H:119cm, L:38cm. Cette statue en bronze, fondue à cire perdue a été retrouvée presque intacte au moment de sa découverte. Son style reste énigmatique. Musée de l’histoire (Saigon).

 6°) La statue du Bouddha assis dans la position de la prise de la terre à témoin (bắt ấn địa xúc) (bhūmisparśa-mudrā). Civilisation Óc Eo. Musée de An Giang.

Galerie des photos

Bảo vật Quốc Gia

English version

During a century of archaeological excavations initially started  by French archaeologists and then by those of Vietnam, the land of civizilations Vietnam holds   a large number of archeological finds, some of which are distinguished by their incommensurable beauty and their  exceptional originality. Some specimens become the jewels of the nation and represent one of the three civilizations discovered in Vietnam. One can admire them in the history museums of Vietnam (Hànội, Đà Nẵng, Sàigon, An Giang). Among these objects exhumed, one can cite the famous bronze drum Ngọc Lũ, symbol of Đồng Sơn civilization. It is followed by

1°) The floor lamp found in the tomb n°3 of Lạch Trương, Đồng Sơn, Bronze, Heigth: 0,33m. Museum of Hànội

2°) The situla Đào Thịnh of Yên Bái, Đồng Sơn, Bronze, Heigth: 81cm. Museum of Hànội. This situla evoke the cult of fertility. (Văn hóa phồn thực)

3°) The ceramic vase (gốm) with an attractive decoration of landscape painted in color “blue and white” . It was retrieved from the wreck of Cù Lao Chàm island (Quảng Nam). Thanks to the  swan motif, one discovers the traits of Vietnamese soul. History museum of Hànội.

4°) The statue of  Tara bodhisattva (Cham culture), in bronze overlaid with or, silver and semi-precious stones. Heigth: 1,15m. Đông Dương style (Middle of 9th century). Museum of Đà Nẵng.

5°) Buddha statue, Đồng Dương, Quảng Nam (8th-9th century) . Bronze H:119cm, L:38cm. This bronze statue in molten wax was found almost intact at the discovery  time. Its style remains enigmatic. History museum of Saigon.

6°) The statue of Buddha making the mudra of taking the earth as witness with the right hand (bắt ấn địa xúc) (bhūmisparśa-mudrā) . Óc Eo civilization. Museum of An Giang.

Papyrus vietnamien (Giấy dó)


English version

Papier dó

Celles-ci sont proposées souvent dans les kiosques réservés aux touristes étrangers. Le papier dó (papier de rhamnomeuron) est utilisé dans l’impression de ces imageries. Selon certains chercheurs vietnamiens, ce papier fut apparu vers le IIIème siècle et connût son apogée du VIIIème au XIVème siècles. Hồ Qúi Ly s’en servit à la fin du XIVème  siècle pour l’impression des monnaies fiduciaires.

La production de ce papier nécessite une préparation minutieuse. Il est fabriqué avec l’écorce de l’arbre do. Après la récolte de celle-ci entre les 8è et 10è mois lunaires, on a besoin de l’immerger dans l’eau pendant un ou deux jours. On la traite ensuite en la macérant dans une solution de chaux condensée durant 5 heures. Puis on la fait bouillir

L’enfant et le coq

durant une vingtaine d’heures avant de la piler pendant 5 heures. La farine obtenue par le pilage est diluée dans une bassine remplie d’un mélange d’eau et de résine de la plante mò ( clerodendron ). Le papier est obtenu grâce à un moule après avoir été pressé et séché.

Papyrus vietnamien

Galerie des photos

Pour cent kilos d’écorce, on obtient seulement 5 ou 6 kilos de papier. Cela explique la raison pour laquelle le marché est très limité. De plus le papyrus vietnamien do ne pousse que dans les hautes régions au Nord. Connus pour la fabrication des imageries populaires sur papier do, les villageois de Dương Ô et de Ðông Hồ ont subi le même sort. Le prix de revient  dans  la production du papier recyclé est supérieur à celui de vente  du papier dó. C’est pourquoi peu de gens continuent à s’intéresser encore à ce métier ancestral qui se perd au fil des années.

Version anglaise

Those are often proposed in the kiosks reserved to  foreign tourists. Paper dó (rhamnomeuron paper) is used in the printing of these images. According to certain Vietnamese researchers, this paper had appeared around the 3rd century and knews its apogee from the 8th to the 14th century. Hồ Qúi Ly made use of it at the end of  14th century for the printing of  fiduciary currencies. The production of this paper requires a meticulous preparation.

It is manufactured with the bark of the tree dó. After the harvest of this one between the 8th and 10th lunar months, one needs to immerse it in water during one or two days. After one treats it by macerating it in a lime solution condensed during 5 hours. Then one makes it by boiling  during about twenty hours before crushing it during 5 hours. The flour obtained by crushing is diluted in a basin filled with a mixture of water and resin of the plant mò (clerodendron). Paper is obtained thanks to a mould after being pressed and  dried.

For two hundred kilos of bark, one  gets only 5 or 6 kilos of paper. That explains why the market is very limited. In addition, the Vietnamese papyrus dó grows only in the northern  highlands. Known for making popular imagery on paper dó,  villagers of Dương Ô and Đông Hồ suffered the same fate. The cost price in the production of recycled paper is higher than the selling  price  of dó paper. That is why a few people still continue to be interesting to this ancient craft that is lost over the years.

Ceramic (Gốm Vietnam)

French version



It is greatly surprising to see that, despite the everlasting domination of China on Viet-Nam, the latter was able to distinguish brilliantly starting from 14th century in the domain of ceramics. It became thus an active participant in the flourishing trade of South-East Asia in this domain with its junks and its compass known since 11th century. Tome Pires in his Suma Oriental (1515) summarized all these exchanges and foot-noted even the existence of a Vietnamese ceramic production intended for sale in China. At that time, there was even the counterfeit of Vietnamese blue and white in the Chinese furnaces of Snatow.

Its success was mainly due to the cobalt blue that blew into Vietnamese ceramic art a spirit which will have lasted for two centuries and enabled it to capture a foreign market as far as even the most remote corners of Asia.

It is the case of large a vase-bottle found at the Topkapi palace of Istanbul, carrying an inscription in Chinese characters, in blue under glaze that one can read in Vietnamese: Painted for pleasure by Pei de Nam Sách in the 8th year of Thái Hoà, or of a dish with blue and white floral decoration at the Treasury of Ardebil (Museum of Teheran)

If the cobalt blue was known in Vietnam for a long time even before the Chinese invasion of Ming, it appears that it was used only around the years 1430-1450. It is from this time that the blue and white definitively replace monochromic ceramics. 


Vase (Lê dynasty)

It is thanks to the perfect control of manufacturing, decorating and baking techniques that the Vietnamese potter can improve his imagination. Even though constraints of painting under glaze do not prevent any repentance, there appear on the sandstone not only more and more sophisticated drawings but also a variety of pigments, an eruption of form s and original decorations, which made him an artist. If he does borrow a good number of decorative drawings from China ( peonies, lotus, flowers, foliated scrolls etc..), he has on the other hand the idea to create an autonomous style which is less hieratic and more vivacious than his Chinese homologous by the liveliness of his feature and his spontaneity. He can adapt these decorative elements to the Vietnamese style: the Chinese red fish becomes thus the Cá Bông, a Vietnamese freshwater fish.

It is no longer the case of China since China discovers the perspective starting from the reign of Jiajing (1522-1566). On the other hand, the quality of the central motif found on the plates, is definitely higher than that of the surrounding ones. This proves there is an intervention of several craftsmen in the realization of these plates. Because of the war, Viêt-Nam did not set up a systematic program of archaeological excavations. Few sites were exhumed so far. On the other hand one knows that the areas of Tam Tố north of Thanh Hoá, Nam Sách in the province of Hải Dương, Bát Tràng north of Hanoi to name a few sites, are surely witnesses of the manufacture of these Vietnamese ceramic pieces.

Pictures gallery of Vương Hồn g Sển collection


La céramique vietnamienne (Philippe Colomban CNRS)

Des céramiques vietnamiennes chargées d’histoire  (Philippe Colomban CNRS)


Art vietnamien (Nghệ thuật)














Khải Định mausoleum (English version)

Version française


Ứng Lăng (應陵)

Unlike other mausoleums of the Nguyên Dynasty, especially those of Minh Mang and Tự Ðức, the Khai Dinh  mausoleum  ignores harmony and ingenious and subtle agreement cleverly searched and found so far between architecture and natural environment where the tomb of the Emperor must be built. There is also the abandonment of wood as a main element in the construction of this mausoleum.

On the other hand, it is a building constructed entirely of concrete and beautifully decorated by coatings of granular porcelain and glass of all colors. Despite the absence of the landscape, the mausoleum of Khải Đinh still reflects the exceptional talent of Vietnamese designers and artists at the beginning of twentieth century. It also reflects the character of a megalomaniac emperor who is interested only in the debauchery and is not worried about the fate of his people.

World cultural heritage of Vietnam

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Tự Đức mauseolum ( English version)

Version française



Unlike other royal tombs of the Nguyễn Dynasty, Tự Ðức mausoleum  is primarily a possible place of refuge during his reign. That is why there is not only a palace which was later transformed into a place of worship after his death but also a theater and two small and pretty pavilions in red wood (Du Khiêm and Xung Khiêm) where he liked to sit for the relaxation and the composition of his poems. This mausoleum which was built during 1864-1867 by three thousand soldiers and workers, had approximately fifty buildings surrounded by a stone and brick wall 1500 meters in length in an area of 12 ha.

Khiêm Lăng (謙陵)

Tự Đức was crowned king at a time where he have had to cope not only with development of Western capitalism but also internal strife (war grasshoppers led by  poet Cao Ba Quát, the eviction of his elder brother Hồng Bang at his enthronement etc..). For taking refuge, he did not hesitate to order the construction of his tomb as a place of relaxation in his lifetime and remains a place of residence for eternal future life.


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In this mausoleum, the pavilion Hoa Khiêm is the main building where the Emperor worked and the pavilion Lương Khiêm is where he lived and slept. One finds also in the domain of his mausoleum two other tombs: those of his wife, Queen Lê Thiện Anh and one of his three adopted son, King Kiến Phúc.

The architecture of this mausoleum reflects not only the nature of the romantic poet emperor Tư Ðức but also the freedom that is lacking so far in the other mausoleums. Nothing is surprising to see this mausoleum become one of the favorite places choosen by most foreign and Vietnamese tourists.