Nghe, a sacred animal created by artisan Nguyen Giang from Thach That District (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - An exhibition themed Vietnamese Sacred Animals is showcasing over 200 images and objects in Hanoi to mark the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day (November 23).

At many of the pagodas, temples or other instances of spiritual architecture in Vietnam, statues of sacred animals almost always guard the gate. They are made from various materials such as stone, wood, terra cotta and bronze. They all express the skill of Vietnamese artisans and the quintessence of traditional fine arts, said art researcher Tran Hau Yen The.  

The exhibition showcases various sacred animals like dragons, phoenixes, unicorns, lions, horses, elephants and various objects provided by the Hanoi Museum and private collectors.

Some sacred animals were created by Vietnamese artisans, while others were formed through interactions with foreign cultures. Each sacred animal reflects Vietnamese traditional culture and characteristics.

The exhibition aims to preserve artistic and cultural values and help locals to better understand Vietnamese sacred animals, contributing to raising awareness of preserving, inheriting and promoting the national cultural identity.

“Ancient people believed that sacred animals were the embodiment of natural phenomena, mysterious forces, or supernatural powers that could influence human life and the universe,” said The.

Uyen uong (a sacred bird) found at Thang Long Royal Citadel relics (Photo: VNA)

Last year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism released a regulation that bans foreign-style symbols, sculptures and worship objects unsuitable for Vietnamese culture. In the past 20 years, together with open-door policy, many foreign-style symbols, products and animal sculptures have been widely-spread throughout the country, distorting traditional spiritual images.

“Foreign animals were described with sharp nails, big claws and the fierce look, meanwhile Vietnamese sacred animals look more tolerant,” said The.

The ministry has organised many competitions and training courses for artisans to encourage them to create sacred animal statues which bear traditional style, instead of imitating Chinese or European statues.

Painter Vu Huy Thieu said the exhibition provides visitors with a multi-faceted perspective on Vietnamese sacred animals. Besides the artefacts collected from archaeological sites and vestiges, the exhibition also displays sacred animal statues produced recently by artisans Nguyen Giang and Tran Thanh Tung.

“The wooden statues by Giang and Tung are very beautiful and suitable to be displayed at Vietnamese vestiges and spiritual places because the artisans have consulted researchers and documents about traditional sacred animals,” said Thieu.

The exhibition runs until the end of this month at the Hanoi Museum, Pham Hung Street, Hanoi. To mark the Vietnam Cultural Heritage Day, folk arts performances, and water puppetry shows will also be organised at the site.-VNA