Unique carvings in Phu Lao communal house

Update: 07:26 | 11/10/2020

(BGO) - The carving art in ancient Vietnamese architecture has left a rich treasure for our nation, including the carvings in Phu Lao communal house in Tay Lo village, Dao My commune, Lang Giang district (Bac Giang province).

This work not only has a large architectural scale but also reflects the marvelous skills of the ancient artisans shown on the perfect and sophisticated carvings.

Phu Lao is an ancient communal house built in the Le dynasty (the 17th century) in the 15th Chinh Hoa year (1688). It is a place worshipping Saint Cao Son - Quy Minh. The most striking feature of the communal house is not its superficial scale but its extremely beautiful and unique wood sculptures. In 1982, this work was ranked as a national architectural relic site.

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A carving of daily life and lively dances in Phu Lao communal house.

In addition, in Phu Lao communal house, there are many animals carved by artisans such as dragon, snake, iguana, horse, mouse, lizard, fox, weasel ... Of which, carvings of dragon are very diverse, for example, flock of dragons, dancing dragons, nesting dragons, flying dragons, dragons chasing each other, dragons looking at each other...

The decorative motifs in Phu Lao communal house are mainly strong dragons with intertwined spear-shaped blades on a picture frame but they are still gentle and lissom. The decorative art is transformed according to the rules with the symbolism of patterns following the Confucian – Taoist – Buddhist thoughts, with the four Holy Animals (Dragon, Unicorn, Turtle and Phoenix) and the four seasons and the eight moments.

In Phu Lao as well as other communal houses in the North, in addition to dragons and fairies, carvings also feature flowers, birds, animals and rural people’s daily activities like wrestling, fighting martial arts, catching fish, making a scene of jealousy, boys and girls confessing their love...

The carvings in Phu Lao communal house have their own characteristics that make them different from those in other communal houses. The two large dragons are arranged symmetrically through pillars as the tree root and trunk. Their spear-shaped antennaes look like tree branches. Clinging to the spears are the twisted baby dragons. Their bodies and fins are like buds of young spring leaves, while their heads and mouths open round like blooming apricot flowers.

The highlight among the baby dragons is the images of dancing fairies and very simple animals such as geckos, guardian lions, and unicorns playing together to create a space of spring that is flourishing. The work at the top of the right pillar outside at first looks like a cluster of bamboo shaking in the summer sun, but the most popular is the theme of nesting dragon with the spear-shaped antennaes of the mother dragon. 

The claws of the baby dragons are carved by artisans like bamboo branches and leaves intertwined like paper fan-shaped opening hands. The carving also features activities such as martial arts playing, python catching, and animal hunting which are shown vividly by artisans, fully describing the spirit of heaven and earth: “all things mature in the summer" ...

The carvings in the middle room of Phu Lao communal house gather the aura of the universe from the four directions (east, west, south, north) and the four seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter), rotating smoothly according to the natural rules of the universe. These express the wish of the people in wet rice growing areas for good weather and bumper crops.

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Nguyen Huong

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