(No.10, Vol.3, Nov 2013 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
Grey ivory jade object for
decorate, 1st – 3rd century
Grey ivory jade animal,
1st – 3rd century
Ivory white jade cicada,
1st – 3rd century. Photos: Vietnam National
Museum of History
Vietnam Heritage has been publishing a series based on Vietnamese Ancient Jade, published in Hanoi, 2011, by Vietnam National Museum of History.
This month is the last part.
In pre-historical sites in Vietnam, archaeologists found many instruments, weapons and ornaments made with nephrite. There were many original types of art statues, bracelets, earrings and beads from famous archaeological sites such as Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau, Go Mun and Dong Son in North Vietnam and in Sa Huynh and Oc Eo in Central and South Vietnam. Some sites were workshops such as Bai Tu site (Bac Ninh province); Dau Ram (Quang Ninh province) and Trang Kenh (Hai Phong).
Jade objects from the 10th century showed a cultural relationship between Vietnam and the area to its north. There were jade objects found in brick tombs dated from the 1st-3rd century, including jade padlocks, bracelets, Bi-disks, decorative jewellery, ink slabs, statues of dragons, animals, cicadas, fishes etc.
Jade objects of the Ly, Tran, and Le dynasties seem absent, but the Nguyen Dynasty has left us with plenty. We have a collection of jade seals, including 18 objects dated from the 18th-20th centuries. Some of them were carved with the exact date. Vietnamese farmers found many jades, and offered them to the King, who gave the order to make them into seals.
Some jade pieces from the Nguyen were carved into identity cards or ink slabs containing King Thieu Tri’s poems. Collections for tea consumption were carved with recurring S characters, circular designs of a dragon amid clouds and the four characters Thieu Tri nian zhao. That collection was similar with sino-Vietnamese porcelains in the Nguyen period. Designs depicting a rolling dragon with clouds, a phoenix, a bat and a peach were common in jade objects. They became characteristics of the Nguyen Dynasty’s royal art. Collections of jade objects of the Nguyen not only reflect sophisticated techniques of traditional handicrafts from Vietnam, but permanently placed the Nguyen Dynasty in history.
When we contemplate ancient Vietnamese jade, we realize that they bear important differences from Chinese ancient jade. These were the products of talented Vietnamese craftsmen from ancient times. King Thieu Tri said: ‘Vietnamese civilization was not less than Chinese civilization’.
Vietnam National Museum of History
1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi; 216 Tran Quang Khai St, Hanoi. Tel: (04) 3824-1384,
Open 8 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
Closed every first Monday of months.