|The shamanic objects of the northern tribes are the most visible symbol of their tenacious dedication to their religion, the core of “the old ways.” It was their resistance to assimilation that led the Han Chinese to expel them from the lowlands, and then from the entire country (changing borders modified the end results, but not the dynamic.)
Of all these objects, the paintings are the key ones. Collectively, the paintings create a holy place; unfurled and placed on the wall and altar in the prescribed manner, they transform the unassuming home of the shaman into a place where spirits come and communicate.
The oldest (and best) were brought down from China by the Dao (and other groups) when they migrated to Vietnam two or three hundred years ago. As they wore out, replacements were needed. Originally, they were “ordered” from the fine tribal painters of China, but changes in the atmosphere along the border lands forced the Dao shamans to get them locally-from either their own artisans, their other tribal neighbors or (later) from Kinh (Viet) painters brought north to learn the iconography and create quite beautiful (and even elegant) sets of paintings.
We have many of each type. Our collection is extensive and excellent. They were the focus of “solo” exhibitions at Hanoi’s Museum of Fine Arts in 2006 and Hanoi’s Museum of Ethnology. Because the iconography is often complex and the paintings very detailed, each is accompanied by a 1000-4000 word fact sheet, explaining its origin, use, age, materials, history and iconography.