As the upcoming lunar year’s Chinese zodiac sign is the Tiger, Hieu has a full plate crafting bonsai into exquisite tiger-shaped decorative items.
Bonsai is a long-standing art of cultivating trees into aesthetically pleasing shapes in containers rather than allowing nature to take its course.
The living art of bonsai also reflects the essence of the Vietnamese people’s spirit, as they make sure they decorate their households in the grandest of style for Tet holiday.
Tet festival is due around late January and early February, with flowers and ornamental plants to be displayed on the streets and in households as festive decorations and lucky charms.
With dexterity, judgment and passion, Hieu, from Thu Duc City, in recent years has injected new life into the art of bonsai by emulating the work of nature and growing the trees into Chinese zodiac animal shapes that are sometimes beyond imagination.
|In addition to single tigers, tigers in pairs, indicative of romantic relationships, are also available for sale.
Starting out five years ago with simple designs, the artisan has recently elevated his skills to new heights and found success with the animal-shaped items that appear both extraordinarily natural and man-made at the same time.
Hieu shared his tiger-shaped coconut bonsai are the latest addition to the long-standing Vietnamese tradition of displaying images of the upcoming lunar year’s zodiac sign on walls or on the five-fruit tray, a token of the homeowner’s filial piety and gratitude towards their ancestors and the Genie of the Land.
A five‑fruit tray in the southern region is typically made up of the custard apple, coconut, papaya, mango and fig fruits, representing the homeowner’s wishes for a financially rewarding or at least an adequate year, the artisan explained about his choice of coconut.
Crafting bonsai trees this way usually takes Hieu around eight months, including tending to the trees, positioning the tiger head, perfecting the details, and coating the items with paint in vibrant color.
His products sell for anywhere from VND600,000 (US$26) to VND3 million ($131) apiece.
|A highlight to Dinh Ngoc Hieu’s pieces is old-style ingots of gold which convey wishes for a financially thriving year.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hieu’s output this year falls to only 400-500 trees compared to last year.
He said orders for this year’s entire oeuvre come in from his regular clients and on social media.
According to Hieu, the biggest challenge is that the animal depicted is instantly recognizable and the items need to come out very much alive.
In addition to lone tigers, his artworks feature the majestic felines in pairs and groups.
A pair of tigers symbolizes romantic relationship, nuptial bliss and friendship, while a trio of big cats represents family reunions.
Each of Hieu’s pieces, which are brilliant taming of nature in the most meticulous forms, is with its own meaningful message.
|According to Dinh Ngoc Hieu, the challenge is how to make the animal portrayed immediately recognizable and make the pieces alive and shining.
As people in Vietnam and the rest of the world are entering the third year of the pandemic, Hieu added he wants to spread messages of physical health and financial prowess in the post-pandemic period through his exquisite tiger-shaped bonsai.
“An indication of physical strength and resilience, the tiger represents my wish that people will stay strong and get back on their feet soon,” he noted.
|Single tiger models feature various emotional expressions.
|Rich in intricacy of details and meaning, a model featuring parent tigers and their cub(s) stands for human family reunions.