Dr. Tran Hau Yen The and the study of nghe

After more than 20 years of studying traditional fine arts, culture and history, Dr. Tran Hau Yen The has been successful with his scientific approach to nghe, a Vietnamese folklore creature that has the traits of a dog and a lion. He helps the public have a better understanding of this creature and is bringing this thousand-year-old image back into modern life through painting, fine arts, fashion, architecture and tourism.

Since 2005, Dr. Tran Hau Yen The, who has a PhD in art history and theory, has made many trips across Vietnam, collecting images of nghe. Nghe was a Vietnamese sacred animal that had a recognizable role in the spiritual life of the Vietnamese for thousands of years. The more he traveled, the deeper he explored and the more interesting charms of this creature he discovered.

Dr. The took note of the diversity of nghe’s images through the works of folk artists. They showed nghe fishing, nghe with earrings, nghe holding pearls and nghe laughing. This richness is how nghe contributed to Vietnamese folk art.

Dr. The has also been researched and gathered scientific information about nghe, including detailed images and data which was published in the book “Sketching nghe – a sacred guardian animal” in 2017. This is the first book researching the history and symbolic meaning of the creature. In 2020, the book was translated into English, aiming to promote the beauty of Vietnamese culture to international friends. Stella Ciorra, Vice-Chair of the Friends of Vietnam Heritage Club, said, “Dr. Tran Hau Yen The’s story about nghe gives an interesting experience to readers, helping them understand more about the traditional culture of Vietnam”.

Dr. The’s stories have charmed and inspired many young people’s passion for Vietnamese culture. The Friends of Vietnam Heritage Club has introduced many tourists to the nghe dance and books about nghe. They all were charmed by the creature that represented both emotional intimacy and majestic spirituality.

Dr. Tran Hau Yen The and the book “Nghe Viet tinh tuyen”.

The book “Nghe Viet tinh tuyen” (A fine selection of Vietnamese Nghe) by author Tran Hau Yen The.

Dr. The is congratulated on his book launch.

Dr. Tran Hau Yen The shares stories about Nghe with visitors. Photo: Thanh Giang / VNP

The image of Nghe is introduced to foreign tourists.

Dr. Tran Hau Yen The at a
n exhibition featuring ancient sculptures of lions and Nghewith students at the Museum of Fine Arts in 2014.

Tourists watch videos about Nghe that Dr. The took during his trips.

Dr. The instructs young people to do Nghe printing on papers.

Fueled by his love for the Vietnamese cultural heritage, Dr. The’s research on nghe has a meticulousness that is incomparable by any previous research on a creature of Vietnamese ancient art. Thousands of nghe‘s images have been put together to draw comparisons to similar creatures in other cultures such as Japan, Korea and China. Such efforts make his book a valuable document affirming the value of Vietnamese creatures at a time when Vietnamese culture is facing the “invasion” of foreign creatures.

Lecturer and artist, Dr. Tran Hau Yen The was born in 1970 and currently works in the Department of Fine Arts Theory, History and Criticism at the Hanoi University of Fine Arts. He is the author of many books including “Art decoration project at the temple of King Dinh and King Le” and “Ancient windows on old streets”. He has twice been awarded the “Bui Xuan Phai – For the love of Hanoi” by the Vietnam News Agency’s Sports & Culture Newspaper.
Story: Bich Van – Photos: Thanh Giang & Files
Translated by Hong Hanh