Investigating the Role of Sacred Animals in Vietnamese Tradition

On November 28, 2015 the Vietnam National Museum of History introduced to the public the newly opened exhibition themed “Vietnamese Sacred Animals”.

In Vietnamese culture, sacred animals are those that originate from legends or are created and used as cultural symbols to convey ideas and beliefs in their psyche and religions.

The ribbon cutting ceremony to open the exhibition “Vietnamese sacred animals”
at the Vietnam National Museum of History.

The exhibition offers viewers intriguing insights into the origins and significance of sacred animals in Vietnamese culture.

This particular attraction garners significant attention from international tourists.

Sacred animals have been revered in various forms, created by the Vietnamese or influenced by foreign cultures. Each of these divine creatures symbolizes unique qualities that align with traditional culture and the characteristics of the historical periods in which they originated and flourished.

The exhibition presents a curated collection of over 100 remarkable artifacts, neatly divided into 27 categories, currently on exhibit at the prestigious Vietnam National Museum of History. Among the exquisite exhibits are prized possessions such as the iconic totems of the Dong Son civilization, including dragons, unicorns, longma (a mythical creature, part horse and part dragon), as well as elephants and the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.

The exhibition titled “Vietnamese Sacred Animals” has been curated with the purpose of providing the public with a deeper understanding of the diverse and distinctive sacred animals of Vietnam. This exhibition endeavors to showcase their evolutionary stages, defining characteristics, artistic styles, utilization, and cultural significance. By exploring these aspects, the exhibition seeks to instill a sense of pride in Vietnamese culture while simultaneously raising awareness regarding the cultural symbols employed.

The exhibition will be open until the end of 2015.

Some sacred animals on display at the exhibition:

A dragon carved on the “Dai Nam hiep ky lich chi bao” seal (Jade seal of the king of Dai Nam) dating back to Thieu Tri in the Nguyen Dynasty (1847).

Bronze statue of Tich ta

The bronze statue of Tich ta, created between the 1st and 3rd century, depicts an Oriental rooted animal resembling a winged lion. This mythical creature is believed to have protective powers against demonic forces and bad luck.

This stone elephant is a relic from the Cham civilization dating back to the 10th century.

This is a stone monkey statue from the Ly Dynasty (11th-13th century), which is part of the Three Wise Monkeys series symbolizing the principle of “See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil”.

Terra cotta Mandarin duck statue
A terra cotta Mandarin duck statue from the Ly Dynasty (11th-13th century).

This terra cotta object from the Ly Dynasty (11th-13th century) features a carved depiction of a Garuda holy bird.

Nghe is a statue of a mythological lion-headed, dog-bodied animal, created using green and white ceramics during the Le Trung Hung period in the 17th century. This creature is a legendary symbol in Vietnamese culture and is often found at the entrances of pagodas and temples.

A Nghe statue made of terra cotta in the Le Trung Hung period (17th-18th century).

A statue of a legendary sea creature called Si van, characterized by a curved tail. It is made of terra cotta and dates back to the Le Trung Hung period (17th-18th century).

This is a lion statue made of terra cotta dating back to the 18th-19th century. It was commonly attached to columns in ancient buildings as a protective animal.

Statues of the 12 animal designations made of jade in the Nguyen Dynasty

Statues of the 12 animal designations made of jade in the Nguyen Dynasty (19th-20th century) are used to count time according to the lunar orbit in the palace.

This is a Longma statue made of bronze during the Nguyen Dynasty (19th-20th century).

Statues of snakes with human heads

These white ceramic statues depict a couple of snakes with human heads. They were created during the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th-20th century.

By Tat Son