The Tay, Nung, Dao, Cao Lan, and San Diu use paintings for praying, funeral, and burial rituals. The Tay and the Dao people have preserved a large number of worship paintings. 

Painter Nguyen Manh Duc said “Some ethnic groups hang paintings to guard the souls of the dead and advise human beings how to live to rest in peace after they die. There are two types of worship paintings: teaching and deterring, educating people to live a better life and warning them of bad posthumous consequences if they behave cruelly during their lifetime.”

Some worship paintings are being preserved at the Vietnam Fine Art Museum, most of them are painted by artisans of Hang Trong painting school in Hanoi. 

Painter Duc said “Worship paintings of the northern mountain region originate from Hang Trong folk paintings of Hanoi. Previously, the whole area of Hang Trong was engaged in this craft and provided paintings to the ethnic people further north, particularly the Tay. Some paintings were done by the ethnic people themselves. They reworked worship paintings brought from Hanoi, adding colors made from local natural materials such as ochre and dyer’s weed. The drawing styles were diverse. This type of folk painting was simple and quite popular.”

Le Dinh Nghien, the last descendant of the Hang Trong folk painting tradition, said it require specific skills to pain emotions and sacredness into a worship painting. 

“By pushing and moving the feather brush a little bit, we can sketch the smiles of the Buddha. There’s a special technique called half-water and half-color to describe the Buddha’s upright expressions. This technique is only available in Vietnam and distinguished from those in Korea, China, and Japan”, said Mr Nghien. 

Duc said painters of worship paintaings used to follow some strict rules: “The painters of worship paintings had to be competent. Before drawing a picture, he had to be isolated from his wife and kids for some time and live in separate room. This was a ritual to keep his mind and body pure. And a worship painting was drawn with a reverent attitude.”

Duc said the ethnic people in the northern mountain region don’t decorate their living space with worship paintings: “Worship paintings are not for decorating house. They are used when there is a funeral or praying ritual in the village. However, this type painting is close to the people’s daily life. If an ordinary picture is torn out, it is discarded. But a torn our worship picture is added with more layer of paper for further use.”

The prominent colors of worship paintings are red, blue, white and yellow, serving the spiritual life of the ethnic people in northern Vietnam.