Duong Lam ancient village in Son Tay District (Hanoi) these days has turned into an art space with the display of 1010 gold-inlaid wooden buffaloes, providing visitors a unique experience of Vietnamese culture and art. 

The sculpture of a buffalo couple by Hanoi painter Nguyen Tan Phat. 

The 1010 buffaloes were made by painter Nguyen Tan Phat with the aim of celebrating  the 1010 anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi capital and the New Year of Buffalo 2021. The idea comes from his work “Lac Viet Buffalo” which won the first prize in the lacquer group in the Hanoi handicraft design competition 2020.

Born and raised in Son Tay, painter Nguyen Tan Phat has a deep love with the Vietnamese countryside, especially the buffaloes. “Vietnamese farmers live mainly from rice cultivation. For generations, buffaloes have been an important member in their agricultural work and life,” he shared his view.

In fact, buffalo is the national animal of Vietnam as well as a symbol of wet rice culture.  It has taken Phat about one year to “take care” of this herd of 1010 buffaloes. 

The artwork called “village gate’s buffalo”.

With his skills and creativity, Phat made 1010 unique buffaloes with 1010 shapes and sizes, none of which resembled the other. 

There are three main themes for buffalo collection including “real buffaloes” which are normal buffaloes working in the field or some look lovely or funny; “village gate’s buffalo” which is a set in which a herd of buffaloes passing through a typical gate of every village in the countryside; and “dragon buffalo” depicting buffaloes turning into dragon as the hope for a good buffalo year. 

“For me, it’s more difficult to make two buffaloes exactly identical,” he said, “when I change the design and decoration a little, the animal looks differently. Besides, I also use different materials so it is not difficult to diversify my creations.”

The “dragon buffalo” depicting buffaloes turning into dragon as the hope for a good buffalo year. 

All these buffalo are made from jackfruit wood. To turn a piece of wood into an art statue, it requires him a lot of meticulous work.

Initially he must sketch out the idea then mold it with earth as it can be adjusted easily. After the earth mold is complete, the same model is made with wood, then painted with lacquer techniques.

At the end, it is inlaid with gold or eggshell and clam shell, making it a typical lacquer art. Painter Phat uses these environmental friendly materials for his creations as a way to raise environmental awareness. 

Born an raised Hanoi’s countryside, the painter has a deep love with the Vietnamese countryside, especially the buffaloes.

In addition to artistic buffalo figurines, painter Phat also makes “practical” buffalo shaped objects  that can be used at home such as open boxes or containers.

All of his buffaloes are also expressions of his gratitude to his homeland and his expectation to bring a new vitality to tourism in Duong Lam ancient village.

Majoring in lacquer from Fine Arts University, Nguyen Tan Phat opened a private business in Son Tay devoted to make lacquer paintings, home furniture, and jewelry. He has harmoniously combined and used modern art in lacquer handicrafts, especially inlaid materials such as eggshell, clam shell to keep traditional beauty of his creative works which are friendly to the environment. His products are appreciated by consumers, especially international ones. 

The buffalo scultures are inlaid with gold or eggshell and clam shell, making them typical lacquer artworks . 

Since 2010, he has continuously received prestigious awards from Hanoi and many other localities, such as the first prize in several Hanoi handicraft design competitions.

He has made great contributions to pass down the profession and inspire the passion in  young artists in his home village as well as to  generate jobs to local workers.

In 2017, at the age of 34, he was honored as a typical “Hanoi Artist” by the Hanoi People’s Committee. Over 20 years of pursuing lacquer art, Nguyen Tan Phat is still as passionate as the first day, dedicating to creativeness to enrich the handicraft industry of the country and become the pride of Son Tay and Hanoi.

Artist Nguyen Tan Phat and his one of his artworks.

More buffalo sculptures by the artist: