Young Vietnamese Artists Draw Inspiration from Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints

Drawing inspiration from Ukiyo-e, a traditional Japanese wood painting technique, talented young Vietnamese artists infuse their creations with a distinct personal touch, resulting in a captivating blend of Vietnamese and Japanese artistic influences.


The exhibition “Dialogue with Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints” opened on January 23. The exhibition features 34 young artists who studied at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts.

The 38 works on display reflect the unique features of Vietnamese cultural life. These colorful woodblock prints, produced during the Edo period (1615-1868), depict scenes from everyday life in Japan. Ukiyo-e, which means “pictures of the floating world,” refers to the licensed brothel and theatre districts in Japan’s major cities during the Edo period.

The work “Student Meow Meow” by authors Pham Ngoc Ha and Bui Thao My was inspired by the Temple of Literature. Photo: Vietnamnet

The ukiyo-e style was developed in 1765 and remained popular until the last decades of the Meiji period (1868-1912). While only the wealthy could afford paintings by the artists of the time, ukiyo-e prints were enjoyed by a wide audience of commoners because they could be produced relatively cheaply and in large numbers.

The artists express their contemporary perspectives through their works, inspired by the quintessential elements of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

The exhibition features 38 works by Vietnamese artists. Photo: Ngo Minh/The Hanoi Times

Le Xuan Kieu, Director of the Van Mieu-Quoc Tu Giam Center for Cultural and Scientific Activities, stated that the exhibition aims to promote the beauty and uniqueness of traditional Vietnamese art to a large audience, especially the younger generation and international tourists.

It is also an opportunity to introduce cultural products that have emerged from the process of discovering traditional artistic values through transnational cultural dialogues.

The work ‘Rat Wedding’ by author Hoang Thuy Quynh was inspired by the painting Kitsune no Yomeiri-zu (fox wedding) in the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Photo: Vietnamnet

Nguyen The Son, the Curator of the exhibition, explained the thesis of the project during the opening ceremony.

“Dialogue with Japanese Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints” is the result of the tireless efforts of young artists in promoting artistic practice, drawing inspiration from traditional cultural and artistic values of Vietnam and other cultures. The practice of tradition-inspired creativity is the driving force behind personal creations, which contributes to motivating today’s young artists to inherit the spirit of traditional art and nurture their passion for artistic creativity.”

The Universe of Balance, a lacquered wood sculpture by Nguyen Ha Anh. Photo: Vietnamnet

The exhibition is being held at the Temple of Literature until March 12.

The exhibition has received professional support from several experts including Researcher and artist Tran Hau Yen The, visual artist Trieu Minh Hai, artist Pham Khac Quang, artist Tue Thu, artist Hong Nhung (Zó Project), and design artist Truong Thuy.

Installation work ‘Dance of Color’. Photo: Vietnamnet
Charlotte Pho