12 zodiac animals

(VOVworld) - 12 zodiac animals symbolize the changes of the heaven and earth and bring calmness to people’s minds whenever spring comes. The 12 zodiac pictures reflect good wishes, good luck, hope, and harmony between human beings and nature. That’s the reason why Vietnamese people for many years have hung pictures of zodiac animals at Lunar New Year. Today VOV talks to Truong Nhuan, Director of the Youth Theater, whose hobby is collecting pictures of the 12 zodiac animals by well-known painter Le Tri Dung.

12 zodiac animals  - ảnh 1

Pictures of the 12 zodiac animals - rat, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig line the walls of Truong Nhuan’s work room. One wall of the room is completely covered by an enormous picture of a horse. The predominance of red and yellow in the pictures brings calmness to people’s minds. Nhuan says he began to be interested in the 12 zodiac animals 19 years ago when he first met painter Le Tri Dung, who is famous of lotus flowers and animals: "The year 1993 was the year of Rooster and Dung painted a very beautiful picture of a rooster. I was born in the year of the rooster, so I was very interested in the picture. Then I advised Dung to draw pictures of all 12 zodiac animals because Vietnamese people have a hobby of hanging this kind of picture every Lunar New Year".

Le Tri Dung is not the only artist who draws pictures of zodiac animals. The images of the 12 zodiac animals have appeared for a long time in Vietnam’s traditional painting genres like Dong Ho and Kim Hoang. There are several contemporary painters who paint this kind of picture but not many have been successful with it. Dung has painted pictures of animals for more than 20 years. Nhuan says he is keen on animal pictures by Le Tri Dung because they have special style: "Dung’s paintings are very special, especially his pictures of horses. Dung is famous for pictures of horses and lotus. His pictures of horses are quite different. In many Chinese pictures of 3,4 or 8 horses and those by Southern painters, the horses seem to be very strong, symbolizing physical strength. But in Dung’s paintings, the horses look very light and free, with a determined manner imbued with the Vietnamese soul. People often say you can only get to know a horse on a long road. Dung’s horses have a deliberate air. They’re not in a hurry, which shows the steadfastness necessary for a long road".

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The way that painter Dung uses materials and colors to combine the traditional and the modern also makes his pictures attractive: "Dung uses the traditional material of dzo paper or poonah paper for his paintings. This kind of paper has veins which resemble clouds and a light yellow color, which he combines with other special materials like coffee or tea residues to create something very traditional and ancient looking. But he also uses very bright colors like yellow and red, which makes his paintings vivid and modern looking".

Dung’s pictures of horses have been taken all over the world by Overseas Vietnamese who, like Nhuan, are interested in his paintings. Dung has painted many different pictures of the 12 zodiac animals, but he says painting snakes is the most difficult. It wasn’t until 2001 that he drew his first picture of a snake. Truong Nhuan again: "People often associate snakes with cruelty and wickedness, so not many people draw them. In 2001, the year of the snake, I suggested that Dung draw a picture of a snake based on the Adam and Eve myth in which the couple are persuaded by a snake to eat the prohibited fruit and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Dung took that idea and drew a picture of a woman with a snake’s body".

People believe that the zodiac animals affect the characters of people in the same manner as the signs of the Western zodiac. Every Lunar new year, Dung draws dozens of pictures of zodiac animals for his friends and relatives but the pictures are not identical. Each one reflects the character of its recipient. According to painter Dung, who has been Nhuan’s friend for a long time, the paintings that he draws for Nhuan have a style appropriate to Nhuan’s character and interests: "Nhuan has a rich knowledge of art. Nhuan knows Chinese characters, so the paintings I draw for him have a symbolic meaning often associated with the  number 8 or 9. The colors are the mixture of five elements of the universe appropriate to Nhuan’s fate".

So far, Nhuan has collected dozens of animal pictures. This number fluctuates as he sometimes gives pictures away to his friends and sometimes aquires new ones. He says that at Lunar New year, beside peach blossoms and kumquat trees, pictures of zodiac animals also make people feel calm, happy and lucky in the new year.

You’ve been listening to VOV’s Sunday show. It’s time now to say good bye. Before we go, let me remind you of our address: English section, Overseas Service, VOV Radio 45 Ba Trieu street, Hanoi, Vietnam. Our email address is: englishsection@vov.org.vn. Or you can log onto our website at: www.vovworld.vn to listen to live or recorded programs. Good bye. We hope to see you next time.