Vietnam wants to remove foreign-looking lion statues

Vietnamese lions. Source: Viet Nam News 20140823

The Vietnamese Ministry of Culture has released an advisory to temples and heritage properties discouraging the use of non-Vietnamese lion statues. It seems like an attempt to maintain an idea of “pure” Vietnamese-ness… whatever that means.

Vietnamese lions. Source: Viet Nam News 20140823
Vietnamese lions. Source: Viet Nam News 20140823

Vietnamese lions to roar again
Viet Nam News, 23 August 2014

In the near future, foreign-style stone lions with fierce looks, large paws and sharp teeth are expected to be removed from relics, pagodas and temples throughout the country.

Cultural managers have decided that authentic Vietnamese guardian lion statues will replace these objects, which are unsuited to Vietnamese customs and culture. Soon, people will see Vietnamese stone lions roar again at the gates of ruins and heritage sites.

Duong Thi Thanh, vice director of the Ninh Binh Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said she will join with other cultural managers to raise the public’s awareness about exhibiting Vietnamese sacred objects which carry with them the nation’s history, traditional fine arts characteristics and spiritual symbols.

Fine arts researcher Tran Hau Yen The said the growing use of non-Vietnamese designs shows people’s lack of knowledge and is a result of non-selective cultural adaptation.

“Chinese lions look fierce, angry and threatening, while Vietnamese lions look tolerant and solemn,” he said.

Full story here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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