Paper first appeared in Vietnam in the 3rd century, but Dó paper originated in the 13th century. It is manufactured through a complex process, consisting of up to 100 steps. There are different kinds of Dó paper – such as Sắc paper – and, with a slightly textured surface, it is known for being very durable and resilient.
Despite holding a lot of cultural and historical values, the practice of making Dó and Sắc papers is at risk of disappearing. With increased industrialization, modern society has lost touch with this tradition.
The Vietnamese traditional craft is extremely rich in terms of variety and quality, but many artisans and craft villages have disappeared over time, causing the papermaking tradition to fade.
The Dó paper is made of fresh bark from the Rhamnoneuron balansae tree, which can only be found in Northern Vietnam. The fabrication of Dó paper requires unique skills and well-kept secrets that generations have passed down for hundreds of years. This kind of paper was originally used for official documents, often ornamented by pure gold and silver. It could also be dyed with powder extracted from the flower of the pagoda tree.
Dó paper is well-known for being tough and durable. This is why it was used to produce the famous Đông Hồ paintings, a significant part of Vietnamese tradition and culture. However, the paintings have become a brand for bad quality products, which is a shame considering how precious and durable the original paintings are.
This traditional Dó paper has a long history in the Vietnamese culture, with special quality standards that other ordinary papers don’t have. This paper making tradition and the process behind it are closely linked to the Thang Long ethnic group – a thousand-year-old Hanoi civilization – who have vividly demonstrated the ability to work creatively and the virtue of hard work throughout many generations of artisans and craftsmen from traditional craft villages.
That’s why Zó Project hopes to revive the practice by applying this timeless craft in contemporary uses. We promote creativity through artistic and practical products made from Dó paper, as well as holding events and workshops to familiarize younger generations with the tradition. It is important for us to ensure the secrets of fabrication of Dó paper survive for the next generations and don’t disappear with the paper makers.
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