Crafty destinations

Paintings on peepal leaves

Considered a sacred symbol of Buddhism, peepal trees, or bodhi trees, are planted all over Ninh Binh province. Taking advantage of the material, the locals have turned peepal leaves into art with spiritual meaning by painting on the leaves.
In Gia Sinh commune, Gia Vien district, the beautiful peepal leaves which have a symmetrical shape, dark green color and long slender veins are carefully chosen. Picked directly from the trees, the leaves are then washed and soaked in lime water for 60 days in order for the workers to harvest the leaf bones afterwards. The remaining veins are then dried in the sun. After that, the leaves are dyed and joined together to create paintings.

Bai Dinh pagoda, a religious attraction in Ninh Binh, is surrounded by old peepal trees. Photo: Cong Dat 

People in Gia Sinh commune pick up peepal leaves. Photo: Thanh Giang 

The leaves are washed and soaked in lime water. Photo: Thanh Giang 

The leaves are washed, dried in the sun and then are dyed. Photo: Thanh Giang 

The leaves are dried in the sun. Photo: Cong Dat

Dying the leaf bones yellow. Photo: Thanh Giang 

Hundreds of peepal leave are hand-dyed. Photo: Cong Dat 

The artists join the leaves together to create paintings. Photo: Thanh Giang 

A painting called "Desire". Photo: Cong Dat

Colorful hand-dyed peepal leaves. Photo: Cong Dat 

Artist Son Do Quyen joins the peepal leaves with a piece of tree bark. Photo: Thanh Giang 

Tree bark used for making paintings. Photo: Thanh Giang

Materials used for making paintings on peepal leaves. Photo: Thanh Giang  

Stick the leaves to the pieces of tree bark. Photo: Thanh Giang

Creating paintings on peepal leaves requires both a careful process and the talent of the artist.
More specifically, the artists in the village had the idea to look for other materials such as dried straw, bamboo flowers and rotten tree stumps to create a combination which makes the paintings livelier. This delicate combination has brought cultural depth to each painting, from which one can feel the cultural life of Vietnamese people in a diverse way.

Paintings on peepal leaves are products of Sinh Duoc cooperative. The cooperative has gathered many artisans in Gia Vien district and created jobs for more than 100 locals.
The showroom that displays hundreds of paintings on peepal leaves made by artisans of Sinh Duoc cooperative has attracted many visitors. The art has inspired many poets and writers to compose beautiful rhymes. Poet Tran Anh Nhuan of the Literature and Arts Association of Ninh Binh once wrote: “Veins in hundred-year-old peepal leaves carry green chlorophyll forever”. The paintings embroidered with ancient letters or the rustic poems have become popular souvenirs for visitors.

The artwork "Buddha meditates under the peepal tree". Photo: Cong Dat

A beautiful artwork. Photo: Cong Dat

The Dong Son drum painting made from peepal leaves. Photo: Cong Dat

A flower made from peepal leaves. Photo: Thanh Giang

A decorative painting made from peepal leaves. Photo: Thanh Giang

The painting "Ha Long Bay". Photo: Cong Dat

A masterpiece which is a combination of peepal leaves and pieces of 100-year-old tree bark. Photo: Cong Dat

The Paintings on Peepal Leaves Showroom
130 Dao Duy Tu road, Ninh Binh city.
Tel: (+84) 914868766
Hoang Thanh Phuong, a project manager of the cooperative, said the villagers will apply many creative art forms to create paintings on peepal leaves with the depth of meaning and beauty of the Buddhist land. The craft is also part of cultural tour of Ninh Binh and displayed at many national cultural events

Story: Tran Van -  Photos: Thanh Giang & Cong Dat

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