Dinh is a village community hall in Vietnam, a symbol of village community and a visible element of village culture. Nowadays, Dinh does not have the administrative function it had before, but it is still regarded as a sacred place which must be preserved. Besides its religious meaning, Dinh is a typical image of Vietnam and Vietnamese people. Many foreign tourists are attracted by the unique architectural beauty of ancient Dinh. To help tourists know more about Dinh, Vietnam Heritage Travel Company discuss in detail aspects of Dinh’s architectural as well as culture beauty.
When did Dinh first appear in Vietnam? This is still an unanswered question. The oldest datable Dinh all belong to the Mac dynasty in the 16th century. Although the evidence is still lacking, we believe that Dinh as a village community hall first appeared in antiquity, if not in prehistoric times then in the early historical era. At that time it was not yet called Dinh, a word borrowed from China.
Dinh architecture has change over time and from place. Dinh built in the 16th century was originally a simple “nhat”, in that it consisted of just one main hall. There were changes in Dinh architecture in the 17th century. At that time Dinh began to appear architecturally more diverse than Dinh in the North and in the centre of Vietnam.
Village Dinh, particularly Dinh in the north, are fabulously rich treasure trove of Vietnamese sculpture down through history. Sculpture has been preserved in other religions, but nowhere is as full a range exhibited as in the Dinh. Much of the roofing material had to have jutting beams of rough grains wood. Sculpture transformed these into heads of dragons holding pearls in their mouths. The heads are adorned with long flaming manes and are lively and interesting. The tops of pillars have many rows of wooden bolts or dowels carved in the feathered wing mode. They are decorated so as to represent groups of converging dragons and are truly lovely.
Dinh of the 16th century feature a lot of decorative sculpture. Figures of dragons are everywhere, especially in the most holy places. On the top raters are coiled dragons with heads adorned with large eyes and square on the top of pillars as if chasing each other about, or waiting to greet one another. Fairies carved into round status one or nymphs are found on the dragons. These fairy maiden are playing horizontal and vertical flutes and string musical instrument. There are also many other figures such as people cutting firewood, sloughing with elephants, chasing tigers, catching snakes, performing acrobatics, rowing boats and drinking wine.
The 17th century witnessed the zenith of Dinh sculpture development. The development from decorative carving to bas-relief sculpture in the Dinh coincided with the introduction if skilled carving into a number of free or semi-stressed elements of the rafters. The techniques of intaglio and alto-relievo created many overlapping layers and split away the background to make excellent sculpted carvings. In many Dinh, an entire log was fixed in place as edging where two rafters connected and an entire scene with thousands of figures was carved on it. In summary, village Dinh bas-reliefs of the 17th century achieved very great artistic standards. Elements of human culture have penetrated deeply into every aspect of each carving, to the point that it is possible to cut away a small component and still see in it the full spirit of the entire composition.
In the 18th century, the technique of peel-carving many intricate layers and the complexity of sculptures diminished. At the same time the quality of decoration improved. It’s clear that the decorative sculpture of village Dinh from the 16th – 18th centuries bore the stamp of popular art. The anonymous sculptors came from the peasantry and carried into the Dinh scenes close to daily life or true to their own imaginative life. And they did this with an utterly original style.
Since the 19th century, Dinh sculpture has almost no scenes of popular life. From then on there are only decorative figures of flowers and leaves, and figures of the four venerated animals are popular, namely the tortoise, dragon phoenix, and unicorn. In the 19th century Dinh, the arched doors of the worship hall were usually carved rather elaborately.