Story: Hai Bang, Tina Do
Photos: Hai Bang, Le Huy Hoang Hai, Tran Nhu Dang Tuyen

In Truc chi, paper is not just a material but a work of art.

The House of Truc chi

Since 2012, within the flow of Vietnam’s fine arts, a new type of paper-art was defined by writer and translator Buu Y, who coined the term “truc chi’ (truc: bamboo, chi: paper). According to Buu Y, since bamboo is a cultural and spiritual symbol of Vietnam, truc chi refers to a new type of Vietnamese paper art that is not merely bamboo paper. Truc chi can be made from many types of natural fibers, including those from straw, bamboo, sugarcane, banana, water ferns, corn, pineapple, berries, leaves, grass, etc.

The Hollander beater and the oven for cooking raw materials

The technical term “trucchigraphy” refers to the following: the process of making traditional handicraft paper; the technique of applying water pressure (quite common in some countries); andthe principles of graphic arts. The process of making truc chi consists of two main stages. The first is the traditional paper-making process. The raw materials are soaked, boiled with lime, ground, and pounded into pulp, then spread evenly on a mold. The next stage is the truc chi process. The artist uses a hose to spray water onto the wet sheet of paper to change the fibers’ structure, creating different levels of thickness. In this way, images are formed. This process is repeated several times based on principles of etching and serigraphy-printing techniques to create sophisticated shades of varied hues and intensity. The artist can also use the water hose as a “paint brush” to sketch on the wet paper sheet and create special effects. Using jets of water to create graphic arts on paper forms the core idea of truc chi art.

Truc chi - Oversea Project

Truc chi allows for rich and complex means of expression. Subtle differences in thickness yield different effects, especially when interacting with light. The effects on the surface depend on the light source. With front lighting, thick parts appear bright in the shade while thinner parts appear darker. Backlighting yields the oppo ite effect: thicker parts will be darker whereas thinner parts will appear lighter. This flexibility attracts and inspires both audiences and artists.

Trúc Chỉ - Lời của sông 2016

Truc chi can be a work of art in itself with a strong graphic language. On the other hand, truc chi is always ready to communicate with visual cues placed directly upon it. In addition, Truc chi can meet the diverse and special requirements of applied arts like product design, interior and exterior design, fashion, and jewelry design. In particular, it can be applied to traditional handicrafts to create unique products.

To date, truc chi has been used in various forms, including in outstanding works like “Vọng niệm” (Memorial) in the art project in the basement of the National Assembly building in 2018; the Overseas art project (Confluences Lyon Museum, France, 2018); the “Trúc chỉ – Lời của sông” (Truc chi – Words of Rivers) exhibition in 2016 – 2017 in Hanoi and Danang; “Truc chi – Long An Palace” in Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities in 2016; and the exhibition “Echoes – the marks of art in the era of the Nguyen lords on Truc chi” held in the Hue Citadel in 2015, as well as various art awards in Vietnam and abroad. Truc chi artworks were also chosen as gifts for the Emperor and Empress of Japan during their visit to Hue in 2017.