When the leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) arrived in Da Nang, Vietnam for the 25th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, they were presented with one of Vietnam’s treasured cultural gifts: The Golden Lotus Jewel Cup, created by Minh Long I ceramic company.
The spectacular cup was the fruit of more than 30 people, who worked together to create the original design over six months. Sixteen different materials were carefully selected from over 10 countries, combined through 30 production stages.
Besides the traditional gift, Minh Long I also played a part in the annual gala dinner, held on 10 November 2017. All tableware used was produced by the Vietnamese company, meant to signify the proud artistic traditions of the host country.
Minh Long I, the largest ceramic manufacturer in the country, was also the tableware of choice during APEC Vietnam 2006. As a participant at the dinner for economic leaders during APEC Vietnam 2006, Ly Ngoc Minh, the porcelain artist and co-founder of Minh Long I Company Limited, said he had dreamed of making the tableware for such a grand event.
“Porcelain is a great ambassador for our country’s tradition and culture, and made for long journeys. If there was another APEC Vietnam, it would make my dream come true,” he said. “I did not know if the state would let me make the tableware [this year], but I have thought about it ever since .”
Minh and his colleagues spent the past two years preparing “for the state to present our guests with Vietnamese culture, history, hands and brains. These products contain the beauty and depth of our national soul.”
Here are four details of the tableware and the Jewel Cup that make these products inherently and definitively Vietnamese.
1. Square and Circle
Standing in front of the plates and bowls, Minh said, “The charger plate is rectangular, with the round dinner plate and bowl on top. Looking from above, this is the square and circle layout.”
Why? Because of the Vietnamese ancient belief that the sky is round and the earth is square. A square and a circle placed together is the symbol of earth and heaven. This is why the Vietnamese traditional food for the Lunar New Year is the square bánh chưng and the round bánh giầy.
A square and a circle is also a wish for everything to go well. A Vietnamese saying goes, “Round mother, square child,” a wish for a mother-to-be to give birth to her child successfully.
2. Floral Patterns
On top of the lid, as well as on top of the Jewel Cup, is a golden lotus bud. This highly proliferated symbol signifies the Vietnamese people’s continuous growth, despite setbacks. The lotus is also the national flower of Vietnam, meant to encapsulate beauty, health, honour, commitment and knowledge.
Minh had been on the search for his lotus patterns for years, collecting thousands of designs from all over Europe and Asia. He studied the documents of author Tran Dinh Son about lotus paintings in the royal court of the ancient capital, Hue.
He even invited a Swiss artist to help design the unique lotus patterns on the products. Minh wanted to create a beauty familiar to both Asians and Westerners.
“The lotus flower was stylised to show that its beauty is modern and similar to other famous ceramic works, which people from any country can appreciate. The background patterns of the tableware are stylised fern and seaweed. Both are ancient plants that still exist today, showing a timeless quality and the nation’s long history,” Minh said.
3. Dragon and Phoenix
Dragons and phoenixes are traditional decorative patterns of Vietnamese royal dynasties. Minh Long I took this one step further and combined these two mythical creatures into one: a dragon with a phoenix’s beak holding a gemstone.
There are three dragons at the foot of the Jewel Cup, holding up the cup with their phoenix wings. Together, they represent the Northern, Central and Southern regions of Vietnam.
According to Vietnam’s creation myth, Vietnamese were descended from dragons and fairies; this is still a part of the national pride today.
4. Lemon and Cobalt Blue
The APEC tableware and the Jewel Cup have two main colors: lemon yellow and cobalt blue. This combination came about after hundreds of experiments at Minh Long I’s laboratory.
Yellow is the color of royalty, and a classic color used in both Asia and Europe. In the porcelain industry, cobalt blue is a historically beautiful and elegant color. The two colors match perfectly, creating a simple, subtle and refined look. This is the highest standard of Vietnamese beauty.
Image source: tuoitre.vn