The Rooster

Fish sauce waiting to be loaded onto the boat. Phan Thiết 1920s. Unknown photographer.

Chief Customer Support Officer.

But why a rooster?

Because we like silly things, so we want you to have something else to look at besides our products and our logo 😎.

On a more serious note, after looking at way too many New York pigeons, Duy and I wanted to have something closer to home to represent Vân Vân. We landed on the image of a rooster because we realized that it holds significant importance in Vietnamese culture.

You may ask, “How significant?” Please read away 💁‍♀️.

Workers at a fish sauce factory. Unknown photographer.

Being a part of Việt families for centuries as a cherished ally, it has been closely observed and studied. Besides its practical value as nature's alarm clock, the rooster also carries spiritual symbols. According to ancient beliefs, the crowing of a rooster dispels darkness, terrifies evil spirits, and subdues negative energy. Therefore, the depictions of this bird are found in both ancient and contemporary arts including folk paintings, ceramics, and architecture.

In folk paintings, the rooster is easily found in a few different genres though its symbol and meaning vary. Since the 16th century, that kind of depiction is noted in the poem Tứ Thời Khúc Vịnh by Hoàng Sĩ Khải as a description for Tết paintings in Thăng Long (now known as Hà Nội). You can find it in folk paintings ranging from tranh Kim Hoàng (Hà Tây), tranh Hàng Trống (Hà Nội), tranh Đông Hồ (Bắc Ninh), and to Sình village (Huế). In Đông Hồ paintings, the rooster signifies the wish for a happy family life and togetherness. While in Hàng Trống paintings, it symbolizes the virtues of a noble person or the hope of a peaceful life.

Rooster in folk paintings (from left to right): in Đông Hồ paintings, wood carving used for Sình village paintings, Kim Hoàng paintings.

In another medium, the rooster was often painted on Chu Đậu ceramics dated back to around the 13th century. Chu Đậu ceramics, named after the traditional craft village in Hải Dương, were globally known with exports going to Japan and as far as Turkey or the Middle East. Some say that the practice was lost and destroyed due to the 59-year-long civil war between the Mạc and Lê dynasties. In 1997, some of its remaining artifacts were found in a wrecked ship near Cửa Đại beach in Hội An. This discovery marked a significant victory in the ongoing efforts to restore and preserve the craft. In the South, the rooster is an iconic design found in Lái Thiêu ceramics - originated in Bình Dương. Its rich history went way back to the 18th century. Their rustic, simple, and approachable designs along with affordable pricing have won the hearts of people throughout the Mekong Delta. These beautiful ceramics were also exported to neighboring countries like Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines during the 1960s.

First photo: Chu Đậu ceramics. Other two: Lái Thiêu ceramics.

In Huế, the rooster image was found throughout the royal courts and interiors. During the Nguyễn dynasty, it was carved into the Cửu Đỉnh (Nine Dynastic Urns) placed at Thế Miếu court. In this context, the rooster exudes a courageous aura and carries the meaning of prosperity and peace.

Rooster on Cửu Đỉnh in Huế.

Outside the royal settings, one can spot the rooster (along with other animals) carved into wooden structures of Vietnam’s traditional village communal houses known as đình dated around the 17th century. These wood carvings often exhibit a sense of freedom and creativity that breaks away from feudal society's rigid constraints and regulations. They usually depict familiar scenes from daily life, which reflect the close connection between the community and its surroundings.

Left: Wood carving from Thượng Phú, Thanh Hoá. Right: Wood carving from Hoàng Xá, Phú Thọ.

These are only a few examples of the rooster found in Vietnamese art. We both have learned a lot from this research and hope you also find it valuable. Remember. Behind the silly rooster named Vân is a wealth of traditional arts and historical artifacts from Việt Nam.

Disclaimer: Duy and I are neither researchers nor archivists. We're just two curious people who try to be as precise as possible in our work while building a business on a shoestring budget. With that said, our research may be incomplete; so make sure to double-check if you plan to use this information for other purposes.