BackArts & Culture » Music & Art » On Warmly Welcoming the Whimsy of Wonky Tết Zodiac Statues

On Warmly Welcoming the Whimsy of Wonky Tết Zodiac Statues

Every Tết arrives accompanied by netizens sharing collections of poorly constructed statues of the year’s zodiac animal. Viewing the online collections with colleagues is one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Wobbly, woozy, emaciated tigers with loose cello strings for legs and tigers with the unmistakably bloodshot, listless stare of a bedroom bong-hitter; golden buffalos with faces twisted in pure terror as if they just jolted awake inside a slaughterhouse; a bloblike cat with the torso of a cucumber and face of a mouse; a mouse that resembles a knockoff Disney mascot manufactured by malfunctioning, misanthropic AI; and countless mammals of Lunar New Years past re-purposed with little more than a coat of paint and ceramic ears.

Photos of statues in the years past via Người Lao Động (left) and VnExpress(right).

I hope my giddy anticipation for the shoddy, slapdash, misshapen statues isn’t interpreted as meanspirited. I do have a genuine admiration for the many legitimately impressive statues proudly displayed every year amongst beautiful flower arrangements, but I just think we should also embrace these flawed sculptures because no year is perfect — many are as downright wonky and woebegone as the animal representations.

And maybe appreciating the slipshod animal effigies is a matter of recognizing that the holiday is one for the common citizen, and our celebration should involve works created not only by the well-funded and well-trained, but by those simply stirred by creativity. Let children, amateurs and hobbyists design them. As long as I am willing to poke fun at my own flaws, failures and imperfections while embracing opportunities to laugh with and not at, I feel no shame in celebrating lusty pigs or jaundiced felines

With all that said, I’m especially excited by the potential for the Year of the Dragon, particularly given the cyber-celebrity of a previous Hải Phòng dragon that prompted countless memes and even a comic book. Will we get a family of dragons so LSD-zooted they sport tie-dyed pupils and spit rainbow flames? Perhaps a remote hamlet will simply slap some legs on a previous snake statue, add some menacing eyelashes and call it a year? Or maybe one sculptor will bungle the assignment so badly that the dragon’s head resembles a melted egg tart and its tail appropriates a frayed shoelace? Whatever the specifics, I welcome the whimsy.

Vignette is a series of tiny essays from our writers, where we reflect, observe, and wax poetic about the tiny things in life.

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