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Saigon Xưa: A Closer Look At Lê Hưng Trọng’s Dreamlike Creations

Author and artist Lê Hưng Trọng picks his favorite illustrations from his upcoming art book, “Saigon Xưa,” to give us a closer look into these fairytale-like drawings.

 Notre Dame Cathedral

Trọng pays astute attention to detail, technique and research about his favorite building in Saigon. By interweaving the tangible outlines of the basilica’s architecture with his dreamy, detail-oriented drawing, he captivates the viewer as he hints at its history and geographical location.

“You can see in the drawing that underneath the Notre-Dame Cathedral is water. This signifies its location as the highest symbolic place in the city that always stays afloat.”

Trọng goes on to explain another detail:

“There are two towers, but with only the left tower having a lightning rod left tells of a memorable incident in the church’s history.”

In September of 1944, during a storm, lightening struck the left tower, destroying the lightening rod.

Besides the obvious nod to the event, there are other metaphors throughout his artwork.

 “The Vietnamese girls in their áo dàis, the pride of our culture, and the halo and angels wings of the Virgin Mary, picturing a likeliness of Heaven, show a yearning for the pure beauty.”


Grand Magasins Charner: The Tax Trade Center

One can play “Hidden Picture” in this beautiful drawing of this lavish paragon of 1940s Saigon.

“The whole thing is arranged on the outline of the symbolic figure of the former GMC building, a rooster”, Trọng says.

The statue can still be found in the main staircase and the building’s embellishments.

 “Many items which were sold here are added in this drawing to make it more interesting for the viewers.” 


Bến Thành Market

Saigon’s most famous market, despite the simple look in the upper part of the drawing, holds a collection of details perfectly characterizing the Southern culture of the city representing it.

“Southern fruits, ducks, chickens, seafood, food, spices are found in Bến Thành Market. I also drew the boats as a memory of old Saigon zigzagged with canals”, says Trọng.

By getting lost in the maze of his fascinating drawings, one can explore Saigon's rich cultural history. 

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