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The Curious Case of Hai Phong's Nude Zodiac Sculptures

An art installation in Hai Phong has become the butt of jokes online.

You’ve probably seen them by now on your newsfeed: a set of 12 stone statues, each taking the form of one of Vietnam's astrological sign animals. While the statues retain the heads of an animal in the local zodiac – from pig to snake to goat and many more – the rest of their body is that of a human, complete with genitalia. The sight of the bizarre art installation brings to mind a tribute to Classical Greek sculptures gone horribly wrong.

"My eyes are up here," says Pig, probably. Photos via Tuoi Tre.

According to Tuoi Tre, these controversial sculptures are part of the Hon Dau Resort in Do Son District of Hai Phong. After a few scandalized tourists uploaded photos of the statues on Facebook on March 25, netizens wasted no time in ridiculing the artworks.

“I took my kids there [the resort] once and was very embarrassed. I vowed to never return after seeing many visitors touching the private parts of the statues,” Hai Phong native Pham Thi Ngoc Linh shared in a comment. “Especially when there are many children around.”

A few female sculptures in the set now spot well-worn and polished breasts thanks to tourists repeatedly fondling them. According to Hoang Van Thien, the president of the resort’s management board, the contentious installation is placed in the “mini Da Lat” section of the compound.

Dragon scratches his butt while pretending not to see that Snake is being groped by a stranger. Photo by Tuoi Tre.

Thieng added that the statues were the result of a creative camp organized by the board, featuring many artisans and famous sculptors. Eventually, artisan Tran Minh Tuan’s donated his zodiac statues – which took him three years to complete – to the resort as garden decorations. Each animal sculpture is 1.6 meters tall with a diameter of 50 centimeters.

The drama surrounding the statues, however, didn’t stop there. On the morning of March 27, the local cybersphere was treated to another set of photos of the zodiac figures, but this time with…swim trunks? If the half-human, half-animal statues might seem somewhat deviant, the pieces of spandex – so clumsily placed over their crotches – somehow made them even lewder.

Nothing to see here. Photos via VietnamNet.

Tuan also agreed that the makeshift censorship only served to cheapen his works.

“They have become overly comical,” he complained to Tuoi Tre. “Perhaps only in Vietnam exists this kind of ‘statue clothes.’ But I’ve given them away so they are in the hands of the receiver [the resort].”

On March 28, the poor statues went through yet another round of makeover: the management board decided to remove the swimwear and instead opted to use plastic vines and fruits to obscure the statues’ private parts.

Photos via Tuoi Tre.

“While waiting for instructions from Hai Phong’s government agencies, in order to appease the public after the swimsuit debacle, I decided to change by outfitting [the statues] with fake leaves and grapes so it’s more suitable,” Thieng told Tuoi Tre in the latest interview.

This is not the first time a public decoration in Hai Phong was subjected to online mockery. In January 2017, a Tet-themed topiary – the now-famous Pikachu Dragon – in the port city also received a deluge of criticism from netizens and inspired scores of hilarious memes.

[Top photo by Tuoi Tre]

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