The Ngoc Lu bronze drum was recognized as a Vietnam’s national treasure by the Prime Minister on October 01, 2012.
The drum was made in Dong Son culture, 2.000 – 2.500 years before present. It has a face diameter of 79,3cm, leg diameter of 80cm, 63cm height, was discovered in a dam construction in Ha Nam province in 1893 and brought to a temple in Ngoc Lu village (Ha Nam province). In April 1903, the drum was collected by EFEO and kept at Louis Finot museum (now the Vietnam National Museum of History).
The Ngoc Lu bronze drum
Vertical side drawing of Ngoc Lu drum
Decorative patterns on the drum’s surface
The surface of the drum is decorated with a sun motif in the central and 14 beams with peacock feathers. The next 16 rounds of decorative scenes are separated by embossed lines.
The sun motif with 14 beams and peacock feather decoration.
Round 1, 5, 11, 16 decorates dot motif. Round 2, 4, 7, 9, 13, 14 crafts circles with dot inside. Round 3 decorates the line of the character “N”.
Round 6, 8 and 10 specifies important patterns, for example:
Round 6 decorates dancing persons, ritual house with arched roof, stilted house, rice pounder, drumming festival, all symmetrically, and can be categorized into 5 groups:
- Musicians with and without feathers on their heads and/or holding spearheads and playing music instrument like flute.
- Stilted house with arch roof, inside there's a person playing worshiping and the wall is dot-inside-circle motif.
- A couple pounding rice next to a man standing on the left looking toward the stilted house, with a bird flying on his head.
- The stilted house with concave roof decorated with a couple of bird. Two persons sitting in the house, perhaps they are singing or playing a game? On the left, another person is sitting with a drum.
- The scene of drumming with people sitting and holding long poles about to strike the drums which were placed in a row below.
Round 8 features a group of deer, together with swans flying anticlockwise.
Round 10 features 36 birds, of which, 18 flying anticlockwise and 18 keep standstill.
The other part such as the barrel which has 10 rounds of decoration that specify the dot circles, or feathered men in a boat racing characterizing captains and sailors, warriors and prisoners.
The Ngoc Lu drum classified as Heger type I is the most beautiful and valuable drum in drums of Dong Son culture ever discovered. Except the fundamental function of a musical instrument in festivals and rituals, it used to be a symbol of power of Dong Son warriors. Also, it represented for the high technique of bronze casting and a masterpiece of arts of ancient Vietnamese people.
Vietnam National Museum of History
EN: Tran Trang