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Burning bright: Vietnam’s gold-plated new year tiger

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman poses with a gold-plated tiger model in Hanoi on Wednesday, ahead of the Lunar New Year that will celebrate the Year of the Tiger. AFP

Burning bright: Vietnam’s gold-plated new year tiger

Vietnamese are paying hundreds of dollars for gold plated tiger models as gifts as Lunar New Year draws near, bucking a major economic slowdown caused by the pandemic.

Tet, as it is known in Vietnam, is the most important festival of the year and the occasion for people to give gifts to loved ones and business partners.

With the year of the tiger starting on February 1, many are choosing pricy models of the striped felines.

Thousands of 24-carat gold plated tigers are hitting high-end souvenir shops in Hanoi, selling for between $300 and $3,000.

“The gold-plated tiger model will bring me the feeling of being in a higher class,” said architect Pham Quang Duc who bought himself a winged tiger model for home decoration.

The year of the tiger is supposed to bring power and prosperity, and artisans said they tried to reflect this in their work.

“The tiger in my design not only shows the animal’s ferocity, but also the power, the aim of striving forward and conquering,” artisan Vu Dung dsof of his tiger with eagle wings.

“Possessing a gold plated tiger model would mean its owner is in the high class in society and is successful economically,” he added.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A worker blowtorches a tiger model before gold-plating it at a workshop in Hanoi, ahead of the Lunar New Year that will celebrate the Year of the Tiger. AFP

It takes days of detailed work for artisans to make the sparkling gold-plated figurines.

The process requires painting, gilding, and polishing the model, which often starts with clay, then ending with a copper sculpture before being plated with the precious metal.

“We have to make sure the gold plating layer must be spread evenly on the model, including every crevice,” worker Lai Huy Nam said at his workshop in Hanoi.

Vietnam has suffered economically from the Covid-19 pandemic, with growth hitting a 30-year low last year and more than 1.4 million jobs lost.

“The tiger with wings model shows my hope for my works to take off and have some breakthrough in the new year,” Duc said.

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