The Old Propaganda Poster Shop, Hanoi

Amongst the tourist trinkets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a small shop doing a brisk trade in selling off old propaganda posters from the Vietnam War, providing both history and art as souvenirs for backpackers.

Hanoi has hundreds of shops selling silks, lacquerware, tailor made clothes and all sorts of other handicrafts, but my favourite is this shop on Hang Bac in the city’s Old Quarter that sells hundreds of original propaganda posters and reprints from the American War, as it’s known in Vietnam. Step into the shop and you step into a time capsule of exhortations to patriotism and defeating the enemy, all under the watching eye of Uncle Ho.

The Propaganda Poster Shop, Hanoi, Vietnam
[You can click for bigger versions of any of these photos].

There’s a initial kitsch value to browsing amongst the posters which are stacked 50 deep separated by cover sheets, but flicking through a deeper, more sobering picture emerges of the Vietnamese struggle for survival and independence. The old lady who runs the shop might well have lived through both the French and American wars in Vietnam. I wonder what she thinks of all these backpackers crowding into her shop to buy these posters that once would have been taken deadly seriously.

The Propaganda Poster Shop interior

Portraits of Ho Chi Minh

More framed pics

There are a variety of artistic styles at work, from the blocky Soviet graphical influence to almost impressionistic efforts. Many of these images are genuinely striking irrespective of their historical impact and as they only cost a few dollars each, you can buy several. Unsurprisingly, images of Ho Chi Minh, credited as the Father of the Nation who led Vietnam through the war but did not leave to see its independence, crop up frequently. My favourite picture of Uncle Ho, as he’s affectionately and respectfully known to the Vietnamese, is this portrait of him made entirely with Vietnamese stamps.

Ho Chi Minh Portrait in stamps

We decorated our apartment with some of our favourite Vietnam propaganda posters – a simple frame makes them quite striking. Apologies for my crap flash-in-the-way photo:

Women Soldiers

Train from Hanoi to Saigon in reunited Vietnam

My favourite – Nixon’s face superimposed on a falling bomb

There are literally hundreds of posters in the Old Propaganda Poster Shop – it would make for a great book and also a great historical document to find some of the artists who are still living to talk about how they came to create these images and the influences on their work. Hmm, now there’s an idea…

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  1. I went to that shop…. but I was hoping if they have a direct website into their shop…. can anyone give me the url? it would be really helpful… thank you

  2. Hi Kiara – as far as I know they don’t have their own website. Give it another couple of years and they probably will – there are several propaganda poster shops in Hanoi now – the Vietnamese always copy a good idea ;-)

  3. Illuminating! When I visit Hanoi this summer, I will certainly try to find the place and buy a few posters.

    As Kiara noted, it would be wonderful to buy the posters online tonight.

  4. Paul Ovaska says:

    We were in this shop last year. They make great groovy presents for folks back home and are easily transportable. Only problem is that we only bought one for ourselves, have it framed on our wall. Would have like to have another one now. Should have bought it at the time as they are so cheap. This store had the best selection and prices of any store we came across in vietnam

  5. Timothy cumming says:

    I visited this shop but i also dropped in to the Kuy Son propaganda shop-30 Ta Hien. I found it’s great for canvas posters. Sale assistant said that they had moved to this location from 13-Hang Bac (Dogma shop)

  6. Thanks for the tip Timothy. There seem to be quite a few propanganda poster shops in Hanoi – I counted at least 3 when I was there in Feb 2009.

  7. Great post! I’m a Vietnamese American and even I don’t know that there’s such a place that sell propaganda poster in Hanoi. I been looking everywhere for old Vietnamese propaganda posters, they definitely represent a piece of history. Just wondering: how are the prices of these poster? I would assume they are ridiculously overpriced since the shop seems to be catering to foreign tourists, as I know that most people in Vietnam would have no interest in it. Thanks!

  8. Simon Cutting says:

    It should be obvious to all these are all copies- originals are ‘extremely rare’-I have been coming to Vietnam for over 20 years and the number of shops selling these posters has grown exponentially-this is the land of the copy-how could such artefacts survive in damp conditions for so long, it is impossible yet the shops are full of them-dont be fooled! This is a excellent cottage industry and surprising that tourists are so easily fooled

  9. Andy G says:

    I agree with Simon Cutting’s comment. I nearly bought an “original” in a shop in Hanoi in 2007, I compared it to an image of the original in a book and noticed a small but obvious difference. The copy was so convincing – the paint was flaking, the paper damaged etc etc. I was heartbroken as I would LOVE to own such a piece of history.

    Upon reflection I should have bought the copy anyway, as it looked so good. You live and learn I guess!

    But yes – how can posters survive so long in such extreme weather conditions, through such political upheaval etc?

    Does anybody know how to get their hands on an authentic version? And where? I’m talking to a dealer now who claims to be able to supply documents of authenticity, but having seen how good the copy was that I nearly bought, am I a mug for even considering this? Are there any “experts” on the subject?

  10. I bought 4 posters in Aug 2015, USD 25. (1 x A2, 3 x A3) Yes they are likely to be copies. However the ‘look’ and paper is correct. And as tourist buys go, they beat a T Shirt any day. Now framed on my wall, they give me great joy.
    I’m sorry that I didn’t buy 10.

  11. I have just returned from Hanoi and bought A3 size poster copies from 2 little shops that were next to each other. I bought one of the same design from each shop but after comparing them back home, one was very inferior. The best poster was priced 800,000 dong from Hanoi gallery,
    “Exhibition of various paintings & old propagana posters” 25A Ly Quoc Su, Tel:04.3926 4378 (the old quarter, left of Hoan Kiem lake). The bad shop was to the left, a few doors up, 5D Dinh Liet, 25A Ly Quoc Su, Tel:04.3926 4913, priced 600,000 dong. So my point is, if you are shopping in that area, look carefully at what goes into your package as it may not be the same as what is on the wall & I would buy from the little shop to the right next time.

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