Anna Belleforte

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pious places

Posted by Anna Belleforte on February 12, 2019 at 7:40 AM

The one place to find peace and calm in the cities is in the religious structures dotted throughout the country. The temples, pagodas, churches, Buddha shrines and Imperial tombs all have clear and symbolic shapes. I think it’s also a deliberate feature of the Vietnamese places of worship to have very high steps up: by having to make an effort to reach them, you are showing respect. What I’ve been most impressed with is the decoration. The temples and, south of Hue, the tombs of past Emperors are full of mosaic walls built not from tesserae as we know it in Europe, but smashed glass and ceramics. Brown and green beer bottle necks form images of bamboo, soup spoons are great for forming petals, broken blue and white porcelain give lovely patterns. And an amazing sense of realism is achieved. Why shards? I asked. Because these materials provide quality suitable for temple use. They contain strong colours that will last without ever needing repainting, and there is a reciprocal honour at play: every day utensils are imbued with honour by being used in a temple, and the temple is being honoured by the use of handmade things humans need for life. It’s just beautiful work!

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