Calligraphy in Hà Nội

Man in beret cross legged on pavement writing Chinese characters with brush. A street calligrapher in Hà Nội writes greeting missives in Chinese characters - these are as strange to the person paying him, as they are to you or me. Chinese characters have not been used in Vietnam since the nineteenth century, but they convey tradition and opulence This page moves on from a previous one of displays of Japanese calligraphy in Edinburgh, half way round the world, to calligraphy in Vietnam. Here the photographs come from three sources: a class for learning contemporary calligraphy (comparable to the class in the Lakes) and two calligraphers selling their works of art on the street. In the Far East calligraphy is on a par with painting as an art form. One of the featured street artists is an elderly man presenting himself as a scholar artist, and writing traditional greetings and wishes in Chinese characters, while the other is a student offering modern Vietnamese calligraphy. First some photographs from calligraphy classes in Hà Nội. Class of five pupils teacher at one of the trestle tables. Mr. Khánh's calligraphy classes were held twice a week in the shady grounds of his family home near Văn Miếu - The Temple of Literature Two women at tables writing repetitive marks with brush. Students at the classes practicing brush work using pre-lined sheets - each stroke is contained within a printed rectangle Man bending over table writing with brush, pupils watching. Khánh working on the scroll seen lower down the page Teacher standing beside seated pupil demonstrating with brush. The teacher demonstrates the way the tip of the brush must move... Teacher pointing at brush stroke seated pupil has made. ...and here points out a strength (or weakness) of one of the strokes the student has made Five pupils gathered round teacher starting to write. A demonstration with students attending Teacher standing writing two pupils watching. Khánh shows two students a stroke with a fine brush Vertical scroll with large letters 'Tra' at top and lines of writing below. Teacher writing large letter, pupil holding paper. To the left is the scroll Khánh is seen working on in the photographs and in the film clip below. At first glance it appears to be in an unintelligible script. But it is only the stylisation that makes it seem so. The top three letters are: a wrap around 'T', enclosing an 'r', and a rather open topped 'a'. Tra that is 'Tea' - Khánh's family's business. Below the heading is a paean to the social pleasure of tea. All using Roman script for the Vietnamese language. This means it could equally well be used for English, but such use I have never seen. Close shot of teacher writing with fine brush from side. Here Khánh is working with a fine brush on the lower part of the scroll Teacher writing from in front. Contrasting calligraphers. Above Khánh works on a presentation scroll in Vietnamese Roman letters... Man in beret writing with brush, hand holding list of Chinese characters. ...while here an older man, adopting a scholar's mien, writes Chinese characters expressing aphorisms Old hand sewn book open with columns of characters and diagrams to left. And from that era of scholar artists, here, probably mid-nineteenth century, is a Vietnamese hand written book in Chinese characters Man in Beret with white beard and glasses looking up at helmeted person. The artist waits, brush poised, for a customer to choose - people passing on motorbikes stop off to give their orders. The whole process is a bit of street theatre in itself Man looking at list of characters, bereted man watching. The man decides which characters he wants... Bereted man writes while other man holds paper. ...the artist sets to work. They choose from lists like the one the man above is holding (and can be seen in the photo above the book) Hunkered man wrting with brush on sheets spread out on pavememt, another hunkered watches his hand. And the third set of photographs are of another street calligrapher. This time he, like Khánh, is writing in Roman script, but doing so for a passing trade. This is Huy (well his seal says so and my memory is no match for time) a student who makes money selling poems and messages that he writes in front of an audience near Hoàn Kiếm Lake. One rapt attendee also hunkers down to see more clearly Hunkered writer dipping brush Huy, hunkered, shoes off, dipping his brush. To his left... Hunkered writer beside woman prepariing sheets of calligraphy. ...the sheet shown at the bottom of this page Hunkered man writing. Writing, and on completion... Hunkered man apply seal. ...applying his seal - socks of a poor student! Hunkered man passing finished sheet, touching next picture. One of the sheets hunkered man was writing on the ground in front of him. The page is then passed to his friend to mount.

The completed page:
Trailers... Two men sitting on floor in coats and hats playing chess. The next Picture Posting page continues with ground level artistry: the games of chess that are played everywhere in Vietnam. Figure jumping over sunset between rocks. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Subjugated'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 26th August 2023 Murphy on duty to this site

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