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. 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 Students at the classes practicing brush work using pre-lined sheets - each stroke is contained within a printed rectangle Khánh working on the scroll seen lower down the page The teacher demonstrates the way the tip of the brush must move... ...and here points out a strength (or weakness) of one of the strokes the student has made A demonstration with students attending Khánh shows two students a stroke with a fine brush 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. Here Khánh is working with a fine brush on the lower part of the scroll Contrasting calligraphers. Above Khánh works on a presentation scroll in Vietnamese Roman letters... ...while here an older man, adopting a scholar's mien, writes Chinese characters expressing aphorisms And from that era of scholar artists, here, probably mid-nineteenth century, is a Vietnamese hand written book in Chinese characters 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 The man decides which characters he wants... ...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) 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 Huy, hunkered, shoes off, dipping his brush. To his left... ...the sheet shown at the bottom of this page Writing, and on completion... ...applying his seal - socks of a poor student! The page is then passed to his friend to mount.
The completed page:
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continues with ground level artistry: the games of chess that are played everywhere in Vietnam.
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