Family and work colleagues having a meal with the less corporeal inhabitants at the family tomb. Having done the work of tidying up, food and drink are taken, allowing the dead
to feel included if they so wish
Aspects of western culture diverge considerably from those of Vietnam. In the west we may be satisfied with simple census questions about religious persuasions, expecting a useful description to emerge. In Thanh Hoá Province, south of Hà Nội, such matters are far less exact. The
noted that, not only is there a category of 'temple' virtually unknown in the west, but that the complexity is increased as temples may not be readily distinguishable from pagodas. Pagodas indicate Vietnamese Buddhism with its
The dedication on the tomb
interwoven with Buddhism it also forms an element in daily life, independent of any more general codes. The place of family tombs have in daily life illustrates this complexity of the cultural norms. More or less elaborate graves mark the first resting place of the deceased. Often the dead are moved after three years to be near where other, older, family members are interred; this is an occasion of great ceremony. Also tombs are upgraded as finances allow. Lower down the page is an example of such upgrading. The top
key strand: the acknowledgement of the importance of past family. But that importance is not only
of the page shows two local tombs of recent family members; both were in need of sprucing up.
This is the new tomb as it was put in place in 2016...
...and four years later, in need of a haircut
The above video clip of the activity of clearing up - new plants are being watered into place and the path swept
(Left) first the weeding and clearing, then (below) setting out food, drink and flowers for the dead, and (right) the revamped tomb with trees, flowers and offerings
Then there are a few moments of quiet remembrance for family members, and so the occasion is concluded. However, for Vietnamese inclusivity is a core virtue and just outside the enclosed area incense is lit to honour...
...the dead who are not family members, (or who might not be so welcome within the tomb!)
The above photographs showed the tomb for the line of the father's family. Below attention is being given to the other side of the family. Vietnamese has a set of words to distinguish the two sides of the family which are in daily use. English only has the rather specialised 'distaff' side to designate the mother's line, literally translated the Vietnamese calls the father's side the inside family, while the mother's is the outside family - no doubt due to the custom of the new wife joining the male household. Below the distaff/outside family tomb.
Again, after tiding-up, offerings are placed on the tomb...
...and incense is burnt just outside the area
To the offerings, incense is added. And below, the paper versions of money and other necessities are burnt to take them speedily
to the same place as the deceased
Above, the offerings for the 'outer' family in place - beer and soft drinks are included with fruit, flowers and paper
money. And below, the session is completed with
the burning of incense.
The last set of pictures were taken at the time of a ceremony for a previous ancestor; the longer the lineage, the wider the family net falls, and hence a larger gathering. On this occasion of a new tomb was being dedicated.
Normal life underlies proceedings. At the new tomb a father takes photos of his family and motor bikes are in attendance. This atmosphere fosters the sense that the dead continue to be integrated with the living, choosing to join in as much, or as little, as they wish
Scarfs keep off the cold air - incongruously under crash helmets - and phones chivvy late arrivals
When all is ready, the families queue to impart their personal wishes; thoughts borne along on the offerings of incense
But younger members have more pressing matters in hand
Life around continues on its way beside the graves
Once the company has passed on its thoughts, they make towards the exit and the other aspect of the proceedings - celebration - but first a game...
...of Chinese chess at the hosting house, while the food is heated
Meals often start with tradition in place. Above the more senior men are eating on a dais...
...but in Vietnam conviviality rules, so formality soon brakes down, and diners move to talk to whom they wish.
To sit down and eat together - all and every excuse from birth to death is welcome.
This is the living soul of Vietnam on display
Moving from burial sites to house altars -
the next page goes
to the heart of the Vietnamese relationship to the deceased.
The next page
of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Objectless Sound'.
Or go to the
Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section.
of the Mosaic Section.