This new altar was installed, as the calendar testifies, on 9th January 2020, and fully laden with the correct appurtenances Public social religious expression is much rarer in Vietnam than in northern Europe. That said, in most houses and businesses, there is an acknowledgement of the importance of the family. This recognition is shown repeatedly in the provision of, and careful attendance to, an altar. These take various forms, but all testify to the importance of the contribution our ancestors make to our lives. This acknowledgement no doubt stems from China's occupation of the country which lasted till 1,100 years ago. ...and above there is an altar shelf, just visible, at the top of the picture, behind the Kumquat, also loaded with offerings Below the display cabinet/altar holds new year bounty... The long Confucian shadow, cast over Vietnam, can still be detected in many aspects of the culture today. On this page that influence is seen in the family altars. These may take the form of the provision of a shelf, a small floor standing display, a table, or maybe a more bespoke item of furniture, such as the one illustrated above. The lower part of this page shows the process of installing that altar. Before the installation, some photos of a range of common altars. This is a magnificent, newly built, Thai-style house in Hân's village, the centre piece of its reception room is a very grand altar Here, at the celebrations following a tomb renewal, the men are eating and drinking sitting on a dais with a display cabinet, altar shelf, and Chinese inscriptions behind them This shelf altar is a little aloof from ordinary life - needing a ladder to access it These four photographs show altars in private houses. At a wedding speech the cabinet/altar has been extended for the gifts. The groom's red tie is just visible at the right Two houses with the altar in a very common position... ...high up just inside the main entrance to the house Left, after alterations, the Hân-Duyên cafe floor level altar. Above, that altar can be seen sitting forlornly just below the word coffee A floor level altar in the Hân-Duyên restaurant has a pull-out shelf for the tea set These four photos show workplace altars. Karaoke in the bar. Tucked away, over the clock behind the bar in the top left corner, a shelf altar serves this restaurant The following pictures show the installation of a new altar in my friend's father's house. The new altar has been delivered and sits in the area in front of the house;
the wooden ornaments come with it
Despite its apparent pristine nature it needs to be...
...thoroughly washed before being installed
As always in Vietnam, children are in attendance - happily amusing themselves.
Bet I'm stronger than you
No, I'm stronger than you
An eye for self-conscious presentation
Wall damage, where the
...had been, was patched with cement...
...and then the cement lightened
The not inconsiderable weight...
...of carved wood, then had to be...
...brought into the house...
Now the natural reaction here is to say Hân is taking a photograph of the completed task - far from it! Such is the alignment of modern technology and tradition that he is consulting a website to see about the arrangement of the ornaments on the top of the altar, very precise positions are prescribed for these
In this room the mother's side of the family also has its shelf altar; not being replaced at this point. Offerings and incense are prepared
Having obtained exact directions, the three brothers then arrange the various items accordingly...
...Meanwhile spouses organise the floral and
consumable items for the new altar
And now the meal
Certain age groups take precedence when it comes to eating
With the new altar beside the diners, and the mother's family alter looking down from the far end,
is consumed with all those partaking happy that past family members are free to join in if they so wish
in this series on nonmaterial aspects of Tĩnh Gia life, a page on a modern lakeside pagoda.
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