House Altars in Vietnam

A private house's brand new altar. 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. Men of the family sitting at a table in front of a Kumquat tree and below an altar shelf. ...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... Families crowded onto two benches in front of a display cabinet/altar. 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. Wooden pillared and panneled room with benches and altar. 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 Four men drinking together with an illuminated altar behind them. 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 Large reception room with altar shelf well above head height. This shelf altar is a little aloof from ordinary life - needing a ladder to access it These four photographs show altars in private houses. Man standing addressing seated group beside altar which is covered in wedding gifts. At a wedding speech the cabinet/altar has been extended for the gifts. The groom's red tie is just visible at the right Reception room with high altar near main door. Two houses with the altar in a very common position... Reception room with staircase and high altar near the main door. ...high up just inside the main entrance to the house Cafe floor level altar with offerings of fish and cakes. Cafe undergoing refurbishment, floor altar rather abandoned. Left, after alterations, the Hân-Duyên cafe floor level altar. Above, that altar can be seen sitting forlornly just below the word coffee A smart new floor altar with Buddha and offerings of beer, apples aand flowers. 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 session in foreground, high in back corner a shelf altar is just visible. 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. A large pristine altar sitting in the garden next to a motorbike. The new altar has been delivered and sits in the area in front of the house;
the wooden ornaments come with it
Han preparing to wash the new altar. Despite its apparent pristine nature it needs to be... The altar being washed. ...thoroughly washed before being installed As always in Vietnam, children are in attendance - happily amusing themselves. Two infants talking to one another. Bet I'm stronger than you The two infants looking down at a squatting stool. No, I'm stronger than you One infant lifting the stool. See! Child squatting in, and framed by, an oval window within the house. An eye for self-conscious presentation Infant back to camera standing, shelf altar above. Unselfconscious presentation Man filling holes in wall. Wall damage, where the shelf altar ... Holes patched with dark cement. ...had been, was patched with cement... Patches covered in light cement. ...and then the cement lightened Four men lifting the new altar with Han's father watching. The not inconsiderable weight... The altar is lifted up the house steps. ...of carved wood, then had to be... The altar is brought into the house. ...brought into the house... It is turned round in the restricted space. ...and manoeuvred... It is placed in position. ...into position Han with cellphone beside the altar watched by his father. 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 Han's mother standing on a chair preparing insence for her family's altar. 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 Three men working on arranging the orniments on the new altar. Having obtained exact directions, the three brothers then arrange the various items accordingly... Women preparing items. ...Meanwhile spouses organise the floral and
consumable items for the new altar
Mats laid out with dishes food down the middle. And now the meal Same picture as last one but with infant tucking in alone. Certain age groups take precedence when it comes to eating Family meal in progress. With the new altar beside the diners, and the mother's family alter looking down from the far end, the meal is consumed with all those partaking happy that past family members are free to join in if they so wish Trailers... Buddhist statue with symbolic adjuncts. And finally, in this series on nonmaterial aspects of Tĩnh Gia life, a page on a modern lakeside pagoda. Statue with overhanging ferris wheel. The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Change'.
Or go to the contents Go to the contents of the Mosaic Section. of the Mosaic Section.
Saturday 19th June 2021 Murphy on duty to this site

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