Monday, July 22 2019

VietNamNews

The sculpture that gives people surprises

Update: June, 10/2019 - 19:35

 

 

The ancient statue of Linh Lang Đại Vương can stand up from its seated position thanks to a hidden system of bars and rollers connected to the temple door. VNS Photo Trần Mai Hưởng

 

by Trần Mai Hưởng

 

Seven-hundred years after it was constructed, a sculpture continues to surprise visitors to Bảo Hà Temple in Bảo Hà Village, Đồng Minh Commune, Vĩnh Bảo District in the port city of Hải Phòng.

What is so unusual about this ancient work of art? The lifelike sculpture can sit down and stand up.

When the door of the temple is opened, the sculpture gradually stands from its perch on top of a throne at the altar before retaking its seat.

Temple caretaker Phạm Trọng Yêm, 81, explained the secret: when the statue was first built, talented artisans in the village, which has long been famed for its wood carving, created a system of moving rollers under the altar. Bars attached to the door move the mechanism when the door opens and closes, which in turn makes the sculpture stand.

“Besides, the sculpture was also made with the moving joints of a puppet,” he said.

Though the movements of the sculpture depend on the movements of the temple door, not everyone can make it happen.

Yêm said only temple caretakers who understand the secret have the ability to move the sculpture smoothly.

The rare sculpture has brought attention to the thousand-year-old temple, which was recognised as a National Relic site in 1991.

The sculpture depicts Linh Lang Đại Vương, the village’s genie, who has been worshipped at the temple for centuries.

Legend says he was Prince Hoằng Chân, a son of King Lý Thánh Tông (1023-1072). When the Chinese Song troops invaded the country, the prince built an army stronghold at the site to defend against the invaders.

When he passed away, locals made a sculpture of him and placed it in a temple on the very army station. Seven hundred years ago, artisans created the sculpture we see today to replace the original.

The temple is also dedicated to Nguyễn Công Huệ, the ancestor of the sculpture-making craft. He passed the craft down to locals, who have maintained the tradition to this day to earn a stable living.

In the early 15th century, when Việt Nam was ruled by the Chinese Ming Dynasty, Huệ was forced to work as a servant in China.

There he attentively studied the craft of carving wooden sculptures, lacquer and acupuncture.

When he returned home, he taught the techniques to locals, who then handed them down to the next generations.

Bảo Hà Village has long been famous for its talented artisans, who made many of the wooden statues seen at pagodas and temples throughout the country.

There are 200 households still practising wood carving in the village. They have created a diverse range of products including statues of the Buddha and various saints, and worship objects sold on the domestic market and exported overseas.

 

Đỗ Bưởng, 70, is a well-known artisan in the commune. He has spent his whole life perfecting the craft.

He cannot remember how many unique sculptures he has made to meet customers’ demands. His house is full of unfinished sculptures.

“We have lived on the handicraft that our ancestors handed down,” he said. “My parents have asked me – and I will also ask my children and grandchildren – not to forget the ancestor of the career, who first brought the skills here and taught our great grandparents.”

“We will continue to pass the skills down so that the career is maintained forever.”

Bưởng’s house is located not far from the temple. On the short trip across the village, the sounds of wood carving echo from the houses.

Bưởng's deep respect and gratitude for local history is shared by his peers – the same respect that led artisans in the village to create the sculpture of Linh Lang Đại Vương 700 years ago. VNS

 

GLOSSARY

Seven-hundred years after it was constructed, a sculpture continues to surprise visitors to Bảo Hà Temple in Bảo Hà Village, Đồng Minh Commune, Vĩnh Bảo District in the port city of Hải Phòng.

Constructed means built.

The lifelike sculpture can sit down and stand up.

If something is lifelike it seems as if it has life.

When the door of the temple is opened, the sculpture gradually stands from its perch on top of a throne at the altar before retaking its seat.

Gradually means slowly.

A perch is a place where something sits.

A throne is the seat of a king or queen, or someone very powerful.

An altar is a special table in a place of worship.

Retaking a seat means going back to a seat and sitting down again.

Temple caretaker Phạm Trọng Yêm, 81, explained the secret: when the statue was first built, talented artisans in the village, which has long been famed for its wood carving, created a system of moving rollers under the altar.

A caretaker is someone whose job is to look after a place.

Talented artisans are artisans with natural skills.

Famed means “been famous for”

Bars attached to the door move the mechanism when the door opens and closes, which in turn makes the sculpture stand.

A mechanism is a system with different parts that work together.

“Besides, the sculpture was also made with the moving joints of a puppet,” he said.

Joints are places where different parts meet one another and are able to bend so that they can work together.

Yêm said only temple caretakers who understand the secret have the ability to move the sculpture smoothly.

If caretakers have the ability to move the sculpture smoothly, they have what it takes to be able to do this job.

The sculpture depicts Linh Lang Đại Vương, the village’s genie, who has been worshipped at the temple for centuries.

Depicts means shows.

A genie is a type of spirit.

Legend says he was Prince Hoằng Chân, a son of King Lý Thánh Tông (1023-1072).

Legends are traditional stories.

When the Chinese Song troops invaded the country, the prince built an army stronghold at the site to defend against the invaders.

When troops invade they march on territory that is not theirs to fight and take it over.

There he attentively studied the craft of carving wooden sculptures, lacquer and acupuncture.

Attentively means paying close attention.

A craft is an activity that involves skill, using your hands.

Lacquer is a liquid used to paint on to wood to make it shine.

Acupuncture is a type of medical practice.

When he returned home, he taught the techniques to locals, who then handed them down to the next generations.

Techniques are ways of doing things.

You and your brothers and sisters are one generation; your parents and their brothers and sisters (your uncles and aunts) are another generation, and so on.

They have created a diverse range of products including statues of the Buddha and various saints, and worship objects sold on the domestic market and exported overseas.

If there is a diverse range of products, there are many products and many of them are different to one another.

The domestic market is the community of people inside the country that will buy the products.

If products are exported, they are sold to buyers in other countries.

He has spent his whole life perfecting the craft.

To perfect something means to find the absolutely correct way of doing it.

He cannot remember how many unique sculptures he has made to meet customers’ demands.

If something is unique there is only one of it.

On the short trip across the village, the sounds of wood carving echo from the houses.

When sounds echo they can be heard again a few seconds after they are made because of airwaves bouncing off different surfaces.

Bưởng's deep respect and gratitude for local history is shared by his peers – the same respect that led artisans in the village to create the sculpture of Linh Lang Đại Vương 700 years ago.

Peers are people your age.

WORKSHEET

Find words that mean the following in the Word Search:

  1. A place across the sea.
  2. A very small town.
  3. Not common.
  4. A doll that can be made to move.
  5. A place where you can sit.

 

 

 

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ANSWERS: 1. Overseas; 2. Village; 3. Rare; 4. Puppet; 5. Seat.

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