When Thread Meets

Hanoi, September 25  2009 

It wasn't a tourist bus as I had thought it was. It was, I think, what's used to be called the 16 seater car. In Vietnam, when you rent a car, they devide into 4 seater and 16 seater car. So if there are 4 of you, you must take the 16 seater car, because 4 seats means including the driver's seat.

From Hanoi to Halong City, it takes almost 3 hours. On the way we stopped by at a big souvenir store. They sold all sorts of souvenirs from snacks, accessories, handbags, to clothes. It's really an interesting place to see. You can find a lot of cute stuffs here. 

However, I don't recommend anyone to shop for souvenirs here unless you don't have time anymore. This place is quite expensive. The sales girls are very kind and do their best as much as they can in their half broken English to persue you to buy by offering discounts. So the price tags attached to the stuffs aren't fixed prices. And yet, after being discounted, it's still expensive.

It's not that I was informed beforehand, it's just the thought that I still had several days in Vietnam, so I didn't want to load my suitcase with souvenirs before I was about  to go home. And then, when I returned to Hanoi, back to the Old Quarters, repeating the hectic evening among swarming motorbikes, I discovered that there were many souvenir shops in the Old Quarters that sold the same stuffs but very much cheaper. The only difference is that most of the shopkeepers' English in the Old Quarters aren't half broken, but completely broken. I think the Finance & Marketing Manager in "Ruby Emperor" (the name of this souvenir store) has charged their employee's English lesson fee into the price. That's why it's so expensive.

There is one very interesting thing to see in Ruby Emperor. That's the art of drawing with threads. Rather than simply selling the drawings, they conduct an open house for visitors to watch the artist draw the threads starting from scrap.

First, the outline is drawn on their canvas. And then, using a photograph as their color guide, they start to draw the threads. What I think is amazing is how they decide to change the thread into another slightly darker or brighter color. If you use a brush or color pencils or crayons, you just press harder to produce darker colors and lift up your hand slightly to produce a gradually brighter color. But, if you are using thread, you must change the thread! At what part should you do it and with what color? The gradations are perfectly smooth that I had to rub my fingers upon the drawings to make sure it consisted of threads. That's true art, indeed!

The Japanese character (kanji), which was to be said introduced by Japanese scholars who studied abroad in China, tells the story of this art. "Drawing" written in Kanji is 絵. This character actually consists of 2 characters which have their own meanings. 糸 means "thread", and 会 means "to meet".
I haven't done any research yet. But I assume this art tradition must be inherited by the Vietnamese from the Chinese. This kanji character is proof that when Chinese writing system was invented, they already knew thread drawings. What is a drawing? A drawing is when "thread" "meets".

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