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Vietnamese man carves spiritual icons on bamboo nodes

Friday, January 15, 2021, 14:23 GMT+7
Vietnamese man carves spiritual icons on bamboo nodes
Nguyen Manh Cuong’s products on display at his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

With hopes of preserving Vietnam’s national traditions for generations to come, an artist in Ho Chi Minh City is transforming bamboo nodes into unique pieces of art.

Nguyen Manh Cuong, a 38-year-old from District 10, Ho Chi Minh City had a successful 12-year career in the marine industry before leaving his job to pursue his true passion: spiritual art.

Nguyen Manh Cuong shows off his bamboo carving talentat his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Manh Cuong shows off his bamboo carving talent at his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Much of Cuong’s day is spent in blissful silence, either researching spiritual icons he can recreate on bamboo or focusing on the creation of a new piece.

“I started with creating bamboo toys for children but eventually grew a strong connection with Zen and Buddhism and began carving spiritual images such as Vietnam’s Buddha and lotus flower,” Cuong said.

According to Cuong, the process of creating a bamboo carving includes several phases which focus on ensuring each piece’s esthetic and durability without detracting from the medium’s natural features. 

Cuong sketches an image of Buddha images on a bamboo node in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Manh Cuong sketches a Buddha image on a bamboo node in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

The bamboo is then transported to Ho Chi Minh City, where it spends one to two months drying.

The first step of the process takes place in the northen province of Ninh Binh, where the material is collected, involving boiling the bamboo for three to four days to remove excess sugar from its husk and prevent termite infestations.

Only after it is fully dry does Cuong begin using a handsaw to carve a basic sketch on the bamboo node.

Sketches on a bamboo node. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Sketches on a bamboo node. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Cuong’s customers typically use his products as office decorations or plant holders for succulents.

The man shared that he has high hopes to work with pagodas and people in the countryside so that bamboo artwork can be popularized as a medium to spread the values of Buddhism.

“I’ve seen bamboo carving before but never thought it could be transformed to carry such spiritual significance," Nguyen Hung Huy, one of Cuong’s customers, said.   

"I plan to put one of Cuong’s carvings on my office desk so that I can find inner peace when I feel stressed.”

Cuong uses a handsaw to sharpen the bamboo node at his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Manh Cuong uses a handsaw to sharpen a bamboo node at his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

A bamboo buffalo, the symbol representing the upcoming Lunar New Year. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

A bamboo buffalo, the symbol representing the upcoming Lunar New Year. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Customer Nguyen Huy Hung (left) visits the workshop to purchase decorative products and drink the tea with artist Nguyen Manh Cuong (right). Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Customer Nguyen Huy Hung (left) visits the workshop to purchase decorative products and drink tea with artisant Nguyen Manh Cuong. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

A bamboo node depicting Buddha. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

A bamboo node depicting the Buddha. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Manh Cuong’s products on display at hi workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

Nguyen Manh Cuong’s products on display at his workshop in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Hoang An / Tuoi Tre

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Linh To / Tuoi Tre News

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