Le Ba Dang
Art Foundation



Flowers are the floraphiles’ soul mate. Flowers have pistil, perfume, posture and is full of love. Its lifetime journey from a tiny bud on branches blossoming out into a beautiful flower is just like a baby growing up happily and smilingly in their mother’s arms, everyday little by little. Only those who once patiently watched that blooming journey would be capable of sensing and treasuring the beauty of flowers.

Seemingly, in the past, our forefathers would not make somebody a present of cut flowers but potted flowers. Such humanitarian and gracious manner is now abandoned and replaced in imitation of foreign custom, which is giving cut flowers. But chopping down a blooming flower is nothing but an act of inhumanity and extreme cruelty. Have you ever noticed latex bleeding from that cut? If you were that flower, would you be able to endure such a pain? By just an act of presenting gift, our predecessors showed how a real nation of humanitarianism and civilization would be. Giving not cut flowers, but potted flowers is a unique noble and elegant custom. After so many years fighting for independence from invaders and so much loss and sacrifice, we have to preserve our cultural characters. We cannot allow ourselves to be a copy of ungraceful manners of whom we once fought so hard against. Otherwise, it is such a waste (shame)!

I remember when I was 12 or 14. Back then, we were a few days from the Lunar New Year. A friend of my uncle from neighboring village made my uncle a present of blooming apricot blossom. He followed the two young men, dressed up in decent clothes, carried that flowerpot to my uncle’s house. This really brought my village to life as everyone lined up to see what’s happening as if it was a solemn ceremony. I think it is non-sense to judge a book by its cover. A person originates from rural areas does not mean he or she is uneducated. Take my uncle’s friend, Ông Cử for example. Having passed the prefectual examination (thi Hương) and metropolitan (thi Hội) examination and finally made it to Bachelor title, he was going to become a Mandarin if he didn’t refuse it. Later on, he returned his home, lived a simple life and taught the children there. He and my uncle had many things in common. Together, they composed poems and parallels, played the monochord and enjoyed drinking tea.

Each flower has its own charm and beauty. Night-blooming flowers under the sunlight are as reserved as newly brides. Some are short- lived, reveled one day then died. Some attract bees, butterflies and ants to pollinate. Some dies with plants at once, soon after blooming. Wild flowers grow through a crack in the rocks, meanwhile some are found resilient in snowy weather. Some exist symbiotically with tall trees to stay away from human. It is said that these kinds of flowers just want to be friend with birds and butterflies in the sky and stay aloof from the trapped and untruthful life. Some rise through the murky water of ponds and lakes, like lotus flowers, yet when it blooms and floats on the surface, it remains untainted by the smelly mud. “Yellow stamens, white flowers, green leaves/ Near mud, but it does not stink like mud”. The cactus forest in Graud Canjon, USA is distinctive and breathtaking with towering cactuses, multi trunks and beautiful flowers. Its color varies and looks like being painted with water colors. Flowers are so different. Some are so sensitive that close immediately if having people around. Some blossom differently depends on things around are male or female. Or some are shy and turn around. There is also flower that spits out water as people approach, that liquid sometimes burns their skin.

You must have been so familiar with Apricot blossom on Tet holiday. It’s not only beautiful and luxurious but also sacred. I never forget when I was a little boy, a few weeks before Tet, my brother and me, together we would head to Linh Yen to dig up an apricot flower tree, then brought home and waited eagerly for Tet to come. My hometown, Quang Tri is well-known for white apricot flower (“bạch tử hoàng mai danh ư Quảng Trị). I was not sure if it’s true as I usually saw apricot flowers in Hue and Hanoi as well.

Gone with childhood memories, in 1976, after decades of war and constant fights, my hometown was devastated altogether. I visited it on Tet holiday, but there’s neither home nor parents. The heart-rending images of the- already- poor neighborhood covered by a dreary atmosphere of poverty and extreme hunger broke my heart. At dawn, it’s still pouring and everything was so dull. Suddenly, a little boy, who was the son of my ex-girlfriend, gave me a branch of blooming apricot blossom. I was so touched. Putting it on the altar and lighting some incense sticks, I felt the sanctity of Tet so strong deep down my heart. It took me back to my childhood when I was with my family, and parents and beloved ones in a joyful and cozy atmosphere of Tet. Back then, there was no war, but poverty.

I really appreciated that old friend. It was so kind of her to ask her son to give me that branch of apricot flower when she knew that I loved flowers after such a long period of time (1939-1976). It turned out war, time or privation are both incapable of destroying the love shared by human beings (dehumanizing people). Or it’s not money or property that warms the coming-home people’s hearts. So, no need to go anywhere to get a sense of love or belonging, it is right here, where people probably lack of money or literacy but always spare love and caring.

Perhaps the so-called “Affection Flower” is the most beautiful type in my opinion. In recent years, the pleasure I have enjoyed the most is going to Hanoi flower market, where I frequently get to buy several flower pots, and later, put them somewhere in my house. Imagine if the florists, the flower buyers or the contemplators get dressed beautifully and elegantly as if they were in festivals, there will be much more joy of going to these markets. I wonder if there was any difficulty, otherwise, we could see how gorgeous and elegant a part of thousand years of civilization is.

On Tet holiday in France, I usually use Peach instead of Apricot Blossoms as there are not any kinds like that. In France, there are hundreds of Forsythia flowers blossoming to welcome Spring when the weather is still freezing. I have got four of these flowers in my garden. Late in February or early in March, the trees laden with flowers on the lovely thin branches even when they have no leaves and their sweet perfume spreads slightly around. Their yellow color seems to overwhelm the terrace and the backyard of my house. I even feel the yellow color in dark nights only with a little light from the streetlights.

In France, the majority of people love roses. There is a variety of roses which smell softly and pleasantly and their buds just open slightly like beautiful girls’ sweet smiles. Some are called in the names of a queen, a lord or a charming lady but I have never found any called like my name. Is it a mistake or flowers named just by special women? In some luxurious rose exhibitions and auctions, there are numerous participants like in festivals. In France, we can also come across flower shops on the streets displayed elegantly in their own styles, which we can’t help contemplating but have to leave them regretfully because of its extremely expensive costs.

In Japan, wedding receptions are appealingly decorated with flowers. It is a nation of unique culture, its own ways of outstanding flower arrangements, flower understanding, respects of flower beauty. Although it is absolutely admirable, but frankly, I think their flower arrangements are a little bit affected and unnatural. Then, when Peaches blossom buds in the spring, Japanese people often dress up, walking around flower gardens like in flower festivals. Any people who have been to the Netherlands find that watching flowers planting and pruning tulips is unforgettable and I am sure that you will never feel bored.

I adore orchids the most which have hundreds of kinds. Orchids have a variety of shapes which some of them look like the shapes of a man or a woman body. It is more interesting when we not only contemplate them but also imagine the other shapes from the beauty of nature. In some high branches, there are lots of orchid strings falling down as magnificent waterfalls which are incredibly delightful. Besides, there is a one-flower kind or a very small one like a grain of rice, a long one like dragonfly tails. It couldn’t be more beautiful when their strings of flower fall down in the air in the sunshine. Another orchid seems to smile when blooming, teasing the contemplators. There is a special kind of orchids whose branches look like a man’s genital organ, which makes strict people shy. Anyone who draws this style of orchids has to be audacious or brave enough not to care about any critical remarks and sometimes they cannot find any clients for their works. I myself have drawn a dozen paintings like this, being on display several times. Luckily, more than half of these paintings have been sold with both good and bad comments. A friend of mine, a writer, has always alluded to its shapes but she has always wanted to take some pictures with them. Many people have pretended to be shy not to look straight at those of my works but try to watch them carefully when there is no one else around. Flowers here are real but the people are not??? (to be continued)