Saigon: Chinese Temples of Cholon
Cholon, Districts 5 and 6, is the historically Chinese neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City. I wanted to explore it because its where a good portion of Marguerite Duras’ novel The Lover (L’Amant) is set. It’s also where I saw the lion dances during Tet but, by the time the dancing was over and I was ready to explore the temples, my camera battery was exhausted.
Normally, I go out of my way to avoid pagodas. I’m not particularly interested in the Buddhist imagery and I find them dull. But I liked these pink papers with Chinese writing on them when I saw them during Tet and wanted to go back to photograph them. Overall, I liked the intricacy of the Chinese temples more than a lot of the Vietnamese ones I’ve seen.
Incense coils are lit and lifted to the roof as offerings and prayers.
If you wander around the hallways of the temples, you’ll often find the storage spaces. Temples are places of worship, part of a lot of people’s routines, and seeing what’s behind the scenes is a nice reminder of how ordinary they are.
If you look up high, you’ll find more details, like these men watching the people light their incense sticks on the altar across from them.
Bleached by the sun in the courtyard was this intricately carved village of very sociable inhabitants. I imagine them watching what goes on down below. The woman in white on the left is definitely gossiping, “Oh, did you see what she’s wearing! I hope that white lady taking our picture is getting my best side.”