Art show marks Buddha's birth
Update: May 26, 2010
Buddhist monks and calligraphers have opened a huge arts exhibition with thousands of paintings, calligraphy works and sculptures at the Pho Quang Pagoda to celebrate the 2,554th birthday of the Buddha. The birthday observed on the 14th day of the 4th lunar month.

Calligraphers including Thich Giac Thien, Ngoc Linh, Hoa Nghiem and Han Vinh, as well as painter Nguyen Minh Chau are among the exhibitors.

Painter Chau, 74, who has created Buddhist paintings for more than 50 years, is putting up 15 of his works for display. The paintings depict the birth and lives of the Buddha and other Bodhisattvas.

While some of the works go back several decades, most of them were painted by Chau after returning from a recent journey to India, where the Buddha attained Nirvana.

Chau, who was protected by monks during his days as a resistance fighter, began to draw Buddhist paintings to express his gratitude to the religion. He has had his paintings collected in more than 40 countries.

Calligrapher and senior monk Thich Giac Thien said that besides more than 50 calligraphy works about Buddhism in Vietnamese and Han Chinese, the exhibition will also showcase 33 calligraphy works on stone about 33 Indian – Chinese patron saints. Also on display will be 16 stones on which are carved 260 verses from the Bat Nha Tam Kinh (Heart of Perfect Wisdom Sutra), and 22 stone tablets with 420 words carved in Sanskrit.

Besides the main works, thousands of small stones carved with Vietnamese and Chinese characters will be sold at the exhibition.

After the exhibition closes, Giac Thien said he will donate and exhibit his stone calligraphy works to the HCM City Buddhist Culture Centre at the Pho Quang Pagoda. The Viet Nam Book of Records has named Venerable Giac Thien for writing in calligraphy four sets of prayers on stone. The stones were showcased at ancient capital Hoa Lu, Ninh Binh Province, last month.

The monk said he felt carving calligraphy on stone was one of the best ways to spread the Buddha's doctrine.

Giac Thien said that he began to engage in calligraphy accidentally in 2000 when he was asked to find a person who could help write a parallel sentence for decoration at a festival in Binh Dinh Province's festival.

He could not find anyone who could draw well, but met with calligrapher Le Quoc Phong who taught him the art.

Two years later, on a trip to India, he saw the teachings of a king carved on stone 300 years ago. This gave him the idea about writing the Buddha's words and prayers as calligraphy on stone. He was similarly inspired by a subsequent trip to Thailand.

The exhibition will close on Sunday but the works can be seen at exhibition hall of Pho Quang Pagoda at 64/3 Pham Hong Thai, Ward 2, Tan Binh District.