Veteran artist embroiders Vietnamese poem in 14 languages

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An artist from central Vietnam has just completed embroidering a poem in 14 different languages.

Le Van Kinh, 82, a resident of Hue Town, intends to make six more versions of the poem "Cao tat thi chung" (Report of my illness) composed by Zen monk Man Giac, in six other languages.

"For more than ten years, I only thought about this emmbroidered poem collection. Each canvas uses a different handwriting and color, so a lot of meticulous work went into every stitch," Kinh told VnExpress.

Hue's leading embroidery artist said he thought about the collection after a group of American journalists asked him why Vietnam's famous poems were not depicted as pieces of art.

Vietnam has hundreds of famous embroidery artists and "their question made me think a lot," he said.

"Cao tat thi chung," written in the late 11th century, is considered a philosophical manifesto. It uses images of flowers blossoming and fading to talk about life and death, old and new.

Kinh himself translated the poem into Chinese and French. He asked others to translate it into other languages, including English, German, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Danish, then he sent the translations to their respective countries for verification, before embroidering them on his canvas.

Kinh said that though he had been embroidering for years, it was particularly difficult to create this collection. On many occasions, he had to abandon a half-done poem and start over.

"More difficult than stitching all the words was to choose the thread for different languages. I would spend months working on a painting, then remove all the thread and start anew."

Kinh runs Duc Thanh embroidery shop at 82 Phan Dang Luu in Hue, and spends entire days talking to interested customers about his art.

Embroidery is one of the five most honored traditional arts in Hue, besides bronze casting, wood carving, traditional music and kite making.

Kinh has a team of artists who take orders from aroound the country and overseas, but he still finds the time to use the needle every day.

Kinh's father and grandfather, also embroidery artists, worked on the royal robes of Nguyen Dynasty emperors. So he picked up the art at an early age, and many of his embroideries were exhibited in Europe and America when he was barely 10.

During his life, the artist has embroidered thousands of paintings depicting Hue's attractions such as the Huong River, Ngu Mountain, temples and pagodas.

Yet Kinh said the latest poem collection is the pride of his career and he hopes it will be displayed at domestic and international exhibitions.

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