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Historic Village Gates
Quach Dong Phuong is a prize winning artist whose works have been exhibited both in Vietnam and abroad. H paints in a folk style. Born in 1961 in Hanoi, Mr. Phuong is also known as a photographer. Between 1992 and 1998 he took more than 900 photos of traditional gates in villages in Vietnam's northern delta. Many of these gates have since been demolished. Here, Mr. Phuong explains his desire to document village gates.
'In the past, the village gate was closed at night to prevent evil forces from entering and harming the village.'
Starting in 1992 I went from village to village. My aim was to document the gates, not to create artistic photography. Any painter, must record his materials, and a camera is the best tool. I took a massive amount of photos. After having gates and lane gates changed. The village gate is a style of gate architecture that id typical to Vietnam, and I found the need to record these structures, such as village gates in Uoc Le, Duong Xa, Coc, Tho Ha, Duong Lam, Dai Mo, Tay Mo, Dong Ngac, Cu Da, and so on. After talking photos for two years, I saw that many gates were being destroyed. Due to urbanization, less than 30 percent remain today.
Each village gate its own story, A village gate is the 'face' of a village. Elderly people of Duong Xa village told me that when the Red River dyke was broken, they simply closed the ironwood door and surrounded the gate with sand bags and water never entered the village. The village gate is like a guardian angel protecting the villagers from natural disaster and human every evening to prevent evil things from outside from harming them.
A village used to have two gates: the West Gate and East Gate. The east gate is for outsiders, and also to expel somebody from the village, or to bring deal people out to their graves. The West gate is used to welcome guests.
Behind a gate, there are many destinies, unstable lives and so many faces: money lenders, farmers, merchants, poets, and so on. It is somehow spiritual. In the past, house gates, lane gates and communities. Therefore a gate had its own soul. Instead, we now fin tightly shut Iron Gate or even gate at all.