Thursday, February 16, 2012

The center of the world

Vũ Thi Phim, self-taught Hanoi calligrapher. 
Travel is good for you.  It broadens your world, and reminds you that you are not the hub of the universe.

In this picture, I have just met Vũ Thi Phim, a calligrapher in Hanoi who hand-draws her own special style of letters shaped like characters.  Look behind us to be reminded about how the Vietnamese prefer to see their world; the Americas are off to the right of the uninterrupted Pacific, while Asia is on the left near the center.  This is just the opposite of the usual configuration in the West. 

American and European maps split the world at the Bering Strait, group the continents around the Atlantic, place Europe at the center, and minimize the size of the Pacific.

When I was very young, world maps were even more obviously America-centric: they put our country at the center and divided Asia into two.  Even then, I couldn't make it make sense.

USA at the center of the world, cutting Asia in two. 

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