January 20, 2014

Book Review: Les Fleurs de la Dévotion

Title:  Les fleurs de la dévotion - ethnobotanique cultuelle au Laos / The Flowers of devotion - ethnobotanical culture of Laos
By:  Biba Vilayleck and Baj Strobel
Publisher/Year:  Pha Tad Ke Botanical Garden, 2011
ISBN:  9789932000159
Price: $40USD

Lao book review - Les fleurs de la dévotion - ethnobotanique cultuelle au Laos / The Flowers of devotion - ethnobotanical culture of Laos

Until I saw this book I suppose I never truly realized how ingrained the use of flowers and plants are in Lao religious ceremonies and the meaning that they carry.  If you've grown up around such things in Lao culture, you probably wouldn't question it or even stop to really think about it.  This book made me think.  It certainly made me appreciate how plants and, in particular, flowers are utilized in Laos.  With its plentiful and beautiful photos, illustrations and insightful text, it goes into many areas providing extensive background and understanding of why/how/which flowers are used and for what occasion or purpose.

For example, it shows how flower designs permeate even temple art and motifs, to how fruits are used, to how bailan is utilized to the flowers that are used for specific occasions like a sukuan or perhaps during a death ceremony.  It also lists all plants and flowers by their botanical name, in Lao and French. It covers all that and much more!  And it's beautifully photographed.

The writers are with the Pha Tat Ke Botanical Garden (pha-tat-ke.com).  This wonderfully informative book took 2 years to complete.  In it, 140 plants described, 304 pages, and 339 illustrations. Full table of contents are noted below.  I highly recommend this book.  And yes it is in French with some Lao.  Alors avec espoir, vous pouvez lire en français!

Table of Contents
Préface 8
Introduction 11
Les temples dans la ville 13
Vientiane capitale, une ville à la campaigne 14
Plan des tamples du centre-ville 20
Le temple monastère 22
Notes de terrain; trois lieux de culte aujourd'hui 30
Les fleurs dans la vie religieuse et sociale 32
Une societé du végétal 33
Les fleurs de la dévotion 35
Le sens de l'offrande 41
Les fleurs dans l'espace rituel 47
Les fleurs du culte 57
Les choix des fleurs 62
Changements et évolution 65
Métamorphoses 67
Écouter l'encens 69
D'or et d'argent 74
De rouge et de blanc 76
Feuilles et fruits, fécondité et  alliance 79
Les arbres indices du sacré 89
L'artisanat religieux les supports de l'offrande 99
Temples et forêt 113
Notes de trerrain: ambiance végétale 123
L'art et le décor 126
Mémoire et patrimoine 127
Art et dévotion 130
L'image et son décor 134
L'école des motifs 138
Notes de terrain: consécration de statues du Bouddha 169
Conclusion 172
Phytominie vernaculaire 176
Index des noms scientifiques 182
Glossaire des termes lao 188
Bibliographie 195


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