An old Buddhist monk once told me: flowing within your hands is the blood of your father and mother, their fathers and their mothers, and their fathers and their mothers before them; therefore, the palm is a time map of that rhizomatic network of connections.

The human skin is but a faultless membrane: cracks, chips, scars and unwanted defects weave this malleable vellum. Mountains and valleys are revealed in the field of blemishes and between the folds of the skin. As the imperfect hands reach to touch the perfectly crafted surface of the porcelain bowl, gaps and voids begin to take shape between these spaces of inadequacy. Yet, these misconnected fissures are not empty, for flowing within are sweat and blood, labor and love. What gave life and what nourished was not the content within the bowl, but the touch of the hands that offered, the hands that cradled and the hands that fed.

But how can I calculate the volume between the folds of the skin, count how much sweat spilled, measure how much love was given to me? How can I quantify the unquantifiable? I do not have an answer, but in the Vietnamese tradition, there is a famous poem that any child could recite: Công cha như núi Thái Sơn, Nghĩa mẹ như nước trong nguồn chảy ra: A father’s labor is like that of a tall mountain, a mother’s love is like an unceasing aquifer.

And so, I cradled a white porcelain bowl, held onto it tenderly until the marks of my handprints imprinted on its silky surface. Blue ink and sweat seeped like water and poured to cover the surface of the bowl. These marks paint a map of the spaces where nourishment resides. They are marks of the moments of connection between the giver and the receiver.

Blue and white porcelain bowls are a direct reference to the domestic potteries I grew up with in my formative years. These vessels are often adorned with mythical landscapes of flying mountains and wandering rivers. The blue marks on my bowl are also landscapes, not of fictional origin, but of a topological landscape of the body.

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