Vietnamese Altar

Relationship: Child of im/migrant
Altar with photos and flowers.
Altar with photos and flowers.

In the heart of my home stands an emblem of my family’s cultural heritage: the Vietnamese altar. Its presence is a testament to our rich and troubled history, carrying within it the essence of my ancestral roots, our journey of migration, and the continuity of tradition. The altar’s wooden surface bears intricate carvings with sharp ridges yet is smooth when tracing its surface with a finger, and the statues atop it boast a stoic presence. The gentle crackling sound of incense sticks fills the air, leaving fragrant smoke tendrils curling upwards. Their scents of sandalwood and jasmine intertwine, creating a familiar aroma that floats above the home. The flickering glow of red votive candles casts a warm ambiance, infusing the room with a sense of reverence. At the center of the altar resides a miniature audio player, softly praying, “Nam-mô A-di-đà Phật,” an invocation seeking refuge in the Amitabha Buddha. My family's migration story is unique, yet universal—a narrative parallel in countless households across the globe, Vietnamese or not. It mirrors the upheavals of migrant families, showing the struggle that transcends borders and displays the perseverance in cherishing heritage in unfamiliar worlds. 

Place(s): Vietnam, California
Year: 1989

– Jason Le

Relationship:  Child of im/migrant Child of im/migrant