The art of writing on “buong” leaf of Khmer ethnic minority people in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang has been recognised as national intangible heritage, according to Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Len.
The carving on “buong” leaf is very special. Young leaf sprouts are chosen and pressed between two boards for three to five months before being exposed to the sun until they are withered.
The manuscripts on “buong” leaves are carved with an iron stitch then absorb a mixture of coal and turpentine through a sheet of cloth. Thanks to the leaves’ durability and the writers’ skill, manuscripts can be written on both sides of the leaves.
|"Buong” leaf prayer book stored at Soai So pagoda (Photo: giacngo.vn)
One “buong” leaf prayer book has from 20 to 60 leaves, with five lines containing 150 words on each leaf. A book weighs less than one kilogramme and its thickness depends on the content of story.
The leaf prayer books record ancient stories and legends about Khmer people. They have significant roles in Khmer rituals.
Bay Nui (Seven Mountain) region in An Giang province has 30 Khmer pagodas where “buong” leaf prayer books are stored.
The only writer of ancient Khmer language on “buong” leaf Monk Chau Ty from Svay So pagoda said that “buong” prayer books are likely to slip into oblivion as manuscripts have not been carved for years due to a shortage of “buong” leaf.
Director Len said that his department will set up a management board to keep the prayer books in good condition and raise public awareness of protecting them.
Classes to teach the art of writing on “buong” leaf will be opened as part of efforts to promote the heritage value, Len said.