Encountering other cultures, you often find that things that appear different are often the same. After all, people have more in common than not. On other occasions, though, you may find that things that look the same are actually different.

This is what happened with certain bits of symbology I saw while travelling around Vietnam. There were certain symbols that kept popping up wherever we travelled – shockingly familiar, but somehow out of place. They definitely caught my attention, and this was one of those instances where the meaning of things was completely different.

The symbol is actually a neat little logo. It's an auspicious sign, and means good fortune, though extra meanings have grown up with its use, like the course of the sun, or the footsteps of the Buddha. 

It originated in India, and came to Vietnam with Hinduism.  It graduated to Buddhism, and lately, it's used by the Cao Dai as well. You see it on temples, but mostly at funerals and on graves. Though it was recently misappropriated, no one here seems to have taken any notice at all.

Click for a larger version Behind the Cao Dai Great Temple
Click for a larger version A temple on the road
Click for a larger version At a Buddhist monastery in Da Lat

Glass bricks to keep things light

Click for a larger version At a monastery in Saigon

An invitation to enter.

Click for a larger version Seen from the road
Click for a larger version At the monastery in Saigon
Click for a larger version At the florist shop

For funerals. Perhaps there's a good use for those armbands after all.