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ARCHITECTURE & ICONOGRAPHY

  

 

 

  Bi Xi

 

Vietnam

A Bi Xi is a stone pedestal in the form of a tortoise supporting a stele, initially used in funerary complexes of Chinese dignitaries, though later also to commemorate important events. It is believed by some that the tradition of using a tortoise as a pedestal may have derived from the Hindu legend of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk (fig.), in which Vishnu incarnated in the avatar of a tortoise and supported Mt. Meru with its shell (fig.).

 

This idea could be supported by the meaning of the name Bi Xi, i.e. being capable to support great weight.  These Bi Xi stand in the Confucian Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam's first university, and are inscribed with the names of those successful at the Imperial Examinations (fig.).

 

  Bi Xi