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Paper and Threshold; The Paradox of Spiritual Connection in Asian Cultures


Author: Dorothy Field
Publisher: The Legacy Press, 2007

9 sections, Landscape format 31.5 x 25 cm (untrimmed)
Two copies, one copy creased in trim area

Many, probably most, traditional cultures see physical thresholds as more than a place to hang a door. Thresholds are liminal, often standing in for distant places such as sacred mountain passes. Crossing a threshold can symbolize the passage between being in the womb and being born, being single and being married, being alive and dying. Paper or thread placed at our everyday physical thresholds reminds us of less tangible crossings and of each individual’s connection to mystery and wonder.
Cultures use materials that reflect their own myths, their own sense of where life is held. In India, thread and cloth are often used as the mnemonic device to remind people to pay attention. In other parts of Asia, particularly Japan, Korea, Burma, and Nepal, paper takes up its paradoxical role as a bridge enabling spirits to cross and a barrier keeping dark forces out. Many ancient customs continue to be observed with little current comprehension. When shapes cut out of white plastic are substituted for paper, we know amnesia has set in.
In this essay, illustrated with over 200 of her photographs, Dorothy Field examines a wide range of papers at thresholds in many parts of Asia, and its uses in Shinto, shamanic, and Buddhist temples, as well as paper kites, lanterns, doors, and windows. She considers why one culture uses paper, another thread, and a third, barley. And there are also examples of paper used for the sheer fun of it, as bursts of color and celebration.
The Foreword is by Jane M. Farmer.

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