Still Life No.2

  
  
ấm:   (1) warm (2) kettle, pot;
tổ:  nest;
tổ ấm:  home

Home, its occupants, and the land it sits on are protected by Táo Quân (“the Kitchen God”), often believed to be Thổ Công, Thổ Kỳ, and Thổ Địa, respectively. A tale of the deities as a wife and her two husbands who perished in a fire because of love and loyalty may be rooted in the terracotta stove used in earlier times.

Thổ Công also refers to a “deity of the earth” to whom offerings are made before any groundbreaking or major renovation on the property. Another embodiment of the earth deity is Ông Địa, who is worshiped with an altar placed directly on the ground.

In addition to a five-fruit tray, offerings to the Kitchen God may include sticky rice, meat dishes, and on the 23rd of the month leading to Tết Nguyên Đán, a whole-fish dish. According to an ancient tale, the fish will morph into a dragon on which the Kitchen God will ascend to the sky.