Some 3,000 years ago, communities of Mon-Khmer and Tay people merged in the northern Red River and Ma River Deltas. These two groups developed a shared language, known as Viet-Muong, which was composed of two main dialects. Lowlanders spoke what was known as the "City" dialect, while people in midland and mountain regions spoke the "Highlanders" dialect
About 60 percent of modern Vietnamese words are of Chinese origin. Many basic words, like geographical terms, were adopted from monotonal Mon-Khmer languages, while tonality came from Tai. In Vietnamese, each syllable has one of six tones, which completely alters the meaning of the word, and one, two or three of 11 distinct vowel sounds. This is a complicated language, which, not surprisingly, has a complicated past.
The Chinese annexed Giao Chi (the Tonkin Delta) in 111 A.D. In a bid to assimilate the lowland Viets, they introduced a Chinese-style administrative system headed by Chinese governors, and opened schools to teach Chinese characters. During the 1,000 years of Chinese rule, while Han (classical Chinese) was the official written language, the spoken language continued to develop. The City dialect became the common Viet language, while the Highlanders dialect developed into the present Muong language. By the l0th century, when the Viets recovered their independence and established the nation of Dai Viet, the linguistic spilt between Viet and Muong was complete.
Through the following ten centuries of national independence, the Vietnamese imperial court and ruling classes continued to emulate Chinese cultural practices. Civil service exams and academic literature were written in Chinese characters. The spoken language, however, was Vietnamese, and here arose a paradox: the script approved by the imperial court was not used to transcribe the national language. Instead, the Viets adapted Chinese characters into their own script, chu nom, a half-phonetic and half-ideographic writing system
According to the annals, Han Thuyen became the first poet to write in chu nom at the end of the 13th century. Chinese characters were still used for Chinese-style Tang dynasty poetry and for literary prose, such as Hoang Le Nhat Thong Chi (A Tale of the Later Le Dynasty), Truyen Ky Man Luc (A Random Collection of Fantastic Stories and Linh Nam Trich Quai, (A Collection of the Supernatural Beings of Linh Nam).
In the 17th and 18th centuries, poets used chu nom to write some of Vietnam's most famous literary classics, including narrative poems like Nguyen Du's Kim Van Kieu (The Tale of Kieu), and Chinh Phu Ngam (Laments of a Warrior's Wife), a long lyrical poem translated from the original Chinese by Doan Thi Diem, a woman poet
However, while many poems were written in chu nom, most other texts were written in Han characters. In fact, the mandarin class held national and popular culture in such contempt that, at one point, chu nom was officially banned. Since there was no official, uniform system for transcribing the Vietnamese language with chu nom, authors developed their own rules. This has led to many interpretations of literature written in chu nom
Due to frequent contacts between Vietnam and China, the Vietnamese language absorbed many Han words. Today, many of these "loan-words" have been Vietnamized to such an extent that few people are aware of their Chinese origins. Examples include Tien (money), Hang (goods/merchandise), cho (market), and Mua (season). A second group of literary terms, known as "Sino-Vietnamese" words, was assimilated into Vietnamese during the Tang era (5th to 7th century). These terms are incompletely Vietnamized. When speaking, one may not mix these two types of words
For example, since a one-syllable "pure" Vietnamese word for mountain (nui) already exists, one should not use the Chinese counterpart (son-which also means mountain) to build a sentence like "Toi len son" (I climb the mountain). The word noi must be used instead. But, one may use the Chinese synonym son to replace noi in two-syllable words, such as in the sentence: "Co co son nu o vung son cuoc hat bai son ca trong mot son trai". (There was a highland girl in a mountain area who was singing a mountain song at a mountain farm)
The Roman-based script used in Vietnam today dates back to the 17th century. French, Portuguese and Spanish Catholic missionaries, aided by Vietnamese preachers, developed a new writing system as a means of spreading the gospel to a wider audience. The man credited with developing the current Roman based Chu quoc ngu (script of the national language) is Alexandre De Rhodes, a Frecnh Jesuit missionary who came to Vietnam in 1627. Within six months of his arrival, De Rhodes was reportedly preaching in fluent Vietnamsese
When developing quoc ngu, De Rhodes and his fellow missionaries faced two challenges. First, since Vietnamese has six tones, they had to add diacritical marks. Second, they had to transcribe each monosyllabic word separately, which differed from the ideographic and thus polysyllabic transcription of nôm script
At first, Confucian scholars resisted the adoption of quoc ngu. The spread of this easy to learn script undermined their power, which was based in traditional scholarship written in Han characters or chu nom. Later, budding nationalists also had reservations about quoc ngu, calling it a 'worm-or-cricket-like script created by imperialists". But while few common people could read or write chu nom, the masses readily adopted quoc ngu. Thus, those same intellectuals who had first denounced quoc ngu, later saw it a convenient weapon in the fight against colonialism
The leaders of a movement called Đong Kinh Nghia Thuc (the Free School of Dong Kinh), which arose in the first decade of the 20th century, launched a campaign to teach the massed about European civilization and quoc ngu. Nguyen Quyen, one of the group's members described their goals as follows: To open a new era, we turn to the new learning To welcome this new movement and build a new life for the people with new books, new media, new writing...
In the first half of the 20th century, quoc ngu greatly facilitated contact between Vietnamese and Western cultures. Following Vietnam's independence from the French, Vietnamse Government officially recognized quoc ngu as the nation's official writing system. Uncle Ho also advocated movement to Vietnamize words, and founded the Binh Dan Hoc Vu (Department for Popularizing Culture) to launch a campaign to eliminate illiteracy
Like every living language, Vietnamese will continue to evolve, absorbing and Vietnamizing words from other cultures
Vietnamese Proverb and Folk Songs
Nobody knows for sure the origin of Vietnamese proverbs and folk songs in terms of their inception and authors. Vietnamese proverbs and folk songs, however, are orally transmitted and incessantly edited throughout generations
By this virtue, the proverbs and folk songs become so natural and clear that they are able to describe our customs and traditions simply and truthfully. For that reason, these proverbs and folk songs are also dubbed as Vietnamese popular literature, which proliferates by thousands of phrasings on all topics of various aspects of human life in society PROVERBS:
Like in other countries, Vietnamese proverbs state basic principles of folk wisdom and conduct, which have become an essential and enduring part of daily speech. They are short, succinct sayings with an intended meaning, which is to instruct or advise about something worthy of our attention. Most of Vietnamese parents use proverbs to educate their children about basic moral tenets of conduct and behavior. These proverbs are usually formed with or without rhym (E.G. An cay nao, rao cay ay : one shall cultivate the tree from which one eats fruits. An qua nho ke trong cay : when eating the fruit, one should remember those who planted the tree). The common topics of proverbs are as follows, addressing routine issues of our society’s customs and traditions such as interpersonal psychology, common experiences, moral precepts, and conduct and etiquette of politeness Customs and traditions: “One bite of honor earned in public is better than a banquet given in one’s own kitchen” Real life psychology: “With love, everything becomes beautiful, with hatred, everything turns ugly” Common experiences: “When lightning flashes relentlessly in the east, it is absolutely going to rain in the early morning (when rooster crows)” Human maturity moral: “Good reputation is preferable to beautiful clothes” Conduct and etiquette of politeness: “When sending a personal message, speak out; when asking people to deliver a wrapped gift to someone, leave it unsealed” FOLK SONGS:
These are short ballads, written in rhythm or iambic pentameter in stanzas. Folk songs are spread among common people from one generation to the next, and nobody knows their authentic authors. It is certain that folk songs are formed by multitude of composers who get inspired and let their strong feelings flow out in the form of poetry; then other people try to memorize the poems and pass them on to the public. Therefore, there is a countless number of folk songs, probably hundreds of thousand ones. There are so many generations of Vietnamese children whose mothers sing them to sleep with these types of folk songs and help them grow maturely by the profound influence of the folk songs. Also, there are so many generations of Vietnamese young adults who get married by borrowing folk songs in flirtation. Folk songs indeed manifest every fiber of the human touch deep in one’s heart and various situations of society as well. The following are some examples: Mother’s admonition:
The fatherly immense toil is as big as ThaiSon mountain
The constant motherly devotion is similar to the stream of water flowing out from spring,
You ought to honor your parents with all your heart
In order to decently fulfill the solemn precept of filial piety Geographical advices:
Going on road, be cautious of Ai Van mountain pass
Going by boat, be cautious of the path of billow at Hang Doi Bay National history:
Missing you, I wanted to come to see you,
But I was afraid of The Ho’s groves, and the Tam Giang cross river
The Tam Giang cross river is dried up nowadays
And the grove is on watchful guard. Romantic love:
You are leaving, I won’t let you go
I hold your dress flap to write a verse on it
The verse clearly exhibits the three words
Loyalty, piety, and love
The word loyalty to honor the father
The word piety to adore the mother, the word love for both of us.
Why do you, young lady, cut grass alone,
Let me join you as a couple,
Do you still continue cutting more grass?
Let me help you cutting it to become a married couple.
Due to the limit of this short writing, we can not afford to cite more examples. We are certain, however, that the proverbs and folk songs are indeed the common literature treasures of Vietnamese people: It is a common way of composing them and transmitting them from one generation to the next, and common as well in sharing the didactic values of these common treasures. The proverbs and folk songs play a significant role in providing the very first teachings on the ethical way of human conduct or individual behavior, and even knowledge on how to deal with the life situation, large and small. Particularly folk songs bring pleasure as well as entertainment to daily life with their dignified verses of courtship and romantic love. Proverbs and folk songs are truly a priceless thesaurus of Vietnamese people. It is certain to say that none of the Vietnamese can remember all of the proverbs and folk songs, but it’s also true that none can say they do not remember some
The Vietnamese Girl in Popular Poems
The Vietnamese girl never complaints about the condition and the role a Confucian society has assigned to her since the dawn of time. From her young age, being used to hearing popular poems incessantly sung by her mother or sister and continuing to grow up with the rhythm and the sound of the swinging hammock, she began to absorb unconsciously the recommendations found in these poems
In spite of their simplicity, these poems began to give her not only an education worthy of Vietnamese tradition but also an incomparable resignation and the four virtues that any Vietnamese girl is deemed of possessing at her adolescence: Công, Dung, Ngôn, Hanh (Homemaking Skills, Appearance, Speech Manners, Good Behavior). This will help her to be able to become in turn, sister, wife, mother, grand-mother during her existence. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that she has thus become one of the themes most talked about in Vietnamese popular poems
Despite her young age, her mother's labor and wisdom have been repeated to her time and again through nursery rhymes the most known of which remains the following:
Cái ngủ mày ngủ cho lâu,
Mẹ mày đi cấy đồng sâu chưa về.
Bắt được con cá rô trê
Tròng cổ lôi về cho cái ngủ ăn.
Little sleeper, you have to sleep as long as possible,
Your mother has not come back from the deep rice paddy replanting seedlings.
She caught a carp and a cat fish
That she will take home for you to eat.
Then at 7-8 years of age, she began to replace her mother and imitate her in singing again the same popular nursery rhymes to lull her younger brother or sister to sleep. She also provided much service to her family: knowing how to cook rice, keeping her younger siblings, feeding the pigs and the ducks, taking water to the family animals, weeding the garden, collecting eggs, participating in family chores
She also saw the change in the nature of her work when she reached adolescence. The nursery rhymes were replaced by folk songs or popular poems she used to hear singing often in the rice field. It is here that she would know the boys of her age. It is here that we would hear the first revelations of love, the first teasing of the Vietnamese girl through poems or folk songs. Among them, this one reveals and hides the blossoming heart of the Vietnamese girl who is shy, tender, and constrained by traditionally Confucian conditions
Vào vườn hái quả cau xanh,
Bổ ra làm sáu mời anh xơi trầu
Trầu này têm những vôi tàu
Giữa đêm cắt cánh đôi ầu quế cay
Mời anh xơi miếng trầu này,
Dù mặn dù nhạt dù cay dù nông
Dù chẳng nên vợ nên chồng,
Xơi dăm ba miếng cho lòng nhớ thương,
I enter the garden to pick a green betel-nut,
I cut it in six and invite you to taste this betel.
This one is spread with lime from China,
And flavored with the spice of the spice of cinnamon ends.
Please have this betel prepared by me,
Even if it is strong or light, hot or mild,
Or even if we do not become man and wife,
Just taste its flavor for you to remember
That teasing is quick to find sympathy from the boys. To praise her beauty, these boys would not hesitate to offer not only one but ten loves at the same time, which ended up in the composition of this famous poem entitled "Mu?i Thuong" (Ten Loves) that any young men in the old days would be deemed to know by heart:
Một thương tóc bỏ đuôi gà,
Hai thương ăn nói mặn mà có duyên,
Ba thương má lún đồng tiền,
Bốn thương răng nhánh hạt huyền kém thua,
Năm thương dải yếm đeo bùa,
Sáu thương nón thu7o7ngquai tua dịu dàng,
Bảy thương n nói khôn ngoan,
Tám thương má phán ngó càng thêm xinh,
Chín thương em ở một mình,
Mười thương con mắt đưa tình với ai !
First I love your plaited hair,
Second I love your suave and charming voice.
My next love is your dimpled cheeks,
Then your lacquered teeth more lustrous than jet is my fourth love.
Fifth, I love your bra and your necklace.
And your grand hat with velvet ribbon invites my sixth love.
My seventh love is your manner in speech,
Comes my eighth love of the makeup on your attractive cheeks.
Ninth, I love you because you are still single.
And finally tenth, because you reciprocate my loving glance.
The seductiveness of the girl only lasted for a short time because generally for the sake of socio-economic interests, she would be married very early. Many times in the past, there were financially pre-arranged marriages, which provoked criticisms and jokes through the following popular poem:
mẹ em tham thúng xôi rền,
Tham con lợn béo, tham tiến Cảnh Hưng,
Em đã bảo mẹ rặng: đừng !
Mẹ hấm, mẹ hứ, mẹ bưng ngay vào,
Bây giờ chồng thấp vợ cao,
Như đôi đũa lệch so sao cho vừa.
Even when I had said: No
But my mother, fond of the sweet rice bucket,
Fond of the fat pig and fond of money.
With uhms and ahhs, she brought this guy in.
Now husband little, and wife tall,
We look like an unmatched pair of chopsticks after all.
Despite this remark, she accepted to become a member of the new family and be willingly submissive to all the Confucian constraints commonly seen in the Vietnamese society. She tried to meet the norms expected of her in the new family by following steadfastly the recommendations found in popular songs that she used to hear time and time again when she was still in cradle. In one of these songs, the following is found:
Con ơi! Mẹ bảo con này:
Học buôn học bán cho tày người ta,
Con đừng học thoái chua ngoa,
Họ hàng ghét bỏ người ta chê cười.
My daughter! Listen to me,
Learn to wheel and deal as well as other people.
But try to avoid being sharp-tongued,
As this invites hate and sneer from friends and relatives.
Those are the last recommendations of her mother transmitted from one generation to the next through folk songs. The Vietnamese girl tends to keep them and apply them without failure until the end of her life. The Vietnamese woman accepts this resignation, this sacrifice, this injustice without reserve, which makes her an exemplary model worthy of admiration of her relatives, in particular her children. This is also one of the reasons that explains the profound and unshakable attachment of all Vietnamese to their mothers. The situation is illustrated by the following two verses found in one of the popular poems:
Em bán đi trả nợ chồng con,
Còn ăn hết nhịn cho hả lòng chồng con!
I do business to pay the debts incurred by my husband and my children.
It doesn't matter if I have nothing to eat, as long as they are satisfied.
Or in another, the following four verses depict not only humor but also tenderness, outstanding patience, even intangible proof of the sacrifice and love the Vietnamese woman always carries for her husband and her children:
Chồng giận thì vợ làm lành,
Miệng cười hớn hở rằng anh giận gì.
Thưa anh, anh giận em chi,
Muốn lấy vợ lẽ em thì lấy cho.
My husband is upset; I would try to calm myself.
Smile on my lips, I would ask what the reason is.
Come on, don't be frustrated any more.
Should you want a concubine, I'll get one for you
Vietnamese Language and Scripts
Among the 54 Vietnamese ethnic groups some have had their own scripts for a long time and some have not preserved their ancient scripts. As a matter of fact, some ethnic groups consisting of some hundreds of individuals living in remote areas have their own languages
More than 80% of the population speaks Vietnamese or Kinh/Viet Nam, the natinal language. Many ethnic minority people speak Kinh and their own native language
Three scripts have influenced Viet Nam’s history:
Chinese Han ideograms were used until the beginning of the 20th century.
The Nom script, created between the 11th and 14th centuries, was derived from Han script to transcrible the popupar national language.
European missionaries in the 17th century first developed quoc ngu, the Romanised transcription of the Vietnamese language used to this day
From an early period a special ideographic script known as chu nôm was also devised for transcribing spoken Vietnamese. According to annals dating from the late 13th century, the poets Nguyen Thuyên and Nguyen Si Co were the first to write in chu nôm. At the turn of the century King Ho Quy Ly (1400-1407) himself translated the Confucian classic Kinh Thi into nôm. Thereafter an increasingly large number of other works were composed in the new script.
The era of the Lê kings (14th and early 15th centuries) was a significant period of development for chu nôm literature. Of particular note were the works of Nguyen Trăi, scholar and strategist to Lê Loi (later King Lê Thái To, 1428-1433) during the resistance war against the invading Ming Chinese. Trăi, whose B́nh Ngô Đai cáo ('Proclamation of Victory over the Ngô') remains one of the finest works of Vietnamese national literature, left an important collection of 254 poems written in chu nôm known as Quoc Âm Thi Tap. Though chu Hán was the official the language of the Vietnamese royal court, two Lê monarchs - Lê Thái Tông (1434-1442) and Lê Thánh Tông (1460-1497) - are remembered for their poems written in nôm; some 300 works of great historical and literary significance written by Lê Thánh Tông may be found in the anthology Hong Đuc Quoc Âm Thi Tap ('Collected Poems of the Hong Đuc Period'). However, nôm poetry did not really begin to break free from Chinese influence until the 16th century, a process signalled by the appearance of 100 remarkable works in nôm by Confucian scholar Nguyen Binh Khiêm (1491-1585), brought together as the Bach Vân Thi Tap ('Compilation of Bach Vân's Poems').
The slow demise of the Lê dynasty and the corresponding rise of the powerful Trinh and Nguyen families during the 16th and 17th centuries seriously undermined respect for the concept of absolute monarchy, leading to the collapse of the Confucian system. This in turn had important consequences for the development of Vietnamese chu nôm literature, which now entered a new and exciting phase of development - fresh themes appeared, and the language itself became richer, more concise and more flexible. A particular feature of the period was the appearance of stories and fables which contained thinly-veiled criticisms of official corruption and the shortcomings of feudal society.
However, the golden age for chu nôm was the 18th century, which witnessed a truly remarkable literary flowering. Particularly popular at this time were long narrative poems known as truyen, which borrowed elements of popular oral tradition, fusing them with classical language to create new and vibrant works of literature. These works, with their complex plot, characterisation and structure, were the first to express in writing the personal feelings and desires of the protagonists. Amongst the greatest narrative poems of this period are Chinh phu ngâm ('Lament of a Warrior's Wife') by Đang Tran Côn, translated into nôm from the original chu Hán by Đoàn ThiĐiem (1705-1748), and Cung oán ngâm khúc ('Lament of a Royal Concubine'), written in nôm by Nguyen Gia Thieu (1741-1798). During the brief reign of King Quang Trung (Nguyen Hue, 1788-1792) chu nôm was adopted as the national script for official texts and in education, to replace the classical Chinese which had been used for centuries.
The 18th century is known too for its satirical poems and stories, many of which vehemently attacked the ruling Confucian elite. Perhaps best known are the feminist poems of Ho Xuân Huong (late 18th-early 19th century) and the anonymous popular stories Trang Lon ('Doctor Pig') and Trang Quynh ('Doctor Quynh').
Also of significance during this period were historical works written by scholars such as L ê Quư Đôn (1726-1783), whose Đai Viet Su Toàn Thu ('Complete History of Đai Viet') and Lê Trieu Thông Su ('History of the Lê Dynasty') marked a major advance in the development of historical studies.
Notwithstanding the revival of a strong monarchy after 1802 under the Nguyen dynasty, Vietnamese literature continued for some time thereafter to convey the humanistic aspirations and sentiments which had featured so strongly in the literature of the previous century. The best-known work of the early 19th century and today perhaps the most famous work in the history of Vietnamese literature is the narrative poem Truyen Kieu ('The Story of Kieu'), written by poet, scholar, mandarin and diplomat Nguyen Du (1765-1820). Highly regarded for its elegant language and style, this masterpiece relates the story of a beautiful and talented young woman condemned by the actions of a wicked mandarin to 15 years of tribulation and suffering.
During the second half of the 19th century some notable works of nôm literature were created by leading figures in the various patriotic movements set up to fight against French colonialism. These included proclamations, appeals to struggle, funeral orations, stories of combat and patriotic poems by the likes of Phan Đ́nh Phùng, Nguyen Quang Bích, Phan Van Tri, Nguyen Thông and Nguyen Xuân Du, together with lengthy but eloquent appeals to the monarch by Nguyen Truong To and Nguyen Bo Trach. Perhaps the best-known writer of this period was blind poet Nguyen Đ́nh Chieu, who composed several volumes of patriotic literature before his death in 1888
Classical Han Chinese
During the 1,000 years of Chinese rule over what is now northern Viet Nam, chu Hán (classical Han Chinese, also known as chu nho) became firmly established as the language of the Vietnamese royal court and would remain so until as late as 1918 when the ancient system of mandarin examinations was finally abolished.
The oldest extant literature written in chu Hán comprises a corpus of 11th century poems written by Buddhist monks. By the 13th and 14th centuries poems in chu Hán were written for the court by Confucian scholars such as Lê Quát (b), Mac Đinh Chi (d 1346), Truong Hán Siêu (d 1354), Chu Van An (d 1370) and Nguyen Trung Ngan (1289-1370), along with important historical works such as Lê Van Huu's Đai Viet Su Kư ('Brief History of Đai Viet') and a range of geographical and encyclopaedic volumes
Modern Literature before 1945
The first real flowering of modern Vietnamese literature took place in the north under the influence of the romantic styles, themes and techniques of French literature.
Amongst the earliest attempts at Vietnamese creative writing in quoc ngu was a collection of folk tales entitled Chuyen doi xua published in 1876 by Truong Vinh Kư (1837-1898), editor of Viet Nam's first French-sponsored quoc ngu newspaper, the Sài G̣n-based Gia Đinh Báo. This work was followed in 1887 by the publication, also in Sài G̣n, of a rather rudimentary short story by Nguyen Trong Quan entitled Truyen thay Lazaro phien ('The Story of Sad Teacher Lazaro').
Between 1907 and 1909 pioneering Hà Noi journalist Nguyen Van Vinh (1882-1936) translated and published numerous foreign short stories and drama scripts in his newspaper Đang co tùng báo, but perhaps the most important catalyst in the propagation of western cultural ideas was the northern cultural magazine Đông Duong tap chí (Indochina Review), launched by Vinh in 1913, which not only showcased western literature in translation but also provided an important platform for the work of aspiring quoc ngu writers, thereby laying the essential groundwork for the acceptance of quoc ngu as a bone fide literary medium.
In the years which followed, the novels of leading French writers such as Balzac, Hugo, Flaubert, Rolland, Gide, Pascal, Malot, Molière and Corneille became increasingly available in translation, contributing to a growing popular interest in prose literature. In 1917 a rival Sài G̣n-based cultural magazine known as Nam phong tap chí ('South Wind Journal') was launched by Pham Quynh (1890-1945), though much of the work featured in this publication remained heavily influenced by Chinese literature. Perhaps more significant in terms of the development of new Vietnamese writing was the role of Phu nu tân van (Women's News), Viet Nam's first influential women's periodical, which was established during the early 1920s and devoted much of its column space to creative writing in quoc ngu, serving as a significant forum for the development of modern literature in both content and form.
Viet Nam's first home-grown novel was Hoàng To Anh hàm oan ('The Unjust Suffering of Hoàng To Anh'), written by Tran Chanh Chieu and published in Sài G̣n in 1910. Other works quickly followed, including Ai làm duoc? ('Who Can Do It?', 1919) and Ngon co gió dùa ('The Playing of the Wind', 1926) by Ho Bieu Chánh, To tâm ('Pure Heart', 1925) by Hoàng Ngoc Phách (1896-1973), Dua do ('Watermelon') by Nguyen Trong Thuat and several short stories by Nguyen Bá Hoc and Pham Duy Tôn.
However, not until the 1930s did there develop a truly satisfactory language for modern prose writing, in particular the capacity to handle vocabulary and syntactic structures. Literary historians and critics alike have emphasised the great contribution made to this process by the Hà Noi-based Tu Luc Van Đoàn (Self Reliance Literary Group), established in 1932 by Nhat Linh (Nguyen Tuong Tam, 1906-1963) and Khái Hung (Tran Khánh Giu, 1896-1947), which published many important literary works in its popular weekly journals Phong hóa ('Customs and Mores', 1932-1935) and Ngày nay ('Today', 1935-1940).
The beginnings of modern Vietnamese poetry may be traced back to the early years of the twentieth century when poet Tan Đà (1888-1939) began to experiment with irregular verse lengths, signalling the first serious attempt to break away from the classical model. During the 1930s, under the direct influence of works by early 20th century French poets such as Mallarmé, Musset, Baudelaire, Valéry and Chateaubriand, Tan Đà's pioneering work was taken a step further by the New Poetry Movement (Phong trào Tho moi), which was established in Hà Noi in 1932 by The Lu (Nguyen The Lu, 1907-1989) to forge a new literary direction free from the strict rules of Chinese poetry. The Lu himself later devoted his life entirely to drama, but his work laid the groundwork for a whole new generation of poets who demanded freedom both in form and content. Thereafter the work of leading lights in the New Poetry Movement such as Xuân Dieu (1917-1985), Luu Trong Lu (1912-1991), Huy Can (b 1919), Pham Huy Thông (1916-1988), Che Lan Viên (1920-1988), Te Hanh (Tran Te Hanh, b 1921) and pioneering female poet Anh Tho (Tuyet Anh, b 1921) gave free expression to their inner emotions and feelings, rejecting the symbolism and strict rules of Chinese-style classical verse.
By this time a powerful current of realism was also developing under the growing ideological influence of the Communist Party. By the late 1930s revolutionary literature was flourishing, as evidenced by the novels of Ngô Tat To (1894-1954) and Nguyen Công Hoan (1903-1977) and the short stories of Nam Cao (1917-1951) and Nguyen Hong (1918-1982), which vividly described the trials and tribulations of the peasantry at the hands of oppressive government officials. A new and militant style of poetry also emerged at this time, its chief exponent being To Huu (1920-2002), whose famous work Viet Bac was later awarded First Prize by the Vi?t Nam Literature and Arts Association.
Thereafter many writers joined the struggle for independence. In the field of poetry established names from the pre-war period such as Xuân Dieu, Huy Can, Che Lan Viên, Te Hanh and Anh Tho repudiated their earlier work and turned their pens in support of the revolution. They were joined by many others, most noteworthy being Đoàn Van Cu (b 1913), Huu Loan (b 1916), Nguyen Bính (1918-1966), Quang Dung (1921-1988), Xuân Mien (Hai Phong, 1922-1990), Tran Dan (1926-1997), Ho Khai Đai (Ho Nam, b 1926) and Ta Huu Yên (Le Huu, b 1927). Meanwhile revolutionary prose literature continued to flourish with the work of Nguyen Huy Tuong (b 1912-1960), Bùi Hien (b 1919), Tô Hoài (b 1920), Nguyen Van Bong (b 1921), Kim Lân (b 1921), Chu Van (1922-1994), Thanh Châu (b 1922), Nguyen Đ́nh Thi (1924-2003), Nguyen Siêu Hai (b 1926), Vu Tú Nam (b 1929) and Phùng Quán (b 1932-1995), who wrote of the patriotism and self-sacrifice required to overthrow a brutal colonial regime.
Several leading writers lost their life at the front during the final struggle with the French, including poets Hoàng Loc (1920-1949) and Thâm Tâm (1917-1950) and novelists Tran Đang (1921-1949) and Nam Cao (1917-1951)
Modern Literature 1945-1975
Prior to 1945 comparatively few southern writers had achieved recognition or success, but against a background of relative stability, prosperity and artistic freedom in the late 1950s and early 1960s a small but active literary scene began to emerge in South Viet Nam, initially under the influence of a circle of writers, linguists and educators who had relocated from the north.
Numerous important literary magazines were established in the south after 1954, including Van hóa Ngày nay (Literature Today), Tin van (Literary News), Tŕnh bày (Expound), Sáng tao (Create) and Quan diem (Opinion), which introduced new currents of thought from the west such as existentialism and humanism. Together with the newly-established Sài G̣n branch of PEN International and the Front for the Protection of Cultural Freedom, these publications did much to facilitate the development of new writing. Southern literary development was further encouraged by the establishment of various state literary prizes.
Emigré prose writers from the north regrouping in the south after 1954 included not only established figures such as Nhat Linh, Tam Lang (Vu Đ́nh Chí, 1901-1986), Trong Lang (Tran Tán Cuu, 1906-1986), Lăng Nhân (Phùng Tat Đac, b 1907), Đái Đuc Tuan (Tchya, 1908-1969), Y Uyên (Nguyen Van Uy, 1911-1969) and Vu Bang (1913-1984) but also younger novelists and short story writers such as Nguyen Thi Vinh (b 1924), Duong Nghiem Mau (Phí Ích Nghiem, b 1936), Duyên Anh (Vu Mong Long, b 1936), Nhat Tien (Bùi Nhat Tien, b 1936), Thao Truong (Tran Duy Hinh, b 1939), Lê Tat Đieu (b 1942) and Trùng Duong (Nguyen Thi Thái, b 1944).
It was largely under their influence that southern prose writing came of age during the period 1954-1975 with the works of B́nh Nguyên Loc (Tô Van Tuan, b 1914), Vơ Phien (b 1925), Son Nam (Pham Minh Tày, b 1926), Ngoc Linh (Duong Đai Tâm, b 1935) and Nguyen Thi Thuy Vu (Nguyen Bang Linh, b 1939) from the south and Linh Bao (Vơ Thi Dieu Viên, b 1926), Minh Đuc Hoài Trinh (Vơ Thi Hoài Trinh, b 1930), Nguyen Xuân Hoàng (b 1937), Túy Hong (Nguyen Thi Túy Hong, b 1938), Nhă Ca (Tran Thi Thu Vân, b 1939), Nguyen Thi Hoàng (b 1939) and Nguyen Mong Giác (b 1940) from the central provinces.
Leading poets of the 1950s and 1960s included northern emigrés Tuong Pho (Đo Thi Đàm, 1900-199?), Bàng Bá Lân (1912-1988), Vu Hoàng Chuong (1916-1976), Đinh Hùng (1920-1967), Nguyên Sa (Tran Bích Lan, b 1932) and Cung Tram Tuong (Cung Thúc Can, b 1936); Quách Tan (b 1910), Nguyen Vy (Cô Dieu Huyen, 1910-197?), Bùi Giáng (b 1926), Quách Thoai (Đoàn Thoai, 1929-1957), Thanh Tâm Tuyen (Dzu Van Tâm, b 1936) and Nguyen Đuc Son (Sao Trên Rung, b 1937) from central Viet Nam; and Đông Ho (Lâm Tan Phác, 1906-1969), Kiên Giang (b 1929) and Tô Thùy Yên (Đ́nh Thành Tiên, b 1938) from the south.
However, the southern literary flowering proved short-lived; whilst the overthrow of the Diem government in 1963 brought greater artistic freedom, growing political instability, the escalation of war with the north and the steady slide into official corruption and decadence which attended the influx of large numbers of American troops in the period after 1963 engendered what one scholar has called a 'culture of entertainment'. In a radical departure from the past, a people brought up to associate literature with education and moral improvement turned increasingly for escapism to cheap imported martial arts novels and sentimental romances. In order to survive in this new climate many members of the literary community began writing daily feuilletons (serialised stories) for the newspapers, whilst others turned out novels featuring unusually racy subject matter. Nonetheless the last years of the Sài G̣n regime did see some literary works of note, notably the novels of Nhat Tien, Lê Tat Dieu and Nhă Ca with their vivid descriptions of the horrors of war.
In the north the immediate aftermath of the August Revolution saw the establishment of the Nhân van Giai pham writers movement, the name of which was drawn from its two journals Nhân van (Humanism) and Giai pham (Works of Beauty). Established by a group of northern intellectuals which included writers Tran Dan, Hoàng Cam (b 1922), Phan Khôi (1887-1959), Nguyen Huu Đang, Truong Tuu, Tran Đuc Thao and Thuy An, this movement aimed to secure a greater measure of intellectual independence for the Vietnamese literary community. However the trial which followed firmly established the principle that Vietnamese literature existed to advance socialism and must be guided by the Communist Party vanguard. With the establishment of the Viet Nam Writers’ Association in 1957 northern literature became firmly subordinated to the task of building the socialist future.
During the 1960s and early 1970s the northern literary œvre continued to identify closely with the national and ideological cause. Amongst the best-known patriotic poems of this period were Chang duong hành quân ('On the Campaign Trail', 1960) by Xuân Mien, Cuoc chia ly màu do ('The Red Farewell', 1964) by Nguyen My (1935-1971), Ra tran ('To the Front', 1972) by To Huu and Nhung bài tho dánh giac ('Poems Against the Enemy', 1972) by Che Lan Viên. Important revolutionary poems were also written during this period by Minh Hue (Nguyen Đuc Thái, 1927-2003), winner of numerous awards for his works on the Xô Viet Nghe Tinh uprising of 1930-1931 and the life of Ho Chí Minh; Giang Nam (Nguyen Sung, b 1929) and Thu Bon (Hà Đuc Trong, 1935-2003), both recipients of the Southern Revolutionary National Fatherland Front's Nguyen Đ́nh Chieu Award for Literature; and a group of younger poets which included Hoàng Minh Châu (b 1930), Pham Ngoc Canh (Vu Ngàn Chi, b 1934), Nguyen Xuân Thâm (b 1936), Vơ Van Truc (b 1936), Van nghe (Literary Arts) Newspaper Awards winners Duong Huong Ly (Bùi Minh Quoc, b 1940), Pham Tien Duat (b 1941), Bang Viet (b 1941), Huu Thinh (b 1942), Nguyen Khoa Điem (b 1943), Anh Ngoc (Ly Son, b 1943), Nguyen Duy (b 1948), Nguyen Đuc Mau (Huong Hài Hung, b 1948) and Hoàng Nhuan Cam (b 1952), playwright Luu Quang Vu (1948-1988) and war martyrs Nguyen Trong Đinh (1939-1968), Tran Quang Long (1941-1968) and Lê Anh Xuân (1940-1968).
Throughout the American War leading prose writers of the 1940s and 1950s such as Nguyen Công Hoan, Nguyên Hong, Bùi Hien, Tô Hoài, Nguyen Van Bong, Chu Van, Thanh Châu and Nguyen Đ́nh Thi continued to devote their work to the revolutionary cause. Other important novelists and short story writers emerging during this period included Thép Moi (Ánh Hong, 1925-1991), Vơ Huy Tâm (1926-1996), Nguyen Trong Oánh (1929-1993), Ngô Ngoc Boi (b 1929), Nguyen Minh Châu (1930-1989), Nguyen Khai (b 1930), Vu Thi Thuong (b 1930), Phan Tu (Lê Khâm, 1930-1995), Vu Băo (b 1931), Ma Van Kháng (b 1936), Đo Chu (b 1944) and war martyrs Lê Vinh Ḥa (1932-1967), Nguyen Thi (Nguyen Ngoc Tan, 1928-1968) and Chu Cam Phong (1941-1971). Of particular importance was a small group of southern writers who had regrouped in the north after 1954 and now returned south into enemy territory to gather material for their compositions; these included novelists Nguyen Quang Sáng (b 1932), Anh Đuc (Bùi Đuc Aùi, b 1935) and Nguyên Ngoc (1932).
Modern Vietnamese Character
Modern Vietnamese literature finds its roots during the French colonial period, when popularization of the romanised script quoc ngu finally allowed it to break free from the restrictions of classical Chinese literature.
Originally devised by French Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes (1591-1660) as a means of propagating Roman Catholicism, quoc ngu became a cornerstone of the French colonial educational system in the late 19th century and was initially rejected by Confucian scholars such as Nguyen Đ́nh Chieu, who referred to quoc ngu as 'the script of heretics'. However, following the Duy Tân ('Renovation') movement of 1907 Vietnamese intellectuals began to realise the potential value of quoc ngu as a medium for disseminating patriotic and anti-colonial ideas.
As literacy gradually spread throughout the country, the development of modern printing methods facilitated the production of books, newspapers and magazines in quoc ngu and both journalism and literature written in the romanised script began to flourish
Vietnamese Proverbs AZ
Vietnamese proverbs are concise statements expressing deep thoughts, practical knowledge, and experience-based judgments, covering all aspects of Vietnamese life, and bearing some flavour of a particular culture