An international conference gathering more than 100 Vietnamese and foreign scholars here on Saturday confirmed once again the glorious life and literary work of great poet Nguyen Du (18th century), who richly deserved to be considered as a cultural symbol of the country.
Addressing the conference, Dinh The Huynh, head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Publicity and Education, said the event, that began a series of activities to commemorate the 250th birth anniversary of Nguyen Du (1766-1820) throughout the country next year, will go a long way in preserving and developing national culture.
“Nguyen Du’s cultural heritage is a combination of Vietnamese intelligence, soul and cultural beauty, expressed through his excellent talent,” he said. “With time, the heritage has become a part of quintessential cultures of humankind.”
“Nguyen Du’s heritage belongs not just to the present but also to the future,” he reiterated, adding, “The heritage enriches the nation’s and each person’s spiritual life. Especially, Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu) has continuously influenced people and has been viewed from different angles and through different methodologies.”
Huynh said that many statesmen quoted some verses from The Tale of Kieu to express their understanding of Vietnamese culture and used these as a bridge to build friendship with Viet Nam.
He said he hoped that social scientists further verify the great value of Nguyen Du’s poetical heritage, offer new explanations about Nguyen Du’s thoughts, notions of humanity and tolerance, and desire for peace.
Prof Nguyen Xuan Thang, chairman of Viet Nam Social Sciences Academy, said the academy has encouraged research on poet Nguyen Du in the fields of ideology, history, culture-literature, Han-nom languages, education, translation and publication in the past few years.
“Russia has a ‘Pushkinology’, a branch of study dealing with great poet Alexandre Pushkin (1799-1837); China has ‘Redology’, a branch to study the novel Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin,” said Nguyen Dang Diep, rector of the Viet Nam Literature Institute. “Nowadays, all nations tend to introduce their cultural symbols to the world. Viet Nam cannot stand aloof from that trend to confirm its identity in such a flat world.”
“We need new judgements based on modern research methods to offer an up-to-date general view on Nguyen Du’s life and his works… in order to further praise him as well as confirm our identity in the world,” he said.
So far, scholars have not only studied Nguyen Du’s works in terms of content and expressing art but have also proposed various new approaches including ways to adapt Nguyen Du’s works into cinema and threatre and study the relationship between the poet’s life and literature, while seeing these through the prism of his homeland, the central province of Ha Tinh.
Diep said Nguyen Du was not only a poet but also a thinker, an ideologue, a theorist in the nation’s history, a representative of East Asia’s culture before modern time.
Humanity expressed in The Tale of Kieu and Bac Hanh Tap Luc (Miscellaneous Writings in Trip to the North) by Nguyen Du was meaningful not only in his era but also in the present and future time.
Diep said researches on Nguyen Du’s The Tale of Kieu as well as his contributions to Viet Nam’s literature will be further promoted in the future.
“With its great value and closeness to Vietnamese culture, it’s obvious that The Tale of Kieu has always inspired our creation,” said Prof Phong Le from the Viet Nam Association for Studying Kieu.
The poetic novel influenced folk art hundreds of years ago in the paintings of Hang Trong and Dong Ho, he said. In the early 20th century, a string of Viet Nam’s leading painters like Bui Van Can, Nguyen Tu Nghiem, Bui Xuan Phai and Nguyen Do Cung drew inspiration from The Tale of Kieu.
At the same time, many cai luong (reformed opera) plays took stories from the novel while ca tru (ceremonial singing) artists took verses from the work to perform on stage.
Late musician Pham Duy spared a lot of time to compose his series of songs, titled Kieu Ca, in his final years of life.
In 2008, composer Vu Dinh An organised a choir show on The Tale of Kieu, which lasted 75 minutes and brought 100 people together to sing.
In Bien Hoa City of southern province of Dong Nai, retiree Pham Van Khoat, who loved The Tale of Kieu so much that he built himself a Garden of Kieu on a land measuring 3,000sq.m.
Khoat built there statues of characters in the poetic novel, planting trees and erecting buildings mentioned in The Tale of Kieu and also a temple worshipping Nguyen Du and open to public.
At the conference, researcher Lu Thi Thanh Le, from Ha Noi National University, proposed to build a national recreational themed The Tale of Kieu like the one themed Journey to the West in China, The Little Prince theme park in France and Don Quixote theme park in Spain.
“I strongly believe that we can build such a park,” Le said. “It will be a tourist attraction but also serve to specially publicise The Tale of Kieu and its author, Nguyen Du.”
Director Anh Tuan from the Viet Nam Television said it is also feasible to introduce The Tale of Kieu via cinema.
“The problem is we should have a team to create new things to avoid turning the film into an illustration to Nguyen Du’s greatest poetic novel,” he said.
Nguyen Du, also known as To Nhu and Thanh Hien, was born into a noble family in Thang Long Citadel (today’s Ha Noi).
His father was born in Tien Dien Village, Nghi Xuan District, Ha Tinh Province, while his mother came from Kim Thieu Village, Tu Son Town, northern province of Bac Ninh.
His most beloved work, The Tale of Kieu, is a 3,254-line classic verse novel written in “luc bat” (six-eight meter), a traditional verse form of Viet Nam’s poetry.
Kieu’s story is vastly popular in Viet Nam; many people know the epic by heart and it has been translated into some 20 different languages including French, Chinese, English, Russian and Japanese.
The work was recognized by the World Peace Council as one of the world’s celebrated cultural works in 1965.
Nguyen Du was recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Celebrity among 108 others in 2003