Sampan (Con Đò)


French version

Tình nào thổn thức đêm dài
Ðò nào bến cũ tháng ngày tiếc thương
Bao năm chồng chất tóc sương
Sông nào đãi hết, tỏ tường với ai

For which love does one torment oneself with long nights?
For which sampan and its old dock, does one continue to be overcomed with affections and regrets?
White hair accumulate under the weight of the years
The river not being able to erase all, with whom does one reveal the confidences?

As Vietnam is a water country, it is not surprising to see the proliferation and large variety of boats used by the Vietnamese in their transport by water: from the lightest and smallest to the largest ones found until then only in the neighbouring countries like China or Indonesia. One finds in the construction of these vietnamese boats a notable foreign influence, chinese in the North and indonesian or even western indian in the South of Vietnam. This influence is more perceptible in the Center of Vietnam that has been occupied until the XIIIth century by the Vikings of Asia, the Chàms whose civilization has disappeared in the wirlwind of history by the secular march of the>Vietnamese towards the South.

In spite of that, the Vietnamese showing an acute sense of observation and of living experience due to the incessant coming and going of typhoons on the vietnamese coast, know to harmoniously combine the data of these different foreign techniques to construct boats often more handy than the chinese, malayan or indian models, as has noticed P. Paris in his work entitled “Search of relationship to four Indochise boats, BIIEH, 1946″.

Because of the harshness of nature and of the quasi permanent fight against their chinese neighbors, the Vietnamese centered their efforts in the conquest of the rice plains. Locked up in the isolationism adopted by the Far East and comforted by the quasi permanent presence of the foreign boats in their ports ( Faifo, Tourane, Saigon etc), the Vietnamese do not see any interest to privilege the maritime transport although they are regarded as the most skilful sailors of the Far East. The Chinese recognized their superiority on water. A high chinese mandarin, Bao Chi, noted this in his confidential report submitted to the emperor of Song. The majority of the Vietnamese victories against the chinese neighbors took place on water. The Vietnamese are accustomed to using boats as means of transport for food or troops, as the abbot Prévost revealed in his ” History of the Voyages ” from 1751 while relying upon the description of Samuel Baron published in 1732.

The Vietnamese navy knew its apogee only in the first half of the XIXth century. It is the period when the emperor Gia Long assisted by his French lieutenants Jean-Baptiste Chaigneau ( Nguyễn Văn Thắng ), Philippe Vannier ( Nguyễn Văn Chấn ) etc. succeeds in defeating the army of Tây Sơn at Qui Nhơn with his royal navy made up of a hundred or so large galleys of 50 to 70 oars with guns and stone drains and of three european style vessels ( the Phoenix ( tàu Phụng ), the Eagle and the Flying Dragon ( tàu Long ). These last ones were built with such skill and remained no more than three months on the building site, as has noted father Lelabousse in his report dated at Nha Trang, the 24th of April 1800.

To request his investiture with the chinese emperor, in 1802, Gia Long sent the great poet Trinh Hoài Ðức (1), the first vietnamese delegate to travel by sea to Peking. Unfortunately, this apogee was only of short duration because his successors, surrounded by confuciasnist mandarins and entangled in the obscurantism, continued to adopt a policy of exacerbated isolationism in spite of the memorandum of the modernistic scholar Nguyễn Trường Tộ, which made it possible for the french navy to succeed in dropping anchor a few decades later in the vietnamese waters after having sunk in the port of Tourane ( Danang ) the first five armored junks of the vietnamese fleet on April 15, 1847.

Although the Vietnamese neglect the maritime transport, paradoxically they do not haggle the means of manufacturing a large variety of boats to facilitate their daily displacement because Vietnam has, in addition to the second mangrove of the world (the forest U – Minh 1000km2) after that of Brazil in the peninsula of Cà Mau, thousands of small rivers, affluents and distributaries, streams and rivers (Red River, Mekong River ).

Moreover, the vietnamese road network is quasi non-existent. The vietnamese boats are divided into two categories: those manufactured with bamboo plates coated in lacquer (thuyền nan) and those carved from tree trunks or made with wooden plates ( thuyền gỗ). With regard to the first category, if the boat is of a small size, it is often called in Vietnamese (thuyền câu). It is a small boat where only one person can be placed. If the light boat is of a round shape, it is called ” thuyền thúng ” and is frequently used by the fishermen of the Center of Vietnam.

This tight round basket existed in the Xth century. Dương Vân Nga, a girl from Hoa Lư, was known at that time to excel in the art of rowing with this floating basket. But on the day of competition, Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh, the leader of a rival band of boys, succeeded in immobilizing her floating basket by perforating it with the means of a pole.

This victory enabled him to win not only the admiration but also the love of Duong Vân Nga. This floating basket allowed the fast transport of the troops through the marshes and the rivers and ensured the couple Dương Vân Nga and Đinh Bô. Lĩnh the victory over the Chinese a few years later. As for the second category, the basic constitution is made with wood. There is a multitude of different boats but the most known and the most used by the Vietnamese is the sampan or the boat with three boards (Thuyền tam bản). It is that which is employed to cross the streams or the rivers. The majority of the people who advance the sampans are young girls.

This is why there are many stories of love born of these boats. One continues to tell them, in particular the story of emperor Thành Thái with the oarswoman. If a Vietnamese man was used to crossing the river in his youth, this could probably incite in him intense regrets, memories and emotions when he has the occasion to return to the river bank to take the vat. He feels more or less distressed when he learns that the oarswoman, the girl whom he continues to pity the fate and whom he is not far from falling in love with is no longer there. Probably, she is now the mother of a family or she has joined another world but she is no longer there to welcome him with her charming and ingenuous smile. He is not long to recall that he no longer has the occasion to hear her refrain, or to see the sides of her worn tunic flying in the wind of the river during the crossing. It is in this unusual context that he feels an indescribable affliction. He regrets missing so many occasions to find his dock, his river, his native land and to leave for too long in the lapse of memory the eternal charm of the sampan, that of a Viet-Nam bygone .

The film director Ðặng Nhật Minh, most known currently in Vietnam, does not hesitate to show the opposite case, the discrete love of the young boatwoman living on the River of the Perfumes, to the foreign and vietnamese public through his film.

The girl from the river ( Cô gái trên sông ) 1987

It is the story of its heroine Nguyệt who, to the peril of her life, does not hesitate to save a wounded young man known for his subversive activities by the south vietnamese police during the war. She tries to hide him in her sampan. Once peace is returned, this young man becomes an important communist cadre. The girl tries to find him because she continues to harbor deep feelings for this man. Unfortunately, she feels afflicted and betrayed because this man pretends not to know her and does not like to recollect the troubling periods of his life… She tries to remake her life with her former lover Sơn whom she rejected a few years earlier and who had the occasion to spend a few years in the reeducation camp for having the offence of being enlisted in the south vietnamese army.

In spite of the few things in their constitution, the boats, in particular, the sampans (đò ngang ) continue to charm the Vietnamese. They do not hésitate to integrate them not only in their everyday life but also in the songs and the poems. The songs ” Con Thuyền Không Bến ” ( The sampan without dock ) from the composer Ðặng Thế Phong and Ðò Chiều ( the sampan of the Evening ) from Trúc Phương going back to several decades and several generations continue to be appreciated and show at such point the profound attachment of all the Vietnamese to their rudimentary boats.

As for the poems describing them, there is only the Vietnamese having the occasion to take the vat who manages to appreciate the finesse and the beauty found in the verses because one perhaps rediscovers through these poems a fragment of one’s life so animated and so closely hidden in one’s memory with more emotions and sadness than joy and happiness. By reading the following verses,

Trăm năm đã lỗi hẹn hò
Cây đa bến cũ con đò khác đưa
Our rendezvous did not take place a long time ago
The banian and the dock are always the same but the sampan has changed owner.

The reader could realize that he is also caught up as so many other Vietnamese by memories that he thinks of erasing from his memory with the passing of the years. He cannot continue to sadden himself as that could be made when one was young and in love through the two following verses:
Tương tư thuyền nhớ’ sông dài
Tương tư là có hai người nhớ’ nhau

It is no longer worth seeing each other again
It is best to leave definitively when one loves intensely

But one should have the courage to forget when the sampan is no longer there as that was said in the following four verses:
Vô duyên đã lỗi hẹn hò
Mong làm chi nữa con đò sang sông
Thôi đành chẳng gặp là xong
Nhớ thương bền chặt bền lòng ra đi
One misses the chance to be at the rendezvous
One no longer hopes when the sampan has already left
It is no longer worth seeing each other again
It is best to leave definitively when one loves intensely
What becomes of her at this moment? Is she dead or happy? Does she deserve the life she leads? Is she like the young boatwoman, sister Tham who saved many people from drowning and who died drowning without anybody rescuing her in the story “Chảy đi sông ơi ( Run, my river, 1988 ) ” of the talented writer Nguyễn Huy Thiệp? Is she like the young boatwoman Duyên who continues to hum a lullaby for her child:

Nước chảy đôi giòng …
…Con sông Thương …nước chảy đôi giòng …

One can go up or descend the current… of the river Love…
one can go up or descend the current..
and never asking questions about the life that was layed out for her just like the river that follows its course to the sea in the short story ” Nước Chảy Ðôi giòng ( At counter-current, 1932 ) from Nhất Linh?. These are the questions that the reader overcomed by memories continues to ask intimately. It is also the deep sadness, the poignant pain of the one who no longer has the occasion to find the freshness of his youth through the sampan and its dock which he was accustomed to take at a distant time. He had thought that with time this could erase all the memories as the water of the river evoked in the song with a strange sadness which sister Thắm likes to sing on the bank in the story ” Chảy đi sông ơi ( Run, my river, 1988 ) ” from Nguyễn Huy Thiệp:

Chảy đi sông ơi
Băn khoăn làm gì ?
Rồi sông đãi hết
Anh hùng còn chi ? …

Run my river
Why be tormented?
The river erases all
Even memories of the heroes…

Chuyện Tình Buồn ( The story of sad love ) of Phạm Duy

(1) Author of two works Bắc sứ Thi Tập ( Collection of poems written during a mission in China ) and Cấn Trai Thi Tập ( Collection of poems from Cấn Trai ).


Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (Version anglaise)

French version




Assigned up until 1986 to the job of drawing illustrations for school manuals in an office of Publishing and Education in Hà-Nội, Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, taking advantage of the openness policy known as Ðỗi Mới ( Renovation ) at the time the Vietnamese communist party held its 6th congress, published in 1987 his first book called ” The breezes of Hứa Tát” printed in ” Literature and Art”, the prestigious magazine of the National Association of Writers.

His success was not slow. But it was due mostly to his work entitled “The retirement of a general” when it was published in June 1987. This has provoked not only an earthquake in Vietnamese public opinion but also a hope to see draining in its trail a new generation of young writers without shady deal and having an independent and critical mind that seemed almost non-existent up until then in the Vietnamese literature.

His success was not slow. But it was due mostly to his work entitled ” The retirement of a general” when it was published in June 1987. This has provoked not only an earthquake in Vietnamese public opinion but also a hope to see draining in its trail a new generation of young writers without shady deal and having an independent and critical mind that seemed almost non-existent up until then in the Vietnamese literature.

· A general in retreat (in retirement)
· The heart of the tiger
· The vengeance of the wolf
· Demons live among us.
· Tale of love. A rainy evening
· The gold and fire
· My uncle Hoat
· In our twenties

licorneThanks to his collection of tales, Nguyễn Huy Thiệp became overnight a shining figure in the Vietnamese literature. His readers including the diaspora find in him not only the talent of a writer but also the boldness to break the taboo and the unspoken kept until then by customs and a system fallen into disuse. At present, he is considered a great Vietnamese writer. With his much sober style, he succeeds in sensitizing easily the reader because he uses metaphors and allusions with his raw language to describe the reality of today in Vietnam, the one with all alienation presently forming the social fabric of the country.

Selecting typical situations and characters in his novels and tales, he makes us uncover with terror all the contradiction of the Vietnamese society, all the unbearable truths, the gangrene of the Bad, the collapse of moral values of a society. He dares to display in public forum the collapse of a system, to scour the social flesh with his black humor and his freezing realism. He succeeds in showing us all the facets of society through his short and bare passages with a talent of a storyteller and that of a writer in total breaking off with the generation of writers compromising with the regime. If he succeeds in building news with an astonishing ease, it is a great deal due to his growing up in the countryside with his mother during his youth, and to his training as a historian when he attended teaching college in 1970 in Hanoi. The work of the Chinese historian Si Ma Qian (Tư Mã Thiên ) has an enormous influence on his tales, especially on his style. He has said one day in 1990 to the French magazine Libération: I don’t think people can write when uprooted. He preferred to stay in Vietnam in order to be able to write his tales, to reveal the true nature of a system and to express the anger and hidden feeling of a human being crushed by years in mud, war and deprivation. Although he has never been in politics, he is always a suspect in the eyes of the Vietnamese authorities because of his liberal words that shake state apparatus. He embodies the symbolic expression of the state of mind of the whole people in search of a stolen and lost treasure.

All those who defended him, in particular the manager of the Văn Nghệ. Review, have been fired. A campaign of denigration in the official media was launched in the past. He was blamed for having published the trilogy to historical argument that attacked national hero Quang Trung through his work “Dignity”. Despite censorship, threats and intimidation, the courageous newspapers continue to publish today his collections. Some of them have already been printed in French at l’Aube publishing house.

The characters in his tales are human beings sexually, morally and socially alienated. They are ordinary people that are thrown, by the ups and downs of life and the system, in perversion, humiliation, abuse, lunacy and profit. In ” There is no king”, dirty old man Kiên prefers to eye quietly hairy young women, in particular his daughter-in-law Sinh who because of her 5 children she has to raise, has no means to get remarried, that’s what he said to his son Ðoài when the latter overtly criticized him. It is shocking to see an 80-year old man dying of heart attack in “The Forgotten Land”, Panh who tried to fell a tree to contest a challenge and to be able to marry a 14-year old girl that he has known during his passage to Yên Châu. In “The Retirement of a general”, his character, retired general Thuận cannot keep his mouth shut when he dares to speak in front of his superiors about the three activities forming the indispensable economic model in the present system: gardening, fish farming and animal husbandry. He expiates a mistake of not knowing how to protect himself. He prefers an honorable death to an ignominious life. He was buried with all military honors. He was a great man. He died for his country during a mission, which was said by general Chương to his son. One sees profit and cronyism growing in all layers of society and new people. Each country has its own customs, said by Mr. Thuyết to his sawing employees in the novel “Sawyers in the long”. Likewise, the daughter-in-law of general Thuâ.n, taking advantage of her physician role, assigned to do abortion and curettage, takes home every night abandoned fetuses in a Thermos flask to cook and feed the pigs and shepherd dogs, which presently constitutes a significant financial resource for a Vietnamese family.

Nguyễn Huy Thiệp continues to angrily munch Vietnam with his tales and stories. Like everyone in Vietnam, he tries to find a solution to his daily needs and above all to give a meaning, a signification to his existence like his character Mr. Quý in his “Nostalgia of the Campaign”: To be intellectual is to be capable of giving a meaning to the life we live. In spite of a bitter heritage, he is at least content of the consolation though his tales and stories.

But for how long ? It is a question no one can give an answer to.

 Only the future politics of Vietnam will tell us.


Nguyễn Huy Thiệp (Version Française)

English version

Cantonné jusqu’en 1986 dans le travail de dessin des illustrations pour manuels scolaires dans un bureau des Editions de l’Education à Hà-Nội, Nguyễn Huy Thiệp, profitant de la nouvelle politique d’ouverture connue sous le nom ” Ðỗi Mới “( Renouveau ) lors du 6ème congrès du parti communiste vietnamien, publia en Janvier 1987 son premier recueil intitulé “Les vents de Hứa Tát” paru dans le journal prestigieux de l’Association des écrivains nationaux “Littérature et Art”.

Son succès ne tarda pas. Mais il le dut surtout à son recueil intitulé “La retraite du général” quand celui-ci parut en Juin 1987. Cela provoqua non seulement un séisme dans l’opinion publique vietnamienne mais aussi un espoir de voir drainer dans son sillage une nouvelle génération de jeunes écrivains sans compromission et ayant un esprit d’indépendance et de critique qui semble être quasi inexistant jusqu’alors dans la littérature vietnamienne.·

. Un général à la retraite
· Le coeur du tigre
· La vengeance du loup
· Les démons vivent parmi nous.
· Conte d’amour. Un soir de pluie
· L’or et le feu
· Mon oncle Hoat
· A nos vingt ans

licorneGrâce à ses recueils de nouvelles, Nguyễn Huy Thiệp devint du jour au lendemain la figure de proue de la littérature vietnamienne. Ses lecteurs y compris ceux de la diaspora retrouvèrent en lui non seulement le talent d’un écrivain mais aussi l’audace de briser le tabou et le non-dit entretenus jusqu’alors par les coutumes et par un système tombé en désuétude. On le considère actuellement comme le plus grand écrivain vietnamien. Avec son style très sobre, il arrive à sensibiliser facilement le lecteur car il sait se servir des métaphores et des allusions avec son langage cru pour décrire la réalité d’aujourd’hui du Viêt-Nam, celle de toutes les aliénations formant actuellement le tissu social du pays.

En sélectionnant des situations et des héros types dans ses nouvelles et ses contes, il nous fait découvrir avec effroi toutes les contradictions de la société vietnamienne, toutes les vérités insupportables, le gangrène du Mal, l’effondrement des valeurs morales d’une société. Il ose déballer sur la place publique la débâcle d’un système, fouailler la chair sociale avec son humour noir et son réalisme glacial. Il arrive à nous montrer toutes les facettes de la société à travers ses textes brefs et dépouillés avec le talent d’un conteur et celui d’un écrivain en rupture totale avec la génération des écrivains compromis avec le régime. S’il arrive à construire ses nouvelles avec une facilité étonnante, cela est dû en grande partie à sa jeunesse qu’il a vécue dans le milieu rural avec sa mère et à sa formation d’historien qu’il a suivie à Hà Nội dans l’université de Pédagogie à partir de 1970. L’oeuvre de l’historien chinois Si Ma Qian (Tư Mã Thiên) a influé énormément sur ses recueils, en particulier sur son style. Il a déclaré un jour en 1990 au journal français Libération: Je ne crois pas qu’on puisse écrire quand on est déraciné. Il a préféré rester au Viêt-Nam dans le but de pouvoir écrire ses recueils, de relever le constat d’un système et d’exprimer la colère et l’exil intérieur d’un être broyé par des années de boue, de guerre et de privations. Bien qu’il ne fasse jamais de politique, il est toujours suspect aux yeux des autorités vietnamiennes car sa parole libre fait trembler les appareils de l’état et il incarne l’expression symbolique de l’état d’âme de tout un peuple à la quête d’un trésor perdu et volé.

Tous ceux qui ont pris sa défense en particulier le directeur de la revue Văn Nghệ ont été limogés. On n’a pas hésité à lancer dans le passé une campagne de dénigrement dans la presse officielle. On lui reprocha la publication de la trilogie à argument historique qui portait atteinte au héros national Quang Trung à travers l’oeuvre “Dignité”. Malgré la censure, les menaces et les intimidations, les journaux courageux continuent à publier aujourd’hui ses recueils dont certains sont déjà parus en français aux éditions de l’Aube.

Les héros de ses recueils sont des êtres aliénés sexuellement, moralement et socialement. Ce sont des gens ordinaires que les aléas de la vie et le système précipitent dans la perversion, l’humiliation, l’abus, la folie et le profit. Dans “Il n’y a pas de roi”, le vieux Kiên préfère reluquer en douce sur les jeunes femmes à poil, en particulier sa bru Sinh car à cause de ses 5 enfants qu’il est obligé de nourrir et d’élever, il n’a pas le moyen de se remarier, ce qu’il dit à son fils Ðoai lorsque ce dernier l’a critiqué ouvertement. C’est choquant de voir mourir d’une crise cardiaque dans “La terre oubliée” un homme âgé de 80 ans, Panh qui a tenté d’abattre un arbre pour relever le défi et pour pouvoir épouser une jeune fille de 14 ans qu’il a connue lors de son passage à Yên Châu. Dans ” Un général à la retraite”, son héros, le général retraité Thuận ne sait pas retenir sa parole en osant parler devant son supérieur des trois activités formant le modèle économique indispensable dans le système actuel: le jardinage, l’élevage des poissons et des animaux domestiques. Il expie une faute dont il n’a pas su se préserver. Il préfère une mort honorable à la vie ignominieuse. On l’a enterré avec tous les honneurs militaires. C’est un grand homme. Il est mort pour la patrie au cours d’une mission, ce que le général Chương a dit à son fils. On voit se développer à toutes les couches de la société et à tous les niveaux le profit et le copinage. A chaque pays, ses coutumes, ce qu’a dit Mr Thuyết à ses employés scieurs dans la nouvelle “les scieurs de long”. De même, la bru du général Thuận, profitant de son rôle médecin, chargé des avortements et des curetages, récupère les foetus abandonnés qu’elle ramène à la maison tous les soirs dans une bouteille Thermos pour les faire cuire et pour nourrir les cochons et les chiens bergers constituant actuellement une ressource financière non négligeable pour une famille vietnamienne.

Nguyễn Huy Thiệp continue à croquer rageusement le Viêtnam avec ses recueils et ses contes. Comme les gens du Viêtnam, il essaie de trouver une solution à ses besoins quotidiens et de donner surtout un sens, une signification à son existence comme son héros Mr Quý dans “Nostalgie de la Campagne (Thương Nhớ Ðồng Quê)”: Être intellectuel c’est être capable de donner un sens à la vie qu’on mène. Malgré un héritage amer, il se contente d’avoir néanmoins sa consolation à travers ses récits et ses contes.

Mais pour combien de temps encore?

C’est une question à laquelle personne n’est capable de répondre.

Seul l’avenir politique du Viêtnam nous le dira. 

Literature (Văn chương)

French version



Viêt-Nam possesses an important literature, ancient as well as modern. Because of Chinese influence, the ancient literature was written in Chinese characters. It was only in about 13th century that the “nôm” began to replace the Chinese characters. Although the “nom” remains the expression of the common Vietnamese, it supposes the mastering of classical Chinese penmanship and the Vietnamese pronunciation of Chinese characters.

The Vietnamese literature tried to develop and freed itself from the Chinese model since 15th century, not only in style but also in theme. Nguyễn Trãi is one of the poets the most known by Vietnamese people. We owe him a collection of 254 poems in national language ( Quốc Âm Thi Tập ), whose translation into French language under the direction of P. Schneider is found in the Edition of CNRS, 1978, Paris. Nguyễn Trãi famous was his Bình Ngô Ðại Cáo ( Great Proclamation of The Pacification of The Ngô ). It is one of the most beautiful monuments of the Vietnamese literature.

But the most famous poems remain Chinh phu ngâm of poetess Ðoàn Thị Ðiểm and Kim Vân Kiều of Nguyễn Du ( 1756-1820 ). The latter composed during his retirement a novel composed of 3254 verses which symbolises for the majority of Vietnamese the heart and soul of the nation .

Everyone of Vietnamese knows it or many parts of it by heart. It is important to note that this masterpiece of the Vietnamese literature is also one of the masterpieces of world literature.

It is a poignant love story adapted from a Chinese novel, depicting an abundance of thoughts on the meaning of life, war, love and above all the purity of the soul inaccessible to bodily taints. The three key characters in this novel are Kim, Van and Kieu. Separated from Kim by cruel circumstances and after so many years of suffering and humiliation, Kieu was rescued from suicide by fishermen who fished her from the river where she had wanted to drown herself. Following is an excerpt of this novel that describes the reunion of Kim and Kieu at the temple where she had spent her peaceful days.

In the joy of their reunion, they are moved by thought of their love of days before,
From the time their youth blossomed, tender like a lotus, delicious like a peach,
Fifteen years have gone by and now the dream has come true.

The detachment from the Chinese models has been accelerated by the development of the “quốc ngữ” ( Vietnamese writing in Roman alphabet ) favored by the colonization. In 1932, motivated by Nguyễn Tường Tam also known as Nhat Linh, writing club Tự Lực Văn Ðoàn was founded. This movement endeavored itself to the creation of a national literature starting from traditional bases and the most acceptable foreign influences. It relied on a review called Ngày Nay whose editors team was made of known writers such as Khái Hưng, Thạch Lam, Thế Lữ etc..

The Vietnamese literature written in French began with Phạm Quỳnh through articles of reflection on Vietnamese culture and the difficulty of dialogue between eastern and western cultures. Phạm Duy Khiêm published legends and an autobiographic novel. Phạm Văn Ky elicited in a profound manner the dialogue of the East and the West in his romanesque works ( Blood Brothers, 1947; Those Who Will Reign, 1954 etc…). While historical evolution and mostly the war seemed to drain that literature, the arrival in France of several refugees has revived a literature of witnessing ( Kim Lefèvre ) and also one in search of identity.

Tự lực văn đoàn (Independent literary  group)

Hồ Xuân Hương poetess 

Independent Literary group (Tự lực văn đoàn)

French version

  • Hoàng Đạo
  • Thế Lữ
  • Thạch Lam
  • Xuân Diệu
  • Tú Mỡ
  • Trần Tiêu etc…

Titles of best-known novels

Hồn Bướm Mơ Tiên (1933)
Nữa Chừng Xuân (1934)
Ðoạn Tuyệt (1935)
Trống Mái (1936)
Lạnh Lùng (1937)
Tiêu Sơn Tráng sĩ (1937)
Thoát Ly (1938)
Tắt đèn (1939)
Bướm Trắng (1941)

Articles founded on the Net

Anh phải sống (1937)

Tiểu sữ Tự Lực Văn Đoàn 1930-1945

It is regrettable not to see appearing Nhất Linh et Khá’i Hưng’s names in today’s school curriculum or in anthologies published recently in foreign languages in Vietnam. However, they are the two best Vietnamese novelists at the dawn of 20th century.

People continue to look for and tear off rare issues published in South Vietnam before 1975. In spite of their selected topics generally relating to love, sentimental twists, dramas of the middle-class etc… at colonial time, they however continue to gain unanimous admiration of Vietnamese youth today, in particular of young Vietnamese living abroad because their writings are carrying not only a more or less occidentalized culture but also a purely Vietnamese romanticism. They succeeded in bringing to their works an innovative style, in using a simple vocabulary free of Sino-Vietnamese words perceived by Vietnamese young people as erudite words, and in approaching topics capable of adhering the youth: love-sacrifice, impossible love, vagueness in the soul etc…with a Cornelian glance as well as with Alfred de Musset’s romantic manner

It is regrettable not to see appearing Nhất Linh et Khá’i Hưng’s names in today’s school curriculum or in anthologies published recently in foreign languages in Vietnam. However, they are the two best Vietnamese novelists at the dawn of 20th century.

People continue to look for and tear off rare issues published in South Vietnam before 1975. In spite of their selected topics generally relating to love, sentimental twists, dramas of the middle-class etc… at colonial time, they however continue to gain unanimous admiration of Vietnamese youth today, in particular of young Vietnamese living abroad because their writings are carrying not only a more or less occidentalized culture but also a purely Vietnamese romanticism. They succeeded in bringing to their works an innovative style, in using a simple vocabulary free of Sino-Vietnamese words perceived by Vietnamese young people as erudite words, and in approaching topics capable of adhering the youth: love-sacrifice, impossible love, vagueness in the soul etc…with a Cornelian glance as well as with Alfred de Musset’s romantic manner.

“Hồn Bướm Mơ Tiên” (or Heart of a Butterfly in a Dream of Immortality), ” Nữa Chừng Xuân” ( or Mid-Spring ), “Ðoạn Tuyệt” ( or Rupture ,), “Anh Phải Sống” ( or You Must Live ) etc… continue to be the best-sellers preferred by Vietnamese youth today. It is not surprising to find that the topic of sacrifice approached about fifty years ago by Khai Hung in his works, is taken again recently by a young talented novelist Nguyễn Huy Thiệp in his novel ” Chảy đi sông ơi!” ( or Run! Run! Oh River ) in spite of a completely different political context.

In their writings, one finds not only modern use of clauses, adverbs, tense forms that were until then absent in Vietnamese prose, but also the use of personal pronouns. The “I, me” make their way in, with words like “anh”, “em”, “mình”, “cậu” that had not been used before in a sentence. It is noticed in the construction of their sentences a great economy of means, an unprecedented clarity, and a great effectiveness.

Coming from urban environment, influenced by the French culture since their younger age, they are unsurprisingly found inspired in their works by the models of Musset, Lamartine, Daudet, etc…when it is known that these French writers’ works formed part of the teaching curriculum at French lycee Albert Sarraut ( Hà-Nội ) where Khai Hung took his classes at colonial time. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1927 and taught at Thăng Long high school when Nhất Linh returned to Vietnam in 1930 after four years of scientific studies from France

His encounter with Khái Hưng at Thăng Long high school has overnight made them a famous and inseparable couple. They founded together the writing club Tự Lực Vân Ðoàn ( or Self-Sufficient Literary Group ) in 1933. Khái Hưng, who was nine years older than Nhất Linh, was however regarded as the “second” of this couple and was given the pseudonym of ” Nhị Linh” because Nhất Linh had already been author of two novels in 1926 and 1927. They acquired the merit of having brought clarity, concision, modernity to the Vietnamese literature and especially of knowing how to give to this modernity the soul of Vietnamese romanticism.

Contrary to other novelists of their time ( Vũ Trọng Phụng, Ngô Tất Tố for example), they did not have a critical view on social inequalities, virtues, and rural customs. They did not know how to help in fighting and denouncing these inequalities. But on the other hand, they tried to depict the most disfranchised social layer with much fineness and accuracy without having to defend it with horn and fanfare.

Is it why they are reproached of lacking combativeness and realism, tepidity in their manner of depicting the reality of urban society, and being influenced by western culture? It is certain that the episode of Musset’s Tales could be used as model by Khái Hưng because the heroine in the novel Anh Phải Sống, the young wife of the Vietnamese mason Thuc, let herself drowned in the flood like Madame des Arcis in the tales “Pierre et Camille” of Alfred de Musset in 1844. But Khái Hưng knew how to give his heroine the nobility and grandeur in the Vietnamese tradition.

Neither could be doubful their patriotism, their political involvement in Vietnamese nationalist movements. Because of their nationalist political orientation and especially their simple idealism, both have perished respectively like their heroines in Khái Hưng’s Anh Phải Sống ( You Must Live ) and in Nhất Linh”s “A Silhouette in the Fog”. Khái Hưng has deceased in 1947 under mysterious conditions near the Cửa Gà dock, in the district of Xuân Trường ( Hà Nam Ðịnh provine ) while Nhất Linh, disappointed for being misunderstood, took his life with poison on July 7, 1963 in Saigon.

butvietBoth of them tried to live their lives the way their heroines did with an exemplary stoicism. The literary heritage they left to the Vietnamese people is priceless. In a word, they are not only the pioneers of modern literature of Vietnam but also the most romantic novelists that Vietnam has ever known.

Groupe littéraire indépendant (Tự lực văn đoàn)

English version

  • Hoàng Đạo
  • Thế Lữ
  • Thạch Lam
  • Xuân Diệu
  • Tú Mỡ
  • Trần Tiêu etc…


Titres des romans connus

Hồn Bướm Mơ Tiên (1933)
Nữa Chừng Xuân (1934)
Ðoạn Tuyệt (1935)
Trống Mái (1936)
Lạnh Lùng (1937)
Tiêu Sơn Tráng sĩ (1937)
Thoát Ly (1938)
Tắt đèn (1939)
Bướm Trắng (1941)

Articles trouvés sur le Net
Anh phải sống (1937)

Tiểu sữ Tự Lực Văn Đoàn 1930-1945

Il est regrettable de ne pas voir figurer les noms de Nhất Linh et Khái Hưng dans les programmes d’enseignement d’aujourd’hui ou dans les anthologies publiées récemment en langues étrangères au Viêtnam. Pourtant, ce sont les deux meilleurs romanciers vietnamiens à l’aube du XXème siècle.

On continue à chercher et à s’arracher les rares rééditions parues au Sud-Vietnam d’avant 1975. Malgré leurs thèmes choisis portant d’une manière générale sur l’amour, sur les contorsions sentimentales, sur les drames de la bourgeoisie latifundiaire etc.. à l’époque coloniale, ils continuent à bénéficier pourtant de l’admiration unanime de la jeunesse vietnamienne d’aujourd’hui, en particulier de celle des jeunes Vietnamiens vivant à l’étranger car leurs écrits sont porteurs non seulement d’une culture plus ou moins occidentalisée mais aussi d’un romantisme purement vietnamien. Ils ont réussi à apporter à leurs oeuvres un style novateur, à utiliser un vocabulaire simple débarrassé de tous les mots sino-vietnamiens perçus par les jeunes vietnamiens comme des mots savants, à aborder des thèmes susceptibles d’avoir l’adhésion de la jeunesse: l’amour-sacrifice, l’amour impossible, le vague à l’âme etc.. avec un regard à la fois cornélien et romantique à la manière d’Alfred Musset.

“Hồn Bướm Mơ Tiên” (ou Ame de papillon dans un rêve d’immortalité”,”Nữa Chừng Xuân” (ou A mi-printemps)” “Ðoạn Tuyệt ( ou La Rupture )”, “Anh phải sống ( ou Tu Dois Vivre )” etc … continuent à être les best-sellers préférés par la jeunesse vietnamienne d’aujourd’hui. Il n’est pas étonnant de trouver que le thème du sacrifice abordé, il y a eu une cinquantaine d’années, par Khái Hưng dans son oeuvre, est repris récemment par le jeune romancier talentueux “Nguyễn Huy Thiệp” dans son roman Chảy đi sông ơi (ou Coule, coule ô fleuve) malgré un contexte politique tout à fait différent.

On trouve non seulement dans leurs écrits la modernité au niveau d’emploi des propositions, d’adverbes, d’indicateurs de temps qui étaient absents jusqu’alors dans la prose vietnamienne mais aussi au niveau d’emploi des pronoms personnels. Le “moi” fait son entrée ainsi que les mots “anh”, “em”, “mình”,”cậu” qui, auparavant n’étaient pas employés dans la phrase. On note aussi dans la construction de leurs phrases une grande économie des moyens, une clarté inouïe et une grande efficacité.

Issus du milieu urbain, imprégnés dès leur plus jeune âge de la culture française, il n’est pas étonnant de trouver qu’ils s’inspirent dans leurs oeuvres des modèles de Musset, Lamartine, Daudet etc.. lorsqu’on sait que les oeuvres de ces écrivains français firent partie du programme d’études au lycée français Albert Sarraut ( Hà-Nội ) où Khái Hưng fit ses études à l’époque coloniale. Il fut reçu bachelier en 1927 et enseigna au collège Thăng Long tandis que Nhất Linh rentra au Viêt-Nam en 1930 après avoir suivi ses quatre années d’études scientifiques en France.

Sa rencontre avec Khái Hưng au collège Thăng Long fit d’eux du jour au lendemain un couple littéraire célèbre et inséparable. Ils fondèrent ensemble le club Tự Lực Văn Ðoàn (ou Groupe Littéraire indépendant) en 1933. Khái-Hưng, plus âgé que Nhất-Linh de neuf ans, se considérait pourtant comme le “second” de ce couple et se donnait comme pseudonyme “Nhị Linh” car Nhất-Linh était déjà l’auteur de deux romans en 1926 et 1927. Ils ont eu le mérite d’apporter à la littérature vietnamienne la clarté, la concision, la modernité et de savoir donner surtout à cette dernière l’âme du romantisme vietnamien.

Contrairement à d’autres romanciers de leur époque ( Vũ Trọng Phụng, Ngô Tất Tố par exemple ), ils n’avaient pas un regard aussi aigu sur les inégalités sociales, sur les moeurs et les coutumes rurales. Ils n’avaient pas su s’en servir pour combattre et dénoncer ces inégalités. Par contre, ils tentaient de dépeindre avec beaucoup de finesse et de justesse la couche sociale la plus déshéritée sans être obligés de la défendre à cor et à cri.

Est -ce pour cela qu’on leur reproche le manque de combativité et de réalisme, la tiédeur dans leur manière de dépeindre les réalités de la société urbaine et l’imprégnation d’une culture à l’occidentale. Il est certain que l’épisode des Contes de Musset a pu servir de modèle à Khái-Hưng car l’héroïne de la nouvelle “Anh Phải Sống”, la jeune femme du maçon vietnamien Thức, se laissa couler dans les flots comme Madame des Arcis des Contes “Pierre et Camille” d’Alfred de Musset en 1844. Mais Khái-Hưng a eu le mérite de savoir donner à sa héroïne la noblesse et la grandeur dans la tradition vietnamienne.

On ne peut pas remettre en doute non plus leur patriotisme, leur engagement politique auprès des mouvements nationalistes vietnamiens. A cause de leurs orientations politiques nationalistes et surtout à cause de leur simple idéalisme, tous les deux ont péri comme leurs héroïnes respectives dans “Tu dois Vivre” de Khái Hưng et dans ” Une silhouette dans la brume ” de Nhất Linh. Khái-Hưng est décédé en 1947 dans des conditions mystérieuses près du débarcadère Cửa Gà dans le district de Xuân Trường ( province Hà Nam Ðịnh) tandis que Nhất-Linh, déçu d’être incompris, s’empoisonna le 7 Juillet 1963 à Saigon. butviet

Leur vie, tous les deux ont essayé de la mener comme leurs héroïnes avec un stoïcisme exemplaire. Leur héritage littéraire qu’ils ont laissé au peuple vietnamien est inestimable. En un mot, ce sont non seulement les pionniers de la littérature moderne du Viêt-Nam mais aussi les romanciers les plus romantiques que le Viêtnam ait connus.











The animal world in the Vietnamese belief

French version


© Đặng Anh Tuấn 

Since the beginning of time, the Vietnamese were used to living in an inhospitable environment. Their living conditions were very hard and nature is extremely tough and pitiless. They must learn how to live with wild animals, tricking them and beating them. From that came a number of prejudices and superstitions. It is found in popular songs not only a kind of experience lived by the Vietnamese in the animal reign but also a certain philosoply sometimes just and simple. Based on observations and behavior found in the animal world, they succeeded in enriching their popular songs giving them a more invigorating, humorous, attractive and moralizing characteristic. Without referring to these wild and familiar creatures, popular songs would probably have lost their attractiveness they have kept so far. The following example indisputably illustrates this agreement borrowed from the animal reign:

Chim khôn tiếc lông
Người khôn tiếc lời
An intelligent bird keeps it feathers,
Wise people do not waste their words.

Without alluding to the bird and its feathers, the second verse would probably not have its significant range of subtlety. Likewise, in a concise manner, the following proverb depicts and sums up everything :

Một con quạ, đồn ba con ác

Rumor turns a crow into three magpies

to refer to a brag.

Instead of using the word “quạ” to mean a crow, the word “ác” is prefereed because in Chinese-Vietnamese dictionary “ac” also means evil. By its pronunciation and connotation, it brings us into inescapably thinking of something harmful while keeping intact the significant range of the proverb. It is not surprising to see a crow here because it is the bird the Vietnamese hate and spit upon. Thanks to this detestable bird, the degree of importance can be measured given the reflection contained in the proverb.

By using popular songs, proverbs and legends, the Vietnamese have on several occasions shown their opinion on the animal reign. Certain wild animals are respected and sacred, others are not. Having to share the same environment with wild animals, they do not hesitate to associate them in their daily life, to reserve a particular regard to each of them, and to give them a hierarchic classification to the image of the Vietnamese society. All that has unquestionably been dictated by their live observations and experiences that with the flow of time become transmitted from generation to generation and anchored intimately in their mind.

The egret is a kind of heron that we used to see in company with the peasants on rice fields. Leaning on its long legs, she ceaselessly tiptoes quietly there in search of food or advances seriously in long strides.

This picture is not foreign to the impression the Vietnamese give to this creature. Is she the mysterious wader that we see carved on the bronze drums of Ðồng Sơn. In anyway, she is the symbol of purity and sacrifice. That is what we found in the following popular song:

Con cò lặn lội bờ ao
Tôi có tội nào ông sáo với măng
Có sào thì sáo nước trong
Chớ sáo nước đục đau lòng cò con !

The egret searching for food at night time
Landing on a weak branch, she tumbles in the pond.
Sir, please fish me out of here,
If I am unfaithful you may want to cook me with bamboo shoot.
Cooking me you have to use clear water,
Don’t use dirty water, it hurt the feeling of this tiny egret!

She is also evoked in another song, identifying herself to a Vietnamese woman:

Con cò lặn lội bờ sông,
Gánh gạo đưa chồng tiếng khóc nĩ non,
Nàng về nuôi cái cùng con,
Ðể anh đi trãy nước non Cao-Bằng.

Like an egret wading at the river side,
Hauling rice accompanying her husband she sobs:
I am returning home to take care of mother and children,
So you may rest assured trekking the Cao Bang rugged terrain.
The egret is appreciated such that in some regions of Vietnam it is given the title of nobility: Mister Farmer ( Ong Nông ). This respect may probably be due to its beautiful plumage and its imposing look in the middle of the rice fields. Being alongside with it, the peasants consider it as a companion that know how to participate in their daily occupations. The same for the heron ( vạc) who is synonymous with elegance and longevity. We use to say : Cưỡi hạc chầu trời to allude to an old person who passes away. On the contrary, a crow is seen unfavorably. Because of its black feathers, this creature is synonymous with misfortune. Its sudden appearance in front of the house or on the way calls for a bad omen. To blame the public for having an erroneous opinion, we borrow this proverb:

Quạ ăn dưa bắt cò phơi nắng
Nghĩ lại sự đời quạ trắng cò đen

The crow eats the melon but the egret is punished by having to stay in the sun
Reflecting on life gives the feeling that the crow is white and the egret is black.

Likewise, the bear is not so much favorite. It is called “Cha Cụ” or “Cha Gấu ( father bear ). The term “Cha” is very derogatory. It is seen in this designation a contemptible and ridiculous character. The allusion is probably made to show someone who, even he is the head of the family, does not live up to his role and deserve a particular regard. Would it have anything to do with the weight and slowliness of this plantigrade in its gait? In spite of that unjustified appellation, the bear is not as unfortunate as other creatures against whom the discrimination is even more visible. The pelican (chim bồ nông ), despite its respectable size and its extensible pouch where fish are stored for feeding its chicks, receives only a little title “thằng bè” ( or the heavy guy ). The teal ( con le le ) is often called ” thằng bồng” while the kingfisher ( chim bói cá ) is often labeled as “thằng chài” ( the one who fishes with a net ).

For the latter, there is no doubt on the choice of this attribution which is probably tied to the agility of this bird in its dive and capture of fish. The term “thằng” is intentinonally used to show a state of inferiority of the creature or the person in question in relation with other species or individuals. It is also the case of the loon that is often called “thằng cộc” thằng cha cộc”. Some birds are bluntly feminized because we grant them the title “mệ”( grandma ) or “mạ” ( mother ). It is the case of the heron ( con diệc ) that we use to called “mạ diệc” ( mother heron ). Another creature of the same family as the heron, the squacco heron, receives the title “mệ thợm” ( the crabeating gossiper ).heron

Nothing contradicts the description of those creatures in the following proverb:

Chống cậy mà đi là con cha cộc
Con độ mũi nốc là con thằng chài

The bird that walks with canes is the loon
The bird that perches forward is the kingfisher

Some creatures are considered as those who come from Heaven living in open sky. The word “Trời” ( or sky, heaven ) is found in their names. It is the case of “vịt trời” ( wild duck ) “ngỗng trời”( wild goose ) or ngựa trời ( religious mantis ) or horse from the sky.On the other hand, the Vietnamese think that other creatures can capture their thoughts, and out of fear and reprisals they pay respect to those creatures in order to escape their mortal traps. That is why the word “Thiêng” is used to depict supernatural creatures.

It is the case of the little mouse ( con chuột ). They dare not call it by its name despite its minuscule size. They prefer to give it the tittle ” Ông Thiêng ” ( or Mister Sacred ) because it is capable of carrying out reprisals and of knowing all the secrets and privacy in their house. Likewise, the sparrow ( chim se sẽ ) receives the same honor as the mouse’s. By its supernatural force the sparrow can escape from the trap and cause big damages by destroying their rice stocks.


The ant takes part in the supernatural creatures the same way as the elephant ( ông voi) and the tiger ( ông cọp, ông Ba Mươi ) . The latter two have the capability of listening to their conversations, which makes them known as “ông Thính” ( Mister Listener ). It is attributed to the tiger the aptitude of bearing on its shoulder the soul of its victim. This one, wandering and known under the term “Ma” ( ghost ) compels the tiger to return to where the victim lived in search for offerings. It is the way to interpret the return of the tiger around the area where the victim was devoured in order to catch another prey. That is why it is very necessary to find at any costs what belongs to the victim, burn it together with a double made of paper and that of the tiger and bury them carefully in order to return the soul indefinitely into the tomb. It is ceaselessly believed that the tiger’s whiskers possess a character harmful to health. That is why in order to avoid the damages that may be caused by these whiskers, they decide to burn them immediately at the capture of this big cat. It is attributed that caterpillars would come from the tiger’s foam. It is impossible to find a medicine to heal a wound caused by the unexpected contact with these tiny creatures. For most Vietnamese, the tiger is sometimes feared and revered. For fear of reprisals, they keep not only signs of respect but also temples and altars dedicated in its honor and scattered here and there in the forest. Even before killing it after capturing it, they do not even forget to give it the last homage in holding a preliminary ceremony. They use to compare themselves with the tiger by means of the following maxim:

Hùm chết để da, người chết để tiếng.
Le tigre mort laisse sa peau et l’homme décédé sa réputation.

and to grant the king of the animals an irreproachable veneration. Despite that, the animal the most preferred remains the dragon. This one is part of the four animals with supernatural power ( Tứ Linh ) ( the dragon ( rồng, long ) , the unicorn ( lân ), the turtle ( quy, rùa ) and the phoenix ( loan, phượng, phụng ) ) and occupies the first place. It is the emblematic animal traditionally chosen by the king on his clothes. It appears as a key element of the Vietnamese mythology. All Vietnamese strongly believe they are descendents of this fabulous and mythical animal. The unicorn is synonymous with happiness. As for the turtle, it is not only the symbol of longevity but also that of the transfer of spiritual value in the Vietnamese tradition. Its presence has been mentioned many times in the history of Vietnam by means of legends. ( The magic crossbow offered by the golden turtle god to king An Dương Vương in his struggle against Chinese general Triệu Ðà ( Zhao Tuo ), the return of the sword to the turtle god by the future king Lê Lợiafter his shining victory over Chinese invaders, the Ming at the Hoan Kiem lake). The phoenix always identifies with beauty. This mythical bird is often referred to in marriage. Someone having the profile of the son of Heaven ( tướng thiên tử ) is depicted as having the nose of the dragon and the eyes of the phoenix ( mũi rồng mắt phượng).

To separate the lovers, it is said: Chia loan rẽ phượng. Loan is the meaning of the female phoenix while phượng is used for the male one.

Besides these mythical animals, there is another one often spoken of in Vietnamese annals and that is the water dragon ( con thuồng luồng ). It is a serpent resembling an eel, which has been described in P. Genibrel’s dictionary. To protect themselves against the water dragons, the Vietnamese used to tattoo their body so that they would not look different and be killed by these animals when they go fishing. This custom disappeared only during the reign of Trần Anh Tôn who himself renounced this practice. The water dragon is also the subject of the following proverb:

Thuồng luồng không ở cạn
The water dragon don’t live in the places where there is no water.

to mean that people of quality do not associate with lower people.

In the coastal regions, the animal the most revered remains the whale (or cá voi, cá ông). It is not surprising to see in each village along the coast, springing up an altar dedicated for this mammal. The profound attachment to this cetacean from Vietnamese fishermen is due to a great number of blessings it brought them.

Altar reserved for the whale.( Poulo Cham)


In Vietnam, attention is made to precursor of natural phenomena seen in the behavior of wild creatures. Out of the roar of a tiger in search for food, the dry and staccato sound made by a deer or the squeal of a squirrel, a change of weather could be forecast (incoming wind or rain from the north). The hooting of a rooster of pagoda ( chim bìm bịp ) is a sign of an incoming flood. Seeing the ants building their big earthen nests in a hurry in the trees along the riverside, it would be possible to predict that a rise in water level is imminent. The unjustified song of a rooster predicts a bad news. The nibbling of mice in the house is not a good omen at all. The hooting of an owl near the house announces the imminent death of the sick if any in it. The drop of a spider from the ceiling is a mark of an infidelity in the household. The flight of a dragonfly on the ground level signals the imminent arrival of sunshine or rain. It is said in the following little saying:

Chuổn chuổn bay thấp thì mưa
Bay cao thì nắng, bay vừa thì râm
The dragonfly flying low brings rain
Flying high gives sunshine, flying average height predicts shadow.

A scientific explanation can be provided to that saying because the dragonfly possesses a pouch of water enabling it to regulate the altitude of its flight in function with air humidity. It is the application of the Archimedean push in air that we find in this behavior.

This superstition has been exploited in the past with ingenuity by a great number of Vietnamese leaders to consolidate their legitimacy in the conquest of power. It becomes a formidable and efficient weapon in the struggles against foreign invaders. It can be said that it was at the time what we have now with psychological warfare. The credulity has been put in evidence several times in the history of Vietnam. To facilitate access to the throne of the young virtuous Lý Công Uẩn, the future king of the Lý dynasty, the erudite monk Vạn Hạnh decided to mark discreetly the word ” thiên tử ” ( son of Heaven ) on the back of a white dog in the village Cổ Pháp and spreaded the rumor that in the current year of the Dog, there will be a new king born under the sign of the Dog to bring peace to people. That was why people did not contest the legitimacy of Lý Công Uẩn the day he took power and ascended the throne in the year of the Dog ( Canh Tuất 1010 ) under the pressure of Ðào Cam Mộc and his close relations led by monk Vạn Hạnh because people thought everything was decided in advance and that he was sent by Heaven to become king and that he was born in the year of the Dog (Giap Tuat) in 974. To shelter the capital from the caprices of the Red river, Lý Công Uẩn, heeding the advice of geomancers, intended to move the capital to Thăng Long ( or later Hà Nội). For this moving, it was necessary to make people believe that he had seen in his dream a golden dragon flying over this locality. That would help him neutralize peacefully any ideas of contestation and revolt. Likewise, several centuries later, it is not surprising to see the building of a fantastic story of the legend on the character of Lê Lợi, a rich Mường farmer at Lam Sơn in the goal of unifying all the Vietnamese people facing their destiny and of stopping all claims of submission in the struggle against Chinese invaders ( the Ming ). It was also the resistance led by a Vietnamese of Muong origin for the first time in the history of Việtnam. It was successful to make people believe that before Lê Lợi’s birth, there was a black tiger roaming around his village. Since his birth, the tiger was no longer seen in the area. It was attributed to Lê Lợi the reincarnation of that king of animals. It was Nguyễn Trãi, his political and military counsel that described it in his work “Lam Sơn Thục Lục using the following terms:

Vua Lê vai tả có bảy nốt ruồi, long lá đầy người, tiếng như chuông lớn, ngồi như hổ ….

King Lê has 7 moles on his right shoulder, a hairy body, a voice that sounds like a big bell, a look like a tiger when seated.
It was also Nguyen Trai’s clever idea to spread for several months the following message written with toothpicks and honey on leaves that people found nibbled by ants:

Lê Lợi vì dân, Nguyễn Trãi vì thân

Lê Lợi for the people, Nguyễn Trãi for Lê Lợi

in the goal of showing the people that it was Heaven’s will and that Le Loi was designated as the sole and legitimate heir in the struggle against the Ming invaders.

To make disappear the visible affliction of a great number of people before the fate reserved for Gia Long’s foes, especially the family of emperor Quang Trung ( beheading king Cảnh Thinh, exhuming his tomb, torturing by means of elephant stamping on all his people and relatives ) and to legitimize his grab of power, many of legends around Gia Long have been brought into daylight. First is the story of encounter with his eunuch general Lê Văn Duyệt. This one, known by his courage and strength, having up until then led a hidden and reserved life with his mother in a remote corner of South Vietnam, did not hesitate to kill anyone who dared disturb him. Having known this motto and been pursued relentlessly by the Tây Sơn ( the Peasants of the West ), Nguyễn Ánh, the future emperor Gia Long decided to go see him and make friend with him. With his lieutenant Nguyễn Văn Thành, he found his house but Lê Văn Duyệt was absent at the moment. His mother invited them for lunch but advised them go withdraw immediately because she knew well the character of her son. Seeing the strangers in his house, he would not hesitate to kill them. Facing Nguyen Anh’s resolution to see her son, she was obliged to let them stay overnight. On his returning home, Le Van Duyet was annoyed by the presence of strangers in his home. But he noticed hat the young man was surrounded by a snake whose head leaned on his chest. Troubled by this protection, he timidly asked his mother: Who is the person protected by the snake? Surprised by his question, she went to the room where Nguyen Anh was sleeping. She found no snake. Only Lê Văn Duyệt had seen that scene. For him there is no doubt that he was face to face with the person uncommon and under divine protection. He went to wake him up and asked him of the news. Lê Văn Duyệt became from that day one of his best and brilliant faithful in the conquest of power. According to the French erudite Léopold Cadière, the fabulous animal resembling the dragon found on Gia Long’s imperial costume or on the stage of his throne would probably evoke the snake’s protection that Nguyen Anh benefited during his years of vicissitude. Another time when he had to take refuge on the Phú Quốc island, Nguyen Anh was almost captured by the Tay Son if his boat was not held back and hampered by crocodiles. Intrigued by this omen, he knelt at the front of his boat and called upon Heaven:

If the enemies are hanging a trap at the mouth of river Ông Ðốc , please let me know by making disappear and reappear these crocodiles three times at once, if not, let me go now because time is very important for me.

Effectively, the disappearance and reappearance of the reptiles took place three time at once. Witnessing this unusual phenomenon responding to his wish, he did not want to go. To make sure of the presence of the enemies, a scout was sent out immediately. There was no more doubt that the enemies were waiting for him outnumbered on that day. If we do not know whether Nguyen Anh were under divine protected, then by means of historical stories we notice that he was a young prince, very courageous and intrepid. He was once chased by his enemies. He was compelled to swim across a river despite a great number of crocodiles. He had to resort to a buffalo to wade at the riverside in order to make the crossing.

The Vietnamese man is born with this belief. Without it, it would appear hard for him to overcome his daily life difficulties encountered in his inhospitable environment where fatality is in place. If superstition bears a certain image of pusillanimity, it remains nevertheless a effective weapon that the Vietnamese man does not miss an occasion to use in forging his destiny and purpose. He does not let himself being dragged too much into Cartesian mind to refute what belongs to the heritage of beliefs of his people.


Le monde des animaux dans la croyance vietnamienne

English version


© Đặng Anh Tuấn

Depuis la nuit des temps, les Vietnamiens ont l’habitude de vivre dans un environnement inhospitalier. Leurs conditions de vie sont très dures et la nature est extrêmement rude et impitoyable. Il faut apprendre à vivre avec les créatures sauvages, à ruser et à les combattre. C’est avec elles que sont nés un grand nombre de préjugés et de superstitions. C’est dans la plupart des chansons populaires qu’on relève non seulement une sorte d’expérience vécue par les Vietnamiens avec le règne animal mais aussi une certaine philosophie à la fois juste et simple. En s’appuyant sur des observations et des comportements trouvés dans le monde des animaux, ils ont réussi à enrichir leurs chansons populaires en donnant à ces dernières un caractère plus tonique, plus humoristique, plus attrayant et plus moralisateur.


Sans se référer à ces créatures sauvages et familières, elles perdraient probablement l’attrait qu’elles continuent à garder jusqu’alors. L’exemple suivant témoigne incontestablement de cet agrément emprunté dans le règne animal:

Chim khôn tiếc lông
Người khôn tiếc lời
L’oiseau intelligent tient à ses plumes
L’homme intelligent ne prodigue pas ses paroles.

Sans faire allusion à l’oiseau et à son plumage, le deuxième vers n’aurait pas probablement toute sa portée significative et sa subtilité. De même, tout est décrit et résumé d’une manière concise dans le proverbe suivant:

Một con quạ, đồn ba con ác

Il existe un seul corbeau. Avec la rumeur, on se retrouve avec trois pies pour désigner un hâbleur.

Au lieu de réutiliser le mot “quạ” désignant le corbeau, on préfère le mot “ác” qui, malgré la même signification trouvée dans le dictionnaire sino-vietnamien, est aussi synonyme du mal. Par sa prononciation et sa connotation, cela nous fait penser inéluctablement à quelque chose nuisible tout en gardant intacte la portée significative de ce proverbe. Rien n’est étonnant de voir le corbeau y figurer car cet oiseau est détesté et honni par les Vietnamiens. Grâce à cette créature haïssable, on pourrait mesurer le degré d’importance accordé à la réflexion qu’on aime retenir avec ce proverbe.

Par le biais de ces chansons populaires, des proverbes et des légendes, les Vietnamiens ont l’occasion de montrer maintes fois leurs opinions sur le règne animal. Certaines créatures sauvages sont respectées et sacrées, d’autres ne le sont pas. À force de partager le même environnement, ils n’hésitent pas à les associer dans leur vie journalière, à réserver à chacune d’elles un égard particulier et à leur donner un classement hiérarchique à l’image de la société vietnamienne. Tout cela a été dicté indiscutablement par leurs observations et leurs expériences vécues qui deviennent au fil des années des préjugés transmis de génération en génération et ancrés intimement dans leur esprit.

L’aigrette est une sorte de héron qu’on est habitué à voir en compagnie avec des paysans sur les champs des rizières. S’appuyant sur de longues jambes, elle ne cesse pas d’y barboter silencieusement à la recherche de la nourriture ou elle s’avance gravement aux longues enjambées.

Cette image n’est pas étrangère à l’impression que les Vietnamiens ont accordée à cette créature. Est-elle l’échassier mystérieux qu’on a vu gravé sur les tambours de bronze de Ðồng Sơn? En tout cas, elle est le symbole de la pureté et du sacrifice. C’est ce qu’on a retrouvé dans la chanson populaire suivante:

Con cò lặn lội bờ ao
Tôi có tội nào ông sáo với măng
Có sào thì sáo nước trong
Chớ sáo nước đục đau lòng cò con !

Je suis l’aigrette qui barbote au bord de la mare
Si j’ai mal fait, vous pourrez me faire cuire avec les jeunes pousses de bambou
Mais en cas de préparation, faites-moi cuire dans de l’eau claire et propre
Ne me faites pas cuire dans l’eau malpropre. Cela fera mal au coeur à la pauvre petite aigrette!

S’identifiant à la femme vietnamienne, elle est évoquée dans une autre chanson:

Con cò lặn lội bờ sông,
Gánh gạo đưa chồng tiếng khóc nĩ non,
Nàng về nuôi cái cùng con,
Ðể anh đi trãy nước non Cao-Bằng.
Analogue à l’aigrette barbotant au bord du fleuve,
Portant le riz paddy, elle accompagne son mari avec douleurs et pleurs
En rentrant à la maison, elle s’occupe de sa belle- mère et de ses enfants,
Elle lui laisse le temps d’accomplir le service militaire.
L’aigrette est tellement appréciée que dans certaines régions du Việt Nam on n’hésite pas à lui accorder le titre de noblesse: Monsieur le Paysan (Ông nông). Ce respect est dû probablement à son beau plumage et à son allure imposante au milieu des champs des rizières. À force de la côtoyer, les paysans la considèrent comme un compagnon qui sait participer à leurs occupations journalières. De même le héron (vạc) est synonyme de l’élégance et de la longévité. On a l’habitude de dire: Cưỡi hạc chầu trời pour faire allusion à une personne âgée qui rend l’âme en douceur. Par contre, on voit d’un mauvais oeil le corbeau. À cause de son plumage noir, cette créature est synonyme du malheur. Son apparition instantanée devant la maison ou son passage annoncent un mauvais présage. Pour reprocher au public d’avoir une opinion erronée, on n’hésite pas à emprunter ce proverbe.

Quạ ăn dưa bắt cò phơi nắng
Nghĩ lại sự đời quạ trắng cò đen

Le corbeau est en train de manger la pastèque tandis que l’aigrette est punie sous un soleil accablant
En s’adonnant à la réflexion sur la vie, on s’aperçoit que le corbeau est blanc et l’aigrette devient noire

De même l’ours n’est pas très choyé. On l’appelle “Cha Cụ” ou “Cha gấu” (le père ours). Le qualificatif de “Cha” est très péjoratif. On voit dans cette désignation le caractère méprisable et ridicule. On voudrait faire allusion probablement à quelqu’un qui, étant pourtant père d’une famille, n’est pas à la hauteur de son rôle et ne mérite pas d’avoir un égard particulier. S’agit -t-il de la lourdeur et de la lenteur de ce plantigrade dans sa démarche? Malgré cette appellation injustifiée, l’ours n’est pas aussi malheureux par rapport aux autres créatures auxquelles la discrimination est encore plus visible. Le pélican (chim bồ nông), malgré sa taille respectable et sa poche extensible où sont emmagasinés les poissons destinés à nourrir ses jeunes, ne reçoit que le mince titre “thằng bè” ( ou le mec mastoc ). La sarcelle (con le le) est désignée souvent par le nom “thằng bồng” tandis que le martin pêcheur (chim bói cá) est connu souvent sous l’étiquette “thằng chài” (celui qui pêche à l’épervier) .

Pour ce dernier, il n’y a pas de doute sur le choix de cette attribution qui est liée probablement à l’agilité de cet oiseau dans sa plongée et dans la capture des poissons. Le qualificatif de thằng est employé intentionnellement dans le but de signifier l’état d’infériorité de la créature ou de la personne en question par rapport à d’autres espèces ou à d’autres individus. C’est aussi le cas du plongeon qu’on appelle souvent sous le nom thằng cộc ou thằng cha cộc. Certains oiseaux sont carrément féminisés car on leur accorde le titre “mệ” (ou grand-mère) ou mạ (ou mère). C’est le cas du héron (con diệc) qu’on a l’habitude d’appeler sous le nom ” mạ diệc ” (la mère héron). Une autre créature de la même famille que le héron, le crabier, reçoit le titre “mệ thợm” (la commère crabier).

Rien n’est contredit par la description de ces créatures dans le proverbe suivant:

Chống cậy mà đi là con cha cộc
Con độ mũi nốc là con thằng chài

L’oiseau qui s’appuie sur les bâtons dans sa marche est bien le plongeon
L’oiseau qui perche à l’avant de la barque est bien le martin-pêcheur

Certaines créatures sont considérées comme celles provenant du Ciel ou vivant à ciel ouvert. On trouve dans leur nom le mot “Ciel” (trời). C’est le cas de vịt trời (canard sauvage), ngỗng trời (oie sauvage) ou ngựa trời (mante religieuse) ou cheval du ciel. Par contre, pour d’autres créatures, le respect dicté par la crainte et les représailles n’est plus mis en doute. Les Vietnamiens pensent que ces créatures arrivent à capter leur pensée et qu’elles arrivent à s’échapper par conséquent de leur piège mortel. C’est pourquoi le mot “Thiêng” est utilisé dans le but de désigner ces créatures surnaturelles. C’est le cas de la petite souris (con chuột). Malgré sa taille minuscule, ils n’osent pas l’appeler par son nom. Ils préfèrent de lui attribuer le titre “Ông thiêng” (ou Monsieur le Sacré) car il est capable d’effectuer des représailles et de connaître tous les secrets et les intimités de leur famille et de leur maison. De même, le moineau (chim sẽ) reçoit le même honneur que la petite souris. Par sa force surnaturelle, il arrive à s’échapper de leur piège et peut leur causer de gros dégâts en détruisant tous leurs stocks de riz. 

La fourmi fait partie aussi des créatures surnaturelles en même temps que l’éléphant (ông voi) et le tigre (ông cọp, ông Ba Mươi). Ces derniers ont la capacité d’écouter leurs conversations, ce qui fait d’eux connus souvent sous le nom “Ông thính” (Monsieur l’écouteur). On attribue au tigre l’aptitude d’emporter sur son dos l’âme de sa victime. Celle-ci, errante et connue sous le nom “Ma” oblige le tigre à revenir sur le lieu ou l’endroit où la victime habite pour chercher ses offrandes. C’est une façon d’interpréter le retour du tigre aux alentours de l’endroit où la victime a été dévorée dans le but de s’emparer d’autres proies. 

C’est pour cette raison qu’il est indispensable de retrouver à tout prix ce qui appartient à la victime, de le brûler ensemble avec son sosie en papier ainsi que celui du tigre. Puis il faut les enterrer avec soin dans le but de faire entrer définitivement l’âme dans la tombe. On ne cesse pas de croire que les moustaches du tigre ont un caractère nuisible pour la santé. Pour parer à des dégâts que peuvent provoquer ces moustaches, on décide de les brûler immédiatement lors de la capture de ce fauve. On attribue également la formation des chenilles hérissonnes à partir de la bave du tigre. Il est impossible de trouver un médicament pour cicatriser une plaie provoquée par le contact inopiné avec ces bestioles.

Pour la plupart des Vietnamiens, le tigre est à la fois un animal redouté et vénéré. Par crainte des représailles, ils lui réservent non seulement des signes de respect mais aussi des temples et des autels dédiés en son honneur et éparpillés un peu partout dans la forêt. Même avant de le tuer après sa capture, ils n’oublient pas non plus de lui rendre un dernier hommage en célébrant préalablement une cérémonie. Ils sont habitués à se comparer au tigre par le biais de la maxime suivante:

Hùm chết để da, người chết để tiếng.
Le tigre mort laisse sa peau et l’homme décédé sa réputation.
et à accorder au roi des animaux une vénération irréprochable. Malgré cela, l’animal préféré reste le dragon. Celui-ci fait partie des quatre animaux au pouvoir surnaturel (Tứ Linh) ( dragon ( rồng, long ), licorne ( lân ), tortue ( qui, rùa ) et phénix ( loan, phượng, phụng ) ) et occupe la première place. Il est l’animal emblématique choisi traditionnellement par l’empereur sur ses vêtements. Il passe aussi pour un élément clé de la mythologie Việt. Tout Vietnamien se croit fermement descendant de cet animal fabuleux et mythique. La licorne est synonyme du bonheur. Quant à la tortue, elle est non seulement le symbole de la longévité mais aussi celui de transmission des valeurs spirituelles dans la tradition vietnamienne. Sa présence a été citée maintes fois dans l’histoire du Viêt-Nam par le biais des légendes. (L’arbalète magique offerte par le génie de la tortue d’or au roi An Dương Vương dans la lutte contre le général chinois Triệu Ðà, la remise de l’épée au génie de la tortue d’or par le futur roi Lê Lợi après sa victoire éclatante sur les envahisseurs chinois, les Ming dans le lac Hồ Hoàn Kiếm). Le phénix s’identifie toujours à la beauté. On fait référence souvent à cet oiseau mythique dans le mariage. Pour décrire quelqu’un ayant le profil de fils du ciel (tướng thiên tử) on lui dit qu’il a le nez du dragon et les yeux de phénix ( mũi rồng mắt phượng ).

Pour séparer les amoureux, on a l’habitude de dire: Chia loan rẽ phượng. Loan est employé souvent pour faire allusion à un phénix femelle tandis que le vocable “phượng” est réservé pour un mâle.

Outre ces animaux mythiques, il y a un animal dont on a parlé souvent dans les annales vietnamiennes. C’est le dragon d’eau (ou con thuồng luồng). C’est un serpent ressemblant beaucoup à l’anguille, c’est ce qui a été décrit dans le dictionnaire de P. Génibrel. Pour se protéger contre les dragons d’eau, les Vietnamiens avaient l’habitude de se tatouer. Ils n’étaient pas ainsi reconnus différents et ils évitaient d’être tués par ces animaux au moment de leur pêche. Cette coutume disparut seulement sous le règne du roi Trần Anh Tôn lorsque celui-ci renonça lui-même à cette pratique. Le dragon d’eau est aussi le sujet du proverbe suivant:

Thuồng luồng không ở cạn
Le dragon d’eau ne vit pas dans les endroits où il y a peu d’eau.

pour dire que les gens de qualité ne fréquentent pas le petit peuple.

Dans les régions côtières, l’animal vénéré reste la baleine (ou cá voi, cá ông). Rien n’est surprenant de voir surgir dans chaque village longeant la côte, un autel réservé à ce mammifère. L’attachement profond des pêcheurs vietnamiens à ce cétacé est dû en grande partie aux bienfaits qu’il leur rend. 

Autel réservé à la baleine (Poulo Cham) (Cù Lao Chàm) 


Au Viêt-Nam, on fait attention aux signes avant-coureurs des phénomènes naturels en observant le comportement des créatures sauvages. Par le feulement du tigre à la recherche de la nourriture, le bramement sec et saccadé du cerf ou le cri de l’écureuil, on pourrait s’informer des changements climatiques (la venue de la pluie ou du vent venant du nord). Le hululement du coq des pagodes (chim bìm bịp) annonce la descente des crues. En voyant les fourmis de terre se hâter à construire de gros nids en terre sur les arbres longeant la berge du fleuve, on peut deviner que la montée des eaux serait imminente. Le chant injustifié du coq prévoit une mauvaise nouvelle. Le grignotement des souris dans la maison n’est pas non plus de bon augure. Le chuintement de la chouette ou du hibou près de la maison annonce la mort imminente du malade s’il y en a dans la maison. La chute de l’araignée accrochée au plafond est une marque d’infidélité dans le ménage. Le vol de la libellule au ras du sol ou en hauteur     signale la venue imminente de la pluie ou du soleil. C’est ce qui a été dit dans le petit dicton suivant:

Chuổn chuổn bay thấp thì mưa
Bay cao thì nắng, bay vừa thì râm
La libellule qui vole au ras du sol entraîne la pluie
En prenant de la hauteur, elle emmène le soleil et en volant à une altitude moyenne, elle ramène l’ombre.

On peut trouver une explication scientifique à ce dicton car la libellule possède comme le poisson une poche de vapeur permettant de réguler les altitudes de son vol en fonction de l’humidité de l’air. C’est l’application judicieuse de la poussée d’Archimède dans l’air à travers ce comportement. Cette superstition a été exploitée dans le passé avec ingéniosité par un grand nombre de dirigeants vietnamiens pour consolider leur légitimité dans la conquête du pouvoir. Elle devient aussi une arme redoutable et efficace dans la lutte contre les agresseurs étrangers. On peut dire qu’elle fut à cette époque ce qu’on a aujourd’hui avec la guerre de communication. La crédulité a été mise en évidence maintes fois dans l’histoire du Viêt-Nam. Pour faciliter l’accès au trône du jeune vertueux Lý Công Uẩn, le futur roi de la dynastie des Lý, le bonze érudit Vạn Hạnh, décida de marquer discrètement le mot “Thiên tử” (fils du ciel) sur le dos d’un chien blanc dans le village Cổ Pháp et de faire circuler la rumeur de l’apparition prochaine d’un nouveau roi né sous le signe astrologique du chien dans le courant de l’année du chien de métal pour ramener la paix au peuple. C’est pourquoi personne ne contesta la légitimité de Lý Công Uẩn le jour de sa prise de pouvoir et de son intronisation dans l’année du chien (Canh Tuất 1010) sous la pression de son adjoint Ðào Cam Mộc et de ses proches dirigés par le bonze Vạn Hạnh car on pensa que tout était décidé à l’avance et qu’il était envoyé par le ciel pour devenir roi. Il était né sous le signe du chien de bois (Giáp Tuất ) en 974. Pour mettre la capitale à l’abri des caprices du fleuve rouge, Lý Công Uẩn, sur les conseils des géomanciens, avait l’intention de déplacer la capitale à Thăng Long (ou Hà Nội plus tard). Pour ce transfert, il fut obligé de faire croire à son peuple qu’il a vu un dragon d’or s’envoler de cette localité dans le songe. Cela lui permit de neutraliser pacifiquement toute idée de contestation et de révolte. De même, plusieurs siècles plus tard, rien n’était étonnant de voir l’édification d’une histoire prodigieuse, d’une légende sur le personnage de Lê Lợi , un riche fermier Mường à Lam Sơn, dans le but d’unifier tout le peuple vietnamien face à son destin et d’empêcher toutes les velléités de soumission dans la lutte contre les envahisseurs chinois ( les Ming ). Ce fut aussi la résistance organisée par un Vietnamien d’origine Mường pour la première fois dans l’histoire du Viêt-Nam. On réussit à faire croire au peuple qu’avant la naissance de Lê Lơi, il y avait un tigre noir fréquentant les alentours de son village. Dès sa naissance, on ne vit plus apparaître ce tigre. On attribua ainsi à Lê Lơi la réincarnation de ce roi des animaux. C’est Nguyễn Trãi, son conseiller politique et militaire qui l’a décrit dans son ouvrage “Lam Sơn Thực Lục” dans les termes suivants: 

Vua Lê vai tả có bảy nốt ruồi, long lá đầy người, tiếng như chuông lớn, ngồi như hổ ….
Le roi Lê ayant sur son épaule gauche 7 boutons, son corps poilu, sa voix retentissant comme une cloche, s’assoit comme un tigre …
C’est aussi à Nguyễn Trãi l’idée géniale de faire circuler le message suivant gravé sur les feuilles à l’aide des cure-dents et du miel. Ce texte était rongé ensuite au fil des mois par les fourmis à cause de l’odeur du miel:
Lê Lợi vì dân, Nguyễn Trãi vì thân
Lê Lợi pour le peuple, Nguyễn Trãi pour Lê Lợi

dans le but de montrer au petit peuple que la volonté venait de Dieu lui-même et que Lê Lợi était désigné comme le seul héritier légitime dans la lutte contre les envahisseurs Ming.

Pour faire disparaître l’affliction visible d’un grand nombre de gens devant le sort réservé aux adversaires de Gia Long , en particulier à la famille du roi Quang Trung (décapitation de son fils, le roi Cảnh Thinh, déterrement de sa tombe, supplice infligé à tous ses partisans et ses proches par le biais de piétinement des éléphants) et pour légitimer sa prise de pouvoir, beaucoup de légendes autour de Gia Long ont été mises en plein jour. C’est d’abord l’histoire de sa rencontre avec son jeune général eunuque Lê Văn Duyệt. Connu pour son courage et sa force, celui-ci menait jusqu’alors une vie cachée et réservée avec sa mère dans un coin refoulé du Sud Viêt-Nam. Il n’hésita pas à tuer tous ceux qui osaient le déranger. Ayant connu sa réputation et poursuivi sans relâche par les Tây Sơn (les paysans de l’Ouest), Nguyễn Ánh, le futur empereur Gia Long décida d’aller le voir et voulut se lier d’amitié avec lui. Accompagné par son subordonné Nguyễn Văn Thành, il trouva sa maison mais Lê Văn Duyệt y fut absent à ce moment. Sa mère les invita à déjeuner et leur demanda de se retirer immédiatement car elle connaissait bien le caractère de son fils. En voyant des étrangers dans la maison, celui-ci n’hésitait pas à les tuer. Face à la résolution de Nguyễn Ánh de vouloir rencontrer son fils, elle fut obligée de les héberger cette nuit là. En rentrant à la maison, Lê Văn Duyệt fut énervé par la présence des étrangers. Mais il s’aperçut que le jeune homme était entouré par un serpent dont la tête était adossée contre sa poitrine. Troublé par cette protection divine, il demanda timidement à sa mère: Qui est cette personne protégée par le serpent? Surprise par cette question, celle-ci revint dans la chambre où le jeune Nguyễn Ánh dormait. Elle ne trouva aucun serpent. Il n’y avait que Lê Văn Duyệt qui a vu cette scène. Pour ce dernier, il n’y avait plus de doute qu’il était en face d’un personnage hors du commun et sous la protection divine. Il alla le réveiller et lui demanda ses nouvelles. Lê Văn Duyệt devint de ce jour l’un de ses meilleurs et brillants fidèles dans la reconquête du pouvoir. D’après l’érudit français Léopold Cadière, l’animal fabuleux ressemblant au dragon trouvé sur le costume impérial de Gia Long ou sur le palier de son trône évoquerait probablement la protection du serpent dont Nguyễn Ánh bénéficia durant ses années de vicissitudes. Une autre fois, pour aller se réfugier dans l’île de Phú Quốc, Nguyễn Ánh a failli être capturé par les Tây Sơn si son bateau n’avait pas été retenu et gêné par la présence d’une bande de crocodiles. Intrigué par cet augure, il s’agenouilla à l’avant de son bateau et invoqua le Ciel :

S’il y a des ennemis qui veulent me tendre un piège mortel à l’entrée du fleuve Ông Ðốc, vous me faites signe en faisant disparaître et réapparaître ces crocodiles trois fois de suite sinon vous me laissez partir maintenant car le temps est tellement précieux pour moi.

Effectivement, la disparition et la réapparition de ces reptiles eurent lieu trois fois de suite. Témoin de ce phénomène inhabituel répondant à son exaucement, il renonça à partir. Pour être sûr de la présence de ses ennemis, un éclaireur fut envoyé sur-le-champ. Il n’y eut plus de doute que ses ennemis l’attendaient en surnombre ce jour là. Si on ne sait pas que Nguyễn Ánh serait sous la protection divine ou non, on constate qu’à travers ces récits historiques, il était un jeune prince très courageux et intrépide. Il fut poursuivi une fois par ses ennemis. Il fut obligé de traverser le fleuve à la nage malgré la présence d’un grand nombre de crocodiles. Il dut recourir au buffle qui pataugeait au bord du fleuve pour entreprendre la traversée.

L’homme vietnamien est né avec cette croyance. Sans celle-ci, il lui paraît difficile de surmonter les difficultés journalières rencontrées dans un environnement inhospitalier où la fatalité est de mise. Si la superstition porte quelque image de la pusillanimité, elle reste néanmoins une arme efficace dont l’homme vietnamien ne manque pas l’occasion de se servir pour forger son destin et réaliser son dessein. Il ne se laisse pas entraîner trop dans l’esprit cartésien pour réfuter tout ce qui appartient à l’héritage de croyances de son peuple. 

Flowers in the Vietnamese culture (Những loài hoa trong nền văn hóa Việtnam)

French version


Những loại hoa trong nền văn hóa Việtnam

In their cultural tradition, the Vietnamese attach a great importance to flowers. One notes their marked preference for the names of the flowers in the choice of the feminine first names . There is even an anecdote on the first name that great king Lý Thánh Tôn of the dynasty of Lý has chosen for his imperial concubine Ỷ Lan known later under the name Linh Nhân Hoàng Hậu. One day, on his way back to the capital, the king was greeted by jubilant villagers. He realized that there was a young country girl of extraordinary beauty who kept looking timidly at him while leaning against the hedge of amaryllis. Desirous of knowing her, he made her come in front of him. Taken by her beauty and intelligence, the king asked her to marry him and gave her the name “Ỷ Lan” (Ỷ Lan means leaning against the amaryllis). She was known later in the history of Vietnam as one of the greatest queens to take up several social projects for disinherited and women.

To immortalize the affliction they continue to bear for their daughter-in-law, from then on, they forbade their close relations and subjects to use the word Hoa not only in the choice of given names but also in the naming of public buildings. Because of that prohibition, the Ðông Hoa market in Hue became the central market Ðông Ba. The province Thanh Hoá was from then on called Thanh Hoa. The bridge stretching across the Thi Nghe river in Saigon changed its name to Cầu Bông from the name Hoa Bắc. However “Hoa” is the word the most used in Nguyễn Du’s Kim Vân Kiều, the masterpiece of Vietnamese literature. Without counting the name of the flowers evoked, one can come up with an inventory of at least 130 verses containing the word “Hoa”. Moreover, this word appears in a great number of terms having the connotation of flower in the Vietnamese literature.

Hoa diện, mặt hoa : blossoming face ( To have a beautiful face )
Hoa chúc: Flower of the torch ( the lamp in the nuptial room)
Hoa niên: Flower of Age ( youth )
Hoa tay: To have the pulp of the fingers in the form of a flower ( To be very adroit )
Số đào hoa: To be born under the peach flower star ( To be liked by women )
Nguoi tài hoa: Man of talent to the image of a flower ( To be talented and distinguished)
Hoa tai : Flower of the ear ( Earring )
Hoa đèn: Flower of the lamp ( coal of the wick of an oil lamp)
Hoa khôi: Flower of first rank (To be the most beautiful girl, also attributed to the plum flower or that of a lotus )
Hoa đá: Stone flower ( Coral )
Hoa vương: Queen of flowers ( Peony)

Concerning the stone flower, there is an anecdote recalling the episode when Vietnam was troubled by ceaseless internal wars between the two ruling families, the Trinh and the Nguyễn. It was one of the practical jokes of a mandarin named Trạng Quỳnh serving lord Trinh Cương and frequently known under the pseudonym Cống Quỳnh or Trạng Quỳnh. Lord Trịnh Cương was very greedy. He only thought of living in opulence and debauchery. That was why Cống Quỳnh tried to bring him back to reason and wisdom. He told him that he knew how to prepare a very delicious little dish called Hoa đá (Stone flower).

Lord Trinh Cương asked him to prepare it. But he told the lord that he must wait for at least two days to be able to taste that dish because he had to simmer it during that time. Lord Trinh Cương accepted this proposal. Back home, he ordered his servants to go to the store and get edible algaes and simmer them in water. Famished by this long wait, the lord Trinh recognized that the dish prepared by Cống Quỳnh was delicious even though it only contained vegetables after having tasted it.

One found some classical famous novels bearing the name of flowers. It is the case of Nhị Ðộ Mai (Twice blossoming plum tree) and Hoa Tiên (Flowery Loose Sheets). The first one was written in Nôm with two thousand eight hundred twenty Six-Eight verses and adapted from a Chinese work. It is the story about king fidelity, filial piety, loyalty, gratitude and love. As for the second novel, it was composed by the learned Nguyễn Huy Tự.This novel comprises more than eight hundred verses written in Six-Eight feet (lục bát). It is the first Vietnamese romantic poem and still remaining within the Confucian thought.

Despite a great variety of flower species found on this land of legends, the Vietnamese do not hide their preference to certain plants. They do not hesitate to classify some in the category of noble plants. Among those, one can quote:

Lan (Amaryllis)
Cúc (Chrysanthemum)
Sen (Lotus)
Mẫu đơn (Peony)
Hoa hồng (Rose)

These plants or their flowers have each one a particular and ethical signification and the Vietnamese tradition. The plum tree ( mai ) is the symbol of a superior man. It succeeds in resisting the cold and bad weather and continues to bloom in February, which allows it to symbolize the Spring in the representation of the four seasons (Tứ Thì). At the occasion of Têt, for a Vietnamese, there is never a lack on the altar of some branches of plum trees (or cherry) in bloom that are selected so that the flowers hatch during the festival. The plum flower is very much adored by learned and intellectual Vietnamese. An independent man of character like Cao Bá Quát who did not bow to mandarinal servitude had to admit to only bending his head before the plum flower during his lifetime.

Nhất sinh đê thủ bái hoa mai
Suốt đời chỉ cúi đầu trước hoa mai

All my life, I curve only my head in front of the flower of plum tree.
Another learned man Ðào Tấn, the father of stage productions of the Bình Ðịnh region in Central Vietnam, also nourished the hope to die one day near plum trees. That is why, while living, he chose (Mộng Mai) (Dream of Plum Flowers) as his pseudonym and had the occasion to reveal his state of heart in the two verses found in one of his poems:
Núi mai rồi giữ xương Mai nhé
Uớc mộng hồn ta là đóa Mai

It is the mountain of the plum trees where will be buried my skeleton of plum tree.
I continue to dream that my soul would be the flower of plum tree.


It was not an utopia for him because at his death (July 1907), he was buried at mount Huynh Mai, not too far from a plum garden which is a few kilometers away. Contrary to the Chinese, they are the plum and lotus flowers which are more appreciated than the peony. That’s why they are called Hoa Khôi (Flowers of first rank)
One has a preference for the plum tree because the lotus is rather reserved to Buddhism although it is also the symbol of a man of Confucian quality (junzi). It was the plant chosen by the learned Mạc Ðỉnh Chi to reveal his extraordinary talent and genius when king Trần Anh Tôn hesitated to appoint him “First Doctor” finding him too ugly at the time of diploma delivery. To convince the king, he compared himself to a lotus in a jade well by composing in front of the king the poem entitled ” Ngọc Liên Tỉnh Phú ” (Lotus in a a jade well).

Giống quý ấy ta đây có sẳn
Tay áo nầy ta chứa đã lâu
Phải đâu đào, lý thô màu
Phải đâu mai, trúc dãi dầu tuyết sương
Cũng không phải tăng phường câu kỷ
Cũng không là Lạc Thủy mẫu đan
Cũng không là cúc, là lan
Chính là sen ở giếng vàng đầu non

That precious species I already possess
In this coat sleeve I kept it for a long time
It is neither peach nor cherry whose color is gross
It is neither plum nor bamboo exposed to snow and dew
It is even not berry whose scent is to be avoided
It is not the peony from Lac Thủy(1)
It is neither chrysanthemum nor amaryllis
But it is the lotus in the golden well on top of the mountain.

Mạc Ðỉnh Chi had the occasion to compose a funeral oration in honor of disappearance of a Mongol princess when he was sent to China as the Ambassador of Vietnam. That day, before the imperial court, one gave him a sheet of paper on which there were four lines, each one began with a single word “one” (một ). It was up to him to compose a poem by completing the lines to render a great homage in memory of that princess. Imperturbable, he succeeded in doing it with the surprise and admiration of all the Mongol imperial court by designating the princess like a flower:

Lò hồng môt giọt tuyết
Vườn thượng uyển môt cành hoa
Cung quảng hàn (2) một vầng nguyệt
Than ôi! Mây tan! Tuyết tiêu!
Hoa tàn! Trăng khuyết !

One cluster of clouds in the blue sky
One flake of snow on the rose beam
One flower in the imperial garden
One lunar disk in the Moon palace
Alas! Cloud disappears! Snow melts!
The flower wilts! The moon is incomplete !

As for the chrysanthemum, it is not only the monopoly of the Autumn but also the symbol of serenity and the indifference of people to honors and glory. Analogous to orchid, amaryllis is the symbol of feminine beauty. It often designates a young girl in poetical compositions. Although the peony is seen as a noble flower, it does not have a significant range than it continues to have in China. Probably because of the Chinese influence, one continues to keep that custom. The peony is often evoked in Vietnamese ornamental art or in legends (The story of the mandarin Từ Thức and the fairy Giáng Hương for example).

As for the rose, it is the symbol of love and affection. To understand the value and the range of significance that the Vietnamese give to this flower, we should read the novel “Bông Hô`ng Cài A’o ( A rose pinned on the coat )” of the Vietnamese zen monk Thi’ch Nhâ’t Hanh. He attempts to remind us through his narration that everyone of us has a unique mother that we neglect to think of because of the ups and downs in life. We often forget that if everyone of us still has a mother today, that is because God has left an invaluable treasure with us. We still have the chance to be able to love her and show her our affection. For that, we can continue to pin a rose on our coats because we alone still have that immense, intimate and indescribable joy that lots of people no longer had long time ago.

Not long ago on this land of legends, one could only see whit myrtle flowers (Hoa Sim) laid by young girls on the tomb of their lovers who had fallen valiantly in the defense of their ideal and fatherland. They did not have the chance to see peace coming back some day. They did not have the occasion to pin a rose on their coats even when their mothers were still alive. It is for these valiant people that all the Vietnamese want to offer a rose for the love they have always had for this land. They want to show them their sincere affection and profound gratitude. Without the bravery, sacrifice, and the nobility of soul of these people, Vietnam would not have been able to retain its independence, its cultural identity, its millennial traditions.

It is not only for history to acknowledge this fact but also for every Vietnamese to show his or her gratitude, teach his or her children the heroism of these unknown people and the tradition of willing to die for Vietnam.

Bao năm ngày tháng hoà bình
Còn ai ấp ủ cuộc tình bơ vơ
Nấm mồ còn đó trơ trơ
Hoa Sim áo trắng biết nhờ ai cài…

Peace was returned on this land of the legends since so many years Whoever continues to cherish its solitary love
The tomb remains still over there
To whom does one have to ask for the placing of the flower of myrtle on the coat?

(1) Lạc Thủy : a river known in China.
(2) Cung quảng hàn : the  mythical  Chinese palace  found on the moon.
(3): An anecdote on the chrysanthemum of Luoyang  with  Wu Ze Tian empress ( Võ Tắc Thiên) of  Tang dynasty.

The challenge (Thách Thức)



French version

This word is not unfamiliar to the Vietnamese. On the contrary, it is synonymous to perseverance, resistance, ingenuity and confrontation for these frail people whose feet have been burried in the rice fields’ mud since the dawn of time. They never stop at taking up, from generation to generation, the challenge incessantly imposed by the excesses of a harsh and inhospitable nature and by the Midle Empire, their big brother and hereditary enemy at the border. The Vietnamese dedicated to the latter a surprising admiration but at the same time pledged an implacable resistance in the goal of keeping their national independence and cultural traits. China has many times tried to assimilate Vietnam during its millennial domination but it succeeded in blurring the particularities without making them disappear completely. It was quick to be aware of that, because on any favorable occasion, the Vietnamese displayed their resistance and difference. They even tried to confront the Chinese in the field of literature. That has been reported in a great number of accounts that keep on to be plentiful up until now in the history of Vietnamese literature.

According to what was said, after having succeeded in putting down the revolt of the two sisters Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị and pacifying Giao Chỉ ( ancient country of the Viet ), Chinese General Ma Viện( MaYuan ) of the Han dynasty erected in 43 at the Sino-Vietnamese border a pillar several meters high bearing the following notice:

Ðồng trụ triệt, Giao Chỉ diệt
Ðồng trụ ngã, Giao Chỉ bị diệt.

Vietnam would disappear forever with the fall of this pillar.

To avoid the pillar’s fall, the Vietnamese tried to strengthen it by throwing, as they walked by, a piece of soil around that huge column, and thus progressively helped in building a mound making the mythical pillar disappear.

To be ironic about the Vietnamese’s fear and worry of losing their country, the Ming emperor did not hesitate to use unfriendly terms to arrogantly tell the Vietnamese envoy Giang Văn Minh ( 1582-1639 ) during a reception:
Ðồng trụ chí kim đài dĩ lục

This Bronze pillar is now buried in green moss
to remind Giang Văn Minh of the putting down of the Trung sisters’ revolt and the pacifiaction of his country by the Chinese. Remaining unruffled, Giang Văn Minh responded with a surprising insight and an energetic and courageous determination:

Ðằng giang tự cổ huyết do hồng
That Ðằng river was then blended with red blood.

This was not the first time such a litterary competition took place. Under the reign of king Lê Ðại Hành ( The Great Expediter ), monk Lạc Thuận had an opportunity to catch the admiration of Chinese ambassador Li Jiao ( Lý Giác ) whom he helped cross the river by posing as a boatman.

He was quick to complete the four-versed poem started first by Li Jiao who saw two wild geese playing on the water wave crests:
Ngỗng ngỗng hai con ngỗng
Ngữa mặt nhìn trời xanh
Goose, goose, the two geese
Looking up the blue sky they tease

by the following two verses:
Nước biếc phô lông trắng
Chèo hồng sóng xanh khua

Bluish green water contrasts white feather
Showing pink feet splitting blue waves over.

It is shown not only the rapidity of monk Lac Thuan’s improvisation but also his ingenuity of placing in parallel the ideas and the words to be used in this four-versed poem.
But obviously credits on the confrontation finally go to to the learned Mạc Ðỉnh Chi because he knew how to show during his stay in China his capability of resistance and his talent of knowing how to cleverly answer all questions s and avoid all traps. He was sent to China (1314) by king Trần Anh Tôn after the latter had defeated the army of Kubilai Khan’s Mongols with general Trần Hưng Ðạo. Because of an unexpected delay, he could not show up on time at the gate of the fort at the Sino-Vietnamese border. The mandarin in charge of the supervision of the fort agreed to open the gate if f only Mạc Ðỉinh Chi could appropriately parallel the mandarin’s sentence containing 4 words “quan”.

Quá quan trì, quan quan bế,
nguyện quá khách quá quan
Qua cữa quan chậm, cữa quan đóng,
mời khách qua đường qua cữa quan.

Late at passing the gate, the mandarin gate is closed,
Passing pedestrian please pass the gate.

Unruffled at this litterary challenge, he replied to the mandarin with a surprising ease by the following sentences:
Xuất đối dị, đối đối nan, thỉnh tiên sinh tiên đối.
Ra câu đối dễ, đối câu đối khó
xin tiên sinh đối trước

Easy to pose the sentence, difficult to parallel it.
Parallel sentence poser please pose first.
It is noted that in this reply, there are not only the word “đối” that is repeated 4 times in parallel with the word “quan”, but also the virtuosity of respecting the rhymes and the rules in composing parallel sentences by Mạc Ðỉnh Chi in his verses while making it known to the mandarin the situation he was tangled up with. This enormously pleased the Chinese mandarin who was quick to to open the fort gate and greet him with great pomp. This incident was reported to the Peking court and was fast to bring desire to the best Chinese learned mandarins to measure up with him in literary field.
One day, he was riding his mule in the capital city of Peking. The mule did not go fast enough, which annoyed a Chinese mandarin who followed him on his way. Irritated by the disturbing slowliness, the mandarin turn to him saying with an arrogant and contemptuous tone:

Xúc ngã ky mã, đông di chi nhân dã, Tây di chi nhân dã?
Chạm ngựa ta đi là người rợ phương Ðông hay là người rợ phương Tây?

Slowing my horse is the barbarian from the East or from the West?
That mandarin took what he had learned in the book Mencius ( Mạnh Tử )(1) to refer to the barbarians, those who do not possess the same culture of the Midle Empire by using the words “đông di”. Surprised by the hurting remark while he knew that China was at that time governed by by the nomad tribes, the Mongols, Mạc Ðĩnh Chi replied with his black humor:


Át dư thừa lư, Nam Phương chi cường dư, Bắc phương chi cường dư
Ngăn lừa ta cưởi, hỏi người phương Nam mạnh hay người phương Bắc mạnh?

Impeding my mule is the strong people from the North or from the South?

Mạc Ðỉnh Chi also took what he had learned from the book Trung Dung (2) to remind the mandarin that he was not sure that the people from the North were stronger than those from the South. The mandarin turned pale of shame and was so vexed by the spirited and spontaneous reply that he was forced to drive off. Another time, in a discussion with Mạc Ðỉnh Chi and wanting to know his character, the Yuan emperor read him the following phrase:

Nhật hỏa, vân yên, bạch đáng thiêu tàn ngọc thỏ
Mặt trời là lửa, mây là khói, ban ngày đốt cháy vần trăng

Daytime, the sun being fire, the clouds being smoke burn up the moon.

The emperor wanted to show his power by comparing himself with the sun and in making it known to Mạc Ðỉnh Chi that Vietnam is comparable to the moon would soon be wiped out and dominated. Unruffled, Mac Ðỉnh Chi replied in firm and courageous terms:

Nguyệt cung, kim đạn, hoàng hôn xa lạc kim ô
Trăng là cung, sao là đạn, chiều tối bắn rơi mặt trời.

Nightime, the moon being crossbow, the stars being projectiles shoot down the sun.

Thus the Yuan emperor Kubilai Khan ( Nguyên Thê’ Tổ ) had to recognize his talent and granted him the title ” ( Lưỡng Quốc Trạng Nguyên ” ( Doctor of both countries ) for China as well as for Vietnam. this rendered some Chinese mandarins jealous. One of them tried to humiliate him one day by treating him as a bird because of the tone of the monosyllabic language; the Vietnamese give the impression of chirping when they speak:
Quích tập chi đầu đàm Lỗ luận: tri tri vi tri chi, bất tri vi bất tri, thị tri
Chim đậu cành đọc sách Lỗ luận: biết thì báo là biết, chẳng biết thì báo chảng biết, ấy là biết đó.

Birds gather on the branch to study the book Dialogs: What we know we say we know, what we don’t we say we don’t, we know it though.
It was a way to recommend Mac Ðĩnh Chi to show more humility and to behave like a man of Confucian quality ( junzi ). Mac Ðĩnh Chi replied in treating him like a frog because the Chinese have the habit of clicking the tongue when drinking and speaking loudly:
Oa minh trì thượng đọc Châu Thư: lạc dữ đọc lạc nhạc, lạc dữ chúng lạc nhạc, thục lạc.
Châu chuộc trên ao đọc sách Châu Thu: cùng ít người vui nhạc, cùng nhiều người vui nhạc, đằng nào vui hơn.

Frogs assemble in the pond to learn the work Chou Ching : they enjoy blaring alone, they enjoy blaring together, they’re blaring anyhow.
It’s a way to recommend the Chinese mandarin to have a keen mind in order to be able to have the right behavior and a more fair judgment.

In spite of the literary confrontation, Mac Ðĩnh Chi was very much appreciated in China. He was assigned by the Yuan emperor to write the funeral oration in honor of the passing away of a Mongolian princess. Due to the respect that the Chinese traditionally maintained toward talented Vietnamese people, especially the scholars having unprecedented erudition and keen minds, the learned Nguyễn Trãi was saved in extremis by the great steward Houang Fou ( Hoàng Phúc ). He was seen by Chinese generalissimo Tchang Fou ( Trương Phụ ) as a captive to be eliminated, a dangerous and harmful to the Chinese politics of expansion in Vietnam. He was retained by Tchang Fou during his stay at Ðồng Quang ( ancien name of Capital Hà-Nội before he could join the cotton clothed hero Lê Lợi later at Lam Sơn. Without the magnanimous and protective gesture of the eunuch Hoang Fou, Lê Lợi would not have been able to defeat the Ming because it was Nguyễn Trãi, the godsent adviser and eminent strategist that Lê Lợi relied upon to run the guerilla during his ten years struggle against the Chinese.

This literary confrontation began to blurr progressively with the arrival of the French in Vietnam and stopped definitively when emperor Khải Ðịnh decided to put an end to the Vietnamese system of mandarinal contest up until then copied from the Chinese one and based essentially on the Four Classics (3) and the Five Cannons (4) of the wise Confucius (Tứ Thư Ngũ Kinh).


The last mandarinal contest was organized at Huế in 1918. Another system of recruitment in the French way was proposed at the colonial l period. From then on, Vietnam has no longer the opportunity to measure up literarily with China and to show her its difference, its intellectual resistance and its cultural traits.

(1) : Jou philosophy of first plan of 4th century B.C.
(2) : The Middle-Of-The-Road, one of the basic works of Chinese education.
(3) : The Great Studies, ( Ðại Ho.c ), Middle-Of-The-Road ( Trung Dung ), Dialogs ( Luận Ngữ ) and Mencius’s Book ( ( Sách Mạnh Tử ).
(4):The Book of Odes ( Kinh Thi ), The Historic Documents( Kinh Thư ), The Book of Mutations ( Kinh Dịch ) The Rites( Kinh Lễ ), Springs and Autumn ( Kinh Xuân Thu ).