The challenge (Thách Thức)



French version

The challenge

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 ).

Le défi (Thách Thức)

English version

Version vietnamienne

Le défi

Ce mot n’est pas étranger aux Vietnamiens. Par contre, il est synonyme de la persévérance, de la résistance, de l’ingéniosité et de la confrontation pour ces gens frêles, les pieds enfouis dans la boue des rizières depuis la nuit des temps. Ceux-ci ne cessaient pas de relever, de génération en génération, le défi imposé incessamment par les intempéries d’une nature ingrate et inhospitalière et par l’Empire du Milieu, leur grand frère limitrophe et leur ennemi héréditaire. Les Vietnamiens vouaient à ce dernier une admiration étonnante en même temps une résistance implacable dans le but de garder leur indépendance nationale et leurs spécificités culturelles. La Chine tenta de siniser à maintes reprises le Viêt-Nam durant sa domination millénaire mais elle réussit à estomper les particularités sans les faire disparaître complètement. Elle ne tarda pas à s’en apercevoir car à chaque occasion favorable, les Vietnamiens affichaient leur résistance et leur différence. Ils cherchaient à affronter même les Chinois dans le domaine littéraire. Cela a été rapporté par un grand nombre de récits continuant à abonder encore jusqu’à nos jours dans l’histoire littéraire vietnamienne.

Selon l’on-dit, après avoir réussi à mater la révolte des deux soeurs Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị et de pacifier le Giao Chỉ (l’ancien pays des Viets), le général chinois Mã Viện (Ma Yuan) de la dynastie des Han édifia en 43 à la frontière sino – vietnamienne un pilier haut de plusieurs mètres et portant l’écriteau suivant:

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

Le Vietnam disparaîtrait pour toujours avec la chute de ce pilier.

Pour éviter sa chute, chaque Vietnamien tenta de le consolider en jetant, à chaque passage, un morceau de terre autour de cette colonne colossale, ce qui permit d’édifier progressivement un monticule faisant disparaître ainsi ce pilier mythique.

Pour ironiser sur la peur et l’angoisse des Vietnamiens de perdre leur patrie, l’empereur des Ming n’hésita pas à s’adresser arrogamment au délégué vietnamien Giang Văn Minh (1582-1639) lors d’une réception, avec des termes inamicaux:

Ðồng trụ chí kim đài dĩ lục
Le pilier en bronze continue à être envahi par la mousse verte.

pour rappeler à Giang Văn Minh l’écrasement de la révolte dirigée par les soeurs Trưng Trấc et Trưng Nhị et la pacification de son pays par les Chinois. Imperturbable, Giang Văn Minh lui répondit avec une perspicacité étonnante et une détermination énergique et courageuse :

Ðằng giang tự cổ huyết do hồng
Le fleuve Bạch Ðằng continue à être teinté avec du sang rouge.

pour rappeler à l’empereur des Ming les victoires éclatantes et décisives des Vietnamiens contre les Chinois sur le fleuve Bạch Ðằng.

Ce n’est pas la première fois que cette compétition littéraire avait lieu. A l’époque du règne du roi Lê Ðại Hành ( Le Grand Expéditeur ), le bonze Lạc Thuận eut l’occasion de frapper d’admiration l’ambassadeur chinois Li Jiao ( Lý Giác ) à qui il avait fait passer le fleuve en se déguisant en sampanier. Il n’hésita pas à achever le quatrain entamé d’abord par Li Jiao qui se mit à chanter en voyant les deux oies sauvages jouer sur la crête des vagues:

Ngỗng ngỗng hai con ngỗng
Ngữa mặt nhìn trời xanh

Des oies sauvages, voyez ces deux oies sauvages
Elles dressent la tête et se tournent vers l’horizon

par ses deux vers suivants:

Nước biếc phô lông trắng
Chèo hồng sóng xanh khua

Leurs plumes blanches s’étalent sur les eaux glauques
Leurs pattes roses, telles des rames, fendent les flots bleus.

On constate non seulement la rapidité et l’improvisation du moine Lạc Thuận mais aussi son ingéniosité de mettre en parallèle les idées et les termes à employer dans ce quatrain.


Mais le mérite de la confrontation revient évidemment au lettré Mạc Ðỉnh Chi car ce dernier sut montrer durant son séjour en Chine sa capacité de résistance mais aussi son talent de savoir répliquer savamment à toutes les questions et éviter toutes les embûches. Il fut envoyé en Chine (1314 ) par le roi Trần Anh Tôn après que ce dernier avait défait l’armée des Mongols de Kubilai Khan avec le général Trần Hưng Ðạo. À cause d’un retard inopiné, il ne put pas se présenter à l’heure convenue devant le portail du fort à la frontière sino-vietnamienne. Le mandarin chargé de la surveillance de ce fort accepta d’ouvrir ce portail à condition qu’il réussît de répondre d’une manière appropriée à la question que ce mandarin voulait lui poser et dans laquelle il y avait 4 mots « 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

Vous êtes en retard, la porte réservée étant fermée.
Je vous demande de bien vouloir vous présenter devant cette porte.

Imperturbable devant ce défi littéraire, il répondit au mandarin avec une facilité étonnante par la phrase suivante:

Xuất đối dị, đối đối nan, thỉnh tiên sinh tiên đối.
Ra câu đối dễ, đối câu đối khó
xin tiên sinh đối trước

C’est très facile pour vous de poser une question, la réponse n’étant pas évidente.
Je vous demande de bien vouloir poser la question.

On constate que dans cette réplique, il y a non seulement le mot « đối » qui se répète en quatre fois et qui est disposé de la même manière que le mot « quan » mais aussi la virtuosité de savoir respecter les rimes et les règles prosodiques par Mạc Ðỉnh Chi dans son vers tout en faisant connaître au mandarin la situation où il était empêtré avec sa suite. Cela contenta énormément le mandarin chinois. Celui-ci n’hésita pas à ouvrir le portail du fort et à le recevoir en grande pompe. Cet incident fut rapporté à la cour de Pékin et ne tarda pas à porter envie aux meilleurs mandarins lettrés chinois de se mesurer avec lui dans le domaine littéraire.

Un beau jour, dans la capitale de Pékin, il était en train de faire une promenade avec son mulet. Comme ce dernier ne trottinait pas assez vite, cela énerva un mandarin chinois qui le suivait de près sur son chemin. Irrité par cette lenteur gênante, le mandarin se tourna vers lui en lui adressant avec un ton arrogant et méprisant:

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?
En gênant le passage de mon cheval, est -il un barbare venant de l’Est ou de l’Ouest?

Ce mandarin s’inspira de ce qu’il avait appris dans le livre de Mencius (Mạnh Tử )(1) pour désigner les Barbares, ceux ne possédant pas la même culture que l’empire du Milieu par l’emploi des deux mots « Ðông di ». Surpris par ce propos blessant lorsqu’il savait que la Chine fut gouvernée à cette époque par les tribus nomades, les Mongols, Mạc Ðỉnh Chi lui répliqua avec son humour noir:

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?

En empêchant la marche normale de mon mulet, est-il fort, l’homme du Nord ou celui du Sud?

L’empereur des Yuan n’hésita pas à vanter sa puissance en le comparant au soleil et en faisant savoir à Mạc Ðỉnh Chi que le Viêt-Nam, comparable à la lune, serait anéanti et dominé bientôt. Imperturbable, Mạc Ðỉnh Chi lui répondit d’une manière ferme et courageuse:

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

Etant prise pour l’arbalète, la lune avec les étoiles comme des projectiles, détruit facilement dans la nuitée le soleil.

L’empereur des Yuan Kubilai Khan ( Nguyên Thê’ Tổ ) dut reconnaître son talent et lui accorda ainsi le titre  » Premier docteur » ( Lưỡng Quốc Trạng Nguyên ) aussi bien en Chine qu’au Viêt-Nam, ce qui rendit jaloux quelques mandarins chinois. L’un d’eux tenta de l’humilier un beau matin en le traitant comme un oiseau car à cause de la tonalité monosyllabique de la langue, les Vietnamiens donnent l’impression de gazouiller toujours lorsqu’ils parlent:

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.

L’oiseau s’agrippant sur une branche lit ce qui a été écrit dans le livre Les Entretiens : Si nous savons quelque chose, nous disons que nous la savons. Dans le cas contraire, nous disons que nous ne la savons pas. C’est ainsi que nous disons que nous savons quelque chose.

C’est une façon de recommander Mạc Ðỉnh Chi de se montrer plus humble et de se comporter comme un homme de qualité confucéenne ( junzi ). Mạc Ðỉnh Chi lui répliqua en le traitant comme une grenouille car les Chinois ont l’habitude de clapper à cause de leur manière de boire ou de parler bruyamment:

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.

La grenouille barbotant dans la mare lit ce qui a été écrit dans le livre Livre des Documents Historiques (Chou Ching): certains jouent seuls de la trompette, d’autres jouent ensemble de la trompette. Lesquels paraissent en jouer mieux.

C’est une façon de dire au mandarin chinois d’avoir un esprit sain pour pouvoir avoir un comportement juste et un discernement équitable.

Malgré la confrontation littéraire, Mạc Ðỉnh Chi fut très apprécié en Chine. Il fut chargé même par l’empereur des Yuan de composer une oraison funèbre en l’honneur de la disparition d’une princesse mongole. Grâce au respect que les Chinois savaient entretenir traditionnellement à l’égard des gens de talent vietnamiens, en particulier des lettrés ayant une érudition inouïe et une vivacité d’esprit, le lettré Nguyễn Trãi fut sauvé in extremis par le grand intendant Houang Fou (Hoàng Phúc). Il était aux yeux du généralissime chinois Tchang Fou (Trương Phụ ) un homme captif à abattre, un personnage dangereux et nuisible à la politique d’expansion de la Chine au Viêtnam . Il fut retenu par Tchang Fou durant son séjour à Ðồng Quang ((ancien nom donné à la capitale Hanoï ) avant de pouvoir rejoindre plus tard le héros à habit de cotonnade Lê Lợi à Lam Sơn. Sans ce geste magnanime et protecteur de l’eunuque Houang Fou, Lê Lợi n’aurait pas pu déboulonner les Ming car c’était Nguyễn Trãi, le conseiller providentiel et le stratège éminent sur lequel Lê Lợi s’appuya pour mener le guérilla durant ses dix années de lutte contre les Chinois.

Cette confrontation littéraire commença à s’estomper progressivement avec l’arrivée des Français au Vietnam et cessa définitivement lorsque l’empereur Khải Ðịnh avait décidé de mettre fin au système de concours mandarinal vietnamien calqué jusqu’alors sur celui des Chinois et basé essentiellement sur les Quatre Livres Classiques (3) et les Cinq Livres Canoniques (4) du sage Confucius.(Tứ Thư Ngũ Kinh).intro1

On nota le dernier concours mandarinal organisé à Huế en 1918. Un autre système de recrutement à la française fut proposé à l’époque coloniale. Dès lors, le Vietnam n’avait plus l’occasion de se mesurer littérairement avec la Chine et de lui montrer sa différence, sa résistance intellectuelle et ses spécificités culturelles.

(1) : Philosophe Jou de premier plan du IV è siècle avant J.C.
(2) : Le Juste Milieu , l’un des ouvrages de base de l’enseignement chinois.
(3) : La Grande Étude, ( Ðại Học), le Juste Milieu ( Trung Dung ), Les Entretiens ( Luận Ngữ ) et le livre de Mencius ( Sách Mạnh Tử).
(4): Le Livre des Odes ( Kinh Thi ), Les Documents Historiques( Kinh Thu ), Le Livre des Mutations ( Kinh Dịch ) Les Rites ( Kinh Lễ ) , Printemps et Automne ).( Kinh Xuân Thu ).

The Lôlô (Dân tộc Lô Lô)

French version

Being known in China under the name « Yi », the Lô Lô are  also called Mùn Di, Màn Di, La La, Qua La, Ô Man, Lu Lộc Mà by the Vietnamese. They belong to the Tibeto-Burman ethno-linguistic group.  A large number live in the highland areas of China  (Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou et Kouang Si) except a little minority native of Yunnan installed  in the Upper Tonkin at the time of migratory flows which were appeared in the 15th and 18 th centuries. At present, the population of this ethnic group amounts to about 4000 individuals in Vietnam. According to  ethnologists, the Lô Lô are descendants of the nomadic people and sheep farmer Qiang (Khương tộc ) who emigrated from the  South East of Tibet for taking up permanent residence  in Sichuan (Tứ Xuyên) and Yunnan (Vân Nam).

© Đặng Anh Tuấn

The one of 54 ethnic minorities in Vietnam                      



At the period of Chunqiu (or Spring and Autumn period)(Xuân Thu in Vietnamese), this people was always at war with the inhabitants of Yellow River (Hoàng Hạ),  ancestors of the Chinese. Their expansion was stopped by the duke Mu of the Qin  state (Tần Mục Công) which  ruled between -660 et -621 and was one of five famous  hegemons (Bá chủ) at this time thanks to the contribution made by his talented chancellor Baixi Li ( Bá Lý Hệ).

In the ethnic group Lô Lô, there are two small groups: the coloured Lô Lô  (Lô Lô hoa )  and the black  Lô Lô  (Lô Lô đen). They live by using   traditional irrigated rice method and slashand-burn agriculture with  most important plants as  corn, sticky rice and ordinary rice. That is what we see in Đồng Văn et Mèo Vạc districts on the fields and milpas.  By contrast, in the Bảo Lạc district, except the permanents milpas, they use  the field terraces. Their main food is the maize flour immersed in boiling water. The broth is not missing in their meal, which  always requires the use of  bowls and  spoons in wood.

彝族  (Dân tộc Lô Lô)

In general, their homes are conveniently located in high  and dry areas overlooking the valleys. They prefer to live near dense forests because forests and streams are considered by them as living spaces of the soil genius. They are just people who like to live in harmony with nature. They use the hoods with two shoulder straps  in rattan or a variety of bamboo (giang) for transporting their possessions. They prefer to be married  with people of their sample ethnic.  They  also practice exogamy just in case the marriage takes place  between people from different parentages. The Lô Lô  are monogamous. The young bride lives in the family of his  husband.  The adultery is condemned in their traditions. However, the levirate marriage is tolerated because the little brother of the deceased can take for the  spouse his sister-in-law. Similarly, the son of   the parternal aunt is allowed to be married with the daughter of the maternal uncle (cô cậu) but it is strictly forbidden to do the opposite.

In the family, everything is decided by the husband. The daughters inherit jewelry of their mother and receive upon their marriage a dowry. About the heritage itself,  the beneficiaries are male children in the family. When a person is died,  his family organises a ritual ceremony in the intention of helping  his  soul to find   the path towards  his ancestors. Being known under the name  » dance of the spirits », this  rhythmic manifestation is led by his son-in-law carrying on his shoulders a bag containing a cloth ball representing the head of the deceased. Sometimes,   instead of this ball, we find  a piece of wood or a squash on which is drawn the figure of the deceased. This shows that the traces of the practice  of headhunting remain vivacious among the Lô Lô. During the funeral, this son-in-law must carry one of the extremities of the coffin. It is him and brothers of the widow to throw the first handfuls of earth in the tomb of the deceased.

The Lô Lô  clearly distinguish between close ancestors (in less than 5 generations) and distant ancestors (beyond six generations).  For close ancestors, there is always an own altar in each family while for distant ancestors, the ritual takes place in the home of the  lineage head (trưởng tộc).  Like the Vietnamese people, the Lô Lô have the bronze drums which are used only during the funeral. These drums   are always in pairs: a male and a female. They are placed in the supports next to feet of the deceased so that their eardrums are  opposing each other. Then a player stands between them and strikes them alternatively with a unique drum stick. A  beat for the male drum followed by  another  beat for the female drum, all of this is in a regular cadence.

The player must be  single or a married man whose the wife is not pregnant at the funerals. Being a sacred instrument, the drum is buried or hidden in a place which is simultaneously clean and discreet. There is only the familial lineage head  who  knows this emplacement.

For the Lô Lô, there is a legend concerning the bronze drum:

Once upon a time, the country and its inhabitants were swallowed by the flood. Having had compassion for young girls who were dying, God provided assistance to them by putting respectively the big sister in the great bronze drum and the younger in the small drum. The drums were not drowned by the flood, which saved two young girls. After the deluge, they taked refuge in the mountains and were married. They had thus become the ancestors of ressurected humans.

Like the Vietnamese and the Chinese, the Lô Lô celebrate their new year at which are added other rites and  festivals. The is the case of the ritual of new rice, the celebration of the 5th day of the 5th moon, that of the 15th day of the 7th moon etc.. We don’t forget to mention also the dance under the  moonlight . The latter may last all night  and assembles  either a majority of  girls and boys or  a group of young girls  or married womens. The dance  starts with  the formation of the circle carried out by the dancers who place their hands on the shoulders of others.  They are accompanied  by songs  and movements simulating the  daily activities  such as the rice pounding and   winnowing,  the fruit picking or the embroidery etc …

Being the favourite entertainment for youth, the dance under the moonlight takes place on the site near to the village and it can take up to the morning light.

butvietAlthought the Lô Lô are not numerous in Vietnam, they are distinguished from other ethnies by their flamboyant clothing and the deep attachment to nature. 


Bibliographic references:

  • Ethnic minorities in Vietnam. Đặng Nghiêm Vạn, Chu Thái Sơn, Lưu Hùng . Thế Giới Publishers Hànội 2010
  • Mosaïque culturelle des ethnies du Vietnam. Nguyễn Văn Huy. Maison d’édition de l’éducation. 1997
  • Notes sur quelques danses de minorités ethniques du Nord Vietnam. Phạm Thị Điền. Etudes vietnamiennes. Tome 39 n°3



Vietnamese woodcuts (Tranh dân gian)



French version

Without the curiosity and open-mindedness of this young French military man, the Vietnamese popular woodcut would probably have been in oblivion and disappeared forever with the ups and downs of the war. The Vietnamese woodcut has its origin dated back to 15th century, at a time when scholar Lương Như Hộc introduced its fabrication technique on his way back from an official mission to China.

Henri Oger was one of the rare Frenchmen who, at the beginning of the century, was able to discover a millennium of wealth in traditions and customs throughout the Vietnamese society which was then closed to strangers, poor and backward. He took the initiative of creating an encyclopedia consisted of 10 volumes describing all aspects of the Vietnamese society in the old days: craftsman’s works, festivals, farming techniques, ancestral customs etc.. by requesting about 30 wood carvers to engrave designs on wood and then, because of weather conditions, imprint the engraving on the spot using the Vietnamese traditional methods. It should be acknowledged that the love of Vietnam and its people has allowed Henri Oger to overcome at that time all hardship in fund raising and in the realization of this huge work ( more than 4000 designs in all ).estampes_1

He did not get any help from the French government at all. He only got subscriptions from some two dozen persons, in the amount of 200 piasters.

Henri Oger

In spite of that, Henri Oger has succeeded in leaving to the Vietnamese people a priceless treasure. His work was unknown to the French and Vietnamese public for decades. Only in 1978 did an exhibition entitled « Peasant Painters of Vietnam » take place at the Cultural Center of Bourges. Three of his works are presently kept at the National Library of Hanoï and Saïgon City but only in the latter we find his 10 volumes in their entirety.


Introduction générale à l’étude de la technique du peuple annamite. 2 volumes. Editions: Geuthner-Jouve, Paris.


Hồ Xuân Hương poetess

French version

Speaking of Hồ Xuân Hương  creates in everyone of us not only an ardent admiration but also food for thought back to the time when Confucianism kept on draining all the vital outbursts of a closed society and literature, the source of social prestige remained in having the exclusive right to sit in the triennal examinations for the recruitment of mandarins. Before occupying a good place in the official history of Vietnamese literature published in 1980 by the Institute of Literature of Vietnam, Hồ Xuân Hương was in the past a source of inexhaustible controversy between those who saw in her a wonderful woman who dared without shame to tackle the rights to her sex and carnal love in the time of feudal darkness, and those who found that her poetry, putting too much accent on the glorification of sexual instinct, was a disappointment for the Vietnamese literature and an attack and an stain to the model Vietnamese woman.

It should be admitted that Hồ Xuân Hương is a woman ahead of her time, a woman who knows how to use her intelligence to denounce hypocrisy and absurdity at a time when society was ruled by unchanging Confucian ethics, a woman who dares revolt against prohibitions and taboos for the liberalization of the woman, physical as well as moral. She loved to confront and beat Messieurs the learned men with their own weapons. She succeeded in evading formal censorship by an uncommon cleverness, proceeding with allusions and metaphores.


Thiếu nữ ngủ ngày

Mùa hè hây hẩy gió nồm đông
Thiếu nữ nằm chơi quá giấc nồng
Lược trúc lỏng cài trên mái tóc
Yếm đào trễ xuống dưới nương long
Ðôi gò Bông đảo sương còn ngậm
Môt lạch đào nguyên suối chưa thông
Quân tử dùng dằng đi chẳng dứt
Ði thì cũng dở ở không xong.

Day Sleeping Girl

Summer breeze is sporadically blowing,
Lying down the young girl slides into sleeping.
Her bamboo comb loosely attached to her hair,
Her pink bra below her waist dropped down fair.
On these two Elysian mounds, the nectar is still remaining,
In that one Fairy rivulet, the current seems to stop flowing.
At such a view, the gentleman hesitated,
Odd to leave, yet inconvenient if he stayed

Hang Cắc Cớ

Trời đất sinh ra đá một chòm
Nứt ra đôi mảnh hỏm hòm hom
Kẽ hầm rêu mốc trơ toen hoẻn
Luồng gió thông reo vỗ phập phồng
Giọt nước hữu tình rơi lõm bõm
Con đường vô ngạn tối om om
Khen ai đẽo đá tài xuyên tạc
Khéo hớ hênh ra lắm kè dòm

Cắc Cớ grotto

Yin and Yang created this chunk of rock;
A deep and dark crack split it into two blocks.
Moss covered openings expose themselves with impudence
Wind enhanced firs produce sound of rhythmic cadence.
Drops of romantic water fall with splash
Roads to nowhere lead in dark labyrinth.
Praise to the scuptor inventing this distortion
Indecent exposure invites lots of observation

Extracted from the book entitled « Egrets on the river  » de Mr Lê Thành Khôi.


The Fan

Are you seventeen or eighteen?(1)
Let me cherish you by all means.
Thin or thick you display a triangle, and
Large or small I hold you with one hand.
The more it is hot the fresher you will submit,
Not enough love at night, daytime will make it.
Your cheeks are rose pink and give you grace,
Lords and kings love you because of your face.

(1): Seventeen or nineteen branches of the fan could be understood as seventeen or eighteen

Vịnh cái quạt

Mười bảy hay là mười tám đây
họ ta yêu dâ’u chẩng rời tay
Mỏng dày chừng ấy, chành ba góc
Rộng hẹp dường nào, cắm một cây.
Càng nóng bao nhiêu thời càng mát
Yêu đêm không phỉ lại yêu ngày
Hồng hồng má phấn duyên vì cậy
Chúa dấu vua yêu một cái nầy.

The Great poetess of Vietnam

To talk about things the most crude in society, about erotism in particular, she resorted to harmless description of the landscape and familiar objects. The Jack-Fruit, The Floating Cake, The Fan, The Grotto of Cắc Cớ, Weaving at Midnight, The Day Sleeping Girl are the titles the best known and witness her talent and knack of knowing how to create the rhythms comparable to those in popular songs ( ca dao ) and use a surprisingly simple vocabulary in her poetry. A manuscript in « nom » from the Library of Sciences recorded in 1912 counted only 23 poems but it is noted that the number of poems attributed to Hồ Xuân Hương has grown with the time. Therefore even its existence was put to doubt in the past. Hô` Xuân Huong could have been original of Quynh Doi village, Quynh Luu district, Nghe An province. Her father Hô` Phi Điền is issue of the Hồ family of scholars (Hô` Phi). According to the French researcher Maurice Durand, she was not very attractive physiaclly based on the two verses from Hồ Xuân Hương’s Jack-Fruit:

Thân em như quả mít trên cây,
Da nó sù sì, múi nó dày

My body is like the jack-fruit on the tree,
Its skin is rough, its clove is thick.

This deduction seemed less convincing by the fact that even she was not beautiful, she must have been charming because she was married twice then widowed and having many flirts such as Chiêu Hô` (Phạm Đình Hô`). Because of her biting and licentious verve, some people see in her a sex maniac, a genie of lust; that is the case of Nguyễn Văn Hạnh and the French researcher Maurice Durand in « Works of Vietnamese poetess Hồ Xuân Hương », Ecole francaise d’Extreme Orient, Adrien Maisonneuve, Paris 1968. On the other hand, other people do not hesitate to defend her with fanfare, finding her not only a feminist of the first hour but also a woman having the gut to live and defy a society of mummies and ghosts. It is the case of writer Nguyễn Đức  Bình in the monthly review Văn Nghệ. ( Arts and Literature ) No. 62.

Dệt cửi

Thắp ngọn đèn lên thấy trắng phau
Con cò mấp máy suốt đêm thâu
Hai chân đạp xuô’ng năng năng nhắc
Mô.t suốt đâm ngang thích thiích nhau
Rộng hẹp nhỏ to vừa vặn cả
Ngắn dài khuôn khổ cũng như nhau
Cô nào muốn tốt ngâm cho kỹ
Chờ đến ba thu mới dãi màu

Nightime Weaving

Light turned on, it is found such a white,
The stalk moves slightly and repeatedly all night.
Pushing with the feet, but lightly release,
Shuttle passing through brings joy and ease.
Large or narrow, small or big they all fit,
Long and short, size and form so be it.
To make it best, girl needs to soak it with care .
The cloth color won’t fade before three whole years.


If Hồ Xuân Hương is a rose with thorns, a lonely and almost unique voice in the Vietnamese literature, she has nonetheless the courage and the audacity to throw a stone and spread the trouble in a stagnant and rotting pond that became the Vietnamese society at the end of 18th century. Contrary to other great scholars preferring looking for solitude to devote themselves to contemplation of nature and meditation in drunkenness, Hồ Xuân Hương preferred to combat it alone at her time using her verve, her poems to experiment the wrath of a woman revolting and thundering against injustice of the Vietnamese society. She deserves the homage that American writer Henri Miller rendered two centuries later to a female writer of 20th century in his forewords for  » Fear of flying » by Erica Jong, Robert Laffont, 1976:

butvietShe writes like a man. However it is a woman with 100% woman. On many points, she is more direct and more frank than many male authors.



Le mythe de Táo Quân (Chuyện ông Táo)


Version vietnamienne

Le mythe de Táo Quân

Le mythe des génies du foyer repose sur la tragique histoire d’un bûcheron et de sa femme. Il prend sa source dans le taoïsme. Ce couple modeste vivait heureux jusqu’au jour où  il découvrit qu’il ne pouvait pas avoir d’enfants. L’infortuné mari se mit à boire et à maltraiter sa femme. Celle-ci ne pouvant en supporter davantage le quitta et épousa un chasseur d’un village voisin. Mais un jour, fou de solitude et plein de remords, le bûcheron décida de rendre visite à sa femme pour lui présenter ses excuses.

Sur ces entrefaites, le chasseur rentra chez lui. Afin d’éviter tout malentendu, la jeune femme cacha son premier mari dans une étable au toit de chaume, située près de la cuisine où le chasseur était en train de fumer son gibier. Par malheur, une braise s’échappa du foyer et mit le feu à l’étable.

Affolée, la jeune femme s’élança vers l’étable en flammes pour sauver son ex-époux. Le chasseur la suivit pour lui porter secours et tous trois périrent dans le brasier. L’empereur de Jade (Ngọc hoàng), du haut de son trône céleste, profondément touché par ce triste sort, divinisa les trois malheureux et les chargea de veiller au bien-être des Vietnamiens  à l’emplacement avantageux de la cuisine. C’est ainsi qu’ils devinrent  dès lors les génies du Foyer.

Pendant la semaine où les génies sont au ciel, les Vietnamiens craignent que leur maison soit sans protection. Afin de prévenir toute incursion des mauvais esprits dans leur maison, ils érigent devant chez eux une  haute perche de bambou (cây nêu) sur laquelle sont suspendues des plaques en argile (ou khánh en vietnamien) vibrant avec sonorité au gré du vent pour éloigner les esprits. Au sommet de cette perche, flotte un morceau de tissu jaune marqué par l’emblème bouddhique.

Cette coutume trouve ses origines dans une légende bouddhique  intitulée « Le Tết du bûcheron » selon laquelle les  Vietnamiens doivent affronter des esprits maléfiques.

C’est toujours le vingt-troisième jour du dernier mois lunaire que chacun des  Vietnamiens organise une cérémonie de départ du génie de foyer  pour le ciel. On trouve non seulement sur son autel des fruits, des mets délicieux, des fleurs mais aussi un équipement de voyage approprié (3 paires de bottes, 3 chapeaux, vêtements, des papiers votifs) et des trois carpes mises dans une petite cuvette. À la fin de la cérémonie, on brûle les papiers votifs et on libère les carpes dans un étang ou dans une rivière afin que le génie puisse s’en servir pour s’envoler au ciel. Celui-ci doit rapporter tout ce qu’il a vu sur terre à l’empereur de jade, en particulier dans le foyer de chaque Vietnamien. Son séjour dure ainsi  six jours au ciel. Il doit retourner au foyer dans la nuit du réveillon jusqu’au moment où  débute la nouvelle année.

(*) cây nêu: C’est un arbre cosmique reliant la terre au ciel  en raison des croyances des peuples anciens adorant le soleil, y compris les Proto-Vietnamiens mais il  est employé également  pour délimiter leur territoire.

Version vietnamienne

Truyền thuyết về các Táo quân được  dựa trên câu chuyện bi thảm của một người thợ rừng và vợ của ông ta. Nó có nguồn gốc từ Lão giáo. Cặp vợ chồng khiêm tốn này được sống hạnh phúc cho đến khi họ phát hiện ra rằng họ không thể có con. Người chồng bất hạnh nầy mới  bắt đầu rượu chè và ngược đãi  bà vợ. Bà nầy không thể chịu đựng được nữa và rời bỏ ông ta và kết hôn với một người thợ săn ở làng bên cạnh. Nhưng một ngày nọ, cô đơn và hối hận, người thợ rừng quyết định đến thăm vợ để xin tạ lỗi.

Giữa lúc đó, người thợ săn trở về nhà. Để tránh mọi sự hiểu lầm, người phụ nữ trẻ buộc lòng giấu người chồng cũ của mình ở trong một chuồng gia súc có mái nhà bằng tranh, nằm gần nhà bếp nơi mà người thợ săn đang hun khói thịt rừng. Thật không may, một đóm lửa  than hồng thoát ra khỏi lò và đốt cháy chuồng.

Cùng quẫn, người phụ nữ trẻ lao mình về phía chuồng  đang bốc cháy để cứu chồng cũ. Người thợ săn chạy theo cô để giúp cô và cả ba đã chết trong ngọn lửa. Ngọc Hoàng, từ trên cao nhìn xuống, cảm động vô cùng trước số phận đau buồn này, phong thần cho ba người  và buộc họ phải trông chừng từ đây hạnh phúc của người dân Việt ở vị trí thuận lợi của nhà bếp. Bởi vậy họ trở thành các thần bếp núc từ đây của các gia đình người Việt.

Trong tuần lễ  các táo quân ở trên trời, người Việt lo sợ ngôi nhà của họ sẽ không được bảo vệ. Để ngăn chặn sự xâm nhập của tà ma vào nhà, họ dựng trước cửa nhà một cây nêu có treo những khánh đất phát tiếng động khi có gió rung. Trên đỉnh cột này  có treo một mảnh vải màu vàng có biểu tượng của Phật giáo.

Phong tục này bắt nguồn từ một truyền thuyết Phật giáo mang tên « Tết của người thợ rừng », theo đó người dân việt phải đối mặt với những linh hồn ma quỷ.

Cứ đến ngày hai mươi ba tháng Giêng âm lịch, mỗi người  dân Việt lại tổ chức lễ tiễn Táo quân  về trời. Không chỉ có  trái cây, thức ăn ngon, các bông hoa trên bàn thờ của Táo quân mà còn có đồ dùng cho cuộc hành trình thích hợp (3 đôi giầy, 3 cái mũ, 3  bộ đồ quần áo, vàng mã) và ba con cá chép được đặt trong một chiếc thau nhỏ. Sau khi kết thúc lễ cúng thì đốt vàng mã và thả cá chép xuống ao hay sông để Táo quân mượn cá chép bay về trời.  Táo quân phải báo cáo lại với Ngọc Hoàng tất cả những gì Táo quân được nhìn thấy ở trần gian, nhất là ở trong nhà của mỗi gia đình của người dân Việt. Thời gian lưu trú của Táo quân được  kéo dài là sáu ngày ở trên trời. Táo quân phải trở về nhà vào đêm giao thừa đúng lúc khi năm mới vừa bắt đầu.

(*) cây nêu:  cây vũ trụ nối liền đất với trời, do tín ngưỡng thờ thần mặt trời của các dân tộc cổ mà trong đó có người Việt cổ mà còn hàm chứa ý thức về lãnh thổ cư trú của họ.

The story of the mosquito (Chuyện con muỗi)



French version

Once upon a time in a faraway region of Vietnam, there was a young, brave and generous farmer of the name Ngọc Tâm. He had a wife of the name Nhan Diệp She was gracious and charming. Contrary to her husband who was thrifty and hard working, she was lazy and loved luxury. In spite of that, Ngoc Tâm loved his wife and forgave her for anything. Unfortunately, this union lasted only for a short time because his wife died brutally on a beautiful morning. Sinking into distress, Ngọc Tâm did not want to stay away from the corpse of his wife and opposed to her burial. After having sold all his assets, he embarked in a sampan with the casket and drifted with the current without having in mind any precise destination. One day, his sampan took him to the foot of a green and scented hill. Landing on ground, he discovered a landscape imprinted with the beauty of rare flowers and trees bearing varied fruits. During the time he continued his exploration, he suddenly met an old man with his long hair as white as his goatie beard.

From the old man emanated a great serenity and a surprising compassion, which allowed him to understand he had in front of him a God of Places. He threw himself down to the old man’s feet, then implore him to give back life to his wife. Feeling sorry for him, the God said: « I am going to grant your wish because your love and grief are sincere. But could you not regret it later on! ». Then he asked the peasant to open the casket, and cut the end of his finger and let three drops of blood fall on the body of his wife Nhan Diep. Right away, the latter opened her eyes as if she got out of a long lethargy.

Her forces returned very fast. Before leaving, the God told the woman: « Don’t forget your duties of a wife. Think of the love your husband brought to you and of his devotion. Be happy both of you. »

Hurrying to go back home, the peasant Ngọc Tâm tried to row days and nights. One evening, he had to land to buy groceries. During his absence, a big boat of a wealthy merchant drew up alonside his.

Hurrying to go back home, the peasant Ngọc Tâm tried to row days and nights. One evening, he had to land to buy groceries. During his absence, a big boat of a wealthy merchant drew up alonside his.

Caught by the beauty of Nhan Diệp, the merchant got into a conversation with her, ended up seducing her and taking her with him to a new destination. Upon his return, furious Ngọc Tâm decided to launch himself into the pursuit of the rich merchant. He succeeded in finding the latter after long months of search. He found his wife and proposed her to go back to him. Used to easy life, the latter refused to the proposal. Right then, the peasant recovered from his craze and told his wife:  » You are free to leave me. But you have to give back my three drops of blood that I poured on your body to revive you ».

Happy for getting rid of her stupid husband at a good deal, Nhan Diệp hurried to prick her finger. But at the time the blood began to flow, she tumbled down dead. This frivolous and light-hearted woman could not be resigned to leave this world definitively. She came back by transforming herself into a minuscule insect relentlessly pursuing Ngọc Tâm to steal from him the three drops of blood that brought her to human life.

This tiny creature is known later as the mosquito.

L’histoire de la moustique (Chuyện con muỗi)


English version

Il était une fois dans une région lointaine du Viêt-Nam un jeune paysan, brave et généreux de nom Ngọc Tâm. Il avait une femme de nom « Nhan Diệp ». Celle-ci était gracieuse et charmante. Contrairement à son mari qui était économe et laborieux, elle était paresseuse et aimait bien le luxe. Malgré cela, Ngọc Tâm aimait toujours  sa femme et lui pardonnait tout. Malheureusement, cette union ne fut que de courte durée car sa femme mourut brutalement un beau matin. Sombrant dans la détresse, Ngọc Tâm ne voulut pas se séparer du corps de sa femme et s’opposa à son ensevelissement. Après avoir vendu ses biens, il s’embarqua dans un sampan avec le cercueil et erra au gré du courant, n’ayant en tête aucune destination précise.

Un jour, son sampan l’amena au pied d’une colline verdoyante et parfumée. Descendu sur terre, il découvrit un paysage empreint de beauté avec des fleurs rares, des arbres chargés des fruits variés. Au moment où il continua son exploration, il rencontra soudain un vieillard aux longs cheveux blancs tout comme sa barbiche. Il se dégagea du vieil homme une grande sérénité et une miséricorde étonnante, ce qui lui permit de comprendre qu’il avait devant lui un génie des Lieux. Il se jeta à ses pieds, puis il l’implora de rendre la vie à sa femme.

Pris de pitié pour lui, le génie lui dit:  » Je vais exaucer tes vœux car ton amour et ta douleur sont sincères. Mais puissiez-vous ne pas trop le regretter plus tard ! ». Puis il demanda au paysan d’ouvrir le cercueil, de se couper le bout du doigt et de laisser tomber trois gouttes de sang sur le corps de sa femme Nhan Diệp. Aussitôt, celle-ci ouvrit les yeux comme si elle sortait d’une longue léthargie.

Ses forces revinrent très vite. Avant la séparation, le Génie s’adressa à sa femme: « N’oubliez pas vos devoirs d’épouse. Pensez à l’amour que votre époux vous porte et à son dévouement. Soyez heureux tous les deux. » Pressé de rentrer chez lui, le paysan Ngọc Tâm essaya de ramer des jours et des nuits. Un soir, il dut débarquer pour acheter des provisions. Durant son absence, le grand bateau d’un riche commerçant vint se placer à côté du sien. Séduit par la beauté de Nhan Diệp, le marchand engagea la conversation avec elle, finit par la séduire et l’emmena avec lui vers une nouvelle destination.

A son retour, Ngọc Tâm, furieux décida de se lancer à la poursuite du riche marchand. Il parvint à retrouver ce dernier après de longs mois de recherche. Il retrouva sa femme et proposa à cette dernière de le rejoindre. Habituée à la vie facile, celle-ci refusa cette proposition. Du coup le paysan fut guéri de son amour et dit à sa femme: << Tu es libre de me quitter. Mais tu dois me rendre les trois gouttes de sang que j’ai versées sur ton corps pour te ranimer >>.
Heureuse de se débarrasser à si bon compte de son stupide mari, Nhan Diệp s’empressa de se piquer le doigt. Mais au moment où le sang commença à couler, elle s’écroula morte. Cette femme frivole et légère ne put pas se résigner à quitter définitivement ce monde. Elle y revint en se transformant en moustique  (con muỗi) poursuivant sans relâche Ngọc Tâm pour lui voler les trois gouttes de sang permettant de la ramener à la vie humaine.

Cette bestiole est connue plus tard sous le nom de moustique. 

Vietnamese mother day (Lễ Vu Lan)


French version

Like the Europeans, Vietnamese people celebrate Mothers’ Day too. It is the Vu Lan festival on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar.

Once upon a time there was a naughty lady of the name Thanh Ðề. She was without pity toward the poor and above all the beggars. She never gave alms and chased any beggars who showed up at the gate of her house. She did not hesitate to trample on the rice grains picked up by the poor peasants toiling all year long on their land. She made fun at buddhist priests and nuns by trying to disturb their quietness. She blasphemed Buddha, was in contempt of spirits and offered to pagodas foods mixed with meat ingredients.

Despite the advice of her son Mục Kiền Liên who was a bonze of high virtue, she hardly listened to him. At her death, she joined the Kingdom of the Deaths and had to pay for the faults she had committed in the living world: sitting on a nail studded bed, carrying on her head a bucket full of blood, staying hungry and thirsty as any food that was brought to her mouth melted into blood and turned into flame.

When Mục Kiền Liên became enlightened, he could go down to the Kingdom of the Deaths to see his mother. He witnessed the punishments she suffered. He could not do anything to change the course of justice by the heavenly decree nor could he substitute for his mother. He had to go and see Buddha and request grace from the latter. Buddha ordered him to arrange the Vu Lan ceremony on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, during which he could solicit the withdrawing of sentence for his mother with prayers and alms.

Vietnamese Mother day

Upon coming back to earth, really austere and fervent Mục Kiền Liên, when came the day, set up an altar in honor of Buddha while giving alms and ferforming ceremony. In the Kingdom of the Deaths, Thanh Ðề understood the sufferings as she had gone through hunger and thirst. The hardships that she encountered brought her little by little from her naughty nature to the knowledge of remorse.

Mục Kiền Liên’s piety reached the gate of Heaven. The Holy Father reviewed Thanh Ðề’s case, found that she had been able to repent and acqitted her. Muc Kien Lien was allowed to go down to hell to bring his mother back to life. From then on, Thanh Ðề honored Buddha with all her heart, respected buddhist priests, helped the poor. Inspired by this example, pious children according to Vietnamese customs, on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar, set up an altar in memory of the dead and give alms to the poor.

L’histoire de Mục Kiền Liên (Lễ Vu Lan)



English version

Comme les Européens, les Vietnamiens ont aussi la fête des Mères. C’est la fête du Vu Lan au 15è jour du 7ème mois lunaire.
Il était une fois une dame méchante au nom de Thanh Ðề. Elle était impitoyable envers les pauvres et surtout envers les mendiants. Elle ne faisait jamais aumône et chassait tout mendiant qui se présentait au portail de sa maison. Elle n’hésitait pas à piétiner des grains de riz, recueillis par les pauvres paysans s’échinant à longueur d’année sur leurs terres. Elle se moquait des bonzes et des bonzesses en cherchant à rompre leur quiétude. Elle blasphémait Bouddha, méprisait les esprits et offrait à la pagode des victuailles de jeûne auxquelles elle avait mêlé des aliments carnés.
Malgré les conseils de son fils Mục Kiền Liên qui fut un bonze de haute vertu, elle ne l’écoutait guère. A sa mort, elle rejoignit le Royaume des Morts et dut payer ses fautes commises dans le monde des vivants: s’asseoir sur un lit à clous, porter sur la tête un seau rempli de sang, rester affamée et assoiffée car tout aliment qu’on lui mettait dans sa bouche se fondait en sang et se muait en flamme.

Lễ Vu Lan

Mục Kiền Liên, une fois l’illumination atteinte, put descendre dans le Royaume des Morts pour voir sa mère. Il fut témoin des châtiments qu’elle encourut. Il ne put rien pour changer le cours justicier du décret céleste et ne put pas non plus se substituer à sa mère. Il fut obligé d’aller voir Bouddha et demanda grâce à ce dernier. Celui-ci lui ordonna d’organiser au 15ème jour du 7ème mois lunaire, la cérémonie de Vu Lan, au cours de laquelle il pourrait solliciter la remise de peine pour sa mère avec les prières et l’aumône.

De retour sur terre, Mục Kiền Liên, le jour venu, dressa un autel en hommage à Bouddha tout en faisant aumône et cérémonie bien austère et fervente. Thanh Ðề, dans le Royaume des Morts, prit conscience de la souffrance comme elle fut sensible à la faim et à la soif. Les difficultés qu’elle rencontrait l’amenaient à se départir au fur et à mesure de sa nature méchante et à connaître le remords. La piété de Mục Kiền Liên remua la porte du Ciel. Le père céleste réexamina le cas de Thanh Ðề, constata qu’elle avait pu se repentir et l’acquitta. Il fut permis à Mục Kiền Liên de descendre dans l’enfer ramener sa mère à la vie.

Depuis lors, Thanh Ðề, de tout cœur, honora Bouddha, respecta les bonzes, secourut les pauvres.  En s’inspirant de cet exemple, les enfants pieux, selon la coutume vietnamienne, au 15ème jour du 7ème mois lunaire, érigent un autel à la mémoire des défunts et font aumône aux pauvres.