Les Mayas (Nền văn minh Maya): Partie 2

 

Version vietnamienne

Version française

Malgré cela, une percée significative dans le déchiffrement de l’écriture maya eut lieu dans les années 1950 grâce aux travaux du linguiste russe Yuri Knorosov. Ce dernier parvint à prouver que l’écriture utilisée par les Mayas pour la transcription de leur langue, était de type logo-syllabique (de 900 à 1200 signes) comparable à l’égyptien classique (734 signes). Puis en 1978, l’épigraphiste américain de l’université Stanford, J. Justeson introduisit dans sa thèse consacrée à l’écriture maya, l’idée de compléments phonétiques. Même une grammaire se constitua récemment dans les années 1980-1990 avec les travaux de L. Schele (1982), B. Macleod (1983) et V. Bricker (1986). Cela facilite la meilleure compréhension de la tradition écrite par des Mayas.

Aujourd’hui, on peut dire que l’écriture maya est de type logo-phonétique. Grâce à cette avancée dans le décryptage et dans les fouilles archéologiques, on est obligé de modifier la vision qu’on a eue à l’égard des Mayas en saisissant tout ce qu’ils avaient laissé dans le corpus hiéroglyphique composé actuellement de plus de dix mille textes.

 

 Cho đến năm 1950, nhờ  nhà ngôn ngữ nga Yuri Knorosov mà  hệ thống chữ viết Maya được giãi mã.  Ông nầy đã  chứng minh  lối  viết của người Maya trong việc phiên âm là loại logo âm tiết (từ 900 đến 1200 dấu) so với lối viết của người Ai Cập (734 dấu). Rồi đến 1978, nhà nghiên cứu  văn khắc người Mỹ, ông J. Juteson của đại học Stanford đưa vào trong luận án dành về văn tự của người Maya, một ý niệm về việc bổ sung ngữ âm. Có luôn cả văn phạm của người Maya được cung cấp gần đây trong những năm 1980-1990 với các công việc của L. Schele (1982), B. Macleod (1983) và  V. Bricker (1986). Nhờ đó mà sự hiểu biết về lối viết của người Maya đuợc thông suốt từ đây. Ngày nay, có thể khẳng định là chữ viết của người Maya là loại logo âm tiết.  Nhờ viêc tiến triển trong việc giãi mã và các cuộc khai quật mà  cái nhìn về người Maya cũng được thay đổi nhất là với những gì họ để lại trong kho tàng tượng hình gồm có hiện nay hơn mười ngàn  văn bản.

Les Mayas (Nền văn minh Maya): Partie I

Version vietnamienne

Qui sont ces mayas?

Selon certains archéologues, les Mayas ont leur origine asiatique avec leurs traits. On pourrait penser à l’arrivée, sur le territoire vierge d’Amérique, de leurs ancêtres, des chasseurs venus d’Asie, à la poursuite du gibier en franchissant le détroit de Behring au cours de la dernière période glaciaire. Cette théorie reste séduisante et convaincante dans la mesure où on trouve chez les Mayas des techniques rencontrées en Asie: céramique, filage et tissage ainsi que certains concepts d’ordre religieux (chamanisme) et cosmique comme les associations de couleurs et d’animaux célestes aux quatre points cardinaux. (Ngũ hành). Grâce à la découverte des monuments de la ville de Copán (Honduras) envahis par la végétation dans les vapeurs de la jungle tropicale par l’explorateur américain John Lloyd Stephens et son compagnon illustrateur Frederick Catherwood en 1840, on recommence à s’intéresser à leur civilisation, leur mode de vie, leurs connaissances scientifiques (astronomie, mathématiques, architecture, agriculture etc…) et surtout leur écriture glyphique. Celle-ci est un système d’écriture complexe et incompréhensible qui n’est pas conçu pour les transactions commerciales comme les autres écritures anciennes. Elle n’est pas destinée à la basse couche de la société maya mais elle est un moyen pour les nobles et les scribes de s’adresser aux dieux et de légitimer le pouvoir de leurs souverains considérés à l’égal des dieux. Cela décourage un grand nombre de savants et de chercheurs qui qualifiaient avec résignation dans le passé cette écriture maya de “problème insoluble”. Leur déchiffrement devient de plus en plus ardu car lors de l’arrivée des conquistadors espagnols sur le territoire des Mayas, la plupart de leurs manuscrits (ou codex) furent brûlés sur un bûcher par l’évêque Diego de Landa à Mani (Yucatan). 

Ce dernier trouva dans ces codex des formules de rituel avec une écriture glyphique incompréhensible, une entrave à sa mission de christianisation et un caractère de superstition et de mystification du démon. On estime qu’il fit détruire 70 tonnes de témoignages écrits par les Mayas ainsi que 5000 idoles. Pourtant il fut l’un des meilleurs chroniqueurs de la civilisation maya. Beaucoup de gens eurent du mal à croire, à cette époque, que ces Indiens misérables vivant à côté des ruines mystérieuses de Copán découvertes par John Lloyd Stephens et Frederick Catherwood, étaient les descendants des bâtisseurs de cette civilisation. Pourtant ils furent, à l’époque précolombienne, le seul peuple d’Amérique centrale à avoir poussé aussi loin l’exploration d’un système complexe d’écriture dans le but de donner cohésion et unité à leur culture autant diverse que variée, d’une région à une autre, au niveau de la composition ethnique et matérielle. Malgré un grand nombre élevé de dialectes (une trentaine en tout), on a retrouvé les mêmes hiéroglyphes, la même écriture en divers points de l’Amérique centrale soit sur les basses terres de tout le Yucatan soit dans les hautes terres du Guatemala ou dans le territoire traversé par les rivières Usumacinta et Sarstoon. Analogues aux Egyptiens avec le papyrus et aux Chinois avec la fibre de mûrier, les Mayas ont réussi à fabriquer le papier avec les fibres d’une espèce de figuier. Cela leur permit d’enregistrer leurs rites religieux, leurs observations scientifiques et leurs annales dans des codex présentés sous la forme des grandes feuilles de papier plissées verticalement en accordéon. À cause de l’autodafé de livres mayas organisé par Diego de Landa, il ne reste aujourd’hui que 4 codex mayas dont les trois premiers sont: le Codex de Dresde (Codex Dresdensis), le Codex Tro Cortesianus (ou Manuscrit de Madrid), le Codex Peresianus (ou Manuscrit de Paris) dans les bibliothèques de Dresde, de Madrid et de Paris et le quatrième connu comme le Codex Grolier découvert en 1971 par Michael Coe, un chercheur américain de l’université Yale.(Suite: Partie 2)

Người Maya

Theo các nhà khảo cổ học, người Maya có nguồn gốc đến từ Châu Á nếu dựa trên nét mặt. Có thể nghĩ rằng trên mảnh đất hoang sơ của Châu Mỹ, ông cha họ đến khi còn là những người đi săn bắn đến từ Châu Á . Vi đeo đuổi các thú rừng nên họ vượt qua eo biển Behring trong thời kỳ cuối băng hà. Giả thuyết nầy có vẽ thuyết phục và hấp dẫn vì chúng ta nhận thấy ở những người Maya có những kỹ thuật thường được trông thấy ở Châu Á : gốm, việc xe sợi và dệt vải, những khái niệm mang tính chất tôn giáo (saman giáo) và vũ trụ cũng như sự kết hợp các màu và động vật thiên ở bốn phương (Ngũ hành). Nhờ nhà thám hiểm người Mỹ, ông John Lloyd Stephens cùng bạn đồng hành họa sỹ Frederick Catherwood khám phá vào năm 1840, các công trình của thành phố Copán (Honduras) bị bao phủ bởi cây cối và chìm đắm trong sương mù của rừng nhiệt đới mà văn minh của người Maya được quan tâm lại nhất là lối sống của họ, những kiến thức khoa học ( thiên văn, toán học, kiến trúc, canh nông và nhất là chữ viết của họ. Lối viết nầy rất phức tạp không dùng trong việc buôn bán cũng như các văn tự cổ khác. Nó không dành cho giới hạ tầng cũa xã hội mà nó là một phương tiện cho giới qúi tộc và các biện lại để tiếp cận với thần thánh và hợp pháp hóa quyện lực của vua chúa được xem như ngang hàng với các thần thánh. Chính vì vậy biết bao nhiêu nhà khảo cứu xem vặn tự của họ là một vấn đề nan giải nhất là với sự xâm nhập của đoàn viễn chinh Tây Ban Nha trên lãnh thổ của người Maya thì bao nhiêu sách vỡ (hay codex) ở Mani (Yucatan) đều bị giám mục Diego de Landa đốt cả. Qua những công thức nghi lễ được tìm thấy trong các codex với lối viết theo những họa tiết không thể hiểu nổi, ông cho rằng đây là một trở ngại trong việc truyền bá đạo công giáo và nó có tính chất dị đoan mê tín. Có ít nhất 70 tấn tang chứng văn tự của người Maya bị tiêu hủy cùng 5000 thần tượng.

Tuy nhiên ông Diego de Landa là một trong những nguời thời luận xuất sắc về văn hóa Maya. Rất nhiều người không nghỉ rằng ở thời đó có những bộ tộc nghèo đói sống ở vùng đất hoang tàn Copán mà được John Lloyd Stephens và Frederick Catherwood khám phá là con cháu của những người xây dựng một nền văn minh Maya cổ. Tuy nhiên ở thời kỳ tiền Colombo, họ là một dân tộc duy nhất ở Trung Mỹ đã khảo sát tĩ mĩ một hệ thống chữ viết phức tạp để mang lại sự liên kết chặt chẽ và thống nhất cho nền văn hóa của họ nhất là nó rất phong phú và khác nhau từ vùng nầy qua vùng kia trên phương diện sắc tộc và vật chất. Mặc dầu có 30 thổ ngữ, người ta vẫn tìm thấy một loại chữ viết tượng hình như nhau ở khắp nơi vùng Trung Mỹ dù nơi đó là đồng bằng Yucatan hay là vùng cao nguyên của Guatemala hoặc là vùng đất có các con sông Usumacinta và Sarstoon. Cũng như người Ai Cập với giấy cói và nguời Trung Hoa với sợi dâu, người Maya họ tìm ra trong việc chế tạo giấy với sợi của cây vả ( hay cây sung). Nhờ vậy họ ghi chép lại tất cả lễ nghi tôn giáo, các cuộc quan sát khoa học cùng các biên sử trong các codex dưới dạng các tấm giấy lớn được gấp dựng đứng như đàn phong cầm. Vì sự thiêu hủy sách vở do ông Diego de Landa đề xướng, chỉ còn hiện nay 4 codex của người Maya: codex de Dresde, codex Tro Cortesianus (hay là bản thảo Madrid) và codex Peresianus (hay là bản thảo Paris) thì thuộc về các  thư viện Dresde, Madrid và Paris còn  codex thứ tư được gọi là codex Grolier khám phá vào năm 1971 bởi Michael Coe, một nhà nghiên cứu Mỹ của đại học Yale. (Tiếp theo)

Passages couverts de Paris (Các hành lang cổ kính của Ba Lê)

Passage Colbert

Version vietnamienne

Méconnus jusqu’à une date récente, les passages de Paris redeviennent aujourd’hui l’un des attraits touristiques et architecturaux de Paris. Dans les années 1850, Paris possède au moins 150 passages couverts et exporte le modèle vers d’autres villes françaises (Bordeaux, Nantes etc …) et vers l’étranger (Italie, Turquie, Grande-Bretagne etc …). C’est aussi  un modèle importé de Paris, le passage Eden dans lequel on était habitué à flâner à Saïgon (Vietnam) dans les années 1970.  Ces passages parisiens se regroupent sur la rive droite de la Seine, en particulier dans le quartier des Grands Boulevards. Plusieurs passages ont été démolis au profit de l’urbanisation entamée par les grands travaux du baron Haussman et de l’essor de grands magasins ( Le Bon Marché, la Samaritaine, le Printemps etc …). Il ne reste qu’une vingtaine de passages aujourd’hui à Paris. Ils font partie désormais du patrimoine architectural et mémoriel de la capitale.

Một cuộc du ngoạn thú vị ở Paris
qua các hành lang

 

Les passages couverts  de Paris

  • Passage  Choiseul  (Rue Saint Augustin)
  • Passage Colbert (Rue des Petits Champs)
  • Passage Vivienne (Rue Vivienne)
  • Passage des Panoramas ( Boulevard Montmartre)
  • Passage Jouffroy (Boulevard Montmartre)
  • Passage des princes (Boulevard des Italiens) 
  • Passage du Grand-Cerf ( Rue du Saint Denis ) 
  • Passage Brady ( Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis) 
  • Passage Verdeau (rue de la Grange-Batelière) etc…..

Version vietnamienne

Ít được biết đến trong thời gian qua, các hành lang của Paris trở lại hiên nay là một trong những nơi thu hút du khách ngoại quốc khi đến Paris. Trong những năm 1850, Paris có ít nhất 150 hành lang bao phủ và xuất khẩu mô hình nầy qua nhiều thành phố khác của Pháp như (Bordeaux, Nantes vân vân …) và các nước ngoài như Ý Đại Lợi, Thổ Nhi Kỳ, Anh Quốc vân vân….  Cũng với mô hình nầy mà hành lang Eden được xây cất có một trăm năm và người Saïgon có dip đến đây du ngoạn trong thập niên 70. Các hành lang Paris nầy được tập trung ở hữu ngạn của sông Seine, nhất là trong khu vực được gọi là « Les Grands Boulevards ». Nhiều hành lang bị phá hủy sau nầy trong việc thực hiện các công trình đồ sộ của bá tước Haussman và đáp lại sự phát triển của các cửa hàng lớn như Le Bon Marché, la Samaritaine, le Printemps vân vân … Nay chỉ còn lại khoảng chừng 20 hành lang ở Paris. Các hành lang nầy đươc xem hiện nay là di sản kiến trúc và lưu niệm của thành phố Paris.

Pyramide du Louvre (Kim tự tháp kính Louvre)

 


La pyramide du Louvre au milieu de la cour Napoléon du musée Louvre

Version française

Theo lời yêu cầu của cố tổng thống Pháp François Mitterand vào năm 1983, kim tự tháp kính  Louvre được xây bằng kính và kim loại ở giữa sân Napoléon của bảo tàng Louvre. Đây là tác phẩm của kiến trúc sư người Mỹ gốc Hoa , ông Ieoh Ming người được nhận nhiều giải mà  trong đó có giải Pritzkert thường đựợc xem là giải Nobel về kiến trúc. Kim tự tháp kính Louvre có bề cao là  20,6 thước với đáy  hình vuông  mỗi cạnh là 35 thước. Toàn bộ kim tự tháp được xây bằng kính cùng các khớp nối bằng kim loại , gồm có tất cả là  603 tấm kính hình thoi (losange)   và 70 tấm hình tam giác (triangle). Lúc đầu kim tự tháp là môt đề tài tranh luận sôi nổi vì  có người cho rằng không phù hợp với khung cảnh cổ kính của cung điện Louvre nhất là  với  phong cách vị lai. Nhưng cuối cùng sự kết hợp của hai phong cách kiến trúc cổ đại và hiện đại nó đem lại không những một kết quả mỹ mãn mà còn đem lại một nét đẹp độc nhất ở giữa thành phố Paris, một viên kim cương hoàn hảo của điện Louvre . Kim tự tháp kính  Louvre trở thành hiện nay một trong những  biểu tượng tham quan không thể thiếu xót cùng tháp Eiffel và nhà thờ Notre Dame de Paris khi ai có dịp đến tham quan Paris.

Version française

À la demande du feu président français François Mitterand en 1983, la pyramide du Louvre a été conçue et réalisée en verre et en acier au milieu de la cour  Napoléon du musée Louvre. C’est l’oeuvre de l’architecte américain d’origine chinoise  Ieoh Ming  ayant reçu plusieurs prix parmi lesquels figure le prix d’architecture Pritzker considéré jusqu’alors comme le prix Nobel de l’architecture.  La pyramide du Louvre s’élève à 21,64 mètres sur une base  carrée  de 35,42 mètres de côté. Étant réalisé  avec une structure métallique en acier et en aluminium, le tout de la pyramide comporte 603 losanges et 70 triangles en verre. Au début de sa construction, la pyramide du Louvre est l’objet d’âpres  controverses  car selon certains, la pyramide est mal incorporée  dans le classicisme du palais Louvre avec un style futuriste. Mais finalement l’association de deux styles d’architecture classique et futuriste apporte non seulement un franc succès mais aussi un charme unique au cœur de la ville de Paris, un joyau d’architecture  parfait du palais Louvre.  La pyramide du Louvre devient aujourd’hui l’une des attractions touristiques qu’il est impossible de manquer avec la tour d’Eiffel et l’église  Notre Dame lorsqu’on a l’occasion de visiter Paris. (8,9 millions en 2011)

Aristide Maillol (Jardin des tuileries)

Aristide Maillol

Version vietnamienne

Presque à 40 ans, Aristide Maillol commence à être connu à travers ses chefs-d’œuvre de la sculpture en bronze non pas sur la peinture. Chaque fois de passage au jardin des Tuileries en face de la pyramide du Louvres, je ne tarde pas à prendre quelques photos sur ses sculptures en bronze de femmes nues car elles sont vraiment très belles sur la façon de faire apparaître la beauté du corps féminin. Maillol avec Rodin ce sont deux personnages auxquels le philosophe français Michael Paraire attribue le mot « génie » entre le 19 et 20 ème siècle, chacun ayant un style différent. Rodin se penche vers le réalisme et prône le caractère particulier de chaque personnage dans ses œuvres qualifiées sublimes par Michael Paraire. Rodin se sert de l’argile. Quant à Maillol, il se sert du bronze comme matériau dans ses réalisations qualifiées « beau » par le même philosophe, en particulier ce qui a trait  à la beauté du corps féminin. Ses œuvres sont visibles au jardin des Tuileries, au musée d’art moderne de New York ou au musée Maillol que sa muse Dina Vierny dans les années 1930 a fondé en 1995 à Paris.

 

Version vietnamienne

Mãi đến gần 40 tuổi , ông Maillol mới nổi tiếng qua những tác phẩm điêu khắc chứ không phải qua hội họa. Mỗi lần đến vườn hoa Tuileries ngang mặt Pyramide của bảo tàng viện Louvres thì mình không thể không dừng lại chụp các bức tượng khỏa thân điêu khắc của ông vì nó quá đẹp làm nỗi bật thân thể của người phụ nữ. Ông cùng nhà điêu khắc Rodin đuợc một nhà triết gia Pháp Michael Paraire gọi là hai kẻ thiên tài giữa thế kỷ 19 và 20, mỗi người một phong cách khác nhau. Ông Rodin thì thiên hẳn về lối hiện thực, ca ngợi cá tính riêng của mỗi nhân vật.trong các tác phẩm của ông đươc Michael Paraire gọi là tuyệt vời (sublime). Ông nầy thường dùng đất sét. Còn ông Maillol thì thường sử dụng chất liệu đồng trong các kiệt tác của ông đuợc Michael Paraire gọi là quá đẹp nhất là cái đẹp hoàn mỹ của thân người phụ nữ. Các tác phẩm thường được trưng bày ở vườn hoa Tuileries, bảo tàng nghệ thuật hiện đại ở New York hay ở bào tàng Maillol mà được người mẫu của ông là Dina Vierny ở những năm 1930, thành lâp vào năm 1995 ở Paris.

Sa Huynh culture (Văn Hóa Sa Hùynh)

Văn Hóa Sa Hùynh

 
sahuynh_titreFrench version

Reputed for its salt marshes and its beautiful beach , Sa Huỳnh (*) located in Quảng Ngãi province ( Center of Vietnam) is also the region where French archeologist M. Vinet discovered in 1909  not far An Khê swamp (Long Thành) , an  strange depot composed of 200 funerary jars originating from a brilliant maritime civilization thanks to a Champa inscription.  Having a happy concurrence of circumstances and interested in archeology, the spouse of an controller of the customs  local office,  Mrs  Labarre , had  the opportunity to take over the   archaeological excavation in 1923. She did not take long to rediscover at the top of coastal dunes an other depot of 120 earthenware jars being still intact and near the village of  Phú Khương in the same region. A third site of 187 jars  which  was later reported by French archeologist  Madeleine Colani  in 1934 was at Tràng Long on a sand dune  locally known under the name of “

 Un troisième site de 187 jarres rapporté plus tard par l’archéologue française Madeleine Colani en 1934 se trouvait à Tràng Long sur une dune de sable appelée localement sous le nom du “plateau des colliers” à cause d’une quantité énorme de colliers trouvés sur place.

 

 

Yin and Yang numbers (Âm Dương: Part 3)

Version française

Yin and Yang numbers (Con số Âm Dương)

One is accustomed to say in Vietnamese: sống chết đều có số cả (Everyone has his D day  for life  and death). Ði buôn có số, ăn cỗ có phần   (One has his vocation in trade as one has his part in feast). In daily life, everyone a his size for his clothing and his shoes. Contrary to the Chinese, the Vietnamese emphasize odd numbers (số dương) rather than  even numbers (sô’ âm). 

One frequently  finds the use of even numbers in the Vietnamese phrases: ba mặt một lời (One needs to be in front of someone with the presence of a witness),  ba hồn bảy vía ( three souls and 7 vital supports for men i.e one is terrified), Ba chìm bảy nổi chín lênh đênh ( very  hectic), năm thê bảy thiếp ( to have  5 spouses and 7 concubines i.e. to have many  women ), năm lần bảy lượt ( many times), năm cha ba mẹ ( heterogenuos), ba chóp bảy nhoáng ( with precipitation and  no care ), Môt lời nói dối , sám hối 7 ngày (A  speech deceitful amounts to  seven days of  repentance), Một câu nhịn chín câu lành (To avoid an offensive sentence is having kind sentences ) etc …or that of integral  multiples of the number 9:18 (9×2) đời Hùng Vương ( 18 legendary kings Hùng Vương ), 27 (9×3) đại tang 3 năm (27 tháng)(or a beareavement endured  on three years or 27 months only), 36 (9×4) phố phường Hànội (Hànội with 36 neighbourhoods) etc …One don’t forget to mention the numbers 5 and 9, having each of them a role very important.   The figure 5 is the  number the most mysterious because all starts from this number. Heaven and Earth have the five elements  or agents giving birth to thousand things and objects. It is placed in the center of the River map and Writings of Luo which are the basis for the mutation of five elements (Thủy, Hỏa, Mộc, Kim, Thổ)( Water, Fire, Wood, Metal and Earth). It is associated to the element Earth in the central position that the peasant needs to  known for the  management of cardinal points.  This goes to the man to have the centre in the management of things and species and four  cardinals.  That is why, in the feudal society, this place is reserved to the king because it is he who  has govern  the people. Consequently, the number 5 belonged to him as well as the yellow colour symbolizing the Earth. This  explains the colour choosen by Vietnamese  and Chinese emperors for their clothes.

Ho Tou Lo Chou

(Hà Đồ Lạc Thư)

In the addition to the centre occupied by man, an symbolic animal is associated to the each of four cardinal points: the North by the turtle, the South by the phoenix, the West by the dragon and the East by the tiger. One is’nt surprised to see at least in this attribution the presence of three animals living in the region where the agricultural life plays a notable role and water is vital. It is the land of Bai Yue group. Even the dragon very mean in others cultures becomes a kind and noble animal imagined by  peaceful peoples  Bai Yue. The number 5 is yet known  under the name « Tham Thiên Lưỡng Đia » (or  three Heaven two  Earth or 3 Yang 2 Yin) in the Yin and Yang theory because the acquisition of the number 5 coming from the union of  numbers 3 and 2 corresponds better to the reasonable percentage of Yin and Yang than that of the association of numbers 4 and 1. In this latter, the number Yang 1 very dominated by the number 4. It is’nt the case of the union of the numbers 3 and 2 because the number Yang 3 slightly overpowers the number Yin 2. This encourages the universe development in an almost perfect harmony. In ancient times, the fifth day, the fourteen en day (1+4=5) and the twenty-third  (2+3=5) day in the month were reserved for the way out of the king. It is’nt allowed to subjects  for trading during his travel and disturbing his walk. It is  perhaps the reason for which a great number of the Vietnamese continue to avoid these days for the home construction, the trip and major purchases. One is accustomed to say: 

Chớ đi ngày bảy chớ về ngày ba
Mồng năm, mười bốn hai ba
Đi chơi cũng lỗ nữa là đi buôn
Mồng năm mười bốn hai ba
Trồng cây cây đỗ, làm nhà nhà xiêu

You  avoid going  out the 7th day and coming back the 3th in the month. For the 15th, 14th and 23th days in the month, you  will be losing if you go out or you trade.  Likewise, you will see the failing tree or the tilting of your home if you make the planting tree or the house construction.

The number 5 is frequently mentioned in the Vietnamese culinary art. The most typical sauce remains the fish brine (nước mắm). In the preparation of this national sauce, one mentiones the presence of 5 flavours classified according to the 5 elements of Yin and Yang:mặn ( salty ) with the fish juice  (nước mắm), đắng (bitter)  with the lemon zest (vỏ chanh), chua (acidulous) with the lemon juice, cay (spicy) with pigments crushed  in powder or chopped  in strips and ngọt (sweet ) with sugar in powder. These  5 flavours ( mặn, đắng, chua, cay, ngọt ) combined and found in the Vietnamese national sauce  correspond to 5 elements defined in the Yin and Yang theory (Thủy, Hỏa , Mộc , Kim Thổ ) ( Water, Fire,  Wood, Metal and Earth ).

Likewise, one rediscovers these 5 flavours in the bittersweet soup (canch chua) prepared from fish: acidulous with tamarin seeds or vinegar, sweet with slices of ananas, spicy with pigments chopped in strips,  salty with fish juice and bitter with some okras  (đậu bắp)  or flowers of “fayotier in French”  (bông so đũa). When the soup is served, one will add some fragrant herbs like the panicaut (ngò gai), rau om (herb having  the  flavor  of coriander with  a  lemony   taste in addition). It is a characteristic trait of the bittersweet soup of Sud Vietnam which  is different from those found in others regions of Vietnam.

One cannot forget to mentione the sweet rice cake that the Proto-Vietnamese had succeeded to bequeath to descendants over millennia of their civilization.  This  sweet rice cake is the intangible proof of Yin and Yang theory and 5 elements belonging to Bai Yue group (Hundred Yue), the Proto-Vietnamese of which formed part  because there is  the generation cycle (Ngũ hành tương sinh)  in its composition. 

(Fire->Earth->Metal->Water->Wood)

Inside the cake, one finds a piece of porkmeat in red color ( Fire ) around which there is  a kind of paste made with broad beans in yellow color ( Earth ). The whole thing is wrapped by the sticky rice in white color ( Metal ) to be cooked with boiling water ( Water ) before having a green colouring on its surface thanks to the latanier leaves (Wood).

An other cake is not missing th weddings. This is the cake susê or phu thê (husband-spouse) having inside a round form  and enveloped by banana leaves (green colour) in order to give it the  well-tied cube appearance  with a red ribbon (red color).  The circle is  thus placed within the square (Dương trong âm)(Yang in Yin). This cake is made from tapioca flour,  perfumed in pandan and strewn with  black sesame seeds (black color). One finds in the hearth of this cake a paste made of steamed soybeans  (yellow color) and jam of lotus seeds and grated coconut.(white color). This paste is very similar to the  frangipane found in “galettes des rois”. Its sticky texture reminds the link that one can represent in the union. This cake is the symbol of the perfection in conjugal love and loyalty responding the perfect agreement with the Heaven and the Earth and 5 elements symbolized by 5 colors (red, green, black, yellow and white).

This cake is related by the following tale: in the past, there was a merchant engaged in debauchery and doing not like to go home although before his departure, his spouse gave him the cake susê  and promised to remain cordial and sweet like the cake. That is why, when she has heard this story, she did send others cakes phu thê accompagnied by two following verses: 

Từ ngày chàng bước xuống ghe
Sóng bao nhiêu đợt bánh phu thê rầu bấy nhiêu

Since your departure, waves were encountered by your boat as much as afflictions were known by the cake susê  
Lầu Ngũ Phụng

 

In architecture, the number 5 is not forgetten either. It is the case of Ngọ Môn gate (noon gate) in the forbidden city (Huế). This gate is  a powerful  masonry  foundation drilled with five passages and surmonted by an elegant wooden structure with two levels, the Belvedere of five Phoenixes (Lầu Ngủ Phụng). Viewed from the sky, this latter  with two additional wings, seems to form five phoenix in flight with intertwined beaks. This belvedere possesses 100 wood columns(gỗ lim)(ironwood) painted and tinted in yellow for allowing  to carry its nine roofs. This number 100 was well examinated  by Vietnamese specialists. According to renowned  archeologist  Phan Thuận An, it exactly corresponds to the total number obtained by adding two numbers found respectively  in the River map (Hà Đồ)  and Writings of Luo  (Lạc thư cửu tinh đồ) symbolizing the perfect harmony of the union Yin and Yang.  It is not the Liễu Thượng Văn advice.  According to this latter, this represents the strength of 100 families or people (bách tính) and reflects the notion dân vi bản (consider people as basis) in the Nguyễn dynasty’s governance.  The roof of the central pavilion is covered by yellow tiles « lưu ly », the rest being with blue tiles « lưu ly ». Being  just in the middle,  the main gate  (or noon gate) is reserved to the king and  paved with stones   « Thanh » tinted in yellow color. From both sides, one finds  left and right doors (Tả, Hữu, Giáp Môn) reserved to civilian and military mandarins.  Then two others lateral  gates Tả Dịch MônHữu Dịch Môn are intended to soldiers and horses. One is accustomed to say in Vietnamese: 

tucam

Ngọ Môn năm cửa chín lầu
Một lầu vàng, tám lầu xanh, ba cửa thẳng, hai cửa quanh »

The noon gate  possesses 5 passages and 9 roofs the one of which is varnished in yellow and the 8 others in blue.  There are  three main  doors  and two side entries.

In the east and west of the citadel, ones finds Humanty and Virtue gates which are reserved respectively for men and women. 

The number 9 is a Yang number (or odd number). It representes the Yang strength at the maximum.  It is difficult to reach it.  That is why, in the past, the emperor often uses for showing his power and supremacy. He climbs 9 stairs symbolizing the ascent of sacred mountain in which there was his throne. It is said that the forbidden city like that of Pékin possessed 9999 rooms. It is useful to recall that the forbidden city of Pékin was supervised by  Nguyễn An, a Vietnamese exiled  still  young at the time of the Ming. As his palaces, the emperor turns towards the South in Yang energy in order to receive the vital breath of Sky because he is the Heaven son. In Vietnam, one finds nine dynastic urns of Huế citadel, nine branchs of Mekon river, nine roofs of  Belvedere of five Phoenixes etc … In the tale intituled   “The God of Mountains and the God of Rivers “(Sơn Tinh Thủy Tinh)”, 18th (2×9) Hùng Vương king, proposed for the dowry marriage of his daughter Mị Nương: an elephant with nine tusks, a rooster with nine spurs and a horse with nine red manes.  The number 9 symbolizes the Heaven,  the birthday of which is the ninth (9th) day of February month.

Being less important than 5 and 9, the number 3 (or Ba and Tam in Vietnamese) isclosely tied to the daily life of the Vietnamese.  They do not hesitate to evoke it in a large number of popular expressions. For meaning a certain limit, a certain degree, they have the habit of saying: 

Không ai giàu ba họ, không ai khó ba đời:
No person can claim to be rich  to three generations as  no one is  more  stringent to three successive lives. 

It goes to the Vietnamese to often  accomplish this certain thing at once, this obliges them to do many times this operation. It is the following expression that they uses frequently: Nhất quá tam.  It is the number 3, a limit they don’t like to exceed  in the accomplishment of this task. For saying that someone is irresponsible,  they designate him under the term “Ba trợn“.  Someone who is opportunistic is called “Ba phải” . The expression  “Ba đá” is reserved to vulgar people while those who continue to be entangled in minor matters or endless difficulties  receive the title “Ba lăng nhăng“. For weighing his words, the Vietnamese needs to bend three inches of his  tongue. (Uốn ba tấc lưỡi). 

The number 3 also is synonymous with insignificant and unimportant something.It is what one finds in following popular expressions: 

Ăn sơ sài ba hột: To eat a little bit.
Ăn ba miếng: idem
Sách ba xu: book without values. (the book costs only three  pennies).
Ba món ăn chơi: Some  dishes  for tasting. 

Analogous to number 3, the number 7 is often mentioned in Vietnamese literature. One cannot ignore either the expression Bảy nỗi ba chìm với nước non  (I  float 7 times  and I descend thee times if this  expression is translated in verbatim) that Hồ Xuân Hương poetess  has used and immortalized in her poem intituled “Bánh trôi nước” :

Thân em vừa trắng lại vừa tròn
Bây nỗi ba chìm với nước non
………. 

for describing difficulties encountered by the Vietnamese woman in a feudal and Confucian society. This one did not spare either those having an independent mind, freedom and justice.   It is the case of  Cao Bá Quát , an active scholar who was degusted from the scholastica of his time and dreamed of replacing the Nguyễn authoritarian monarchy by an enlightened monarchy. Accused of being the actor of the grasshoppers insurrection  (Giặc Châu Chấu) in 1854, he was condemned to death and he did no hesitate his reflection on the fate reserved to those who dared to criticize  the despotism and feudal society in his poem before his death: 

Ba hồi trống giục đù cha kiếp
Một nhát gươm đưa, đéo mẹ đời. 

Three gongs are reserved to the miserable fate
A sabre slice finishes this dog’s life. 

If the Yin and Yang theory continues to haunt their mind for its mystical and impenetrable character, it remains however a way of thinking and living to which a good number  of the Vietnamese continue to refer daily for common practices and respect of ancestral traditions.


Bibliography

-Xu Zhao Long : Chôkô bunmei no hakken, Chûgoku kodai no nazo in semaru (Découverte de la civilisation du Yanzi. A la recherche des mystères de l’antiquité chinoise, Tokyo, Kadokawa-shoten 1998).
-Yasuda Yoshinori : Taiga bunmei no tanjô, Chôkô bunmei no tankyû (Naissance des civilisations des grands fleuves. Recherche sur la civilisation du Yanzi), Tôkyô, Kadokawa-shoten, 2000).
-Richard Wilhelm : Histoire de la civilisation chinoise 1931
-Nguyên Nguyên: Thử đọc lại truyền thuyết Hùng Vương
– Léonard Rousseau: La première conquête chinoise des pays annamites (IIIe siècle avant notre ère). BEFO, année 1923, Vol 23, no 1
-Paul Pozner : Le problème des chroniques vietnamiennes., origines et influences étrangères. BEFO, année 1980, vol 67, no 67, p 275-302
-Dich Quốc Tã : Văn Học sữ Trung Quốc, traduit en vietnamien par Hoàng Minh Ðức 1975.
-Norman Jerry- Mei tsulin (1976) : The Austro asiatic in south China : some lexical evidence, Monumenta Serica 32 :274-301
-Henri Maspero : Chine Antique : 1927.
-Jacques Lemoine : Mythes d’origine, mythes d’identification. L’homme 101, paris, 1987 XXVII pp 58-85
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đồng giữa h ọc giã Việt và Hoa.Tập San Tư Tưởng Tháng 3 năm 2002 số 18.
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-Nguyễn Từ Thức : Tãn Mạn về Âm Dương, chẳn lẻ (www.anviettoancau.net)
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-Louis Bezacier: Sur la datation d’une représentation primitive de la charrue. (BEFO, année 1967, volume 53, pages 551-556)
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Yin and Yang theory: (Âm Dương Phần 2)

yinyangviet
French version

Yin and Yang theory (Part 1)
Yin and Yang theory (Part 2) 
Yin and Yang theory (Part 3)

By speaking of the couple circle/square, one wants to evoke the perfection and happy union. That is why one is accustomed to say in Vietnamese: « Mẹ tròn, con vuông » for wishing the mother and her child a good health a the time of birth.  This expression has been bequeathed  by our ancestors with the aim of retaining our attention on the creative character of universe. The roundness and square are two foms taken not only by rice cakes   (Bánh Chưng, Bánh Tết) or married couple cakes (Bánh Su Sê ou Phu Thê) but also  Vietnamese old coins (or  copper cash pieces). The form of this latter is related to the Vietnamese traditional cosmology: their  roundness  evokes that of sky  and the central hole is square as  soil. 

Old coin

For the surface of this old coins, there is always a percentage to be respected: 70%  for the round part and 30% the square part. One  also finds two forms with the bamboo rod  held by the eldest son by walking after the coffin during the funeral  procession of his father.  When the deceased is his mother, he is obliged to walk backwards before the coffin. It is the protocol  « Cha đưa mẹ đón» (Accompagny the father, receive the mother) to be respected in Vietnamese funeral rituals. The rod bamboo represents  the father’s righteousness and endurance. It is replaced by an other plant known under the name  « cây vong » and symbolizing the simplicity,  sweetness and flexibility when the deceased is the mother.  The rod must have the round head  and square leg  for symbolizing the Heaven  and the Earth  while the median part of rod is reserved for children and descendants. That means everyone needs  the protection of the  Heaven and the Earth, the education of parents  and mutual assistance between brothers and sisters in the society. For showing the respect, the number of times which  the invited person is obliged  to  accomplish by bending his back in the state of prostration before the coffin is a Yin number (or an even number)(i.e. 2 or 4) because the deceased is going to the  darker world  of Yin nature  (Âm phủ in Vietnamese). In the past, one had the habit of putting in the deceased mouth a scrap of   gold in order to breathe the mana contained in the precious metal  into him. Being of Yang nature, the gold is able to assume the  body preservation and prevent the putrefaction.  At the time of the  agony of the deceased, his family members must give him a surname (or in Vietnamese tên thụy) which is known only by them with the agreement of home genius because at the anniversary of his death, this surname will be called in order to invite him to participate in offerings and avoid waking others lost souls. That is why one is accustomed to say in Vietnamese  tên cúng cơm for reminding that  everyone has a surname. Likewise, the bunch of flowers offered to funerals must be constituted of an even number of flowers (or Yin number).  

 There is an exception to this rule when one is dealing with Buddha or deceased parents. Before the altar of this later, one is accustomed to put 3 incense sticks in the vase or one gets down completely on his knees with  head on ground by repeating an odder number of times (Yang number) because one always consideres them as living beings. Likewise, for showing the respect towards seniors, one only accomplishes one or three times in prostration. However, in  marriage rites, the future wife must bow down before her parents for thanking them from the birth and education received before joining the family of her husband. It is an even number (or Yin number) of times  she will accomplish   (i.e. 2) because she is considered “dead” and does not belong to her original  family. There is a custom for the ceremony of first wedding night. Being supposed to be good, honest,  old enough and having many children, a woman takes charge of spreading  and overlapping of a pair of mats on the nuptial bed:  one of these mats is open, the other upside down in the image of Yin and Yang union. 

In ancien times, young married men are accustomed to exchange mutually a pinch of earth against a pinch of salt. They would like to honour and  sustain their union and fidelity by taking the  Heaven and  the Earth as the  witnesses of their engagement. One also finds the same signification in the following expression: Gừng cay muối mặn  for reminding young married men   that they should not leave themselves because the life is bitter and painful with ups and downs as ginger and it is intense and deep with feelings as salt.

For speaking of virtue, one is accustomed to say in Vietnamese: 

Ba vuông sánh với bảy tròn
Đời cha vinh hiễn đời con sang giàu

As three squares can be in comparison seven circles, virtuous parents will have rich children.

By speaking of these three squares, one needs to reminder the square form of rice cake proposed during the new year. This cake constituted by straight lines  symbolizes loyalty and righteousness in the relationship of three submissions « Tam Tòng »: Tại gia tòng phu, xuất giá tòng phu, phu tữ tòng tữ (submission to the father before her marriage,submission to the husband during her marriage, submission to the elder son when widowed).

About 7 circles, one must think of the roundness of “bánh giầy”.  This one  is constituted by a sequence of dots equidistant from the center where there is the heart. This cake is the symbol of  a well-balancel soul that any passion does not bewinder. One finds in this heart the perfection of seven human sentiments: (Thất tình : hỹ, nộ, ái, lạc, sĩ, ố, dục )( Joy, anger, sadness, cheerfullness, love, hatred, desire). Does someone  realize a  ideal moral life if under any circumstances, he succeeds to maintain the loyalty and  righteousness with others and always keeps his equidistant gap in the manifestation of his feelings?

The expression  vuông tròn has  frequently been  employed in a great number of Vietnamese popular sayings:

Lạy trời cho đặng vuông tròn 
Trăm năm cho trọn lòng son với chàng!

I pray to God that  everything should go well and I should  eternally keep  my faithful  hearth  with you.

or 

Đấy mà xử ngãi (nghĩa) vuông tròn
Ngàn năm ly biệt vẫn còn đợi trông

Here is the signification of conjugal love
Despite the eternal separation, one continues to wait  for the  return with patience

or in the following verses 411-412 and  1331-1332 of Kim Vân Kiều‘s best-seller

Nghĩ mình phận mỏng cánh chuồn 
Khuôn xanh biết có vuông tròn mà haỵ

My fate is fragile like the dragonfly’s wing
Does the Heaven  knows that this union is durable or not?

or

 Trăm năm tính cuộc vuông tròn,
Phải dò cho đến ngọn nguồn lạch sông

During your lifetime (hundred years), when you are concerned by your marriage, you must climb up the river to the source (i. e. you must get informed  in the smallest detail).

This bipolarity Yin and Yang is  visible in various forms in Vietnam. In China, an only genius of marriage is seen, one has  in Vietnam a couple of geniuses, a man and a woman (Ông Tơ Bà Nguyêt). Likewise, in Vietnamese pagodas, one finds on the altar a couple of Buddhas (a man and a woman) (Phât ông Phât Bà) in place of one Buddha. The Vietnamese strongly believe that each of them is associated with a certain number of digits. Before the birth, the embryo needs to wait for 9 months and 10 days. For speaking of someone having  a happy destiny, one says  he as the “good luck” (số đỏ). On the contrary, the ” bad luck (số đen)” is reserved to people having a lamentable destiny. NEXT (Yin and Yang numbers)

 

 

Yin and Yang theory (Âm Dương : Phần 1)

French version 
yinyangviet

Part 1 (Yin and Yang theory)
Part 2 (Yin and Yang theory)
Part 3 (Yin and Yang numbers)

The Yin and Yang theory continues to manage the daily life of the Vietnamese,   down to the last detail. The Yin nature is everything being  fluid, cold, humid, passive, dark, interior, immobile and originating from  feminine  essence as the  sky, moon,  night,  water and  winter. But everything being solid, hot, light, active, exterior, mobile and coming from the male essence as  soil, sky, fire and  summer belongs to the Yang nature. This  bipolarity is even  found   in the Vietnamese grammar by using the words “con” and “cái”.  Similar to French articles defined “le” and “la”, these are employed to indicate the type in certain cases but one can rely on the nature “mobile” or “immobile” of the object accompanied for indicating its belonging in the corresponding semantic class. The word cái is used in case where the object carries the character “immobile” (tĩnh vật) : cái nhà (house), cái hang (cave), cái nồi ( pot) etc… However, when the state “mobile” (động vật) belongs to the object nature, the word “con” is used instead of “cái”. It is the case of the following words: con mắt (eye), con tim ( heart), con trăng ( viper),  con ngươi ( pupil), con dao ( knife) etc… The eye moves incessantly as the throbbing heart. Similarly, the viper moves as well as the pupil. The knife is considered by the Vietnamese as a sacred animal. It is nourrished with blood, wine and rice.  The same name beared by an object can lead to two different interpretations depending on the use of the word “cái” or “con“. The following example reflects the character “mobile” or “immobile” of the object “thuyền” ( or boat ) employed : Con thuyền trôi theo dòng nước (The boat moves on the water). This mean  someone drives forward the boat with oar or  engine. However, when one says  “cái thuyền trôi theo dòng nước” (The boat moves on the water), one insists on the fact that nobody does not manoeuvre the boat. It is the flood waters that drives forward the boat alone. This notes the character “immobile” of the boat. The influence of Yin and Yang is no stranger to the way of attributing the sex to common objects. It is the case of the knife (dao): dao cái (large knife), dao đực ou dao rựa (or machete).  This remark has been notified by French archeologist and sinologist Alain Thote in his article intituled “Origine et premiers développements de l’épée en Chine “: The Yue  swords enjoyed the very  high celebrity in ancien times. Some swords had the name  and one was brought to consider their belonging to the male or female sex. The expression  “đực rựa”  used frequently in conversations for designating the men,  is from the custom  of the old Vietnamese  carrying machetes during the walk.

The gender  association is  also visible for a long time in Vietnam in rice cultivation: the man ploughs and the woman pricks out in the field. The plougshare penetrating the soil (Yin)  symbolizes the male sex (Yang) while the woman transmits the power of fertilization (Yin) to rice plants (Yang)  by transplantation. For showing the complete perfection in the harmonious union of Yin and Yang, one has the habit of saying in Vietnamese: Being together, husband and wife achieve to scoop all the  water from the East sea. (thuận vợ thuận chồng tát biển Đông cũng cạn).

Being ric farmers, the Proto-Vietnamese were attached not only to the soil but also to the environment because thanks to the natural  phenomena ( rain, sky, wind, cloud etc…) , they had successful  harvests or not. The extensive agriculture in slash/burning or in flooded terrains  depended on  the vagaries of climate. That is why they needed to live in harmony with nature. They considered that they were the link between  Heaven and Earth (Thiên-Nhân-Địa). From this notion, one has the habit of saying: Thiên Thời, Địa Lợi, Nhân Hòa (to be aware of  weather,to  know the environment and to  have popular support or national harmony). There are three  key   factors of success  to which Vietnamese strategists (Trần Hưng Đạo, Nguyễn Trãi or Quang Trung) referred,  in their struggle against foreign invaders. The Vietnamese  take into consideration this triad in their way of thinking and their daily life. For them,  there is no doubt that this notion has an undeniable influence on man himself: his destinity is imposed by the will of Heaven and depend on his date  of birth. With the exterior and interior environment of his home, he can receive the harmful or beneficial  breath (qi) generated by the Earth. The art of harmonizing the exterior and interior  environmental energy of his housing allows him to minimize his troubles and promotes his welfare and his health. A flat terrain without any undulations and no hills is the lifeless soil and shortness of breath qi (Khí). The Vietnamese call  mountains and hills with the names Dragons and Tigers. Buildings should have respectively  a green  Dragon  and  a white tiger in the  west and east facing.  The caring dragon must be more powerful than the tiger (Hữu Thanh Long, Tã Bạch Hổ), that means the Dragon mountain is higher than the Tiger hill.  The best site is that which has a hill behind one another, which enables to show the interlacing between the Dragon and the Tiger. The concept of harmony takes on its full meaning when a site backed by a mountain and surrounded on two sides by ranges of hills allowing its protection against winds for avoiding the dissipation of Chi (or cosmic energy), provides access to a lake or a river where there are  both water and nourrishment and the accumulation of cosmic energies.  This model is found by taking the example of  historic city of Huế.  The enclosure of this latter is a defensive  military structure based on the technique of strengthened fortifications of  renowned engineer, Vaubanand covers near the southern front,   the imperial city delimited by a second square-enclosed area mesuring approximatively  622m x606 m. Therein, one finds the   Forbidden Purple City forming the symbolic heart of the empire in the third and last enclosure, having  nearly  a square in shape  and mesuring 330×324 m. The imbrication of three enclosures refers to the triad  (Thiên, Nhân, Ðịa). Facing to the 105 m high  mountain Royal Screen (or Ngự Bình in Vietnamese)  that, according to the geomancers interpretation (Feng Shui)(Phong Thủy),  is the imperial shield created by  Gods,  the citadel’s southern front including the moon gate (or Ngọ Môn), follows the convex alignment along  the Perfume river (Hương giang). Being similar to the dragon lying in the West, this river undulates and goes up  in the north  by penetrating the soil through small hills and  making a 45°  bend towards the east. It   reachs  firstly  protectives isles Dã  Viên and Cồn Hến  before ending in the sea.  That creates the ideal position (Chi Huyền Thủy) corresponding to the above described scheme with a green Dragon in the West  and a white Tiger in the East. These animals are respectively represented by the shell isles Dã Viên and Cồn Hến  in the face of the natural screen symbolized by the mount of Royal Screen (Núi Ngự Bình). 

The man can affect his own life. By accomplishing acts of caring towards others,  he can find his joy and improves his karma. In ancient times, Vietnam had a sacrificial ceremony named “Nam Giao” or “Tế Giao”  intended  to Heaven and  Earth. It goes back to the king  to pay homage  to Heaven and Earth every year with his deified ancestors on the monumental esplanade built in 1806 in the southern suburb of Huế. One finds in this esplanade a  square mound representating the Earth temple, in the center of which is an other round mound symbolyzing the Heaven temple. Being firstly  subjected in complete isolation and fast,  the king climbs the sacrificial  esplanade and acts on behalf of his people for communicating  with universe natural forces in order to ask them to improve the environment on earth. The king is the only figure eligible for being an intermediary between Earth and Heaven. This Triad (Thiên, Nhân, Địa) has also evoked in Vietnamese legends. One finds the narrator willingness to show the deep attachment  of Vietnamese people to the triad notion in accordance with nature and moral. In  the legend intituled “The God of Mountains and the God of Rivers (Sơn Tinh Thủy Tinh), a girl named Mị nương is requested in marriage by these two geniuses or in the Kitchen genius myth  (Chuyện Táo quân),  one finds a woman torn between  the love of her old husband and that of her new companion. In the betel quid (Trầu Cau), the triad (wife, husband and brother) is represented by the woman, her husband and her twin brother-in-law who, once deceased,  respectively become betel,  arecanut palm  and  limestone.  The betel  quid reflects well the equilibrium notion and harmony found in the Yin and Yang theory.  For preparing the betel quid,  a little of slaked lime is smeared on a betel leaf.  Then one adds some root bark of Artocarpus tonkinese in yellow-orange colour and finally incorporates a areca nut finely sliced. All this  is introduced in the mouth and chewed slowly.  After twenty minutes of chewing, one spits out what remains. Five tastes can  be  found in the betel quid: sweet with areca nut, spicy with betel leaf,  sour with root bark,  salty with lime and acidulous  with saliva.  By the image  of  fresh betel liana coming from Earth symbolized by lime stone and embracing the slender  arecanut palm trunk in this legend, one wants to mention the intermediary   character between the Yin and Yang in a perfect accord.  The old Vietnamese adage says that   the betel quid is the prelude to the conversation (Miếng trầu là đầu câu chuyện).  The acceptation implies heavy consequences and is equivalent to a firm commitment, a word given that no one would  ever  think of taking back. If the exchange has taken place between girl and boy , this is equivalent to a proposal of marriage. In the Vietnamese tradition, the betel quid is the symbol of marital happiness. It cannot be missing in marriage riruels.

In the swamp rice civilization, others trinities are important as the triad (Heaven, Earth, Man). There is the case of  the triad  (Thủy, Hỏa, Thổ) (or (in English  Water-Fire-Soil) or that of the triad (Mộc, Kim, Thổ)(or Wood, Metal, Soil).  One needs soil  for the rice cultivation, water and fertilizers coming from  ashes caused by fire for enriching soils. Likewise, one needs plants for food and metals for making appropriate tools in agriculture.  One oberves that these triads have a common element that is the soil. That is why this latter occupies a central position in the management of 4 cardinal points. There is the pivot around which fourth others elements take place. In  the farm life,  the most important element following the soil is water.  One the habit of hearing from Vietnamese  peasant  the following saying: Nhất nước nhì phân (Firstly water, secondly fertilizers). Being of Yin nature, water is attributed to the northern direction because it is compatible with the cold (winter). On the contrary, being of Yang nature, fire found in the triad (Water-Fire-Soil) is better associated in the  southern direction with the warmth and radiation (summer). The element “Wood” evokes plants, the birthday of which takes place in spring. It derserves to occupy the eastern direction with the development of  Yang. Being  element of malleable character and  taking different forms, Metal is associated to the western direction (autumn).

The Vietnamese are  founding in the Yin and Yang theory a practice of alternation rather than a idea of opposition. Yin and its complementary Yang form an identity that  allows to result in the installation of right balance and harmony. For them,  the word represents  the totality of cyclical  sequences constitued by the combination of two alternating and complementary   events. One knows that in the relation of opposition, Yin as Yang each of them carries within himself or herself the germ of the other. (Không có gì hoàn toàn âm hoặc hoàn toàn dương, trong âm có dương và trong dương có âm).  Yin and  Yang are like  a wheel in motion. By coming at their end, they must start again. Once their limit  is reached,  they go come back again. A lot of popular sayings evoking the law of causality, concretely testify to  the Yin and Yang mutation.

That is why one is accustomed to saying in Vietnamese « Trong cái  rũi có cái may » (In the bad luck, there will have the chance), « Trong cái dỡ  có  cái hay (In what appears to be bad,  one also finds something  good) »,« Trong họa có phúc ( In the misfortune , there will have the happiness) ». « Sướng lắm khổ nhiều (The more one is  satisfied by desire,  the more  one will suffer ) », «Trèo cao ngã đau ( The more one climbs high,  the more one has a painful drop)». « Yêu nhau nhiều cắn nhau đau. The more we are in love, the more  we hurt each other’s feelings». The lost goods  sometimes  are the price of life. There is what the Vietnamese saying clearly expresses: Của đi thay người ( Goods are going out in the place of people). The factors Phúc and Họa have to vary in opposite directions. It’s because of the bipolarity Yin and Yang that the Vietnamese are accustomed to  strike  a good balance in the daily life.  They try to look for a perfect  arrangement with everyone and nature and even beyond their death. There is what one discovers in the necropolis of Lạch Trương (Thanh Hóa) dating from three centuries before J.C. with wooden burial objects (Yang) placed in the northern direction and that in terracotta (Yin)  at the southern  direction (Yang).  This equilibrium notion is even found in pagoda with geniuses of good and evil. (Ông Thiện Ông Ác). It’s thanks to this equilibium philosophy that the Vietnamese have the ability to adapt to any situation, even in the extreme case. It’s also this principle of balance that  Vietnamese leaders have continued to keep in the past during the confrontation with  foreign countries. For avoiding the humiliation of the Mongols twice defeated in Vietnam, General Trần Hưng Đạo proposed to pay tribute to  Koubilai Khan in exchange for lasting peace. After defeating the Ming, the  strategist and advisor  of Lê Lơi king, Nguyễn Trải did not hesitate  to let Wang Toung ( Vương Thông ) come back in China with 13000 captured soldiers and  proposed  a pact of vasselage with a triannual toll  of two  fine metal statues in standard size as compensation for two generals died in combat. Likewise,  Quang Trung king, guided by humility, sent an emissary to seek peace with Qianlong emperor after defeating the Qing army at Hànội in 1788 for a very short period of time.(6 days).  One cannot forget the conducting and flexibility carried out by communist leaders in diplomacy during the confrontation with the  French and  Americans. The  Geneva (1954) and Paris (1972) agreements once more testify  of the  search for balance or the middle way that the Vietnamese have found with ingenuity   in the Yin and Yang theory. In Vietnam,  the circular shaped objects (hình tròn)  are integrated  in the Yang and square shaped objects (hình vuông) in the Yin. It is the tendancy dating back  to the period when one believed that the sky was round and the soil  square and flat. The Vietnamese  were obliged to square the latter before using it in the plowing and house construction. It is in the state of mind that the Bai Yue ( to which the Proto-Vietnamese belonged ) had the habit of dividing a portion of land into nine  lots by taking for model the character   tĩnh (giếng nước). The central lot was expected for the construction of a water well and eight remaining lots were  destined for the housing construction, which is the first housing unit in the agricultural society.  The following Vietnamese popular saying: trời xanh như tán lọng tròn ; đất kia chằn chặn như bàn cờ vuông (The blue skue  ressembles  a round   parasol as this perfect soil similar to the square chessboard ) reflects this popular belief. NEXT (More reading Part 2)


Bibilography

–Alain Thote: Origine et premiers développements de l’épée en Chine.
–Cung Ðình Thanh: Trống đồng Ðồng Sơn : Sự tranh luận về chủ quyền trống đồng giữa học giã Việt và Hoa.Tập San Tư Tưởng Tháng 3 năm 2002 số 18. 
-Brigitte Baptandier : En guise d’introduction. Chine et anthropologie. Ateliers 24 (2001). Journée d’étude de l’APRAS sur les ethnologies régionales à Paris en 1993.
-Nguyễn Từ Thức : Tãn Mạn về Âm Dương, chẳn lẻ (www.anviettoancau.net) 
-Trần Ngọc Thêm: Tìm về bản sắc văn hóa Việt-Nam. NXB : Tp Hồ Chí Minh Tp HCM 2001. 
-Nguyễn Xuân Quang: Bản sắc văn hóa việt qua ngôn ngữ việt (www.dunglac.org)
-Georges Condominas : La guérilla viêt. Trait culturel majeur et pérenne de l’espace social vietnamien, L’Homme 2002/4, N° 164, p. 17-36. 
-Louis Bezacier: Sur la datation d’une représentation primitive de la charrue. (BEFO, année 1967, volume 53, pages 551-556) …..

 

 

 

Con rồng cháu Tiên (English version)

French version

 Long time ago, Vietnam was a country half-wild, half-cultured, infested with wild beasts that cohabitated with men in deep caves in the forest. Lived then a young man named Lạc Long Quân intelligent and endowed with extraordinary powers. In his vein flowed a bloodstream mixed with the blood of the Dragons form Bách Việt country. During his travels through mountains and valleys, he arrived at a maritime region of southeast Lac Việt. Seeing the population decimated by a marine monster, he took a spear that he got red hot in fire and threw in the mouth of the monster killing it. He cut its body in three pieces which he threw into three different places that received three geographical names: the head became a mountain named Cầu Dầu Sơn, the body Cầu Dầu Thủy and the tail the name of Bạch Long Vỹ.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ

conrongchautien
Once the people of Lac Viet in peace, the hero headed for the Long Bien region where its inhabitants were terrorized by a fox which became a monster. The latter often turned itself into a young man to enter villages taking away women and young girls. Lac Long Quan had to fight for three days and three nights before beating the monster and entering its cave to free his survivors. Arriving at the Phong Châu area, he confronted the monster of trees so ferocious he had to turn to his father Kinh Dương Vương to chase it to the South. After having brought peace to the three countries, he was so moved by compassion for such an unfortunate and simple people. He decided to stay to protect and teach them how to grow rice, cook it, cut trees to build homes that sheltered them from rain, wind and savage beasts. He educated them in the family virtues of parents and spouses. The people revered him and considered him as their Chief. They also considered him as their father, the one who gave them their lives.

Before he joined his mother in the Palace of Waters, he recommended to his people, in case of misfortune, to call him aloud: Father. And he would come back right away. Some time later, the Lord of the High Regions of the North, Ðế Lai, leading his troops, invaded Lac Viet while bringing with him his delightful daughter Âu Cơ. De Lai oppressed and fleeced the people who had to supply his army with meat and rice. In distress people called: Father, come back and save us. Lạc Long Quân was on the spot, but did not find De Lai. Au Cơ was there alone, out for a walk amid her servants. Dazzled by her beauty, he took Au Cơ to his palace. Au Cơ herself, charmed by the young man, consented to live with him. Ðế Lai, coming back in rage, sent his troops out to besiege the town.

But Lac Long Quan commanded savage beasts to push him back. Incapable of struggling against such a strong son-in-law, Ðế Lai withdrew from Lạc Việt, leaving his daughter on the strange land.

Lac Long Quân with the monster

Amid their happiness, Au Cơ brought to the world a big pouch from which got out one hundred eggs that gave birth to one hundred sons as robust as their father. When came the time to separate and return to his mother, Lạc Long Quân told his wife Au Cơ : “You are of the race of Immortals. I am of that of the Dragons. We cannot stay together for the rest of our lives. You need to live up high. I need to live down by the sea. So you stay here with fifty children. I will bring the other fifty to the maritime region, we settle on the same land”. From then on, Au Cơ stayed in the mountains with her fifty children. Those became the ancestors of all the peoples living nowadays on high plateaus and mountains (these are the montagnards and minorities ). As for Lạc Long Quân, he descended on the plain, by the sea, with his children that he taught how to clear the land to establish a kingdom there. His eldest son became thus the first king of Vietnam and took the dynastic name of Hùng Vương and called his country Văn Lang.

That’s why Vietnamese are proud of being ” Children of the Dragon, Grandchildren of the Immortal”
(Con Rồng Cháu Tiên).