The Hmong (English version)

French versiondantoc_hmong

The Hmong are divided into local  sub-groups: the Green Hmong, the Red Hmong, the variegated Hmong, the Black Hmong and the Na Mieo.

The Hmong (The Miao or Miêu in vietnamese) actually  living in Vietnam are  descendants of emigrants from South China. Around the end of 18th century and the beginning of 19th century, the Hmong emigrated to Indochina peninsula (Laos, Vietnam and Thaïland)  and settled  away from plains already occupied by  majority ethnic group  in mountainous areas of Hà Giang and Lào Cai provinces.

Their migration story was closely related to the insubordination to the Chinese culture and the policy of asssimilation practiced by northerners. According to mythic tales passed down from generation to generation, their ancestors lived in snow and  ice covered regions where the night lasted almost 6 months. That is why, being accustomed to living in tropical regions and not having the opportunity to see the snow, the Hmong use terms such as “nước cứng” (or solid water) and “cát trắng mịnh” (or fine white sand) to designate respectively the ice and the snow. According to historians, their origin would be in Siberia (Tây Bá Lợi Á) and in vast plateaux of Mongolia. Some Caucasian proeminent traits are detected among the Hmong today. Others preferably opt for Tibet because shamanic rituals.  One has speculations more than certainties about the accuracy of the Hmong geographic origin. In the Chinese writings, the Hmong were designated under the Miao name including initially all the  ethnic peoples non han living in South West China. Today,  this name is reserved to the population group specifically identified and distinct  to which the Hmong living in Indochina peninsula and  the Miao ethnic minority populations  (The Hmong, the Hmou, the Qoxiong and the Hmau)  closely related at the linguistic and cultural level in China belong.

Originally related to the drawing of  rice field (Điền) above which is added the pictogram Thảo” (cỏ) ( herb )(key 140), the Chinese character Miao (or Miêu in vietnamese) clearly shows the way that the Chinese adopt  to call  the people knowing  the rice cultivation with their language. The Miao Being initially rice farmers, the Miao  had  the sedentary lifestyle in plains. As the Miao were chased by successive waves of the Chinese who dispossessed them of their  arable land and theire rice field, they were forced to become highlanders  and stayed until today. Being rushed to high altitudes in inaccessible and hostile mountain areas, they were forced to adapt themselves to each environment where they looked  for an agricultural model allowing them to practice the rice cultivation (rice terraces). In spite of that, the Chinese had the habit of traiting them as the barbarians. The Chinese have gone as far as making a distinction between the shu Miao ( or the Hmong cooked) and the sheng Miao ( the Hmong uncooked), that means the assimilated  Hmong  and the  diehard Hmong  on the margins of Chinese civilization.  They  had the task of transforming these sheng Miao into shu Miao.  Myths and facts are not miss to enrich the history of the Miao (or the Hmong).  The latter is punctuated by endless conflicts with the Chinese since time immemorial.

 

 

 Cette longue histoire de résistance à l’oppression leur confère une réputation particulière: ce sont des gens inassimilables et belliqueux. Les Miao ( ou les Hmong) voisinèrent aux temps préhistoriques (4000- 5000 ans avant J.C. ) avec les tribus Hsia (1) dans le bassin moyen du fleuve Jaune (Honan ou Hà Nam en vietnamien). Etant associés à Chi You ( Suy Vưu ), ils engagèrent la première confrontation qui se solda par leur défaite et la mort de ce dernier à Trác Lộc (Zhuolu) dans la province chinoise de Hebei (Hồ Bắc) (à peu près 2690 ans avant J.C.).

 

 

Dương Vân Nga (English version)

French version

 

 
One speaks rarely of Dương Vân Nga in the history of Vietnam. Her name is not as often cited as that of the sisters Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị or that of Triệu Ẩu. However she was an outstanding woman, the great queen of the first two dynasties Ðinh and Tiền Lê ( anterior Lê ) of Vietnam. Her life and works can be summed up in the following four verses which have been transmitted by oral tradition to our days and left on the wall of Am Tien monastery by a mysterious monk exactly 1000 years now, at his encounter with Dương Vân Nga:

Hai vai gồng gánh hai vua
Hai triều hoàng hậu, tu chùa Am Tiên
Theo chồng đánh Tống bình Chiêm
Có công với nước, vô duyên với đời

On her two shoulders two kings were carried
Queen of two reigns, she retired in Am Tien monastery.
Accompanying her spouse, she had beaten the Song and pacified the Cham
Service she rendered to her country, yet bad luck she got in her life.

Among the ten queens of these two dynasties, she was the only one to be allowed a statue bearing her effigy. During its restoration and transfer in the temple dedicated to King Lê Ðại Hành at the beginning of the Hậu Lê dynasty the statue oozed strangely, perhaps due to it being exposed suddenly to the sun after having been put in a humid place. At that time, it was said that this phenomenon was attributed to atrocious sufferings life has reserved to Dương Vân Nga during her lifetime.

Dương Vân Nga

Her real name was Dương Thị. Vân Nga was the name attributed to her by combining the first word of the name of the region of her father Vân Long and that of her mother Nga Mỹ. She was issue of a very poor background. At her very young age she had to collect wood in the forest and fish in the river to provide to the subsistence of her family in a mountainous and uneven region which is our Hoa Lư. Early morning in the forest, late evening in the river, she became without delay a young hard working, energetic and trouble shooting girl.

She had an innate sense of organization that allowed her to become in the following years the leader of a band of young girls in the area. She arrived at coping with a rival band constituted mainly of young boys led by the buffalo tender Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh by completely disperse his herd of buffaloes by using firecrackers and by her perfect mastery of round floating baskets that helped rapid transport of her troops across swamps and streams. But Ðinh Bộ Linh finally had the last word thanks to his scheme of recourse to poles and light craft of bamboo mat to pierce and immobilize all the round floating baskets of Dương Vân Nga. From then on Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh not only conquered Duong Van Nga’s admiration but also her love. That is why nowadays to evoke conjugal union and predestined love of a couple, it is often referred to the following popular expression: Bamboo mat craft crush round floating baskets ( Thuyền tre đè thuyền thúng )

Thuyền thúng

Thanks to their association, they arrived at gathering under their banner all the young of Hoa Lu and eliminating without delay their opponents in the conquest of power. Thus Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh became the first king of the Ðinh dynasty often known as Ðinh Tiên Hoàng. He was very authoritarian. He used ranks and appointments to buy loyalty of his subordinates. He also used force and cruel and unimaginable punishments to punish his adversaries and those who dared criticize him.

Despite Dương Vân Nga’s advice, he remained unruffled and made several enemies to himself even in his family. Instead of appointing his eldest son Ðinh Liễn, the one who had helped him for several years in his fights for the unification of the country, he chose his youngest son Ðinh Hạng Lang as his crown prince. This provoked Ðinh Liễn’s jealousy and incited him to assassinate his younger brother. Dương Vân Nga was at first witness of the fratricidal fight among her children, then the death of her husband, king Ðinh Tiên Hoàng assassinated by Ðỗ Thích a crank who, after a dream, thought the kingdom should belong to him and the eldest son Ðinh Liễn killed by the rebel troops.

She soon had the pains and sufferings of her daughter, princess Phật Kim, deserted by her husband Ngô Nhật Khánh who, being one of the sons of Ngô Quyền, took refuge in Champa and requested this country to launch a maritime attack against his own land Vietnam in the goal of reconquest of power. Because of the age of her son Ðinh Toàn ( 6 years old ), she had to assume the regency with Lê Hoàn, a generalissimo, head of Vietnamese territories.

But she soon faced the armed resistance of her assassinated husband’s partisans who wanted to eliminate Lê Hoàn at any cost and also the imminent threat of the Song as well as Champa’s. She was placed in front of a dilemma that appeared to be difficult for a woman to overcome alone when she lived in a Confucian era and when Vietnam was just liberated from Chinese domination for about a dozen years. She had the courage to take a decision which appeared doubtful at that time and heavy of harmful consequences for the Dinh dynasty in yielding the throne to Le Hoan and associating with the latter in managing the Ðại Cồ Việt ( ancient Vietnam ).

Pictures gallery of Hoa Lư

This permitted Lê Hoàn to have a massive adhesion of a great part of population and restore not only the confidence but also the unity of the whole people. He thus succeeded in putting down the rebellion, wiping out the Song on the Bạch Ðằng river, starting the Nam Tiến movement ( or descent toward the South ) and restoring peace all over the country. One should place oneself in this troubling political context that Dương Vân Nga experienced in order to see that it was an act well thought out and courageous from the part of a woman who, trained up until then to be submissive to a Confucian yoke, dared accept the dishonor and scorn to assure that our country would not pass under Chinese domination and that Vietnam would not prolong in political chaos.

Her combat appeared to be more arduous than that of the Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị sisters because it is the matter of not only a struggle against the invaders, but also her own interests, her personal sentiments for the love of this country.
During the reign of Lê Ðại Hành ( or Lê Hoàn ), she ceaselessly advised the latter to practice a politics of magnanimity towards his adversaries, to ban cruel punishments established by Ðinh Tiên Hoàng and to call on talented monks ( Khuông Việt, Ngô Chấn Lưu, Hồng Hiến, Vạn Hạnh ) to the management of the country. Being a warrior by nature, bearing the name of Great Expedition ( Ðại Hành ), he continued to enlarge Vietnam by leading not only a maritime expedition that destroyed the Cham capital Indrapura in presently Central Vietnam in 982 and killed the Cham king Bề Mi Thuế ( Paramec Varavarman ) but also a politics of pacification all over the place in the ethnic minority territories. It was in one of these battles that the last son of Dương Vân Nga and Ðinh Tiên Hoàng, Ðinh Toàn, died assassinated at the place of Lê Hoàn by the Mán. This death was followed by the suicide of her daughter, princess Phật Kim and the death by illness of her son Long Thâu that she had with Lê Ðại Hành. She was taken up by the disappearance of her entourage without complain. She preferred to live her last days in Am Tiên monastery and burry the personal sufferings of a woman facing her destiny.

Is it fair for a patriotic woman like Dương Vân Nga overwhelmed by destiny, not to be cheered and cited like the Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị sisters in the history of our Vietnam? Is there anything to do with a deliberate omission because of a sacrilege committed by Dương Vân Nga for having married and served two kings in a feudal Confucian society which is ours? One cannot erase the truth of history especially these details, said the Chinese historian Si Ma Qian.

It is time to give back to Dương Vân Nga her notoriety and her place she deserved long time ago in our history pages and make known to future generations the courageous and full of wisdom decision. This one, even though it seemed doubtful and immoral for a Confucian society, was made in the moment where the situation exacted more than ever the cohesion and unity of the whole people facing foreign invasion, but also a man of valor and talent that was our great king Lê Ðại Hành. Without him, the Nam Tiến movement would not have taken place.

Dương Vân Nga (Version française)

 

English version

On parle rarement de Dương Vân Nga dans l’histoire du Vietnam. Son nom est bien moins cité que celui des deux sœurs Trưng Trắc et Trưng Nhị ou Triệu Ẩu. Pourtant c’est une femme hors du commun, la grande reine de deux premières dynasties Ðinh et Lê antérieurs du Vietnam. Sa vie, son oeuvre, on peut les résumer à travers les quatre vers suivants qui ont été transmis par tradition orale jusqu’à nos jours et qui étaient laissés par un moine mystérieux sur le mur du monastère Am Tiên, il y a eu exactement 1000 ans, lors de sa rencontre avec Dương Vân Nga:

Hai vai gồng gánh hai vua
Hai triều hoàng hậu, tu chùa Am Tiên
Theo chồng đánh Tống bình Chiêm
Có công với nước, vô duyên với đời

Sur tes deux épaules étaient portés deux rois
Etant la reine de deux dynasties, tu te retirais dans le monastère Am Tiên
En accompagnant ton époux, tu as battu les Song et pacifié le Champa
Tu as eu la gloire dans le pays et la malchance dans la vie.

Parmi les dix reines de ces deux dynasties, elle était la seule à être autorisée à avoir une effigie statuaire. Celle-ci, lors de la restauration et du transfert dans le temple dédié au roi Lê Ðại Hành au début de la dynastie des Lê postérieurs (Hậu Lê) suinta étrangement, probablement par le fait qu’elle avait été exposée subitement au soleil et placée depuis longtemps dans un endroit humide. On attribua, selon l’on-dit, ce phénomène, à cette époque, aux souffrances atroces que la vie avait réservées à Dương Vân Nga, lors de son vivant.

Dương Vân  Nga

Son vrai nom était Dương Thị. Vân Nga était le nom qu’on lui avait attribué en associant le premier mot du nom de la région de son père Vân Long et celui de sa mère Nga Mỹ. Elle était issue d’un milieu très pauvre. Elle était obligée de chercher dès son jeune âge, du bois dans la forêt et de se procurer des poissons dans la rivière pour pourvoir à la subsistance de sa famille dans une région montagneuse et accidentée. De bonne heure, le matin dans la forêt, très tard le soir dans la rivière, elle ne tardait pas à devenir une jeune fille.

Thuyền thúng

Elle avait un sens d’organisation inné qui lui permit de devenir quelques années plus tard le meneur d’une bande de jeunes filles de sa région. Elle arriva à tenir tête à une bande rivale constituée essentiellement de jeunes garçons et dirigée par le bouvier Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh en désorganisant complètement les troupeaux de buffles de ce dernier par l’utilisation des pétards et par sa maîtrise parfaite des paniers ronds flottants qui permirent le transport rapide de ses troupes à travers les marécages et les cours d’eau. Mais Ðinh Bô. Lĩnh eut quand même le dernier mot grâce à son stratagème de recourir à des perches et à des embarcations légères en natte de bambou pour percer et immobiliser tous les paniers ronds flottants de Dương Vân Nga. Dès lors, Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh conquit non seulement l’admiration de Dương Vân Nga mais aussi son amour. C’est pourquoi pour évoquer, de nos jours, l’union conjugale et la dette originelle d’un couple, on se réfère souvent à l’expression populaire suivante:” Les embarcations en natte de bambou écrasent les paniers ronds flottants ( Thuyền tre đè thuyền thúng ).

Galerie des photos de Hoa Lư

Grâce à leur association, ils arrivèrent à réunir sous leur bannière, tous les jeunes de Hoa Lư et ne tardèrent pas à éliminer leurs concurrents dans la conquête du pouvoir. Ðinh Bộ Lĩnh devint ainsi le premier roi de la dynastie des Ðinh connu souvent sous le nom de Ðinh Tiên Hoàng. Il fut très autoritaire. Il se servit des grades et des appointements pour acheter la fidélité de ses subordonnés mais aussi de la force et des châtiments cruels et inimaginables pour punir ses adversaires et ceux qui osaient le critiquer.

Malgré les conseils de Dương Vân Nga, il continua à rester imperturbable et se fit de nombreux ennemis même dans sa famille. Au lieu de nommer son fils aîné, Ðinh Liễn, celui qui l’avait aidé depuis tant d’années dans ses combats pour l’unification du pays, il choisit comme prince héritier son plus jeune fils Ðinh Hạng Lang. Cela provoqua la jalousie de Ðinh Liễn et incita à ce dernier à assassiner son petit frère. Dương Vân Nga fut d’abord témoin de la lutte fraticide de ses enfants, puis de la mort de son mari, le roi Ðinh Tiên Hoàng assassiné par un illuminé Ðỗ Thích qui, après un rêve, crut que le royaume devait lui appartenir et de son fils aîné Ðinh Liễn assassiné par les troupes rebelles.

Elle ne tarda pas à voir les douleurs et les souffrances de sa fille, la princesse Phất Kim délaissée par son mari Ngô Nhật Khánh, qui, étant l’un de des deux fils de Ngô Quyền, se réfugia au Champa et demanda à ce pays de monter une excursion maritime contre son propre pays, le Viêt-Nam dans le but de reconquérir le pouvoir. A cause du jeune âge de son fils (6 ans) Ðinh Toàn, elle dut assumer la régence avec Lê Hoàn, généralissime, chef des territoires vietnamiens.

Mais elle se heurta aussitôt à la résistance armée des partisans de son mari assassiné qui voulurent éliminer à tout prix Lê Hoàn et elle dut faire face non seulement à la menace et l’invasion imminente des Song mais aussi à celle du Champa. Elle fut placée devant un dilemme qu’il parut difficile pour une femme de surmonter seule lorsqu’elle vit à l’époque confucianiste et lorsque le Vietnam avait été libéré à peine d’une dizaine d’années de la domination chinoise. Elle eut le courage de prendre une décision qui parut douteuse à cette époque et lourde de conséquences néfastes pour la dynastie des Ðinh en cédant le trône à Lê Hoàn et en s’associant à ce dernier dans la gestion du Ðại Cồ Việt ( ancien Viêt-Nam ). Cela permit à Lê Hoàn d’avoir l’adhésion massive d’une grande partie de la population et de restaurer non seulement la confiance mais aussi l’unité de tout un peuple. Il réussit ainsi à mater le rébellion, à anéantir les Song sur le fleuve Bach Ðằng, à entamer le mouvement ” Nam Tiến ( ou la descente vers le Sud ) et à restaurer la paix sur tout le pays. Il faut se placer dans ce contexte politique troublant qu’avait connu Dương Vân Nga pour constater que c’est un acte bien réfléchi et courageux de la part d’une femme, qui, formée jusque là pour être soumise à un carcan confucianiste, osa accepter le déshonneur et le mépris pour s’assurer que notre pays ne repasserait pas sous la domination chinoise et que le Viêt-Nam ne se replongerait pas dans le chaos politique.

Son combat parait plus ardu que celui des soeurs Trưng Trắc Trưng Nhị car il ne s’agit pas non seulement d’une lutte contre les envahisseurs mais aussi contre ses propres intérêts, ses sentiments personnels pour l’amour de ce pays.
Durant le règne de Lê Ðại Hành ( ou Lê Hoàn ), elle ne cessa pas de conseiller à ce dernier de pratiquer une politique de magnanimité envers ses adversaires, à supprimer les châtiments cruels établis par Ðinh Tiên Hoàn et à faire appel à des moines talentueux ( Khuông Việt, Ngô Chấn Lưu, Hồng Hiến, Vạn Hạnh ) dans la gestion du pays. Etant guerrier de sa nature, portant le nom signifiant Grande Expédition (Ðại Hành), il continua à agrandir le Viêt-Nam en menant non seulement une expédition maritime qui détruisit la capitale chame Indrapura dans le centre du Viêt-Nam actuel en 982 et qui tua le roi du Champa Bề Mi Thuế (Paramec Varavarman) mais aussi une politique de pacification de tous azimuts dans les territoires des minorités ethniques. C’était dans l’un de ces derniers que le dernier fils de Dương Văn Nga et de Ðinh Tiên Hoàng, Ðinh Toàn mourut assassiné à la place de Lê Hoàn, par les Mán. Cette mort fut suivie par le suicide de sa fille, la princesse Phất Kim et par le décès de maladie de son fils Long Thâu qu’elle avait eu avec Lê Ðại Hành. Elle fut accablée par la disparition successive de son entourage sans broncher. Elle préféra passer les derniers jours de sa vie dans le monastère Am Tiên et y enfouir les douleurs personnelles d’une femme seule face à son destin.

Est-il juste pour une femme patriote comme Dương Vân Nga accablée par le destin, de ne pas avoir le mérite d’être chérie et citée comme les sœurs Trưng Trắc Trung Nhị dans l’histoire de notre Vietnam? S’agit-il d’une omission voulue délibérément à cause d’un sacrilège commis par Dương Vân Nga d’épouser et servir deux rois dans la société féodale et confucéenne qu’est la nôtre? On ne peut pas gommer la vérité de l’histoire en particulier ses détails, ce qu’avait dit l’historien chinois Si Ma Qian.

Il est temps de redonner à Dương Vân Nga sa notoriété et la place qu’elle méritait depuis si longtemps dans notre page d’histoire et faire connaître aux générations futures cette décision courageuse et empreinte de sagesse. Celle-ci, bien qu’elle parût douteuse et immorale pour la société confucéenne, fut prise au moment où la situation politique exigea plus que jamais la cohésion et l’unité de tout un peuple face à l’invasion étrangère mais aussi un homme de valeur et de talent qu’était notre grand roi Lê Ðại Hành. Sans celui-ci, le mouvement Nam Tiến ne serait jamais engagé.

 

Hoa Lư (English version)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French version

Hoa Lư is the old capital of independent  Vietnam under the reign of  Ðinh,  early Lê and Lý dynasties  until  1010 before the transfert to Thăng Long. It is located in  the Red River Delta region of Vietnam. It distinguishes itself from other tourist attractions by an magnificent environment made up of 3 caves (Tam Cốc) and karstic sharpen peaks as Hạ Long bay.

Thủ đô Đại Cồ Việt

Galerie des photos

 

 

Being Vietnamese (Tôi là người Vietnam)

French version

Vietnamese version

Being Vietnamese 

According to the archaeological sources we have today, the Vietnamese are probably descendants of the Thai -Vietnamese group. Some historians keep on seeing in these Vietnamese, not only Mongol immigrants coming from southern China (the Yue) and resettling in the Red River delta in the course of the centuries that preceded our era, but also carriers of the Chinese civilization that swept away on their passage by a demographic push, all the brilliant civilizations known up until then on the Indochinese peninsula (those of Ðồng Sơn, and later of Champa).

Others think that the Vietnameses are the result of fusion between several people in contact in the basin of the Red River among which it is necessary to quote Hmongs, the Chinese, the Thais and Dongsonese. While basing themself on their legend of water melon taking place at the time of Hung kings and testifying to the coming of strangers of a different race who might have brought the seeds to Vietnam by the maritime way ( 3rd century B.C ) and on the archaeological excavations confirming the existence of the Nan Yue kingdom, the Vietnameses are convinced that they resulted from Yue but with an Indonesian background probably via by the intermediary of the Dongsonese because Ðình (communal house) heightened on piles and where resides the most vivid expression of the Vietnamese soul, resembles indisputably the houses prefigured on the bronze drums of Ðồng Sơn. This conviction seems conclusive because one finds also other astonishing resemblances among Vietnameses as well as Indonesian tribes: chews bétel, tattooing and tooth lacquering.

Apart from some Frenchmen like Henri Oger who was able to discover in the Vietnamese society a millennial civilization rich in traditions and customs, one continues to be open to a hallucinating confusion in considering that the Vietnamese civilization is a tracing of the Chinese civilization. One continues to reproach the Vietnameses for not having a civilization so worthy, intense and rich as the ones found in other peoples in Indochina (Khmer and Cham civilizations) through their temples of Angkor and Mỹ Sơn. It is a regrettable ignorance because to known the richness of the Vietnamese civilization, one needs to be more interested in its history, its literature than its art. 

How can one have a fantastic and original art when one is always in a perpetual struggle with a so rude and pitiless nature and when Tonkin is of no exceptional wealth not to include the systematic assimilation by the Chinese during their thousand-year domination. In spite of that, the Vietnamese succeeded in showing several times their techniques, know-how and imagination that allowed them to give to some Vietnamese productions (ceramics in particular) an almost admirable rank among the provincial arts of the Chinese world.

In order to preserve the traditions and to perpetuate their culture, the Vietnamese owe their safety to their sempiternal struggle. Thanks to their religious beliefs and their quasi hostile environment at the beginning, they possess a considerable power of resistance to moral and physical sufferings that became with the passing years one of their main forces for overcoming all external aggressions.

Also thanks to their labor, tenacity, and sacrifices in human lives, they were successful in holding in check the caprices and wrath of the Red River, in keeping the Chinese outside Tonkin on several rounds and in the 17th century going through the barrier which is made up then impenetrable the Anamitic cordillera in their march towards the South. The Chams were the first victims this secular confrontation, followed by the Khmers.

One can reproach the Vietnamese for being pitiless towards the other peoples but it should not be forgotten that the Vietnameses have struggled inexorably since the creation of their nation for their survival and the preservation of their traditions. The Vietnameses have been at a much disadvantage for a long time by the geographical proximity of China. It was to block the passage of Kubilai Khan’s Mongols in the conquest of Champa that the Vietnamese suffered twice their invasions in 1257 and 1287. It was to find a passage towards the Middle Empire that the French thought to succeed in their first try by the Mekong then by the Red River that allowed a link to Yunnan that Doudard de Lagree’s mission followed by Francis Garnier’s were sent to Indochina. This permitted the French to be more particularly interested in Tonkin and intervene militarily a few years later. It was also to counter China after the Korean war that the Vietnamese were implicated by force for decades in the East-West confrontation. It was to thwart the China policy in Cambodia that the Vietnamese received a lesson of correction in February 1980 by Chinese troops’ lightning invasion at the frontier of Lang son for a month.

For those who know the history of Vietnam well, being Vietnamese is not to be so peaceful and so cool even if a Vietnamese wants to be in that way. Kneaded of the brown silt of the Tonkinese delta where he comes from, involving in the perpetual struggle with the spite of the Red River, dipping into a long march toward the South through a succession of intermittent wars, and suffering a long Chinese assimilation and domination, not to include a century of French colonization and a few dozens of years that compelled him to become a target of the East-West confrontation and a victim of the cold war, the Vietnamese never lets himself discouraged by these titanic hardships. 

Whatever happens, he found himself proud of taking over from his parents to valiantly defend the ancestors’ soil and his people’s survival and to be worthy of the Son of the Dragon and the nephew of the Fairy.  “Dyeing for one’s country” is not strange either to his temperament or his traditions. But it is the lot the most beautiful and worthy of desire that many Vietnamese such as Trần Bình Trọng, Nguyễn Thái Học, Phó Ðức Chính, Nguyễn Trung Trực,Trần Cao Vân, Nguyễn An Ninh etc.. have accepted to get with bravery on that land of legends.

Being Vietnamese is being capable of resisting above all any assimilation and foreign ideology and being proud of having in his veins the blood of the Dragon.

Mekong delta river (Đồng Bằng Cửu Long)

 Version française

natif_cuulong

The Mekong delta’s natives are  the mixing of several Vietnamese, Khmer, Cham and Chinese peoples.

Cửu Long nơi có chín rồng

Có sông nhiều cá có đồng lúa xanh

Thưở xưa là đất tranh giành

Người Nam nhắc đến không đành lìa xa

 

I like to dedicate this page to my two children and those from this delta.

Former territory of the kingdom Founan (Phù Nam). A multitude of religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Caodaism, Islam and Hoà Hão. Famous people originate from this country: Phan Thanh Giản, Võ Tánh, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Huỳnh Phú Sổ.

A fifth of the population lives in this delta. The least hectare, the least cultivable parcel of the delta are exploited by peasants consisted of Vietnamese of Khmer origin, Chinese,Chàm, and Vietnamese. That is why a multitude of religions is found there: Buddhism, Catholicism, Caodaism, Islam, and Hoà Hảo. Irrigated and sprinkled by the Mekong River, this delta produced itself alone one-half of the rice of the country, which allows Vietnam to become the third largest exporter of rice in the world.
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The Mekong delta is currently divided into  12 provinces: Long An, Tiền Giang, Bến Tre, Ðồng Tháp, An Giang, Kiên Giang,  Vĩnh Long, Trà Vinh, Hậu Giang, Sóc Trăng, Bạc Liêu  and Cà Mau.

Đồng Bằng Cửu Long

Before becoming an integral part of Vietnam, this delta belonged to the Khmer people. The first Vietnamese colonists appeared only at the beginning of the 16th century on this territory that was until then just a marshy area infested with crocodiles and filled with mangroves. It is only in 17th century that this territory became Vietnamese under the scepter of the lords Nguyễn. It was also the arena of violent clashes between the Tay Son’s armies and the Nguyen’s partisans supported by the mercenaries recruited by Pigneau de Béhaine at the end of 18th century.

One finds in this delta a labyrinth of channels and rivers that add up to 4,000 kilometers, which is equivalent to the length of the Mekong river itself. This river is born out of the snows from Tibet in the province of Qing Hai, flows for more than 4,500 km before reaching the delta and crosses six countries: China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, and Vietnam. It divides itself at the capital of Kampuchea, Phnom-Penh into two branches, Mekong and Bassac that enter Vietnam separately. In Vietnam, its upper course is divided into four arms at Vĩnh Long to throw itself into the East Sea. (Biển Đông).

The great lake Tonlé Sap, located at the center of Kampuchea is not only a natural fish tank but also a natural regulator of the water flow making it possible to prevent the flood of the delta. In summer, because of monsoon rain, the level of Mekong is higher compared to that of the lake to which it is connected by a channel. The lake fills itself, passing from 3,000 square kilometers in season of low waters to more than 10,000 square kilometers at the end of the monsoon. The lake begins to reverse its water into the delta by the time the rain ends. The Mekong delta does not need big water management works or dikes to protect itself from swelling, which proves to be essential for the delta of the North. Thanks to the irrigation of Mekong, the delta is so fertile. Gardens, fields, rice plantations and orchards are seen everywhere.

These orchards are in fact small plots of land irrigated by channels connected to each other by bamboo bridges often called Cầu Khỉ (Monkey Bridges). When referring to the delta, the term “cò bay thẳng cánh is often used. This means the delta is so vast that the cranes can extend their wings as they fly over. 

It is in this delta, at Sadec, that Marguerite Duras‘ mother ran the girls’ school. A young Chinese of good family lived there too. He will become the hero in “The Lover “. This novel has made Marguerite Duras a superstar of the French literature overnight allowing her to win the Prix de Goncourt in 1984 and ensure the sale of one million three hundred thousand copies in paperback in Midnight Editions and one million copies in hardcover at France-Loisirs.

It is also in this delta that are seen every morning, hundreds of sampans converging toward the famous floating market of Phùng Hiêp at the crossroad of seven channels in the direction of Cần Thơ to Sóc Trăng, or toward lesser known markets such as Cái Răng and Phong Ðiền. Also seen are merchants with conic hats trailing their mountains of fruits, legions of ducks, chickens and pigs to the market on their small boats, or other rudimentary means of transportation (bicycles, rickshaws). It is thanks to the orchards of the delta that one finds a great number of fruits: sapotilles, ramboutans, caramboles, corrosoles etc… at the markets of Saigon. It can be said that the delta feeds Saigon and a greater part of Vietnam. In the northeast of the peninsula lies the Plain of Reed Ðồng Tháp Mười ) which was a Việt Cộng refuge yesterday and which becomes the Asian Camargue today.

In spite of its lack of archaeological richness, the delta continues to play a vital role economically for Vietnam. It becomes thus the object of greed and confrontation for so many years. It was French Cochinchina at one recent time. Even Hồ Chí Minh, when alive, has agreed to its importance by burying his father at Sadec. There are folks whose names remain anchored in the memory of the Vietnamese people. Phan Thanh Giản, Võ Tánh, Nguyễn Trung Trực, Hùynh Phú Sổ, are among these folks and are issue of this corner.


Without the delta, Vietnam is never free and independent….. 
It is the granary of Vietnam.


Hà Tiên (English version)

French version

Vietnamese version

Facing to the Gulf of Siam, Hà Tiên is located about 8 kilometers from the Cambodian border. It is also the city marking the end of the long walk towards the South started by the Vietnamese. Before being known as Hà Tiên, it initially was called  Phương Thành then Mang Kham in the past. Its economic growth has been due to the massive arrival of the Chinese, supporters of the former Ming dynasty (or Minh Hương in Vietnamese) whose most known was Mac Cửu (Mac King Kiou).

Being hostile to the new dynasty of the Manchus (Qing) and leaving China at the 17 years age, this one,was established with his family in Cambodia in 1671. He was appointed a few years later by the Cambodgian king as provincial chief of Mang Khảm . Thanks to his generosity and business talent, he succeeded to transform Mang Kham into a port city flourishing and animated in the region. For countering against the Siamese’s ambition, he needed the Vietnameses protection, in particular that of the Nguyễn lords to the detriment of the Cambodian ones. They agreed to confer to him the title of commander of troops (tổng binh) in this region. Consequently, Mang Kham belonged to Vietnamese territory and changed name into becoming Hà Tiên. According to the legend, one saw appearing on the river, the ballad of Immortals (Hà river in Vietnamese). It is also the reason for choosing this name. Hà Tiên became a few years later the starting point for the conquest of Cambodian districts: Long Xuyên (Cà Mau today), Kiên Giang (Rạch Giá), Tran Giang (Cần Thơ), Tran Di (Bạc Liêu) with his son Mac Thiên Tứ. This latter was a character out of the ordinary. His fate was tied closely to that of Nguyễn Ánh, future emperor of the Nguyên Dynasty. It became the famous rampart of the Nguyễn against the Tây Sơn. With the years of vicissitudes of Nguyễn Ánh, he had to take refuge in Thailand with all the family and the son of Nguyễn Ánh, Prince Xuân. To sow doubt among the Siamese, the Tây Sơn did not hesitate to falsify documents and make them responsible for a conspiracy against Siamese king Trịnh Tân (Phraya Tak Sin).

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His entire family was executed with the prince Xuân. To preserve his honor and fidelity, he committed suicide in September 1780. Mac Thiên Tứ was also a greatest poet of his time. He made Hà Tiên famous by his volume of poems entitled “Hà Tiên Thâp vịnh” praising the beauty of its natural and marvellous sites.

This volume continues to grow in the coming years with the addition of 10 poems written by each of 31 poets belonging to the club of the poets “Chiêu Anh Các” created under the initiative of Mac Thiên Tứ. That constituted in all 320 poems to which Nguyễn Cư Trinh added the last ten poems to give a value priceless to this volume that continues to be transmitted to the posterity.

Ones does not forget his famous poem in Six-Eight to tease an young girl in Quảng Nam (Center of Vietnam), disguised as a young student taking part in the evening of the illumination festival. By seeing this young man, he does not hesitate to send the following four verses:

Bên kia sen nở nhiều hoa
Người khen hoa đẹp nõn nà hơn em
Trên bờ em đứng em xem
Mọi người sao bỗng không thèm nhìn hoa

On the other side, the lotus has many flowers
The person who admires them is more prettier than you.
On land, you continue to admire them
Everyone is not be interested to admire your “flower”

Without hesitation, he replied promptly by the four following verses:

Mặt ao sen nở khắp
Trông hoa lẫn bóng người
Trên bờ ai đứng ngắm
Sao chẳng thấy hoa tươi?

The surface of the pond is filled with flowers of lotus
Ones finds here at the same time these flowers and the people’s shadows
On land, each one is admiring them
Why isn’t a beautiful flower found?

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Lotus

This poetic exchange enabled him to have sympathy and to discover that this young student was only one girl disguised as a boy to avoid the pirates, coming from the Center of Vietnam, following her father to make the trade and bearing the name Nguyễn Thi Xuân. Mac Thiên Tứ took her later as wife of second rank . But the latter failed to die because of the jealousy of his wife . She was forced to withdraw herself in a pagodon to finish her last remaining days. Before her death, she left a poem showing her purity and nobility in a nauseaous world filled with turpitudes by comparing her with a lotus flower:

Vươn khỏi bùn nhơ thoát vươn lên
Phỉ lòng trong trắng giữa thiên nhiên
Xuân thu đậm nhạt bao hồng tía
Ðừng sánh thanh cao với đóa sen.

Leaving mud, the lotus flower continues to open out
It is glad to be pure in nature
Its perianth becomes more or less purple in the course of time
But one should not compare the nobility with this flower.

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When one evokes Hà Tiên, one does not forget to think of Mac Cửu and his son Mac Thiên Tứ because it is thanks to them that Vietnam succeeded in achieving its long walk towards the South. Nothing is more astonishing than to see the deep attachment and respect which the Vietnamese reserved for Mac Cửu and his family through his temple in Hà Tiên.

Khải Định mausoleum (English version)

Version française

 
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Ứng Lăng (應陵)

Unlike other mausoleums of the Nguyên Dynasty, especially those of Minh Mang and Tự Ðức, the Khai Dinh  mausoleum  ignores harmony and ingenious and subtle agreement cleverly searched and found so far between architecture and natural environment where the tomb of the Emperor must be built. There is also the abandonment of wood as a main element in the construction of this mausoleum.

On the other hand, it is a building constructed entirely of concrete and beautifully decorated by coatings of granular porcelain and glass of all colors. Despite the absence of the landscape, the mausoleum of Khải Đinh still reflects the exceptional talent of Vietnamese designers and artists at the beginning of twentieth century. It also reflects the character of a megalomaniac emperor who is interested only in the debauchery and is not worried about the fate of his people.

World cultural heritage of Vietnam

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Tự Đức mauseolum ( English version)

Version française

 

 

Unlike other royal tombs of the Nguyễn Dynasty, Tự Ðức mausoleum  is primarily a possible place of refuge during his reign. That is why there is not only a palace which was later transformed into a place of worship after his death but also a theater and two small and pretty pavilions in red wood (Du Khiêm and Xung Khiêm) where he liked to sit for the relaxation and the composition of his poems. This mausoleum which was built during 1864-1867 by three thousand soldiers and workers, had approximately fifty buildings surrounded by a stone and brick wall 1500 meters in length in an area of 12 ha.

Khiêm Lăng (謙陵)

Tự Đức was crowned king at a time where he have had to cope not only with development of Western capitalism but also internal strife (war grasshoppers led by  poet Cao Ba Quát, the eviction of his elder brother Hồng Bang at his enthronement etc..). For taking refuge, he did not hesitate to order the construction of his tomb as a place of relaxation in his lifetime and remains a place of residence for eternal future life.

 

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In this mausoleum, the pavilion Hoa Khiêm is the main building where the Emperor worked and the pavilion Lương Khiêm is where he lived and slept. One finds also in the domain of his mausoleum two other tombs: those of his wife, Queen Lê Thiện Anh and one of his three adopted son, King Kiến Phúc.

The architecture of this mausoleum reflects not only the nature of the romantic poet emperor Tư Ðức but also the freedom that is lacking so far in the other mausoleums. Nothing is surprising to see this mausoleum become one of the favorite places choosen by most foreign and Vietnamese tourists.

 
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