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.).

 

 

Laques (Versions française et anglaise)

English version

 

Personne ne conteste que la technique du laque est introduite au Vietnam par les artisans chinois. Mais la date d’introduction continue à alimenter les débats et reste toujours l’objet de discussions. Pour certains archéologues, l’utilisation de l’ornement laqué remonta à la première invasion chinoise (découverte des objets laqués dans des tombes des IIIème- IVème siècles de notre ère). Pour d’autres, cette technique fut introduite au XVème siècle par Trần Tường Công, ambassadeur à la cour de Chine. Celui-ci fut chargé par le roi Lê Nhân Tôn (1443- 1460) de trouver un métier susceptible de procurer de nouvelles ressources pour les paysans. Il fut initié dans des ateliers chinois de la province Hunan aux mystères de la laque.

Sơn mài

La laque est en fait le suc laiteux obtenu par incision du laquier. Grâce à la solidification à l’air libre et à la résistance à l’acide et aux éraflures, la gomme résineuse constitue une protection idéale pour les bois et pour les bambous. On se sert de cette résine dans la fabrication des objets laqués. Ceux-ci offrent une grande diversité: paravents, coffres, plateaux, vases, échiquiers etc … Le travail de laque nécessite beaucoup de préparations et de soins.

Version anglaise

Nobody challenges that the technique of lacquer is introduced to Vietnam by Chinese craftsmen. But the date of introduction continues to sustain debates and always remains the object of discussions. For some archaeologists, the use of lacquer adornment dated back to the first Chinese invasion ( discovery of lacquerwares in the tombs of 3rd – 4th centuries of our era). For others, this technique was introduced by Trần Tường Công, ambassador to the court of China. He was assigned by king Lê Nhân Tôn (1443-1460 ) to find a craft able to provide new resources for peasants. He was introduced to the secrets of lacquer in Chinese workshops in the province of Hunan.

Lacquer is in fact the milky juice obtained from an incision of the lacquer tree. Thanks to the solidification in open air and the resistance to acid and scratches, the resinous gum constitutes an ideal protection for wood and bamboo. One uses this resin to make lacquerwares. They offer a great diversity: folding screens, chests, trays, vases, chessboard etc….

Lacquerwork requires lots of preparation and care.

 

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.

 

Being Confucianist (English version)

French version

Being confucianist

Vietnamese society is profoundly influenced by Confucianism that was introduced to Vietnam in the era of a long Chinese domination (111 B.C. – 939 A.D.). Therefore Vietnamese people have absorbed more or less the concepts prescribed by the wise Confucius in “The Canonical Book“. Must be done what appears on a moral viewpoint just and appropriate taking into account the Five Relations ( Ngũ Luân ) upon which rests the Vietnamese society: relation between the king and subjects, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brothers, friend and friend.

Thanks to this doctrine, a Vietnamese bestows great importance to his family that he always considers as a moral training ground and strongly attaches himself to the forces of the land and his ancestors.

This allows the Vietnamese society to find not only a cohesion but also a consolidation, deep roots and an efficiency to overcome foreign powers in the most difficult and crucial moments of the history of Vietnam. Society is considered on a large scale by Vietnamese as an extension of the family circle. A confucianist Vietnamese never neglects his filial piety, respect of elderly people, ideal of loyalty, friendship and honor.

In order to understand the Vietnamese soul, gentleness should be taken. Generally speaking, a Vietnamese is stripped of his aggressiveness except when someone makes him lose face, in particular his honor. Forgiveness is something very Vietnamese. Those are quintessential traits of the Vietnamese people depicted by the Vietnamese Bob Dylan Trịnh Công Sơn. Honor is one of the qualities a confucianist Vietnamese tries to conserve until the end of his life. The jade that melts can conserve its whiteness, the consumed bamboo still keeps its stem straight. Individual existence is very light compared to that of honor. Those are the sentences that sum up the state of mind of the confucianist Vietnamese.

Pictures gallery

It is the case of general Võ Tánh who, despite the recommendations of his brother-in-law Gia Long to flee, preferred to take sacrifice in 1801 by jumping in a building full of gun powder to defend not only is honor but also the lives of his soldiers facing the powerfully equipped Tây Sơn army immobilized because of the siege at Qui Nhơn, which allowed emperor Gia Long to claim at Phú Xuân (Huế) a thunderous and decisive victory. But the one who illustrated well the confucianist Vietnamese remains the hero Trần Hưng Ðạo. One finds in this general all the qualities of a man of ren (ren includes all virtues prescribed by Confucius in the Canonical Book.

His father, Trần Liễu was the brother of King Trần Thái Tôn. The latter had no children. To consolidate and perpetuate the dynasty, the prime minister Trần Thủ Ðộ did not hesitate to force the Princess Thuận Thiên, the concubine of Trần Hung Ðạo’s father, pregnant for three months, to marry the King. Outraged, his father Trần Liễu told him at the time of agony:

If you couldn’t avenge this offense and to take the throne, I wouldn’t never happy in the land of Sources.

It challenged not the words but never took into account the recommendations of his father. However, one day, to determine the intentions of his children, he asked again their opinion about it. His younger son encouraged him to usurp the throne. He prohibited his son from seeing him until the end of his life after failing to kill this latter on the field. Very pious, he learned that his father had told him, but he tried to leave aside the personal interests to act in accordance with the interests of the nation.

His loyalty toward the king was without failure . On a beautiful day, during an excursion with the king in a jonc, having in his hand a baton whose end bore a sharp piece of metal, he did not hesitate to take it off to show the king his loyalty. It was he who reassured the king to continue the struggle against the Mongols and not to surrender by telling him: “If you want to surrender, you must first behead me“. Thanks to his courage, determination, tenacity and magnanimity, Vietnam succeeded in getting out victor two times in a row against the Mongolian army of Kubilai Khan in 1257 and 1267.

He never took advantage of his military command to grant favor to anybody. He left it to the king to take care of when he was commander in chief of the Vietnamese army. He exerted his power with equal fairness on everyone, big or small. He is perfectly close to the man of ren. It is also thanks to him that Confucianism at his time reached its highest point and thus became the sole model of organization of state and of the Vietnamese society.

In spite of that, Confucianism is blamed for keeping the people in particular women in permanent status of submissiveness and for being one of the causing factors of inertia that works largely to the advantage of the leading class and stifles enterprise spirit and any reforms needed for progress, which provoked at the beginning of 20th century serious and catastrophic consequences for Vietnam with the fall of the Nguyễn empire followed by regrettable events during the last decades.

It is not surprising to see that a man coming from this Confucian society, in particular the Vietnamese intelligentsia of today is confronted often with an insurmountable dilemma. He is always pulled between social progress and moral values of Confucianism which continues to exert a noticeable influence on his heart and mind at the moment when Vietnamese society needs reforms to be able to better adapt with economic and social mutations that are necessary for Vietnam after so many years of war. It is difficult to know today in what way socialism erected on the dogma of state, has really played a role in the current social transformation. But it is also impossible to evaluate the degree of influence of Confucianism at this time.

Today, it is up to us, as Vietnamese to find the right way and to behave with dignity so that we are not ashamed of being the “Children and Nephews of the Dragon and the Immortal”, in particular those who live abroad.

 

Religion (English version)

French version

religion

Religion

The main religion in Vietnam remains Taoism. Catholics are about 8 million. The Buddhism practiced in Vietnam is definitely Mayahana or Great Vehicle Buddhism. Caodaism, a synthesis of Christianity, Buddhism and Confucianism, is well established in the region of Tay Ninh in the south of Vietnam with 3,000,000 followers. One finds also in the south of Vietnam toward Châu Ðốc and Long Xuyên, a derivative of Buddhism professed by the Hoà Hão sect (2 million followers). Mountain peoples have their animist cults while the descendents of the Chàm practice Hinduism or Islam. 

 

 

Being Caodaïst (Tôi là người Cao Đài)

French version

 

We, the Caodaïsts, we must know to perfect ourselves. It is not essential for us to fast and call upon Buddha by prayers or to enter a pagoda in order to be able to attain perfection. We have the possibility of attaining it if we always have in us the three following qualities: Love, Wisdom and Will.

At birth, we already had kindness. This is why, our Ancestors were accustomed to saying:

Nhân chi sơ, tính bản thiện. Mankind is naturally good at birth.

But because of the hazards of life, the unjustified competitions and the immoderate desires which continue to monopolize us sempiternally, we thus became dishonest people, perfidious, egoistic, which makes us lose the kindness that we acquired at birth. All the Wise ones of Antiquity had had these three qualities evoked above.

To have an idea on what the individual has or not in terms of kindness, it is enough for us to observe his behavior towards his close relations. It is by this observation that we are able to know him, which had said the Chinese philosopher Jou Mencius.

Love is a quality necessary to the perfection but it cannot be complete because we need wisdom to distinguish truth from falsehood, right from wrong, good from evil. There are plenty of generous people who, in spite of their gifts offered to the construction of the pagodas in a considerable way, continue to be entangled in an inauspicious behavior because they do not manage to distinguish right from wrong. It happens that they may be badly considered sometimes compared to those who never have the occasion to take part in this generous contribution.

In Vietnam, the Lý dynasty was famous for its irreproachable enthusiasm towards Buddhism by the bias of a great number of constructions of pagodas. That unrelentingly led the people to misery because of the too high taxes and ineluctably caused the popular discontent which was the principal cause of its fall.

Whatever his educational level, man always has in him Wisdom because when we act badly or not, we will know it thanks to our own conscience. For example, when one tries to lie, one feels ashamed towards oneself although the person to whom one lied does not know it. It is the wisdom which helps us make this distinction. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal had the occasion to stress that man is a thinking reed.

To continue to lie or act badly or not, we need Will. It is easy to evoke this quality but it appears difficult for us to have it because we are obliged to go sometimes against our own interests or to be losers at times also. Sometimes it happens to us not to have a safe life. I refer to some Chinese or Vietnamese historical facts with an aim of enabling us to be together to reflect and respectfully admire the people whom I regard as knowing how to perfect themselves because they had the three qualities evoked above. They became famous characters in the history of China and Vietnam.

Initially, it was the case of Zhuge Liang ( or Gia Cát Lượng in Vietnamese). He was at the same time Prime Minister and adviser to Liu Bei, the last survivor of the Han dynasty ( Lưu Hoài Ðức ) in China. The Barbarians coming from the steppes of the North of China and directed by Manh Hoạch often liked to raid the territory of his kingdom. Zhuge Liang managed to capture Manh Hoạch 7 times but this latter was released immediately on the order of Zhuge Liang at each capture. He was very generous. He was equipped with an extraordinary wisdom because he found that it was necessary to convince Manh Hoach by the means of love and feelings. If Manh Hoạch had been killed, there would be probably another Manh Hoạch. That obliged him to frequently assemble punitive expeditions and did not allow him to have the free hand to restore the Han dynasty and to bring back peace and happiness to its citizens.

It was why he continued to release impassively Manh Hoach at the time of each capture. He had an incommensurable will because he knew that to prevent Manh Hoach from betraying later, he was to waste much time, to forget the personal interests and to give himself many concerns with his rather advanced age. It would be less tiring for him if he decided to kill Manh Hoach because he was not obliged to assemble up to 7 times the punitive expedition. At the time of the last capture, when he was about to usually release Manh Hoach, this latter started to cry and to surrender definitively. Zhuge Liang had these three qualities evoked above. Although he is not a monk, we can affirm that with the three qualities found in him ( Love, Wisdom and Will ), he knew how to perfect himself and he was already regarded as a Wise one at the time of the Three Kingdoms.

In Vietnam, there are also kings whom we can regard as the Wise ones. It is the case of king Lý Thánh Tôn which had these 3 qualities quoted above. This is why he was known in the history of Vietnam as an intelligent king, distinguished, charitable and valiant. The revolt of the king of Champa, Chế Cũ obliged him to assemble a punitive expedition while leaving regency to his concubine Ỷ Lan. Faced with the determination of Chế Cũ, he was not able to capture him after several months of expedition. Disappointed, he was obliged to return to the country. On his return, he learned that his people did not cease praising the talent of his concubine Ỷ Lan in the art of governing the country. He felt ashamed and decided to return to the front. When he succeeded to capture Chế Cũ, he could have killed this one to alleviate his anger but he preferred to let him return to his country.

It was why Viet-Nam knew a period of peace, prosperity and happiness. He was very charitable because he let the one who had humiliated him in front of his people leave. He lost much time in order to be able to capture him. Are we capable of acting as he did if we were in his place? One fine day, during one period when the winter was hard, he addressed his mandarins in the following terms:

By dressing myself in this manner, I continue to be stiff with cold. How do people manage to resist this rigorous cold especially the poor when it is known that they do not have enough money to feed themselves?. It is necessary to give them as of now additional food and clothes.

Another time, while holding company with his daughter, the princess Ðông Thiên, at the time of an audience, he turned to his mandarins in saying to them:

I have a deep love for my people as that which I always have for my daughter. Unfortunately, the people is so little informed that it does not cease to make mistakes. It is for that that I have so much pity for it. I kindly request you to decrease the punishments and the pains inflicted.

His wisdom was incommensurable. To conquer Champa, he knew that it was necessary to convince and calm Chế Cũ although he was humiliated and upset to compare what he had undergone to what his concubine had done, a woman coming from a rural environment, Y? Lan for his people during his absence. He could kill Chế Cũ to alleviate his anger and to wash this momentary insult. But he was a courageous man who could put the interests of his people before his personal interests. He was really the person having the three evoked qualities.

 
Whatever the situation we are in, we, Caodaïsts, we must try to improve ourselves. That sometimes happened to me to want to continue this step. It is necessary to recognize that it is not easy to concretize it. I do not hide either that I had also the daily difficulties but I feel relieved enormously when I succeeded in concretizing it a little. I am delighted because I realize that I start to improve myself even if that appears negligible.

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A young Caodaïst

That reminds me of the sentence that Ung Giả Vi wrote in the Conversations of Wise Confucius:

Nhân viên hồ tai! Ngã dục nhân, Tư Nhân chi hỷ!
Nhân có xa đâu! Ta muốn nhân thì nhân đến vậy!

The virtue is not far! One will be able to have it if one really wants it.

that enables me to be convinced that GOOD or EVIL exists well in each one of us. I understand that it is not necessary to go to the pagoda or the church to be able to improve oneself. I am able to do it if I do not forget what God in the bible of the Caodaïsts said that I had the occasion to read:

If you want to be a true Caodaïst, it is necessary that you have Love and the moral principle. It is absolutely necessary for you to improve yourself.

You merit to thus wear this white tunic, symbol of purity. You feel more than ever proud to be a Caodaïst.

Être Caodaïste (Tôi là người Cao Đài)

English version

Nous, les Caodaïstes, nous devons savoir nous perfectionner. Il n’est pas indispensable pour nous de jeûner et d’invoquer Bouddha par des prières ou d’être cloîtrés dans la pagode afin de pouvoir être à la perfection. Nous avons la possibilité de le faire si nous avons toujours en nous les trois qualités suivantes: l’Amour, la Sagesse et la Volonté. À la naissance, nous avons eu déjà la bonté. C’est pourquoi, nos Aïeux ont eu l’habitude de dire:

Nhân chi sơ, tính bản thiện. Le genre humain est naturellement bon à la naissance.

Mais à cause des aléas de la vie, des rivalités injustifiées et des désirs immodérés qui continuent à nous accaparer sempiternellement, nous sommes devenus ainsi des gens malhonnêtes, perfides, égoïstes, ce qui nous fait perdre la bonté que nous avons acquise à la naissance. Tous les Sages de l’Antiquité avaient eu ces trois qualités évoquées ci-dessus.

Pour avoir l’idée sur ce que l’individu possède en termes de bonté ou non, il nous suffit d’observer sa conduite envers ses proches. C’est par cette observation que nous arrivons à le connaître, ce qu’avait dit le philosophe chinois  Jou Mencius.

L’Amour est une qualité nécessaire à la perfection mais elle ne peut pas être parfaite car nous avons besoin de la sagesse pour distinguer le vrai du faux, la raison du tort , le bien du mal. Il n’ y a pas mal des gens généreux qui, malgré leurs dons offerts à la construction des pagodes d’une manière non négligeable, continuent à être empêtrés dans un comportement néfaste car ils n’arrivent pas à discerner la raison du tort. Il leur arrive d’être mal considérés quelquefois par rapport à ceux qui n’ont jamais l’occasion de participer à cette contribution généreuse.

Au Vietnam, la dynastie des Lý était réputée pour sa ferveur irréprochable envers le bouddhisme par le biais d’un grand nombre de constructions de pagodes. Cela conduisit inexorablement le peuple à la misère à cause des impôts trop élevés et provoqua inéluctablement le mécontentement populaire qui était la cause principale de sa chute.

Quel que soit son niveau d’instruction, l’homme a toujours en lui la Sagesse car quand nous agissons mal ou non , nous le saurons grâce à notre propre conscience. Par exemple, quand on essaie de mentir, on se sent honteux envers soi-même bien que la personne à qui on a menti ne le sache pas. C’est la sagesse qui nous aide à faire cette distinction. Le philosophe français Blaise Pascal a eu l’occasion de souligner que l’homme est un roseau pensant.

Pour continuer à mentir ou à agir mal ou non, nous avons besoin de la Volonté. Il est facile d’évoquer cette qualité mais il nous parait difficile de la posséder car nous sommes obligés d’aller quelquefois à l’encontre de nos propres intérêts ou d’être perdants des fois aussi. Il nous arrive quelquefois de ne pas avoir la vie sauve. Je me réfère à quelques faits historiques chinois ou vietnamiens dans le but de nous permettre d’être ensemble à réfléchir et à admirer respectueusement les personnes que je considère comme sachant se perfectionner car elles ont eu les trois qualités évoquées ci-dessus. Elles devenaient des personnages célèbres dans l’histoire de la Chine et du Vietnam.

D’abord, c’était le cas de Zhuge Liang ( ou Gia Cát Lượng en vietnamien). Il fut à la fois premier ministre et conseiller de Liu Bei, le dernier survivant de la dynastie des Han ( Lưu Hoài Ðức) .en Chine. Les Barbares venant des steppes du Nord de la Chine et dirigés par Manh Hoạch aimaient à faire souvent des razzias sur le territoire de son royaume. Zhuge Liang arriva à capturer Manh Hoạch 7 fois mais ce dernier fut libéré immédiatement sur l’ordre de Zhuge Liang à chaque capture. Il était très généreux. Il était doté d’une sagesse extraordinaire car il trouva qu’il était nécessaire de convaincre Manh Hoạch par le biais de l’amour et des sentiments. Si Manh Hoạch avait été tué, il y aurait probablement un autre Manh Hoạch. Cela l’obligea à monter fréquemment des expéditions punitives et ne lui permit pas d’avoir la main libre pour restaurer la dynastie des Han et ramener la paix et le bonheur à ses citoyens.

C’était pourquoi il continua à libérer impassiblement Manh Hoạch lors de chaque capture. Il avait une volonté incommensurable car il savait que pour empêcher Manh Hoach de trahir plus tard, il devait perdre beaucoup de temps, laisser tomber les intérêts personnels et se donner beaucoup de soucis avec son âge assez élevé. Ce serait moins fatigant pour lui s’il décidait de tuer Manh Hoạch car il n’était pas obligé de monter jusqu’à 7 fois l’expédition punitive. Lors de la dernière capture, lorsqu’il était sur le point de libérer habituellement Manh Hoạch, ce dernier commença à pleurer et à se rendre définitivement. Zhuge Liang a eu ces trois qualités évoquées ci-dessus. Bien qu’il ne soit pas religieux, nous pouvons affirmer qu’avec les trois qualités trouvées en lui ( l’Amour, la Sagesse et la Volonté ), il a su se perfectionner et il était considéré déjà comme un Sage à l’époque des Trois Royaumes.

Au Vietnam, il y a aussi des rois que nous pouvons considérer comme des Sages. C’est le cas du roi Lý Thánh Tôn qui a eu ces 3 qualités citées ci-dessus. C’est pourquoi il a été connu dans l’histoire du Vietnam comme un roi intelligent, distingué, charitable et vaillant. La révolte du roi du Champa, Chế Cũ l’obligea à monter une expédition punitive tout en laissant à sa concubine Ỷ Lan la régence. Face à la détermination de Chế Cũ, il n’arriva pas à le capturer après plusieurs mois d’expédition. Déçu, il fut obligé de rentrer au pays. Sur le chemin de retour, il apprit que son peuple ne cessait pas de vanter le talent de sa concubine Ỷ Lan dans l’art de gouverner le pays. Il se sentit honteux et décida de revenir au front. Lorsqu’il réussît de capturer Chế Cũ, il aurait pu tuer celui-ci pour apaiser sa colère mais il préféra le laisser rentrer dans son pays.

C’était pourquoi le Vietnam connut une période de paix, de prospérité et de bonheur. Il était très charitable car il laissa partir celui qui l’avait humilié devant son peuple. Il perdit beaucoup de temps pour arriver à le capturer. Sommes-nous capables de le faire comme lui si nous étions à sa place? Un beau jour, durant une période où l’hiver était rude, il s’adressa à ses mandarins dans les termes suivants :

En m’habillant de cette manière, je continue à être transi de froid. Comment arrivent-ils les gens à résister à ce froid rigoureux surtout les pauvres lorsqu’on sait qu’ils n’ont pas assez d’argent pour se nourrir?. Il faut leur donner dès maintenant de la nourriture et des habits supplémentaires.

Une autre fois, en tenant compagnie à sa fille, la princesse Ðông Thiên, lors d’une audience, il se tourna vers ses mandarins en leur disant :

J’ai un amour profond pour mon peuple comme celui que j’ai toujours pour ma fille. Malheureusement, le peuple est si peu instruit qu’il ne cesse pas de commettre des fautes. C’est pour cela que j’en ai tellement pitié. Je vous demande de bien vouloir diminuer les châtiments et les peines infligés.

Sa sagesse était incommensurable. Pour conquérir le Champa, il sut qu’il fallait convaincre et calmer Chế Cũ bien qu’il fût humilié et vexé de comparer ce qu’il avait subi par rapport à ce qu’avait fait sa concubine, une femme issue d’un milieu rural, Ỷ Lan pour son peuple durant son absence. Il pourrait tuer Chê’ Cũ pour apaiser sa colère et laver cet outrage passager. Mais c’était un homme courageux qui savait mettre les intérêts de son peuple devant ses intérêts personnels. C’était bien la personne ayant les trois qualités évoquées.

Quelle que soit la situation où nous sommes, nous, les Caodaïstes, nous devons essayer de nous perfectionner. Cela m’est arrivé de vouloir poursuivre cette démarche. Il faut reconnaître que ce n’est pas facile de la concrétiser. Je ne cache pas non plus que j’ai eu aussi les difficultés journalières mais je me sens soulagé énormément quand j’ai réussi à la concrétiser un peu. J’en suis ravi car je me rends compte que je commence à me perfectionner un peu même si cela parait infime.

 Un jeune caodaïste
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Cela me rappelle la phrase que Ung Giả Vi a écrite dans les Entretiens du Sage Confucius:

Nhân viên hồ tai! Ngã dục nhân, Tư Nhân chi hỷ!
Nhân có xa đâu! Ta muốn nhân thì nhân đến vậy!
La vertu n’est pas loin! On pourra l’avoir si on la veut vraiment.

ce qui me permet d’être convaincu que le BIEN ou le MAL existe bien en chacun de nous. Je comprends qu’il n’est pas nécessaire d’aller à la pagode ou à l’église pour pouvoir se perfectionner. Je suis capable de le faire si je n’oublie pas ce qu’a dit Maître (Thầy) ( Dieu ) dans la bible des Caodaïstes que j’ai eu l’occasion de lire:

Si tu veux être un vrai Caodaïste, il faut que tu aies l’Amour et le principe moral. Il est absolument nécessaire pour toi de te perfectionner.

Tu mérites de porter ainsi cette tunique blanche, symbole de la pureté. Tu te sens fier plus que jamais d’être un Caodaïste.

The Caodaïsm ( Cao Đài Giáo)

French version

 
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Caodaism is the third important religion in Vietnam after Buddhism and Christianity. Cao means “High” and Ðài means “Palace“. Cao Đài is the supreme palace where reigns God. Caodaism is a religion which encompasses, combines and is in harmony with several elements from other principal religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Taoism while taking into account Vietnamese traditions.

The Holy Seat is located at Tây Ninh, 90km northwest of Saigon. The number of its followers amounts to 7 million in Vietnam and 30,000 abroad, in particular in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.

One finds in the history of this religion three important episodes of revelations. The first and second took place in 6th century before our era. During the first manifestation, God appeared under the three forms of Jewish leader in the Middle East, Buddha in India and Fou-Hi symbolizing the cult of humanity in China.

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During the second manifestation, Buddhism reappeared in the form of Sakiamuni, Confucianism in that of Confucius, Christianity in that of Jesus-Christ, Taoism in that of Lao-Tseu and Islam in that of Mohammed.

As for the third manifestation, God has decided to reveal himself. This third manifestation based on Buddhism is often called “Ðại  Ðạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Ðộ“.

All the religions that have preceded the revelation of Caodaism are only the different forms of the same reality of different manner according to the time and the places of revelations.

The philosophy and the profession of faith of Caodaism are of a disconcerting simplicity, closer to morals than to mystical transcendence.

  • Respect of the cult of ancestors.
  • Practice of meditation.
  • Practice of vegetarism.
  • Suppression of violence.
  • Respect of all religious forms.
  • Searching for liberation from reincarnation cycle.
  • Respect of the following five prohibitions:
  • Kill no lives
  • Be not dishonest
  • Drink no alcohol
  • Commit no adultery
  • Use no offensive words
  • Pray at least once a day and practice a vegetarian diet at least 10 days per month. The service is held at the Holy Seat of Tay Ninh everyday and takes place at precise hours:

    6:00 am, 12:00 PM (noon), 6:00 PM and 12:00 AM (midnight)