Edification de l’église Notre Dame de Paris

 

Version vietnamienne

Il m’est difficile d’encadrer ces photos car le nombre d’admirateurs est trop élevé mais il est indispensable pour ceux qui veulent avoir un regard sur l’évolution de son édification. Partant d’une église romane jusqu’à devenir une église gothique, il y a un long chemin à parcourir prenant plus de deux siècles, de 1160 jusqu’au milieu du 14ème siècle.  Beaucoup de modifications et d’ajouts étant ajoutés, elle devient ainsi un chef-d’œuvre de Paris que personne ne peut oublier  lors de son passage à Paris. Le nombre de visiteurs s’élève à 13 millions par an ou plus 30.000 touristes par jour.  Elle est toujours la première sur la liste des sites touristiques à Paris devant la tour Eiffel et le musée du Louvre.  Cette église est l’une des premières églises construites avec le style gothique. Celui-ci est basé essentiellement sur la technique de la voûte sur croisée d’ogive  (ses arcs brisés se croisent en  diagonales et s’appuient non pas sur deux piliers mais sur quatre piliers). Cette technique apporte non seulement la lumière grâce à un nombre élevé de fenêtres (vitraux)  mais aussi l’élévation et la finesse extraordinaire. Pourquoi gothique ? Ce mot est employé par les Romains pour faire allusion à des Goths,  des peuplades barbares situées dans le Nord de l’Europe (les Français d’autrefois).

Évolution dans l’édification de l’église Notre Dame de Paris

Version vietnamienne

Rất khó chụp ngay ngắn các tấm ảnh nầy vì số người xem quá nhiều nhưng rất cần thiết để ai muốn có cái nhìn về sự biến chuyển xây dựng nhà thờ Đức Bà ở Paris. Từ một nhà thờ nhỏ bé với phong cách xưa (romane) mà đến phong cách gothique thì có một đoạn đường khá dải hơn hai thế kỷ từ  1160 đến giữa thế kỷ 14, có nhiều sửa chữa và bổ túc khiến nhà thờ nầy trở thành một kiệc tác của Paris mà không ai có thể quên khi đến tham quan Paris. Số lượng người đi xem  là 13 triệu người mỗi năm có nghĩa là hơn 30.000 du khách mỗi ngày. Nó luôn luôn đứng đầu trong danh sách các nơi tham quan ở Paris, trước tháp Eiffel  và điện Louvre. Nhà thờ nầy là một trong những nhà thờ xây dựng đầu tiên  với phong cách gothique. Phong cách nầy dựa trên các vòm mà có ở các nơi bắt tréo hình nhọn  và gân cung. Nhờ vậy trọng lượng của vòm nó không dựa trên hai trụ mà 4 trụ. Phong cách nầy đem lại không những sự  sáng sủa nhờ có nhiều cửa sổ mà còn cao vút tạo ra sự tao nhã lạ thường.    Tại sao gọi gothique ? Thuật ngữ gothique dùng  bởi người La Mã để ám chỉ dân  Goth, dân mọi rợ đến từ phiá  Bắc (người Pháp thưở xưa).  

Les Mayas (Nền văn minh Maya): Partie 2

 

Version vietnamienne

Version française

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

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

 

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

Pyramide du Louvre (Kim tự tháp kính Louvre)

 


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

Version française

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

Version française

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

Parc de Keukenhof (Amsterdam)

 

Ouvert tous les ans à la même période au public pour huit semaines, le parc de Keukenhof est situé à Lisse, au sud-ouest d’Amsterdam  (Hollande). Ce parc de 32 ha est très connu non seulement pour ses tulipes mais aussi pour ses jardins thématiques.  Grâce à cette fleur, la Hollande est le premier producteur au monde avec plus de 4 milliards de bulbes vendus chaque année.

Vườn hoa tulipe Keukenhof

Open every year to the public  during the same period for eight weeks, the park of Keukenhof is located at Lisse in the southwest of Amsterdam.  This 33 hectare park is very known not only for its tulips but also for its theme gardens. Thanks to this flower, Holland is the largest world producer  with more than 4 billions bulbs sold each year.

Yin and Yang numbers (Âm Dương: Part 3)

Version française

Yin and Yang numbers (Con số Âm Dương)

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

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

Ho Tou Lo Chou

(Hà Đồ Lạc Thư)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

tucam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bibliography

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-Henri Maspero : Chine Antique : 1927.
-Jacques Lemoine : Mythes d’origine, mythes d’identification. L’homme 101, paris, 1987 XXVII pp 58-85
-Fung Yu Lan: A History of Chinese Philosophy ( traduction vietnamienne Đại cương triết học sử Trung Quốc” (SG, 1968).68, tr. 140-151)).
-Alain Thote: Origine et premiers développements de l’épée en Chine.
-Cung Ðình Thanh: Trống đồng Ðồng Sơn : Sự tranh luận về chủ quyền trống
đồng giữa h ọc giã Việt và Hoa.Tập San Tư Tưởng Tháng 3 năm 2002 số 18.
-Brigitte Baptandier : En guise d’introduction. Chine et anthropologie. Ateliers 24 (2001). Journée d’étude de l’APRAS sur les ethnologies régionales à Paris en 1993.
-Nguyễn Từ Thức : Tãn Mạn về Âm Dương, chẳn lẻ (www.anviettoancau.net)
-Trần Ngọc Thêm: Tìm về bản sắc văn hóa Việt-Nam. NXB : Tp Hồ Chí Minh Tp HCM 2001.
-Nguyễn Xuân Quang: Bản sắc văn hóa việt qua ngôn ngữ việt (www.dunglac.org)
-Georges Condominas : La guérilla viêt. Trait culturel majeur et pérenne de l’espace social vietnamien, L’Homme 2002/4, N° 164, p. 17-36.
-Louis Bezacier: Sur la datation d’une représentation primitive de la charrue. (BEFO, année 1967, volume 53, pages 551-556)
-Ballinger S.W. & all: Southeast Asian mitochondrial DNA Analysis reveals genetic continuity of ancient Mongoloid migration, Genetics 1992 vol 130 p.139-152….

Yin and Yang theory: (Âm Dương Phần 2)

yinyangviet
French version

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

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

Old coin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or 

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

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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

 

 

Yin and Yang theory (Âm Dương : Phần 1)

French version 
yinyangviet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bibilography

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

 

 

 

Eastern Han Dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

Version française
 

Eastern Han dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

titre_dynhan_9 Guimet museum of Asian art (Paris)

 

Chronology of Eastern Han dynasty 

icon_daihan

 Đông Hán

25-57: Guangwudi reign

57-75: Mingdi’s reign

75-88: Zhandi reign

88-106: Heidi reign

106: Shangdi reign

106-125: Andi reign

125: Shaodi reign

125-144: Chongdi reign

145-146: Zhidi reign

146-168:  Huandi reign

168-189: Lingdi reign

184: Yellow turban rebellion

189: Shaodi impeachment.

189-220: Xiandi reign.

190: Increasing power of General Cao Cao (Tào Tháo)

220: Death of  Cao Cao and Xiandi.

End of Eastern Han dynasty

 

In the  territories conquered by  the Han, in particular in the South China, the Chinese assimilation continued in full swing. That is why revolts firstly  succeeded each other in the Dian kingdom (Điền Quốc)  (86, 83  before J.C., 14 after J.C., from 42 to  45 ). They were repressed with severity. These upheavals were largely due to   the Han officials exactions and the Chinese settlers’ behaviour in possession of fertile soils and expulsion of local people in remote  corners on his territory.  In addition, the latter had to adopt the language, customs and religious beliefs practiced by the Han.

In year 40, a serious rebellion broke out in Jiaozhou province (or Giao Châu in Vietnamese) including at this time, a great  part of  Kouangsi  and Kouang tong territories. It was led by the local prefect’s daughters, the elder Trưng Trắc (Zheng Cè)  and  her youngest daughter Trưng Nhị (Zheng Èr). As the husband of the elder Shi Suo (Thi Sách) opposed the Chinese assimilation policy conducted  brutally  by the Chinese proconsul Su Ding (Tô Định), the latter did not hesitate to kill him for making an example against Yue rebels. This killing revolted sisters Trưng and trigged immediately the insurgent movement in Yue territories.

 

icon_tigre

Mat weight 

intended to maintain the mat edges thanks to its weight.

 

Sisters Trưng succeeded in gaining control of 65 citadels for a very short period of time.  They were  proclaimed Queens on conquered territories and etablished themselves in Meiling (or Mê Linh). In year 41, they were defeated by Chinese general Ma Yuan ( Mã Viện, Phục Ba tuớng quân)(the flow tamer) and preferred the suicide instead of the reddition by pluging into the Hát river. They thus became the symbol of Vietnamese resistance. They continue to be venerated today not only in Vietnam but also in certain areas of Yue territories belonging to China (Kouangsi et Kouang Tong). Ma Yuan began to apply a policy of terror and assimiltaion at forced march by placing at all level administration, Chinese trustwothy men and imposing the Chinese as the official language over the territory of the Vietnamese. It is the first Chinese domination during just 1000 years before the war of liberation started by General Ngô Quyền. In the meantime, Guangwudi  (Quang Vũ Đếsucceeded to bring prosperity and stability in his empire by reducing the tax on crops and profits. After his death,   his son Mingdi (Hán Minh Đế) imitating Wudi, pursued the policy of expansion by taking an offensive against the northern Xiongnu (Hung Nô)  with the aim of releasing the States of Central Asia from the guardianship of the latter and restoring the security of the silk road (con đường tơ lụa) for the benefit of China. Being the brother of Ban Gu (*)(Ban Cố) historian of this time, General Ban Chao (Ban Siêu was in charge of this  military expedition. He succeeded in reaching the sea Caspienne and subduing the  Yuezhi (Nguyệt Chi or Nhục Chi) thanks to the Kusana assistance.

 


 (*) Author of Hanshu (Hán Thư)

 

Con rồng cháu Tiên (English version)

French version

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

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ

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

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

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

Lac Long Quân with the monster

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

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

Vietnamese heroes (Anh hùng dân tộc)

Version française

History museum of Saïgon

On the road of the history of Vietnam, the list of heroes is so long it is difficult to cite them all. But it would be unbelievable for a young Vietnamese not to know heroes such as Lê Lai, Trần Hưng Ðạo and Quang Trung Nguyễn Huệ because these characters illustrate each of them a model example to follow.

Lý Thường Kiệt: winner of the  Song and the Cham.

Trần Hưng Đạo: winner of the Mongol (or the Yuan).

Nguyễn Trãi: winner of the Ming of Chou Di.

Nguyễn Huệ:  winner of the  Qing and the Siamese (Thaïs)

histoire1Unforgettable words

Better being a phantom in the South is worth than to become a prince of North.

Trần Bình Trọng (the general of the Trần dynasty captured and sentenced to death by the Mongols))

The life is a game of chance. The chance is against us. Better is worth to die now for this country and to give the example of the sacrifice.

Nguyễn Thái Học (the nationalist leader guillotined by the French colonialists)


Trời đất nể nang người khí khái
Nước non tây vị kể tài tình

Heaven and Earth have consideration for men of character,
Mountains and Rivers favour great-hearted and talented people.


Hưng Đạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn

(1228- 1300)

The great destiny belongs to people of talent and heart
Nghiệp lớn thuộc về người tài đức.

Facing a Mongolian army of 500,000 warriors of Kubilai Khan, it is difficult for a country as small as Vietnam to resist this barbarous invasion. In spite of that, Vietnam has arrived at defeating the Mongolian army repeatedly twice in 1257 and in 1287 with shining victories on Bạch Ðăng river thanks to the talent of general Hưng Ðạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn. As for historians, Vietnam is the only country in Asia and Europe that succeeded in countering Mongolian invasion in this episode.

Nothing is surprising if a glance is made on the autobiography of this general. Coming from the royal family, he was a beyond-common character.  

He knew how to conciliate all the political forces of the country at that time, to galvanize the spirit of unity and the enthusiasm of all the people with the Vietnamese army through popular gatherings ( Hội Nghị Diên Hồng ) and surrounding himself with talented people among whom figured a character of exceptional value of the name Phạm Ngũ Lão.


Kubilai khan

Grandson of Genghis Khan (1215-1294)

Thanks to the strategy of this one, the Vietnamese people’s army entirely decimated the Mongolian army by planting stakes in the bed of the Red river to break all the joncs.Despite the shining victories, Hưng Ðạo Vương knew it was difficult to win the war facing a strong enemy such as the Mongolian army.

Ðằng giang tự cổ huyết do hồng
The river Bạch Ðằng continues to be stained with blood red.

Aware of geographic realities and potilical necessities, he knew how to avoid cutting completely all ties with his powerful neighbor by proposing that Vietnam continued to pay tribute in exchange for a long lasting peace. Thanks to this general’s perceptiveness, Vietnam found a period of peace and independence. This general is highly praised by the Vietnamese people because it is found in him all the qualities of a politician. His memory is honored every year at the temple of Kiếp Bắc.

His advice to king Trần Anh Tôn before his death in 1300 served several times as reference for most of Vietnamese in the struggle for independence:

When the enemy advances roaring like fire and wind, it is easy to overcome them. If they use patience like the silkworm nibbling berry leaves without looking for a quick victory and without fleecing people, we need to have not only good generals but also an elaboration of adequate tactics like in a chess game. In any way, the army should be united, having only one heart like father and sons in a family, the people should be treated with humanity so we can guarantee deep roots and durable bases.

Người anh hùng của dân tộc

Nguyễn Huệ

(1753-1792)

Quang Trung Nguyễn Huệ was a native of Tây Sơn where his ancestors resettled to get away from the war between the Trinh and the Nguyen. With his two brothers Nguyễn Nhạc and Nguyên Lữ, he led the uprising of Tây Sơn. (this region is located near Quy Nhơn in the south of Vietnam). Despite his young age, it was he who played the role of a leader in the revolt and also in the management of state affairs of Ðại Việt after having eliminated the Nguyen and the Trinh. His first success was the victory he knew how to get with an alarming rapidity in 1785 west of the Mekong against the Siamese (Battle Rạch Gầm-Xoài Mút (Mỹ Tho)). The latter were dispatched by the Siamese monarchy to reestablish Nguyễn Ánh to the throne. From an army of 50,000 troops at the start, it remained only 2,000. That permitted to cut dry the Siamese expansion in the direction of Cochinchina.

His fame was due a great deal to the way of making a lightning war against the Qing in 1788.

That year, allied with the puppet king Lê Chiêu Thống, the Chinese arrived in front of the capital Thăng Long without any resistance, Ngô Văn Sỡ, the chief of the Tây Sơn at Thăng Long having preferred to withdraw his troops to Thanh Hóa

Nguyễn Huệ decided to attack the Qing on the day of Tet when the discipline was relaxed with the Qing. In five days, he succeeded in retaking the capital Thăng Long. Like Hưng Ðạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn, Nguyễn Huệ showed proof of humility before China whose power was incomparable in spite of her defeat, which restored peace along the border. During his years of reign, he imposed the nom as the official script to get away from the Chinese cultural domination. Despite his will to reform the country, he did not have the time to reign. He died in 1792, leaving an heir only 10 years of age.

This allowed Nguyễn Ánh, the last survivor of the Nguyễn dynasty to conquer little by little all Vietnam and become later emperor Gia Long.

For the majority of Vietnamese, Quang Trung is not only a reforming king but also one of the strategists the best known.

Người anh hùng áo vải

Lê Lai

It was in a phase of decisive struggle that Lê Lợi was besieged at the Chí Linh mountain by the Chinese determined to capture him to render the resistance leaderless. Le Loi had an idea of looking for someone who would accept to disguise himself under his traits, fight in retreat in another direction to trick the Chinese in their pursuit and thus allow him to escape and continue the struggle for liberation.

Among his troops there was a soldier of the name Nguyễn Thân who consented to play this stratagem. As foreseen, the Chinese followed the false Lê Lợi, captured him and killed him. Thanks to Nguyễn Thân, Lê Lợi, after 10 years of struggle, triumphed and founded the dynasty of the Le who would reign almost one hundred years. Admiring the man who had accepted to die in his stead, and the sacrifice of Nguyễn Thân for the great national cause, Lê Lợi granted the latter the privilege of bearing the royal family name Le and the individual name Lai, and ordered posterity to perpetuate Le Lai’s anniversary which falls on the eighth month of the lunar year. This has recalled in the Vietnamese youth a sublime sense of solidarity between the individual and the great cause, of which Lê Lai is the supreme illustration.