Being Vietnamese (Tôi là người Vietnam)

French version

Vietnamese version

Being Vietnamese 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the contrary, he becomes more hardened, more perseverant, more tough, more persuaded in his political convictions and more capable of resisting valiantly those affronts. His profound and intimate attachment to his native land and his traditions makes him become uncompromising in the struggle, which makes of him a pitiless and formidable conqueror for some, a legitimate defender of freedom and national independence for others.

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

Being Vietnamese

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

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