HA NOI (VNS) — The Viet Nam Book of Records Centre has awarded five national records to the epic poem Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu) by Nguyen Du (1766-1820), just ahead of the anniversary of the great poet's death on September 16.
Truyen Kieu is frequently drawn upon by other poets, who write new poems based on verses drawn from the 3,254-verse epic. The hobby has been popular among poets since the reign of King Tu Duc (1848 - 1883), and such well-known poets as Tan Da, Vu Hoang Chuong, Nguyen Binh and Hoang Trung Thong have created hundreds of new poems from verses drawn from The Tale of Kieu.
A collection of the new poems was published in 1994 in the volume Tap Kieu – Mot Thu Choi Tao Nha (The Noble Hobby of Recomposing Using Verses from the Tale of Kieu). The collection has seen five subsequent editions.
Besides being the poem to inspire the most new poetry, it is also the nation's poetic work most translated into one foreign language. There are 10 different French translations of the epic poem.
The third record earned by the poem is that it has inspired the most new endings by contemporary writers, including poet Mong Lien Dinh, who wrote 3,000 new verses; Ha Dam Hien, with 1,190 verses in 1917; and Pham Thien Thu, with 3,296 verses in 1972.
The fourth record is that this is the only poetic narrative work people can read backwards, from the end to the beginning, and still understand the story back in time.
The last record is that this is the only poetic work which has inspired an entire culture surrounding it, including the hobby of commenting on the work, fortune-telling based on the verses, quizzes based on the verses, songs drawn from verses, and story telling from the work.
The great work, written in 6/8 meter, recounts the life, trials and tribulations of Thuy Kieu, a young woman who sacrificed herself, selling herself into marriage to save her father and younger brother from prison, not knowing that her husband was a pimp who would force her into prostitution. — VNS