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French connection began in 1624

Update: September, 11/2013 - 09:55

Long relationship: Visitors look at photos depicting four centuries of connections between Viet Nam and France. — VNS Photo Vuong Bach Lien

HA NOI (VNS) — A collection of 150 photos featuring the long relationship between Viet Nam and France is on display in Ha Noi.

The show entitled France-Viet Nam-Four Centuries of Relations provides a panorama of photos on 40 big panels with captions in both Vietnamese and French.

They reflect relations in trade, education, arts, science and technology from the late seventeenth century.

"The shared past of the two countries is much richer than we thought," said Pierre Geny, permanent secretary of l'Academie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer (Academy of Overseas Sciences) which helped produce the show.

The relationship began in December, 1624 when French missionary Alex-andre Rhodes arrived in the South of Viet Nam, and made great contributions to the creation of quoc ngu (romanised Vietnamese script) which is still used in Viet Nam today. A part of the exhibition is devoted to him.

The relationship in the 18th century is linked to the activities of French horticulturalist Pierre Poivre, whose book, The Voyages of a Philosopher, showed his passion for Viet Nam's technique of mountain cultivated rice. The book was after read by many people, including Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States.

A focus of the show, of course, is the colonial period from the end of the 19th century to the early 20th century. On display are portraits of eminent French and Vietnamese figures who contributed to the development of Viet Nam. They include August Pavie, who was very active in the science-technology field, Alexandre Yersin and Albert Calmet in the medicine industry, and Victor Tardieu and Nam Son, Nguyen Van Tho in the arts industry.

The resistance of Vietnamese people under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh against the harsh rule of French colonialists is an important part of the show.

When the injuries of the past healed, bilaterial relations developed in all fields. Globalisation has brought the two countries closer, creating regional and international organisations in which both nations are members. This included the entry of Viet Nam into the Francophonie world in 1997.

The show displays the work of the first French photographers in Viet Nam, the first Vietnamese writers who wrote in French, French books talking about Viet Nam - and portraits of French people with a deep love of Viet Nam.

"Even though there has been much sadness, it would be silly of us to remember only those events," said Thi Minh Huong, head of the National Archives centre.

Stephane Richemond, president of the Paris-based Images and Memories Association, said a stamp collection in memory of French doctor Alexandre Yersin (1863-1943) who founded the Medical School of Ha Noi in 1902 will be distributed in Viet Nam and France on September 20. This marks the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The exhibition will run until November 10 at the National Archives Centre, No 1, 18 Vu Pham Ham Street, Ha Noi. — VNS

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