|Timeless story: The Tale of Thuy Kieu, revised by Bui Ky and Tran Trong Kim, is popular among readers. — Photo elle.vn
by Le Huong & Do Thuy
One of the most famous phrases in Nguyen Du's poetry was his question, "In 300 years time, who's going to cry for To Nhu (one of his pen names)?"
Only 50 years short of that 300-year segment, his compatriots are not crying, but celebrating and cherishing his life, his works and above all, his legacy in Viet Nam's cultural scene.
Various cultural activities will be held during Culture Tourism Week to commemorate a World Cultural Figure, poet Nguyen Du (1766-1820), in his homeland in the central province of Ha Tinh.
Provincial authorities and officials from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism confirmed at a press conference held in Ha Noi yesterday that the event would run from November 28 to December 5.
"(It will be) a massive art festival, gathering more than 1,000 amateur artists from the province and neighbouring localities to sing, dance and recite poems," said vice chairman of Ha Tinh Province's People's Committee Nguyen Thien.
He said that various movies and documentaries on the life of the poet and his greatest epic poem, Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu), would be screened across the province, including "Tram Nam Trong Coi" (A Hundred Years in Life) by Ha Tinh Television; "Nguyen Du va Di San Van Hoa" (Nguyen Du and Cultural Heritage) by the Kieu Association of Viet Nam; and "Tieng Tho Ai Dong Dat Troi" (Echoing Poems) by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
An exhibition of literature works by Nguyen Du and other noted local writers will be held in downtown Ha Tinh City, together with an exhibition of antiques unearthed from local archaeological site Bai Coi, Thien said.
A photo exhibition featuring the recent socio-economic achievements of the province will be an event highlighting tourism to the province during the week.
As a highlight of the festival, a national-level anniversary commemorating the 250th birthday of the poet will be held on December 5 in Ha Tinh, gathering many national and local leaders, foreign guests from international organisations, researchers and diplomats.
An art show, featuring performances by hundreds of amateur and professional artists from various art troupes in the north, will highlight the poet's career based on the folk music of vi dam and quan ho (love duet) from his father's native land, Ha Tinh, and his mother's homeland, Bac Ninh, respectively.
Earlier this year, a workshop on Nguyen Du was organised by the Viet Nam Writers' Association, where dozens of domestic and foreign participants dwelt on The Tale of Kieu, saying it had inspired every Vietnamese poet, writer and individual over the past centuries.
The Tale of Kieu recounts the life, trials and tribulations of Thuy Kieu, a beautiful and talented young woman, who had to sacrifice her love and life to save her family.
It is a 3,254-line verse novel written in luc bat, (the sin-eight-word distich metre), a traditional verse form of Vietnamese poetry.
The story is very popular in Viet Nam; many people know the epic poem by heart, and it has been translated into 20 different languages, including French, Chinese, English, Russian, and Japanese.
Nguyen Du, also known as To Nhu and Thanh Hien, was recognised by UNESCO as a World Cultural Figure, among 108 others, in 2003.
Promoting Tale of Kieu
The Tale of Kieu was printed many times, and one of the most popular versions which came out under the title The Tale of Thuy Kieu has been recently revised by two of Viet Nam's most notable scholars of the 20th century Bui Ky and Tran Trong Kim, and reprinted by Nha Nam Publishing House.
The work is easy to read because it is displayed in simple form to help the readers understand its contents and spirit.
The book contains 11 pictures drawn by famous Vietnamese master painters such as To Ngoc Van, Tran Van Can, Nguyen Gia Tri, Le Van De.
At the press conference yesterday, deputy culture minister Vuong Duy Bien said that the ministry intends to further promote The Tale of Kieu both within the country and abroad.
"The ministry will commission 10 art agencies to compile new songs based on folk melodies featuring the poetic story's content," Bien said.
He also said that the ministry hoped to enliven Nguyen Du's poetry in The Tale of Kieu in the modern era under this two-year plan.
According to the project, the ministry will commission Viet Nam Cheo Theatre, Ha Noi Cheo Theatre, Viet Nam National Cai Luong Theatre and Tran Huu Trang Cai Luong Theatre, etc, to adapt and compose songs which are based on The Tale of Kieu.
"The project will give Vietnamese and foreigners a chance to approach The Tale of Kieu in new art forms, which may make it easier to remember the verses," said Dang Hoanh Loan, former director of Vietnamese Institute for Musicology.
"The Tale of Kieu used to be transformed into traditional or reformed opera, but these songs only convey the idea, not the exact verses of the epic poems. I think it is a good project which helps to spread the story and its cultural value."
A 20 to 30-minute puppet show will be performed at Viet Nam Puppetry Theatre.
Additionally, a set of DVDs composed of traditional music about The Tale of Kieu will be released.
The project hopes to make a contribution to actively preserve and promote the country's heritage values, honour the nation's literature.
The art shows will be organised from June until December next year.
In the meantime, the ministry intends to further promote Nguyen Du's works at schools alongside his existing works, which have been printed in textbooks. — VNS