Trần Hoàng Nam
Huế has long been known as a land of poetry as the central city is not only the cradle for the art form in Việt Nam, but has also been home to many renowned poets throughout its history.
Tourism workers and writers believe the city has great potential for tours themed around literature.
Lập An Lagoon with poetic tranquil beauty in Huế City. VNS Photo Trương Vị
Indeed, some travel agencies have started offering tours themed around poems by noted poets who used to live in Huế.
“Our company has designed a five-day tour visiting mausoleums, palaces, pagodas, traditional houses with gardens, lagoons and a meeting with translator Bửu Ý, who has translated many famous literature works,” said Trần Quang Hào, director of travel agency Huetourist.
Hào said his most successful tour guides are those able to recite interesting verses on Huế to tourists.
A visitor takes photos of Thiên Mụ Pagoda, which has mentioned in many poems by Vietnamese poets. VNA/VNS Photo Nhật Anh
“Our tourists like the verses carved on stones at Huyền Không Sơn Thượng Pagoda,” he said.
“So I think using literature works on Huế to design tours is a good idea,” he said. “We can create unique tourism products.”
The region was home to great writers Nguyễn Du (1766-1820), Cao Bá Quát (1809 – 1855) and Phan Bội Châu (1867 – 1940) at various points.
King Tự Đức Mausoleum in Huế City. The king specially liked literature and composed a lot of poems. VNA/VNS Photo Nhật Anh
The book titled Thi Nhân Việt Nam (Vietnamese Poets) by Hoài Thanh and Hoài Châu praises 44 poets, 14 of whom studied and expressed their talents in Huế and then became distinguished names of Vietnamese poetry like Xuân Diệu (1916-1985), Huy Cận (1919 – 2005), Hàn Mặc Tử (1912-1940), Lưu Trọng Lư (1911-1991), Bích Khê (1916-1946) and Tế Hanh (1921-2009).
Various kings in the former imperial citadel were not only rulers but also talented writers like Minh Mạng (1791-1841), Thiệu Trị (1807-1847) and Tự Đức (1829-1883).
Hương River runs through Huế City. VNA/VNS Photo Quốc Việt
Various destinations in Huế can be introduced in the tours like museums for painter Lê Bá Đảng (1921-2015) and sculptor Điềm Phùng Thị (1920-2002), Huế Culture Museum, tombs of noted intellectuals, and the houses of late painter Tôn Thất Đào (1910-1979), composer Trịnh Công Sơn (1939-2001), painter Vĩnh Phối (1937-2017), and painter Bửu Chỉ (1948 - 2002) .
“If we can organise good literature-themed tours, we can exchange well with tourists, spreading memories on culture and history,” said writer Hồ Đăng Thanh Ngọc.
Writer Lê Vũ Trường Giang said the notion of literature tourism is fairly popular globally, but is only attractive to certain people.
“Such literature-themed tours will gather only tourists with interest in literature, of the same cultural background,” Giang said. “Running such tours may not be easy at all.”
Other writers suggested building a new Nguyễn Du culture space in Bàu Đá and Hương Long areas, where he lived, or installing a stone carved with the poem Đây Thôn Vỹ Dạ (Here’s Vỹ Dạ Village) by poet Hàn Mạc Tử at the entrance of today’s Vỹ Dạ Ward and building a new Literature and Arts Museum.
Locals in today's Vỹ Dạ Ward take small mussels from Hương River's bed to process as a delicacy. Vỹ Dạ Village has been mentioned in a famous poem by poet Hàn Mặc Tử. VNA/VNS Photo Quốc Việt
According to researcher Trần Nguyễn Khánh Phong, some schools in the province have held tours for students to visit local museums of culture figures including a memorial site to Uncle Hồ in Dương Nổ Village, Phú Vang District as well as museums on poet Phan Bội Châu, photographer Đặng Huy Trứ in Huế City and Tố Hữu in Quảng Điền District.
“We have plenty of destinations dedicated to poets and great names,” he said. “The problem now is how to advertise the relics to lure more tourists from other locations and overseas.”
Poet Tần Hoài Dạ Vũ proposed the Huế Literature and Arts Association choose a hill in the southern outskirts of the city, which has a tranquil view of big green trees and stream, as a 'Hill of Poets'.
He suggested installing statues of noted poets arranged in themes and chronological time.
The hill would host an exhibition hall displaying works and poetry documents of Huế and Việt Nam, he said.
The place would be a destination for poets and the public to meet, for installation arts, poetry performances and activities for students, he added.
“The mark made poet Nguyễn Du only during his 10-years in Huế before passing away in Huế are enough for his fans to flock to visit the city,” said poet Mai Văn Hoan, chairman of the Tale of Kiều (an epic poetic work by Nguyễn Du) Studies Association in Huế.
Tour guides can take the visitors around the city and read a few verses of Nguyễn Du praising the beautiful landscape of Hương River and Huế.
“That’s enough to lure tourists,” he said.
The proposal was welcomed by leaders of the local tourism department.
“This is a feasible idea,” said Lê Hữu Minh, acting director of the department. “I will discuss with investors to implement the project.”
Writer Hồ Đăng Thanh Ngọc, chairman of Thừa Thiên Huế Union of Literature and Arts Associations, said the union will relay the suggestions of writers to local authorities and investors. VNS