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Famous culture researcher turns 100

Update: October, 05/2014 - 20:42
Centennial celebration: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung congratulates Prof Vu Khieu on the occasion of his 100th birthday. — VNS Photo

Professor Vu Khieu, who spent years analysing traditional culture, recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Nguyen Ha reports.

The 100th birthday of its renowned social science, philosophy and literature professor, Vu Khieu, was jubilantly celebrated on September 19.

Professor Hoang Chuong, general director of the Research Centre for Traditional Culture Preservation and Promotion of Viet Nam, described the centenarian as "a rare phenomenon" in the country's contemporary social life.

"He is an example of a tireless worker who is known and respected by the entire nation and by foreign friends as a special professor of philosophy and human civilisation," said Chuong.

"He has devoted his life to doing research on the national culture, particularly national material and spiritual values hidden in traditional craft villages," Chuong remarked at a ceremony to mark the professor's100th birthday at the famous Van Phuc Silk Village Communal House.

People's Artist Dam Lien said: "I was lucky to be a student of Prof Khieu, who has taught me many things such as philosophy and poetry. I wish he remains healthy and continues to make invaluable contributions to the country."

Khieu, whose real name is Dang Vu Khieu, hails from Hanh Thien Village, Xuan Truong District in the northern province of Nam Dinh.

He has spent three-fourths of the century, or roughly 75 years, writing more than 80 books and hundreds of poems and parallel sentences.

He is a designer and leader of the Institutes of Philosophy, Sociology and Social Science. In 1996, he became the first person to receive the Ho Chi Minh Order.

Duong Thi Thinh, head secretary of the professor's office, was his assistant for nearly 10 years. Thinh said the professor always respected each second and minute he spent working, waking up at 5amevery day and beginning work at 8:30am.

"Although very busy, his schedule remains clear and specific," noted Thinh.

After lunch, the professor rarely gets some shut-eye and often spends the afternoon either reading newspapers or receiving guests at his office who seek his ideas and comments on social science and literary issues, added Thinh.

In the evening, after dinner with his family, he continues to update himself on news and current events, including the socio-economic and political situation in and outside the country, and works until late at night.

He often sleeps four to five hours a night, not because of his age but because of his work. On a small table near his bed lies a pen and paper on which he could quickly jot down thoughts that occur to him during the night.

With his preoccupation and enthusiasm for work, Prof Khieu has made great contribution to the country's cultural development.

He was appointed chairman of the Consultant Council of Science of project Thang Long-Thousand Years Bookcase, on the occasion of Ha Noi's 1,000th founding anniversary in 2010. He was also the chief author of the 12-episode Ha Noi encyclopaedia, the 1,000-page Ha Noi Celebrities and a collection of Thang Long-Thousand Years Civilisation, said Thinh.

Last year, he finished two monumental books on President Ho Chi Minh entitled Ho Chi Minh - An Unceasingly Lighting Star in Viet Nam's Sky and Study and Follow Uncle Ho's Ethics.

He is expected to release a 2,400-page collection on the Thang Long Civilisation this month, on the occasion of Ha Noi's 60th anniversary of liberation on October 10.

Thinh said the professor was planning to reprint a number of books representing various periods of the country's history, including Heroes and Artists and Intellectuals of Viet Nam.

"He is a great example for us who also want to work tirelessly with effective results," Thinh added.

Prof Khieu has four children, all successful in their respective careers. One of them is Dr Dang Canh Khanh, who was former head of the Institute for Youth Research and rector of the Institute for Research of Tradition and Development. His wife, Dr Le Thi Quy, is a leading expert in gender and family issues of the National Assembly.

Quy revealed that when she became Khieu's daughter-in-law and arrived at his home, she was quite surprised by the encouragement she received from him regarding study and research, and this has inspired her a lot in her career.

"We used to live in a narrow house but had access to an assortment of books (collected by my father-in-law)," recalled Quy.

The professor remains a close friend to famous writers and poets such as Nguyen Tuan and Nguyen Dinh Thi, as well as Huy Can, Xuan Dieu and Hoang Trung Thong, said Quy.

He is also a close friend of painters such as Van Sang, Mai Van Hien and Trong Kiem, and worked with various professors such as Tran Van Giau and Tran Duc Thao, as well as Tran Quoc Vuong and Nguyen Hong Phong, revealed Quy.

Quy said her father-in-law's approach to educating others showed a deep respect for ideological freedom, inspiration and emotion.

"He never forced us to follow his ideas but always demanded us to live independently, by our own efforts. He taught us how to respect beauty, nobility, simplicity, and the ordinary things in life. For that reason, we deeply understand why my father-in-law, a steadfast revolutionary and culturist, has such an open mind and an unselfish heart, and why his literary style is so young and ebullient but profound and romantic enough to stir a man's heart," Quy added.

Dr Khanh, the professor's son, said: "Although liberal in disposition, he never subsidised our work. He always demanded that we study and work at the same time. He often asked us to do research but never gave us money."

People who meet the professor for the first time often ask him about his secret for such a long and healthy life.

He said: "I have no secret. I eat what I like and don't have time for exercise, but sometimes I go for a walk around my house to relax my mind and continue thinking of my research and my books. I think doing intellectual work is also a way of doing exercises for the brain which directs our body, heart and soul to be warm and comfortable."

The professor added: "I told myself that I will continue working as long as I'm alive." — VNS

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