Fri, 19th Apr 2024 00:13 (GMT +7)

British researcher praises richness and diversity of Vietnamese culture

Wednesday, 10/01/2024 | 16:00:00 [GMT +7] A  A

According to British researcher of Vietnamese politics and history Kyril Whittaker, Vietnamese culture is extraordinarily rich and diverse, likewise the Vietnamese people are extraordinarily creative and diverse.

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Hue Imperial Citadel draws both domestic and international visitors (Photo: VNA)

The British researcher, who is a member of the Communist Party of Britain, said in the UK he has a poster with a quotation from Uncle Ho which he believes describes the variety of culture and people of Vietnam in an apt fashion: “Every person is a beautiful flower; Vietnam is a beautiful flower forest.”

He believed this shows the uniqueness of Vietnam, in that its culture is rich and diverse like a large flower forest, each unique flower contributing to the beauty of the garden.

According to him, Vietnam, first of all, is filled with a rich culture inherited from its history. This can be seen evident in its artistic and architectural designs in historic cities like Hue and Hanoi with their ancient temples, including the historic Temple of Literature and the One Pillar Pagoda, filled with history which is renowned and preserved beautifully for everyone to see and learn from.

Vietnam is also filled with a culture of industriousness and creativity, which can be seen through the existence of craft villages in many places across Vietnam. Crafted vases, colourful plates, bowls, ornamental pieces and other craft items seen in restaurants and in stores across the country, made by hard working family businesses with care, craft and attention, many of which have been carrying on their craft for generations, are a good example to other countries of how to preserve history and culture in a harmonious way, he said.

There are also many modern artistic movements which highlight the rich culture of Vietnam by building on previous artistic styles, such as the ‘Hoa Kim Sa’ movement in which enamel painting and metalwork are fused paying tribute to the traditional ‘Phap Lam’ artistic style in Hue’s mausoleums. Vietnam also has a thriving fashion and textiles scene, as well as world famous cuisine and a variety of cultural heritage sites.

Because of Vietnam’s deep history and its vibrant creativity, it is also a highly modern and ever-changing culture. Recently newer landmarks have become popular tourist attractions on social media such as the Golden bridge. The researcher said day to day culture in Vietnam is his favourite aspect, pointing out that history and creativity is paired alongside delicious street food, amazing coffee shops, fun family parties with karaoke and traditional forms of music, or floating markets and water culture festivals in the southwestern region.

Whittaker said after he lived in Vietnam for over a year and made many friends, particularly in Can Tho and Ca Mau and Hanoi, Vietnam has a deep place in his heart largely due to its unique culture and its amazing people. He has come to regard the country as his second home, saying Vietnamese people have always shown him a kindness and joy that he can never forget. To summarise the people of Vietnam in a few words, he would say: friendly, fun, industrious, creative, knowledgeable and culturally rich.

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Performance of Hue royal court music - World's Intangible Cultural Heritage recognised by UNESCO (Photo: VNA)

Speaking about the guidelines for cultural development set in the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress, the researcher said cultural development is inseparable from the development of the country. In this regard, the guidelines set in the Resolution show a definitive goal for furthering the development of Vietnamese culture and preserving its richness. The 13th National Congress document discussed goals oriented towards improvement in economic growth, the reduction of poverty (which has decreased immensely), provision of healthcare and to continue to widely promote socialist democracy among many other things.

According to him, a happy and healthy society is the primary pre-condition for a rich culture and a happy people, and the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress carries on a long tradition of ensuring that this is the case in Vietnam. Vietnamese culture also takes in large part from the teachings of Uncle Ho, and this is evident not only more generally in Vietnamese society, but also reflected in the Resolution of the 13th Congress and congresses before. A major part of this is his teachings promoting thrift, uprightness and industriousness, and to shun wastefulness. This can be seen in effect throughout the Resolution in combatting corruption, putting the people as the base for all decisions, and maintaining the traditional spirit of solidarity that Vietnamese people are renowned for. The resolution states: “To tap into the virtues of the Vietnamese culture and its people, the spirit of solidarity and national pride in the cause for national construction and defence.”

Culture then is a driving force of the Vietnamese nation in that it represents a unique and treasured aspect of society which not only demonstrates to the world the uniqueness of Vietnamese arts, but also, its rich cultural tapestry. It is a driving force therefore in foreign policy, in economics, in day-to-day life. This can be seen reflected in Vietnam’s environmental policies with the 13th Congress declaring: “To proactively and effectively respond to climate change, mitigate natural disasters, prevent and fight against disease outbreaks… to resolutely eliminate projects which cause environmental pollution in order to safeguard the quality of the living environment and protect biodiversity and ecosystems; to build a circular green economy.”

Whilst at first glance this does not seem to directly impact culture, we can upon further examination see it most definitely does. Because of policies like this, changes have undergone in the culture of bustling cities like Hanoi with its metro serving the population with cheap, effective, safe and green public transport, as well as the conversion of buses to green technology. With environmental regulations like these, there are walking streets in Ho Chi Minh City, which allow for the reduction of pollution in some of the most historic and traditionally congested areas of the city, serving to preserve architecture for longer and allowing new daily routines for the city’s population, as a result new places for cultural expression are open. In rural areas it means the protection of habitats for farmers, fishermen and gardeners whose unique culture could be threatened if environmental protections were lax allowing for coastal erosion, plunging their villages into the sea, and pollution destroying the rich green heritage Vietnam’s countryside is famous for worldwide.

He believed this is another unique aspect of Vietnamese culture, in that it perceives the people at the heart. Cultural development therefore is inseparable from the development and wellbeing of the people, culture is not separate from the people. This is seen reflected further on in the resolution where it states when discussing culture: “…to develop a prosperous and happy country; to consider the talents, intelligence and qualities of Vietnamese people as the most important development goal and driving force of the country.”

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in his speech at the National Cultural Conference discussed this link in further detail, noting that culture is often seen through the lens of “entertainment”. However it is rich with depth and substance. The Party chief also discussed the need to preserve cultural sites, give more consideration to the access to culture across the country and improving the access of Vietnamese culture abroad.

According to Whittaker, in the few years since the 13th Congress and Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s speech, many of these things have been implemented.

Discussing the role of Vietnamese culture in the course of national construction and international integration, he stressed that in recent years Vietnam’s cuisine, music and crafts have made headlines around the world and become familiar sights in people’s day to day lives outside of Vietnam. Following on from Doi Moi and the easing of restrictions, Vietnam has flourished in showing its unique culture to the world. With the goals of the 13th Congress and continued work by the party and people, Vietnam is becoming increasingly able to show the world its rich history, politic, arts and cuisine.

The researcher said through its growing ability to show the world its unique culture, Vietnam has also been able to increase national construction in multiple ways. First, as cultural diplomacy increases so does the knowledge in other countries of its unique cultural products and innovations, this leads to economic growth. Second, through cultural diplomacy, Vietnam has been able to increasingly show the world its rich history, its people and its day-to-day life, these have enabled more people to see Vietnam in a more honest light. Many people in the past had misinterpretations about Vietnam, and many still do, however cultural diplomacy acts as a way to show Vietnam and make more international friends as a result. Cultural diplomacy also leads Vietnam to be at the forefront in contributing to organisations preserving cultural heritage around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia.

Whittaker also viewed Vietnam’s policy of “Bamboo Diplomacy” as a unique cultural aspect to the country. Bamboo diplomacy, based upon the principle of strong roots, strong stems and flexible branches, shows the Vietnamese commitment to the hand of friendship, trade and cooperation to all, whilst maintaining its own identity, preserving its national independence and adhering to the principles of the defence policy “four no’s”.

The researcher pointed out culture has the people as the roots, and it is seen as such in Vietnam, an essential aspect of the culture which is formulated chiefly from Marxist-Leninist principles and Ho Chi Minh Thought. Because of this, culture is developed with a people-centred attitude, not for profit, but for simultaneously development in the creation of new culture, and at the same time preservation of rich historical cultural traditions. This way culture is both vibrant and respectful, it is modern and equipped with means of conveyance never before seen using innovative technologies, and yet traditional encompassing the rich history of the country, he said, citing as an example the night tour which 3D mapped the Temple of Literature and projected onto it a dazzling show of educational and historical aspects of Vietnamese culture to do with the temple and Vietnamese history.

He believed Vietnamese culture has much to offer the world, saying many are starting to eat Vietnamese dishes and listen to Vietnamese music, admire Vietnamese art, and buy Vietnamese products. He hoped to have more access to Vietnamese culture abroad, believing it is the periodicals, magazines and newspapers which best convey Vietnam’s rich culture.

Source: VNA