Hồ ngọc hà


Lecture notes from Mr. Tien

Manager, Dong Khanh Hotel, Ho chi Minh City, lớn students on Campus Abroad Viet Nam, July 1998. Mr. Tien was a High School Teacher before he became the manager of the Dong Khanh. I thank him - JKS.
I. Biography of Nguyen Du Born 1766 into a very learned family Father had been a prime minister in the Le Dynasty His brothers were high ranking officials in the Le Dynasty II. Historical Situation

By the end of the 18th century, the Le Dynasty, after almost 300 years on the throne, had been weakened. The king of Lewaslike a puppet. Power in the country was shared by two big families: The Trinh family to lớn the North & the Nguyen familyinthe South. The country was at war; the two families fought each other for the power and the king did nothing. Thenationalhero, Nguyen Hue from the Tay Son (Qui Nhon) defeated both the Nguyen family & the Trinh family. Afterward the last kingof the Le Dynasty, Le Chieu Thong, went to trung quốc to beg for help. He asked the King of trung quốc (Thanh Dynasty), KingCauLong, khổng lồ send troops khổng lồ Viet Nam khổng lồ help him gain back the throne of his ancestors. In 1789 Thanh"s troops were alsodefeated by Nguyen Hue, và he became a King by the name of quang đãng Trung. Nguyen Du & his family had tried khổng lồ followLeChieu Thong (to China), but they had to stay in Viet Nam. They were loyal khổng lồ the former king of Le và were afraid of the Nguyen Dynasty which took over in 1802. Nguyen Anh overthrew the Tay Sons và he became the new king by the name of Gia Long. Gia Long asked NguyenDu to join the new government. It was against Nguyen Du"s willingness, but he had no choice.

III. The Concept

The Vietnamese are a very learned people và were deeply influenced by the concepts of King-Master-Father of the greatChinese philosopher, Confucius. you must be loyal khổng lồ your king-no matter what. Nguyen Du & his familyhad benefited a lot from the former Le Dynasty, which explains why Nguyen Du was unwilling to join the new government.He considered it an act of disloyalty khổng lồ the former king. As a learned man, he was afraid of being disregarded by the people of his time and felt it would bring shame to his family name, because he was being faithful to lớn the concepts of Confucius.

IV. Kieu"s Story

(Also titled the equivalent of The New Scream that Cuts Your Guts)

In order lớn explain his situation, Nguyen Du was inspired by the story of KIM VAN KIEU by a Chinese author,Thanh Tam TaiThan (pen name). The story had three main characters: Kim Trong, Thuy Van, & Thuy Kieu.The culture of Viet nam giới wasdeeply influenced by Chinese culture. But if we believe that Nguyen Du was onlytranslating the Chinese original we would be mistaken. Nguyen Du only wanted khổng lồ borrow that story khổng lồ conveyhis concept, his situation, his memory of the dynasty thathad been lost. Furthermore the story was written in 6-8 verse. It was a very popular verse form & everyone, from farmers to learned men, couldunderstand it.

Kieu sold herself lớn settle the debt of herfamily Nguyen Du considered the kích hoạt of joining the new government as selling himself
Kieu had lớn endure suffering & hardship Nguyen Du suffered greatly because of his loyalty to lớn his former king
Deep in her heart, Kieu stays faithful khổng lồ Kim Trong Nguyen Du was truly loyal lớn the Le Dynasty
Finally Kieu was reunited with Kim Trong Nguyen Du hoped for the return of his king

This is the story of a young lady named Vuong Thuy Kieu. Kieu was very beautiful và learned as well.She was born into awell-educated family, & she was in love with a young man, Kim Trong. Then disaster fell on her family. Her father và her brother were imprisoned. In order to lớn solve the family"s problem, shehad no choice but lớn sell herself. From then on,catastrophe after catastrophe fell on her. She had khổng lồ followher fate: being cheated, two times being held in a pleasurehouse(whorehouse) as a singer, concubine, servant.We may say this is a sad story of a talented lady who had bad fate.In thisstory Nguyen Du wanted to tell usthrough the fate of Kieu khổng lồ be widened into the fate of human beings in the wickedfeudalsociety along with itscruelties & injustice. He wanted to lớn scream out loud, a scream that breaks our heart. Thus thetitle ofthe story DOAN THANH chảy THANH, or as it is more popularly known, KIEU"s STORY.

Nguyen Du"s inspiration

Nguyen Du tried to explain khổng lồ us that disaster that befell Kieu is the conflict between talent và fate . Kieu had khổng lồ endure a lot of suffering and hardship because she is beautiful andtalented. The more you are talented, the more bad luck may strike you.

To Nguyen Du khổng lồ settle this conflict, the matter of the heart must come into being. By the end he wrote thatthe heart is three times more important than the talent. The inspiration of Nguyen Du"s was the inspiration ofconsidering men"s fate.How could men live in a society full of injustice & cruelties? Kieu was built in the image of perfection, she was the essenceof desirability by men. Kieu was not only beautiful, she was also talented.In one word she was the perfect combination ofbeauty và talent. Such a lady must have a good life withhappiness but because she was living in an unjust, cruel,wickedsociety, all that she got was turning against herand she fell victim to lớn a disaster that destroyed her. Kieu had become a victim of the society. But she neveraccepted her fate; she was always fighting against it. There was a rebel in Thuy Kieu. We may say that the moreshe fought the more she failed, & as she became aware of her fate, her failure became more bitter.Nguyen Du was writing Kieu"s story with his blood và his tears.

V. The Kieu Story và the Vietnamese People 6/8 verses are popular và easy to lớn understand The Kieu story is a masterpiece that every Vietnamese knows In conversation we refer to lớn citations from KIEU In life every sự kiện that happens may refer khổng lồ a part of Kieu"s story 1st of the New Year. KIEU may be used as a book to lớn predict the future VI. Conclusion

To solve everything the matter of the heart comes into being;righteous people will overcome everything toward a better life.

MANY THANKS to lớn A WONDERFUL TEACHER. Transcribed with permission of Mr. Tien - JKS

Lecture by John Swensson


The Tale of Kieu

Lecture by John Swensson:October, 1998

PART I -- Lecture -- pp. 3-67 -- Kim Trong và Scholar Ma Section

WHY STUDY KIEU? I think the logical place to start is with this passage from Alexander Woodside"s "The Historical Background," (xi-xviii) which serves as a preface to the referenced text:

To the Vietnamese people themselves, THE TALE OF KIEU is much more that just a glorious heirloom from their literary past. It has become a kind of continuing emotional laboratory in which all the great & timeless issues of personal morality & political obligation are tested và resolved (or left unresolved) for each new generation. Western readers who are curious about Vietnam và the Vietnamese may well gain more real wisdom from cultivating a discriminating appreciation of this poem than they will from reading the entire library of scholarly and journalistic writings upon modern Vietnam which has accumulated in the West in the past two decades. (xi)

Strong words those; I cannot showroom to them except khổng lồ say that an understanding of modern Vietnam, và the roles of Americans và Vietnamese in the recent conflict, is one of the aims of this critical thinking course. A powerful idea that we might understand the recent past by going khổng lồ the beginning of the nineteenth century. I am reminded of Maxine Hong Kingston"s comments to lớn me that by studying war today "we are preventing wars a thousand years from now." (PREVENTING WARS A THOUSAND YEARS FROM NOW, May 1994 taped interview with MHK, on reserve in the Open truyền thông Lab of the LRC). I suppose a secondary aim is khổng lồ assist our Vietnamese (and Chinese in view of the sources of Nguyen Du"s work) students to retain an important part of their culture, and to help non-Asian students lớn understand our fellows.


This is fairly straightforward & is illuminated in the introduction by Thong on page xxix. There is a general introduction from pages 3-9 where we meet the Vuong family and the deceased muse Dam Tien, who, although she is only a spirit will eventually speak to lớn Kieu, and who has a real perfume fragrance. The intro. Is critical và bears several readings (My recommendation for those of you who are reading this for the first time is that you vày a quick read all the way through & then go back and do an analysis in each section, doing a more careful reading and using the wonderful endnotes). It is the detailed introduction lớn Van và Kieu và young Vuong, & it introduces a number of themes that resonate throughout the work. Notice also that there is a god in the work whom Kieu addresses on p.7. On page 9, after the break we meet the "youthful scholar," Kim Trong, who is an admirable first love for Kieu.


From pages 21-29 their love deepens và it results in a pledge of betrothal. But, alas, on page 29 the plot thickens and Kim must leave for some years because of his uncle"s death, & even worse, Old Vuong is arrested on false charges on p.33, and Kieu sells herself into marriage to lớn save the family--the concept of loyalty is an important one throughout. Aided by family friend, administrator Chung, Kieu is sold lớn Scholar Ma, và Old Vuong is released. Before she marries Ma, Kieu enlists Van khổng lồ promise to fulfill her marriage vow to Kim (39) .

Scholar Ma and his wife, Dame Tu, are very evil characters (not without some comic relief somewhat reminiscent of the Thenardiers in LES MIS). Lưu ý the commingling of the flower, nature, và sexual imagery on pp. 43-45 et. Passim.. The melancholy family leave-taking on pp. 47 inspired a playlet put on by my students in Viet nam in the summer of l998, which was keenly appreciated by the Vietnamese students in their audience at the University of Forestry and Agriculture in Thu Duc, Viet Nam.


Pages 49-67 are mix in the brothel và involve skullduggery, captivity, mirth-- particularly when Dame Tu hears from Kieu that her husband slept with Kieu. Keep in mind that Kieu did not at the time know he was already married. We have a wonderful subplot involving a rogue named So Khanh who promises khổng lồ help Kieu escape, but is really in league with Dame Tu, and finally we meet a young woman, also held captive in the brothel, who befriends Kieu, Ma Kieu. Dame Tu then offers instruction to Kieu in how khổng lồ be a good courtesan, and this leads us lớn a consideration of an alternate translation, và the start of Part II, the Thuc Ky Tham section, which begins on p.67.

(The alternate translation is a prose translation, KIM VAN KIEU, five copies of which are on reserve in the DeCillis Collection, along with several copies of TRUYEN KIEU, in Vietnamese. If you are really into KIEU, & I hope you will be, check out a copy of the prose translation and compare some of the footnotes. While the superiority of the Huynh sinh Thong translation will readily become apparent, the alternate translation will shed additional meaning for serious students. :-) The prose translation is published in Viet Nam, is titled KIM-VAN-KIEU. Và is translated by Le Xuan Thuy. )

KIEU II -- Lecture -- pp. 67-113 Thuc Ky Tham Section

In the introduction, pp. Xxx-xxxi , Huynh sanh Thong starts off by saying that "The love between Kieu & the weak willed Thuc eventually matures into a deep attachment, but sexual attraction is its main ingredient. Thuc meets Kieu as a customer of the brothel. Once again the plot evolves based on the departure of a parent, Thuc"s father journeying home by "a stroke of timely luck" (67). While the relationship is a sexual one it soon includes music, poetry, & chess.

Kieu then takes up the notion of her responsibility & Thuc"s and urges that there is no future in their relationship given Thuc"s attachment to lớn his first wife và she proceeds khổng lồ forecast all of the doom that will (and does) befall them if they continue. Thuc"s argument on p.

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71 is that these matter-and Miss Hoan-- are all far away and she should pay them no heed, và as a measure of his serious intent he buys her out of the brothel, & they live together for 6 months until Thuc"s father returns. And here the wrath of the father that Kieu had foretold comes home with a vengeance & a trip lớn the judge.

The father turns them into a judge and it here that Kieu must make a moral choice, choosing lớn accept punishment for her deeds, or return to the brothel. She replies with grace "I shall endure the thunder of the law" (75). Here she is beaten as Thuc is forced to lớn watch. Thuc"s pain is so intense that the Judge"s heart is moved, and he shows mercy & orders a wedding. (I am reminded of Shakespeare"s Portia in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE dispensing justice and mercy in a European society, that is younger than the Asian societies here. Where is this in American literature?)

Old Thuc"s heart is softened also BUT they still have, as Kieu has also foretold, Miss Hoan to khuyến mãi with-- & her mother!! Miss Hoan is one of the strongest characters in the novel, physically violent and with a malicious cunning that guarantees that Kieu will be punished sorely for her deeds. On Kieu"s urging Thuc returns khổng lồ his wife (79) và we see, especially on phường 83 his weak will that Thong started us off with. His refusal to lớn reveal his relationship with Kieu which was the purpose of his journey shows how weak he is & we as reader experience the dramatic irony of knowing what Miss Hoan knows and what her intent is.


In a brief vignette on pp. 84-85 we meet Miss Hoan"s mother & get some insight into why the daughter is so mean--the mother graciously accedes lớn a scheme that involves kidnap, bondage, và public torture (Hell hath no fury. . .as Shakespeare tells us).

What follows next is the dramatic subplot of the kidnapping and burning of Thuc và Kieu"s apartment complete with the planting of an unclaimed corpse which provides more torture for Old Thuc who has to oversee the funeral of what he believes lớn be Kieu.

Young Thuc returns & consults a psychic--the importance of fortune telling is one that we Westerners bởi not appreciate--indeed in Viet nam fortunes are told by the text of THE TALE OF KIEU itself. & the psychic correctly foretells the plot"when you two stand face lớn face again,/how strange, you will avoid each other"s eyes!" (89).

On p. 91 we meet another young girl (cf. Ma Kieu in Part I) who befriends and advises Kieu who is now in the service of Miss Hoan, & the Buddhist notion of karma/justice/responsibility is repeated "Perhaps you must atone for some past sin" (91). But she then continues "but malice brought you here, and not pure chance" (91). This text is so rich you can almost stop anywhere và do a textual analysis-- which is also why the Vietnamese fortune tellers can randomly select any line and tell a fortune from it.

Eventually Miss Hoan softens--although this becomes a necessary plot point for what is to follow--but not before continuing her own plot to humiliate her husband và Kieu by having Kieu wait in them and play music for them together. Miss Hoan finally lets up a bit on phường 99 & grant Kieu"s request to become a Nun. Conveniently there is a shrine in the garden that Kieu can be cloistered in, just close enough for Thuc to sneak over to, which he does, all of the time observed by his wife. But the reunion of Thuc và Kieu is quite beautiful and Kieu merely asks his help in her escape. She is willing khổng lồ forego their own happiness and leave him with Miss Hoan. But alas, Miss Hoan has overheard it all, and Kieu is left no choice but khổng lồ escape. Lượt thích Valjean leaving the Bishop of Digne"s house, she takes the silver as she goes.

We next meet the character of Giac Duyen who would make for an interesting paper. I am still not sure what to lớn make of her. A prioress, she instructs Kieu in what nuns are supposed to do and all is well until a pilgrim sees the silver and identifies it as Miss Hoan"s . Kieu confesses và Giac asks a neighboring family lớn provide shelter for Kieu. Alas, "Dame Bac soon proved a colleague of Dame Tu" (109) and Kieu is back in a brothel again. I remain confused by the apparent marriage khổng lồ Bac khô hanh (whose first name means "false") but he is a parallel to Scholar Ma. Indeed the # of times that Kieu is married is a mystery to lớn me. I hear various reports from 2-9 và a textual examination must be aided by more cultural expertise than I possess. Perhaps some of our students have some answers.

The final line worth mentioning in this section "O Great Potter"s Wheel, how you treat womanhood (112) certainly sums up one of the major themes of this work, và reminds me of Maxine Hong Kingston"s vignette in đài loan trung quốc MEN called "On Discovery." So much for Thuc Ky Tham và Miss Hoan--though we shall see them again. Time to lớn turn our thoughts to lớn Kieu"s next great love, the soldier Tu Hai.

KIEU -- Part III -- Lecture -- pp. 113-67 Tu Hai & Family Reunion Section

A second customer, a General, turns up khổng lồ buy Kieu from the second brothel, with "A tiger"s beard, a swallow"s jaw, and brows as thick as silkworms" (113). Lưu ý Du"s use of nature imagery (and go to lớn the De Cillis Collection và view the lacquerware of Tu nhị on the wall opposite the clock. He is shown in mother of pearl shell with exactly these characteristics & arrows in his back, standing up, deceased--see upright death of Lord Tu, phường 131). Once again it is not clear whether Kieu & Tu nhì are formally married, though lưu ý 2212 implies that as does the celebration on pp.117-19. They clearly nói qua a strong love & are happy together. Tu nhị is a very popular general, but not venerated in Vietnamese history because he does not repel foreign invaders as did Tran Hung Dao (the Mongols) or The Trung sisters (the Chinese in 40 A.D.).

We now come to lớn the popular trial scene with the theme of justice, or is it retribution? Ma Kieu and Giac Duyen are invited as honored guests which leads us to lớn believe that Giac was not being duplicitous in Part II when she referred Kieu to the Bac family (107 et. Ff.). Kieu first rewards Thuc, though using the ant in the cup metaphor from Miss Hoan, her earlier chief tormentor. Miss Hoan apologizes, reminds Kieu that she had had a change of heart và let her tend the shrine & Kieu forgives her và sets her free!! (I am reminded of the actions of all of the coup plotters và successive governments in South Viet phái mạnh in the early & mid-1960"s, which we shall read about in Halberstam"s THE MAKING OF A QUAGMIRE, next. Perhaps this is why they constantly forgave each other, reformed, & tried again.)

But the mercy is short lived. Bac Hanh, Dame Bac, So Khanh, Dame Tu, and Scholar Ma are not only executed, but tortured as well. (Perhaps that is why Diem was dispatched in the M113 armored personnel carrier built at the FMC plant on Coleman Avenue in San Jose?)

Giac Duyen takes her leave with a promise of a reunion within five years guaranteed by another seer, Tam Hop. & in that five years Tu nhì is victorious in many battles, accompanied by his first lady, Kieu. The partnership is taken advantage of by Lord Ho Ton Hien whose entreaties convince Kieu to convince Tu hai that Ho will be an ally, not an enemy. Alas, the kết thúc of Tu Hai, because of Kieu"s actions (I am reminded of The Moor of Venice & Desdemona, but in that case it was the Moor who was convinced of the wrong thing). We have already noted the powerful death of Tu Hai, & Kieu is once again in captivity, this time playing "Cruel Fate" on her lute for Lord Ho.

And it appears that Kieu marries again (135), forced into it by her captor! & then we start back lớn the beginning with Kieu communicating with Dam Tien, lamenting her fifteen years of suffering under the cruel "wheels of fate" (137). The next part starts with Giac Duyen và the seer Tam Hop weighing the balance of Kim"s actions "When judged for her past sins, Kieu must be charged/ with reckless love, but not with wanton lust" (139). Tam Hop continues:

"She caused one death, but saved ten thousand lives./She knew right thoughts from wrong, fair deeds from foul./ Whose merits equal her good works in truth?"(139).

Let"s go back for a minute back to lớn the opening stanza of the poem:

A hundred years in this life span on earth/ talent & destiny are apt to feud./ You must go through a play of ebb & flow/ & watch such things as make you sick at heart/ Is it so strange that losses balance gains? /

There is both the conflict of talent và destiny (individual actions versus fate) and the notion, explained in cảnh báo 5 that "losses balance gains" refers to lớn a "Chinese adage, which makes the common observation that no one is perfect or enjoys complete happiness, has a Vietnamese equivalent in a folk saying: " gets this loses that"" (169).


In fulfillment of her dream, Kieu escapes from Lord Ho by jumping into the river- her second suicide attempt? - và after floating downstream is rescued by two fishermen who were there for the purpose of saving her và fulfilling Tam Hop"s prediction of Kieu"s and Giac Duyen"s reunion within five years. & Dam Tien also appears again with a prediction, finally some good news:

with many days ahead, you shall fulfill/ your great past love, reap future happiness./ (141)

But what happened to Kim Trong, Kieu"s great past love whom we last saw in Part I?

(Their leave-taking is captured in another piece of lacquerware in the DeCillis Collection, which depicts Kieu and Van, Kim & young Vuong, Kim"s horse và the mountains he will journey beyond. The next piece shows Kieu lamenting the absence of Kim. The third piece shows Kieu playing her pear shaped lute khung Thuc, and the fourth Tu Hai, noted above)

Kim had come back to the awful news of Kieu"s departure and the plot summary in lines 2775 et. Ff. Is worth noting, but I will not summarize nor quote it here. Kim takes care of the family và sends emissaries looking for Kieu, và to assuage his grief, the family arranges for him khổng lồ marry Van, which you will recall Kieu had asked Van to lớn do. On page 149 Van dreams that she will be reunited with Kieu, & Old Do, a clerk whom we have not met before, summarizes Kieu"s life. This summary leads Kim to find Thuc to get the rest of the story, which continues lớn the vị trí cao nhất of p 153 at which Kim"s supposed death by drowning in the river is reported.


So the family makes an altar khổng lồ Kieu, it is discovered by Giac Duyen, và we have arrived at the final resolution of the plot for the next 14 pages (remember that half are in one language, half in another-- effectively 7 pages of resolution.) There is little merit in my summarizing this portion. It should be read carefully lớn be appreciated. Note, though, the solution of Kieu"s marrying Kim, but not sleeping with him-- she lives as a nun, because she has lost her chastity. He continues khổng lồ live and have children with Van. Cảnh báo also that the family thanks Buddha for the reunion.


Of Kim & Kieu:

"Of love và friendship they fulfilled both claims--/ they shared no bed but joys of lute & verse/ . . . Their wishes all came true since fate so willed,/ and of two lovers marriage made two friends./ (165)

Of the story:

"This we have learned: with Heaven rests all things./ Heaven appoints each human to lớn a place./ If doomed to lớn roll in dust, we"ll roll in dust;/ we"ll sit on high when destined for high seats./. . . In talent take no overweening pride,/ for talent và disaster khung a pair./ Our karma we must carry as our lot--/ let"s stop decrying Heaven"s whims and quirks./ Inside ourselves there lies the root of good:/ the heart outweighs all talents on this earth./ (167) và finally the concluding lines May these crude words, culled one by one và strung, beguile an hour or two of your long night./ (167)

My wish for you is the same as the author"s. I hope you enjoy your study of this great work. Lượt thích all great works of literature it returns to lớn you what you invest in it, & you should return to lớn it ten years from now to measure your own change. Its words will still be the same.

Please use the LISTSERV or diễn đàn -I will post the lectures there also which is a password protected area--to agree/disagree/comment. I have gotten responses so far ranging from "I could not put this book down" to lớn "it is an immoral book that should not be taught in our class." I very much appreciate the bình luận about morality since this is a critical thinking course, and whether I agree with that opinion is not so important as whether YOU do. Later in the course I want us lớn consider the morality of American actions và Vietnamese actions in the war. This is kind of lượt thích the CLIFF"S NOTES. Now it is up khổng lồ you to think critically. What are YOUR thoughts? -- JKS

Musashi-bo Benkei & Tu Hai: Japanese và Vietnamese Heroes, Dying Standing Up

Thoughts from Kayoko Sato

Have you ever heard of Musashi-bo Benkei? Tu Hai, in THE TALE OF KIEU, reminded me of this famous character in Japanese history.

Benkei became avery faithful follower of the aristocratic warrior Yoshitsune. As a retainer, Benkei sacrificed his life to lớn protect his master from the attacks ofYoshitsune"s brother, Yoritomo. Even after being strapped with so many arrows và he was mortally wounded, he stood still, did not let the enemies go by & reach his master. Benkei"s strong will to guard Yoshitsune kept his body toàn thân "firm as rock và hard as bronze" (Du 131)--just lượt thích Tu nhị in the story--and this shows how devoted và committed he was.

I feel that Benkei & Tu nhì were somewhat similar. I think not only was Benkei loyal khổng lồ his master, but was proud of himself being a retainer of the great warrior who--Benkei thought he was-- worth sacrificing his own life. Và Tu Hai, who was very faithful lớn his wife Kieu, and who agreed with her to lớn stop expanding his niche & to have a truce, was killed by the government-- his foe. Lượt thích Benkei, he stood still even after he was dead.

Both Benkei & Tu nhị died after all, but one thing that I caught a glimpse in their death was that both of them were loyal lớn the people who they loved, and they died proudly.

My interpretation of Tu nhị may be wrong, but are they not they similar? I think it is very interesting. Regards, Kayo Sato