Vietnamese literature

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Vietnamese literature has been passed down orally by Vietnamese speakers ( văn học miệng , folk literature) and scriptural literature ( văn học bác học , scholarly literature ). The works were written in different languages, depending on the prevailing balance of power.

Vietnam was heavily influenced by China for a long period of its history ; as a result, many of the written works from this period have survived in Classical Chinese . The development of chữ Nôm during the 10th century allowed writers to compose poetry in Vietnamese using modified Chinese characters. Although it was considered inferior to Chinese, chữ nôm gradually gained in reputation. It flourished in the 18th century when many important Vietnamese writers and poets wrote their works and it briefly became the official written language.

A Vietnamese alphabet, the Quốc-Ngữ script , was developed in the 17th century . However, for a long time this could not prevail. It was not until the middle of the 20th century that all Vietnamese literary works were written in quốc ngữ .

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Popular literature

Vietnamese folk literature is a mixture of many forms. It is not just an oral tradition, but a mix of three media: hidden (kept exclusively in the memory of popular authors), recorded (written) and shown (published). Popular literature usually comes in many versions, transmitted orally, and with unknown authors. It includes myths, stories about supernatural things, heroes and gods, legends, fables, riddles, fairy tales and sagas.

They reflect the views, manners and customs of the ancients. They are stories of creation, stories about their origins ( Lạc Long Quân , Âu Cơ ) and about cultural heroes ( Sơn Tinh - Thủy Tinh ).

Scholarly literature

This form of literature got its name mainly because it is mainly from educated, i.e. H. reading and literacy circles. Without exception, it is the ruling feudal class of Vietnam.

Ca dao

Ca dao are the folk tunes and poems of the common people.


Classical Chinese era

Many official documents in the history of Vietnam were written in Classical Chinese. These were official announcements by Vietnamese kings, royal history, declarations of independence from China, and poetry.

The Chinese writing is not only foreign to modern Vietnamese speakers today, these works are often incomprehensible due to the Chinese syntax and partly because of the vocabulary, even if they were later translated into modern quốc ngữ. Only the translation into Vietnamese made it understandable for the Vietnamese reader.

Literature in Chữ Nôm

Some highly valued works of Vietnamese literature were written in chữ Nôm, such as B. Truyện Kiều by Nguyễn Du , Đoàn Thị Điểms chữ Nôm Translation of the poem Chinh Phụ Ngâm Khúc from classical Chinese, written by her friend Đặng Trần Côn and poems by the well-known poet Hồ Xuân Hương .

Works in Chữ nôm can be translated into the modern quốc-ngữ script and easily understood by modern Vietnamese speakers. However, chữ Nôm has never been standardized, and there is a lack of clarity as to which word meaning in a work is intended. This resulted in many variations in translations of texts from the chữ Nôm into the quốc ngữ.

Quốc ngữ

Quốc ngữ was hardly used outside of the missionary groups in Vietnam after its creation in the 17th century.

During the early years of the 20th century, many magazines appeared on quốc ngữ and their popularity helped popularize quốc ngữ . While some rejected quốc ngữ as a legacy and outside influence of the French, others adopted it as a convenient means of promoting literature. After the declaration of independence from France in 1945 , Ho Chi Minh's provisional Việt Minh government supported the ever-growing literature in quốc ngữ . This led to a surge in the literacy rate.

For a long time there were many differences in orthography and no consensus on how to write certain words. The problem persists to this day.


Up until the beginning of the 20th century, Vietnamese literature primarily knew two genres: verse literature (Vận văn) and so-called parallel literature (Biên văn), which was adopted from Chinese. Prose, as it is known in Europe, for example in the form of stories, did not emerge until the 1920s.

See also


Primary literature

  • Eduard Claudius: When the fish swallowed the stars. Fairy tales and legends from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia . Hall 1976.
  • Hans Nevermann: The rice ball. Vietnamese fairy tales, sagas and fables . Eisenach 1952.
  • Aljonna and Klaus Möckel: Explorations. 16 Vietnamese storytellers . Berlin 1977.
  • Pham Duy Kiêm: Vietnamese fairy tales . Frankfurt, Hamburg 1968.


  • Collective of authors: BI Lexicon of East Asian Literatures . Ed .: Jürgen Berndt. 2nd Edition. VEB Bibliographisches Institut Leipzig, Leipzig 1987, ISBN 3-323-00128-1 , p. 107-117 .
  • Georges Cordier: Literature annamite. Extraits des poètes et des prosateurs . Hanoi 1914, p. 1-6 ( online [accessed March 17, 2012]).
  • Georges Cordier: Etude sur la literature annamite. Première partie: Considérations génerales . Saigon 1933, p. 999-1000 ( online [accessed March 17, 2012]).
  • Georges Cordier: Etude sur la literature annamite. Deuxième partie: Le théàtre . Hanoi 1934, p. 643-644 ( online [accessed March 17, 2012]).

Web links


  1. Up to 1945 about 90% of the population were illiterate

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung April 10, 2010, page Z3, last paragraph