Nguyen Du is considered the brightest star in the Vietnamese literature sky with his masterpiece Truyen Kieu or "The Story of Kieu". After more than two centuries, Truyen Kieu continues capturing the hearts of Vietnamese as well as international readers.
The masterpiece of Nguyen Du has been translated into many different languages including French, Russian, English, Chinese, Hungarian, Czech and most recently Korean. Republic of Korea Professor Ahn Kyong Hwan has translated Truyen Kieu into the Korean language.
"Through reading and translating Truyen Kieu into Korean, I find that poet Nguyen Du was very intelligent and kind hearted," Hwan said. "His work focused on depicting loyalty, human bondage, human love and the victory of the good over the evil. Truyen Kieu is a Vietnamese cultural masterpiece and I believed that the translation of Truyen Kieu into Korean would contribute to promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries and helping Korean people further understand Vietnamese culture."
Nguyen Du was born in 1765 in the village of Tien Dien, in the central province of Ha Tinh, and grew up in the ancient capital of Thang Long, now Hanoi.
His father Nguyen Nghiem was the top mandarin of the Le dynasty. Since his early childhood, Nguyen Du learned and absorbed what he could from the subcultures of the central province of Nghe An, the ancient capital city of Thang Long and the Red River Delta province of Bac Ninh, his mother’s birth place.
In addition to Truyen Kieu, Nguyen Du wrote many famous works which expressed his views and compassion for the people, who had to live in the then cruel and unjust society.
Truyen Kieu was the first Vietnamese novel having over 3,200 lines written in the Vietnamese 6/8 verse. The work proved the author’s professionalism and humanism. Through the fate of Kieu, Nguyen Du wanted to tell readers about people’s suffering in a feudal society full of cruelties and injustices. He wanted to cry out loud, a heart-rending cry.
Literature Critic Do Lai Thuy elaborates: "Nguyen Du followed the Buddhist philosophy when talking about life, considering life to be an ocean of sorrow and the fate of Thuy Kieu was a perfect example of this philosophy. According to Nguyen Du, the fate of this specific person is common to that of all human beings. Truyen Kieu has influenced feelings and thoughts of readers of many generations, from Nguyen Du’s time to the present day."
All this explains why many Western scholars who are interested in Vietnamese literature like to read Truyen Kieu first. This is the only book in the world that has created a culture known as Kieu Culture, including Kieu recital, Kieu fortune telling, Kieu quiz, Kieu singing and Kieu anecdote.
Mr. Duc Ban, Secretary of the Ha Tinh Writers’ Association said: "In Ha Tinh province, many people use Truyen Kieu to predict their fortune and future, and this phenomenon fully reflects the value of the poem. They find in Truyen Kieu all types of human moods, including happiness and sadness and all daily life situations, such as family separation and union. No doubt, Nguyen Du works have been absorbed into the lives of the masses.’’
Nguyen Du has been recognized as a man of culture by the World Peace Council. Though Nguyen Du passed away more than 180 years ago, his Truyen Kieu remains a legend in this 21st century.
Reprinted from VOV News