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The man who build bridges of culture (August 01, 2005)

Introducing Vietnamese culture to foreign visitors.
Huu Ngoc has been awarded the "Golden Language" Order by the French Government.
Walking is his hobby.
The Master of Culture Huu Ngoc was born in 1918 in Hanoi. Even though he has exceeded the benchmark of seventies, he still marches on and keeps writing steadily. His life is just like a bridge that spans the national culture with the world, and the world with Vietnam.

Pages with distinctive cultural colors

With a profound knowledge and conversant with French, English, German and ancient Chinese, he has, for more than 50 years of penmanship, made contributions to the rich treasure of national culture. His books include “ A Sketch of French Culture”, “ the North European Skies ”, “ Swedish Culture”, “ Archives of American Culture ”, “ Key to Know and Understand Laos ”, and many others.

He has also written regularly over more than a decade for the column “Chronique” on Le Courier du Vietnam - Dimanche and Vietnam News. His articles are light and immense, but imply so many things, interesting and beautiful, of a culture. He always bases himself on the historical sources to bring forth from myths and legends, fetes and festivals, culinary art and spiritual life to the fateful affairs of the nation. Each of his writings is a little story that takes the readers from one surprise to another in the rich Vietnamese culture. All his essays are brought together into a precious book entitled “A Sketch of Vietnamese Culture” in French and English. The book has been used by the Vietnamese Government as a precious present to the Heads of State at the 7th Francophone Meeting in Hanoi in 1997. And since 1997, he has kept writing to develop it into a large book of 1,200 pages under a new title “Wandering through Vietnamese Culture”. The success of the book goes beyond the author’s expectation, turning itself into a rare gift to those who wish to know Vietnamese culture.

Words from the heart

Graduating as a baccalaureate, Huu Ngoc went into university to read for the bar. At that time, studying law was to become mandarins, but he himself turned to teaching. He wished to speak to his students directly from his heart, in the situation of lost statehood. During the 9-year resistance war against the French colonialists, he was chief of Bureau for Education of Euro-African Prisoners and Deserters from the French army, and he had a chance to travel far and near, to all corners of the land to conduct agitation work among the enemy forces, bringing into full play his language proficiency to win over the hearts and minds of the Europeans and Africans in the French army of aggression, thus helping them better understand the just resistance war and culture of Vietnam and converting them.

At times, traveling abroad on some mission or attending international conferences, he raised his voice to speak for the Vietnamese people’s just cause and love of peace and labor to their friends in the world and help them better understand the just cause and culture of Vietnam. In the period of “doi moi” (renewal), culturist Huu Ngoc has “harvested an even more bumper crop” in giving talks on culture. The diffusion of his books has brought readers to him. Each year, he usually gives about 50 talks to foreigners, some with an audience of more than 100 participants. During their visits to Vietnam, quite a few chiefs of state and foreign congressmen and parliamentarians have spent some of their time attending his lectures on Vietnamese culture. The audience took a particular interest in his general analysis of the course of the formation of the Vietnamese culture, notably in terms of questions of Vietnamese society, religion and democracy.

The Master of Culture Huu Ngoc had served foreigners a priceless spiritual delicacy. Julien Zenoc, a member of the International Institute of Trade and Distribution in Paris, said: “Huu Ngoc has given us an interesting and marvelous lecture on Vietnamese culture.”

He has been awarded “Exploit and Independence” Orders by the Vietnamese Government, “North Star” Order by the Swedish Government, “Academy Palm Leaf” and “Golden Language” Orders by the French Government in 2003, and many other noble titles.

Tireless Activity

Some say he’s “a cultural importer-exporter” .From all perspectives, this remark is appropriate to culturist Huu Ngoc. All his life, he has been tirelessly active for the national culture. In his youth, he travelled on highways and byways to all corners of the resistance war. After the return of peace, for decades he worked as Editor-in-Chief of the reviews and magazines in English and French, Le Vietnam en Marche, Etudes Vietnamiennes, Director of Foreign Languages Publishing House… Today, at 86, he is credited with the posts of Presidents of Sweden-Vietnam and Denmark-Vietnam Foundations. He has traveled to the faraway northern mountain ranges, to the Central Highlands, the Mekong River Delta to work with his colleagues for the salvation of the traces of ancient cultures that are fading or getting lost with the passage of time.

His funds have helped rescue 11 water-puppet troupes, restore nearly 70 pagodas and communal houses, altar shrines of prominent families with meritorious services to the nation, repair or engrave new steles, gravestones, statues … of heroes, celebrities … and granted scholarships to excellent ethnic minority students … The funds’ activities have reached out to remote, out-of-the-way corners of the land: reconstructing Muong Luan Tower in Lai Chau Province, the ancient Khmer architectural works of Thala Pangxay in An Giang Province …

His life is like a tree with fragrant wood; the older the tree is, the more fragrant will be its wood. Every day as usual, he keeps walking 5km to his work place, regularly giving talks to people at home and abroad… and the ink of his pen keeps flowing tirelessly on questions of Vietnamese culture.

Reprinted with permission from Vietnam News Agency


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