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History Of Viet Nam

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History Of Viet Nam

The Equilibrium Of Vietnamese Culture

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


1. It is hard to achieve an internal equilibrium when there is no adjustment between the individual and society.

2. However, the equilibrium of the individual is not entirely due to the adjustment of that individual to the groups to which he belongs; a moral crisis could possibly be the result of strict obedience to tradition and prejudice.3. The stability of internal equilibrium is strengthened by the spirit of mutual solidarity. On the contrary, the disintegration of society, the disorder of culture and the individual's disequilibrium usually happen at the same time.

II . Crisis in Vietnamese SocietyDue to Cultural Disequilibrium.In Việt-Nam today we are witnessing the disorder of culture and of society, and individual moral depression. All of us feel as though we were lost, and from the North to the South, those who are conscious of the situation are trying to find a new cultural equilibrium which fits our new social situation.Since the meeting of East and West on the soil of the country, Vietnamese society has known a crisis; the culture has lost its equilibrium, and the individual has lost his peace of mind, as a boat loses its direction in a vast sea. The cause of this disequilibrium arises from the fact that Việt-Nam has been for thousands of years an agricultural country whose way of life has been close to nature. The traditional culture is essentially a rural culture characterized more by emotion than by reason. It has identified itself with the environment, finding in the element and the physical necessities of life the meaning of existence. The people believed that rivers and mountains have a soul and that rice plants and trees are inhabited by spirits. The poet Nguyễn-Du has described this animism in these four lines:

"When you look at the trees
Seeing their branches shaking before the wind,
Know that my soul comes back.
I still remember what I have promised,
But I sacrifice myself to show my filial piety".

In our industrialized society, only reason is important, but in the old Vietnamese society sentiments were always taken into consideration. This equilibrium of rural culture is illustrated by these two lines by Nguyễn-Du:

"You have brought yourself before justice,
But besides reason, there is also sentiment".

The organization of this rural society in which there is the equilibrium of reason and sentiment, individual and society had the family as its unifying factor. Thus, it balanced the doctrine of decentralization of villages and that of the centralization of monarchy. Because the basis of the economy was an agrarian one, the distribution of production was done on a half private and half public basis; the peasant had not yet achieved the right of ownership. This was illustrated by the popular proverb:

"Wealth belong to all men
What makes you rise above common people is your virtue!"

The two main social classes, the class of literates and the class of peasants, believed in cooperation and the division of labour. This has kept them away from the class struggle. It is shown by the following sentence of our poet Nguyễn-Công-Trứ:"Intellectuals or manual workers belong to the same social group of mankind".In the feudal Western society there was a complete separation by birth between rulers and subjects, scholars and labourers. In Vietnamese agricultural society, there was no division between these two classes, due to this principle: "From the Emperor down to a single citizen the only important difference lies in the degree of self-betterment". That society was proud of its cultural equilibrium, the philosophical basis of which was the harmony of reason and sentiment. In contact with Western civilization, this culture was shaken to its roots.In fact, during the century that Vietnamese society has been in contact with Western science, it has experienced cultural dislocation. The Vietnamese rural culture lost its equilibrium:

"God has taken away our Eastern civilization
This is the time when moral principles are broken".

This is quoted from Tản-Đà, a poet who was very much concerned with the social situation of the country. He has clearly shown the dissatisfaction of the Vietnamese literates during the period of transition, when individuals as well society could not achieve an adjustment to the new influence of the West. During that century, the literate class became conscious of the weakness of the country and look for a way to revolution.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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