Vietnam art and literature retain an abundant and time-honored history. Although deeply influenced by Chinese and Western culture, Vietnam still retains its unique multiple identities.
Like literature in other countries around the world, Vietnam literature consists of two parts, namely folk and written literature. Folk literature is oral literature; meanwhile, written literature includes kanji, “chu Nom” (Nom letters) and “chu Quoc ngu” (national language) literature.
Vietnam folk literature is fairly abundant and diverse. To preserve precious national traditions, to converse life experiences, manufacturing experiences of Vietnamese generations, an informal oral folk literature was born and passed down from generation to generation in Vietnam. It insists of mythologies of ethnic minorities, epics of E De ethnic people, legends of the Vietnamese, fairies, fables, jokes, proverbs, and folk songs....Folk literature often praises talents and the courage of people against the harsh nature, praises the kindness, generosity to help each other, praises the love between men and women, faithful spouses, praises to love people, the nature, and village neighbors.
In Vietnam written literature, kanji and “chu Nom” (Nom letters) literature had been used for a long time. Oldest literary works still remaining nowadays were composed in 11th century with the theme of praising the beauty of the nature and human. From 13th century many works on history, geography and location in kanji letters were appeared. Then, when the system of Nom letters fully completed in 13th century, many literary works written in Nom letters were continuously born. Earliest works in Nom letters left today had to name poems of Nguyen Trai, Doan Thi Diem, Ho Xuan Huong and especially the Tale of Kieu by Nguyen Du.
From early 20th century, “chu Quoc ngu” (national language) was widespread over nationwide. With the development of printing technology, together with the exposure of Western literature, literature in Vietnam witnessed a great number of new literary genres, in which the prose occupied an important position in the literature forum with poems reigned before. Changes in the literary life appeared with the advent of the New Poetry movement in the 1930s. This was a modern movement to liberate Vietnamese poetry from restrictive rules of classical Chinese poetry. In the field of the prose, the activities of “Tu Luc Van Doan” group influenced by the West created modern Vietnam novel.
Vietnam literature from this period set a presence of many movements. It can be named some of them, such as works in romanticism, works according to realism, or works associated with politics – revolutionary literature flow.
Through several stages, movie is a kind of latest appearance art in Vietnam. First genres were performed by French from 1920s. To 1930s with the advent of music, modern fine arts…, movies also began being implemented by the Vietnamese. Then by the event of dividing the country, Vietnam movies in North and South retained its own development with external influences. Going to reform period, from 1986 the participation of the private sector in the field of movie created “instant movies”. This series were popular in 1990s and had self- sealing ended its role since 1995 to make room for contemporary Vietnam movies.
Vietnam Fine Arts had set its appearance with the ancient sculpture shown on Dong Son bronze drums of Lac Viet residents. Through periods with strong influences from outside, Vietnam sculpture flourished under Ly, Tran, and Le Dynasty with works of religion and dynastic palace. Painting appeared later with Vietnam folk painting, including silk paintings, festival paintings, and Dong Ho paintings. Along with other contemporary arts, modern fine arts in Vietnam reached a tremendous stride from early 20th century, with the influence of Western arts during French colonial times. Although heavily influenced by western trends, Vietnam modern fine arts was still associated with the country's history.
The birth and development of Vietnam folk theater associated with agriculture life, of which water puppetry is a traditional art of farmers in the northern delta. Water puppetry is an art of total harmony among sculpture, lacquer, music, painting and literature. Along with the water puppetry, “cheo”, “tuong”, “cai luong” (types of special traditional folk songs) contribute to enrich the Vietnam performing art. From early 20th century with the influence of Western theater, Vietnam modern performing art is added comedy, circus, magic, dance, ballet, and opera…
Vietnam folk music retains a honored-time tradition, starting with “chau van”, “quan ho”, “ca tru”, “hat vi”, “dan ca” (types of typical folk songs nationwide), and royal music of Vietnam...Together with other modern arts, Vietnam music industry from 1930s was formed and developed, which today is called Vietnam new music. In September 2009 three of folk music forms, namely “quan ho”, “ca tru”, “Hue’s royal court music” and the “Space of Gong Culture in the Central Highlands” (including gong music) were honored the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO.