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Han Nom script - Vietnamese ancient language

Wed, 11 Mar 2015 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:01

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If we understand clearly Han Nom script, we will be more aware of the beauty and quintessence of Vietnamese language. Consequently, Han Nom is a tool for studying history and cultural values. Moreover, it will help purify the Vietnamese language.

Nowadays, people rush for learning foreign languages. Some of them can speak up to 5 languages. However, amid the hurried circle of modern life, there are still many people who are loyal to brush and ink pot in studying Han-Nom (Chinese – Vietnamese Script) inherited from our forefathers. Not only old people but also many young generations have passion for it. No one tells somebody to do so, but all people in a village participate in studying Han Nom. The phenomenon happens in an ordinary village in the North of Vietnam.

Maybe we can see this scene just only in Hoai Thuong Commune. No one knows the reason why a 70-year-old woman has such a great passion for the ancient script. It is said that Han Nom is very difficult to learn and remember because it has many characters. And this is the most effective way for the woman to remember Han Nom script. Summer is a meaningful period for Hoai Thuong’s children. Not like many other countryside regions where children go to extra-class or gather in recreation facilities, the children here all focus on learning the ancient script. How could they love it so much?

In many regions, people think that it is to lag behind the trend if someone cannot speak at least one foreign language fluently. But in Hoai Thuong, it is backward if someone doesn’t know a little bit of Han Nom. The class has many aged student some of whom are already 90 years old. Everyone shows their high concentration on the lesson as if they were immersed with in new words. All of them desire to return to history and touch the national traditional value. That is the reason why the class has never been interrupted in the past 10 years.

Both teachers and students are at the autumnal age, and most of them are retirees. The class is conducted at the communal house of the village without any fee. The reward for both teachers and students here is the knowledge of Han Nom, hence, they can pass the knowledge to their descendants. Therefore, Hoai Thuong is also called with a chummy, simple name – “Han Nom Village”.

Learning Han Nom is a special attraction to a group of people in Thuan Thanh district, Bac Ninh province, especially, in Hoai Thuong commune. It’s likely that everyone feels uneasy if they don’t know about the value lying in the ancient script. Therefore, the movement of learning Han Nom has spread quickly with more than 10 classes. Students aging from 20 to 90 with various careers. But most of them are former teachers or retirees. There is a question “why does everyone love Han Nom so much in Hoai Thuong?”

In fact, our forefathers left to us a huge treasure of materials in Han Nom script written down on carved stone and bronzes, paper and wooden pads, etc. Various fields of history, politics, culture, religion, economics, military, science, technique were written with Han Nom characters. Han Nom script appears everywhere, on parallel verses, bell, stele, family history book, history documents, etc. However, few young people can read and understand these documents. Recently, there have been more and more people attending Han Nom classes.

They have thousand of different reasons such as: learning for career purpose, for entertainment, for the passion of historical value…Some people come to pagodas, temples and feel very curious about what are written on them. Meanwhile, some other people feel very uneasy because they are the posterity of famous historical persons but don’t know any word of Han Nom. Han Nom heritage is an important part of the valuable cultural heritage system of Vietnam and the world. Han Nom materials are not only the connection between the past and the present but also an invaluable treasure of knowledge of nation history and culture.

In Hoai Thuong, each parentage has at least one person who masters Han Nom. This is considered a great achievement. The person will become a teacher that reminds many young generations of the traditional culture of the home village and home country. Han Nom logographic script was used in Vietnam before it was replaced by Latin-based Vietnamese alphabet in the 20th century. Han Nom literature includes works written in literary Chinese script as well as works written in mixed Vietnamese and Chinese ones. Because Chinese script cannot satisfy the demand in both vocabulary and grammar of Vietnamese, many local words (or Nom words) were created by combining syllables, letters…

Hoai Thuong was famous for its traditional fondness of studying and competition – examination and women also had good reputation for weaving since 19th century. A lot of successful people originate in this village. Since then, Hoai Thuong has been one of the leading localities in Vietnam in terms of education, especially the Han Nom movement. For the villagers in Hoai Thuong, there are 2 purposes of learning Han Nom: to be a good person and to reserve the country’s traditional quintessence.

Practical method of learning arouses a lot of interest; hence, it is very effective. The old pagodas, temples stand for history. And the ancient script carved on them is the valuable materials for us to study our nation’s ancient culture. Ancient scholar with an ink pot and a brush is a familiar image to all Vietnamese people. However, amid the current hurry pace of life, we just caught the image in the spring festivals.

With a view to preserving this traditional feature, Hoai Thuong people have successfully conducted Han Nom classes by themselves for many years. They all want to reserve the ancient script as a key to open into Vietnamese traditional culture. Nowadays, Han Nom script is still an important factor that affects many different sectors. Therefore, there is no doubt that Hoai Thuong has done an honorable job. It is a respectful behavior toward Vietnam’s traditional quintessence which was accumulated from thousands of years.

 

Source: VTC10 - NETVIET

 

 

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