Hue imperial palace the environment for the development of Vietnam classical drama

Abstract. Viet Nam classical drama (Tuong) is a kind of unique classical theater art of Vietnam. According to some documents, the drama was influenced by theater songs (from China) that were performanced by Yuan soldiers who were taken prisoners of war under the Tran Dynasty (13th century). However, Vietnamese Tuong has its own definition. At first, it appeared only in the North, then carried by Lord Nguyen troops to the South of Vietnam and thrived from the seventeenth century to the eighteenth century. During the Nguyen Dynasty (nineteenth century), Tuong flourished with the emergence of many famous composers such as Nguyen Dieu, Bui Huu Nghia, Dien Khanh Vuong, Ham Thuan, etc., especially “posteriori ancestor of Tuong” - Dao Tan. Among the most important reasons to promote the brilliant development of Tuong at this stage were the development policies and royal cultural environment of the Nguyen Dynasty.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0035 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 74-79 This paper is available online at HUE IMPERIAL PALACE THE ENVIRONMENT FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF VIETNAM CLASSICAL DRAMA Dinh Thi Kim Thuong Hanoi Metropolitan University Abstract. Viet Nam classical drama (Tuong) is a kind of unique classical theater art of Vietnam. According to some documents, the drama was influenced by theater songs (from China) that were performanced by Yuan soldiers who were taken prisoners of war under the Tran Dynasty (13th century). However, Vietnamese Tuong has its own definition. At first, it appeared only in the North, then carried by Lord Nguyen troops to the South of Vietnam and thrived from the seventeenth century to the eighteenth century. During the Nguyen Dynasty (nineteenth century), Tuong flourished with the emergence of many famous composers such as Nguyen Dieu, Bui Huu Nghia, Dien Khanh Vuong, Ham Thuan, etc., especially “posteriori ancestor of Tuong” - Dao Tan. Among the most important reasons to promote the brilliant development of Tuong at this stage were the development policies and royal cultural environment of the Nguyen Dynasty. Keywords: Cultural environment, Nguyen Dynasty, classical drama (Tuong). 1. Introduction Tuong is a Vietnam’s unique classic traditional art form. So far, the study of the origin, history and development of Tuong have received many different opinions of researchers in Vietnam and abroad. Doan Nong [6], Van Tan [8], Nguyen Duc Duat [3] said that Tuong was formed in the 13th century in the Tran Dynasty and flourished in the 17th century with the birth of many famous anonymous plays such Son Hau, Tam nu do vuong, Dao Phi Phung. According to Professor Phan Huy Le [5], Dinh Xuan Lam, Tran Quoc Vuong [4], Mich Quang [7], from the 15th century Tuong and Cheo were quite developed, but it was not until the era of Dao Duy Tu (1572-1634) that Tuong was shaped and rose to a height in the second half of the 19th century with three lines of typical Tuong: royal Tuong, patriotic scholars’ Tuong and folk Tuong compoased by various typical authors including Dao Tan, Bui Huu Nghia, Nguyen Hien Dinh, Dien Khanh Vuong, Ham Thuan, etc. One of the most important factors that made Tuong flourish in this period was the Nguyen Dynasty’s policies and imperial cultural environment. Received date: 10/2/2017. Published date: 1/5/2017. Contact: Dinh Thi Kim Thuong, e-mail: dtkthuong@daihocthudo.edu.vn 74 Hue imperial palace the environment for the development of Vietnam classical drama 2. Content 2.1. The Nguyen Dynasty’s policies and imperial cultural environment In Cochinchina, Tuong developed in the 17th century and was often performed in court. However, during the time of Minh Mang King (1820 - 1841), the Nguyen Dynasty started issuing policies for Tuong and used this art form as a kind of weapon for the polictical purposes. At Duyet Thi Duong Theatre (royal theatre) hangs couplets of Minh Mang King: (Musical harmony makes hearts happy and brights intellect. It teaches people to tell right from wrong ). Minh Mang was a king who had knowledge in poetry, understood Tuong, and generously sponsored the development of Tuong. Minh Mang King founded Viet Tuong Institute, a state agency which studied classical drama. The head of the agency was the fifth position of mandarin. In fact, the head of the agency was in charge of Tuong team who was responsible for the performance of Tuong in court. Later, the agency was renamed Thanh Binh Department by Tu Duc King. By the time of Thanh Thai King, the Department was dissolved to three teams of the royal opera called three teams martial courage, directly managed by the Ministry of Rites. According to the legend, a courtier named Nguyen Duc Xuyen established a private theater and invited singers to perform; when he experienced difficult times he came to beg the King for funding. Minh Mang King did not blame him; instead, the King gave him 1000 coins and 100 barrels of rice and said that “If there is a lack of money, tell me; the government can help you.” In 1840, in the 50th birthday celebration of Ming Mang King, the play Quan tien hien tho was performed. This play was composed by Nguyen Ba Nghi, and Minh Mang also wrote several paragraphs about the characters named Tao Chua. Tu Duc King (1848 - 1883), who was considered a “giant tree in the forest of thousands of Hue popular culture” [2;142], had not only the knowledge of Confucian wisdom and many works in different genres but also the passion about literature and poetry. Tu Duc was very excited about classical opera. The King assigned three Thanh Binh teams to manage the royal theater. The first team was only in charge of the opera at Duyet Thi Duong Theatre. Tu Duc King was so keen on Tuong that in every meeting with the officials “He asked all the courtiers compete to compose opera, and only good writings received his approval. At that time, the most prominent writers were Bui Huu Nghia and Dao Tan. While watching the Tuong of Dao Tan, Tu Duc commented “penmanship as gods” while the opera of Bui Huu Nghia was remarked “the literature is really good but not for Tuong” (as recorded by Dam Phuong Nu Su – the granddaughter of Minh Mang King – cf. in Professor Hoang Chuong’s report). Courtiers Truong Dang Que (Quang Ngai) and Nguyen Tu Gian (Bac Ninh) wrote letters to dissuade the King. In a letter one reads: “...You are in mourning, which should not dissipate, so there should not be any singing in the royal garden. Please burn costumes, trumpets, drums and chase all the singers away...”. In the third year of Tu Duc (1850), Phan Phu Thu, while still working at the Institute Cabinet, just a small official (ranked the sixth position of mandarin), also dissuaded the playboy and singing King with frank words and vehemently attitude. As a result, Phan Phu Thu’s position was abolished, and he was tied by Tran Vu, jailed and had to cut the grass for horses as a punishment...” [9;102]. When the King was sad, only Kep 75 Dinh Kim Thuong Doi Vung’s Tuong performance could make him smile. Tu Duc King also invited Kep Doi Vung to perform when this team was in prison because no one could play Cap To Van as well as they did. Mrs. Tu Du (Tu Duc’s mother) extremely fancied watching Tuong. On major holidays, she asked the Thanh Binh Department to come to her palace to perform for the dames. On that day, the play Duong Chinh Tay was performed including “Phan Le Hue chasing brother, killing father” scene. Although the play was very well-performed, she was not happy and told the the leader of Thanh Binh team that: “The Chinese composed the stories paradoxically, in a heartless way... why did he kill his brother, his father, without consanguinity Chinese people are different from the Vietnamese. The storytellers had put the audiences in the traps, why are Vietnamese writers also trapped? The play should be revised to suit our national tradition”. Tu Duc King heard his mother criticizing the Thanh Binh and recognized his responsibility. Therefore, he collected all of the Tuong scripts in folk to be revised. The plays which were not suitable with the Vietnamese tradition had to be revised. Since then, there were “Capital texts” (Tuong scripts were corrected in the capital) and “local texts” (Tuong scripts circulated among the folk [1;83-84]. In 1878, on the occasion of 50th anniversary of Tu Duc King’s birth, Nguyen Tho was appointed to be in charge of some organizations including many civil mandarins who were in charge of revising the scripts to perform in that celebration. Preparatory work was carried out within one year. Dao Tan was ordered to write two plays Binh Dich and Dang khau by Tu Duc King; he also asked Nguyen Gia Ngoan to write many scripts including the Vo Nguyen Long. That created a good environment for talented composers of classical drama to develop, including Dao Tan. The period of Tu Duc King was the flourishing time of literature opera scripts with over 500 scripts. Later, Dong Khanh King gave the name of the characters of play Van Buu trinh tuong to his maids. Thanh Thai King was also a very good opera drummer. He played the role of Thach Giai in Xao Tong play. His classical drama team was named Vo Lan (as told by artist Nguyen Nho Tuy). People often gave bonuses to singers, actors, and dancers to show their admiration for art. At the residence of ministers such as Nguyen Quoc Thao and Hoang Cao Khai, Tuong was often performed for the local people to watch. Many royal families often held performing programs at their house for entertainment. In general, there was a tendency of showing passion for theater and poetry cult from the Minh Mang Dynasty onwards. According to some documents, in the late 19th century, the team of authors and actors in the royal were quite crowded and the head was Dao Tan. Hundreds of great plays successively appeared, including up to several tens of Dao Tan’s scripts. And today they become the jewels of art such as Dien vo dinh, Tram Huong cac, Ho sinh dan, Hoang Phi Ho qua Gioi Bai quan, Co thanh, Tan Da don, etc... together with the long plays of 100 passages such as Van Buu trinh tuong, Quan tran hien thuy with continuous structure, compelling drama, beautiful literature and vivid characters. It was a favorable environment for the development of Tuong and Dao Tan’s talent. The development of opera in the peak period of the second half of the 19th century were due to the following two reasons: Firstly, the art of Tuong in Cochinchina, especially in Phu Xuan and Hue was inherited and encouraged by the kings, scholars, and people. Above all, it was necessary 76 Hue imperial palace the environment for the development of Vietnam classical drama to mention the passion and admiration of the members of the royal families for Tuong. Secondly, Minh Mang and Tu Duc played an important role in the construction of the specialized agencies on Tuong such as Duyet Thi Duong Theatre, Viet Tuong Institute, Thanh Binh Department, etc. Especially, the role of Tu Duc in the proofreading and editing of Tuong scripts, served the Tuong performances. Tu Duc revivified the works of many famous Confucianists like Van Bao trinh tuong, Quan phuong hien thuy, Dang khau, Son Hau, etc. The formation and development of Dao Tan’s, Nguyen Van Dieu’s, Dien Khanh Vuong’s, Nguyen Khanh Nghi’s, Ham Thuan’s and many other composers’ career were thanks to the cheers, encouragements, comments, and criticism of members of the royal families, especially Tu Duc King. 2.2. The classical drama’s typical authors in the second half of the 19th century The famous authors who made the peak of Tuong literature in the second half of the 19th century included Dao Tan, Nguyen Hien Dinh, and Bui Huu Nghia. Dao Tan (1845 - 1987) was born in Binh Dinh. He left his home for more than 30 years and had different functions in the Nguyen Dynasty. However, he was more known as a Tuong composer than an official. He was considered “the father of Tuong”. He worked as a mandarin and Tuong composer. He composed and renovated more than 40 plays which have become the “national treasure” of art nowadays including Tram Huong cac, Dien vo dinh, Ho sinh dan, Co thanh, Tan Da don, Hoang Phi Ho qua Gioi Bai quan, etc. Dao Tan was a comprehensive innovator in Tuong literature with breaking “king and nation” topics and Confucian ideology which dominated the ideological and aesthetic values of the whole Tuong literature as well as the reality and people. Using a modern style, he broke the conventional mold, structural formula in the script and brought life to the Tuong stage. Dao Tan’s talent flourished in the environment of Hue imperial palace, where he was appointed an official in compilation committee. Tu Duc King even specified Dao Tan’s writing. It was the time when he was honing, fostering and cultivating scholar’s language, wording aesthetic practices with erudite and rigorous vocabulary within each sentence and idea. During the ups and downs of Dao Tan’s career, he created masterpieces on Tuong for the national stage. With his great dedication to the art of Tuong, Dao Tan was nobly entitled “Tuong’s literary master”, “Tuong’s ancestor”, or “cultural celebrity of the people”. Nguyen Hien Dinh (1853 - 1926) was born and grew up in Quang Nam. He achieved the baccalaureate at the age of 18 and served different functions for the Nguyen Dynasty. He composed and revised over 20 plays towards the social reality of Vietnamese rural area in the feudal period. Using simple prose, national language, style of ironic reality , he drew a painting of the semi-feudal colonial society in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century with full of injustices via a comical look. It was easy to recognized his achievements through such works as Ly Ma Hien, Phong Ba Dinh, Vo Hung Vuong, Luc Van Tien, Truong Do Nhuc, Giap Ken Xa Nhong, etc. Like Dao Tan, he founded his own troupe. He was disappointed with the court affairs, so he retired and came back home, establishing a school to teach Tuong and performed Tuong for the people. He trained many outstanding Tuong actors including five students who were named “Ngu My”: Nho Nguyen Tuy (The Tao), Nguyen Lai, Chinh De, Chinh Pham, and Khoi Van Phuoc. 77 Dinh Kim Thuong Bui Huu Nghia (1807 - 1872), he passed the doctoral exam in 1835 and worked for the court of Hue until 1862. When the French invaded three western provinces in the South, he retired and went back home to become a teacher, treat patients, and compose poetry. When he was working for the court of Hue, he participated in writing and editing many plays, among which the most famous works associated with his name was the scenario named Kim Thach ky duyen including 3 segments. It described the stormy love story between Kim Ngoc and Vo Thach Ha. The author praised the love, faithfulness, and condemned the traitor while passing off “king and nation” topic. The encyclopedia dictionary appraised him as follows “Along with the plays of Dao Tan, Nguyen Hien Dinh, Kim Thach ky duyen of Bui Huu Nghia marked the transformation of Vietnamese Tuong in the late 19th century and the early 20th century.” 2.3. Tendencies of classical drama in the second half of the 19th century 2.3.1. Royal Tuong Royal Tuong is a kind of Tuong script written by officials and nobles under the auspices of the Nguyen Dynasty, focusing especially on Tu Duc period with typical plays like Vo Nguyen Long, Dang Khau, Van Bao trinh tuong, Quan tien hien thuy. Tuong scripts were collected, edited and composed in the period of Tu Duc and Minh Mang with massive works such as Van Buu trinh tuong. The new collection had 108 more chapters of famous composers such as Dien KhanhVuong, Dao Tan, Ngo Quy Dong, Vu Dinh Phuong, etc. In addition, Dang khau and Quan phuong hien thuy plays also had hundreds of chapters and were performed several nights. These plays carried heavy ideas of “respect for the king” and took five constant virtues including Kindness, Decorum, Uprightness, Wisdom, and Faithfulness. The content of these plays were polished and classic. Tu Duc commended those plays for their “godly techniques”. They were mainly performed in the royal theatre. 2.3.2. Patriotic scholars’ Tuong (Van Than Tuong) Patriotic scholars’ Tuong appeared around the late 19th century and the early 20th century by patriots against foreign invasion and blind loyalty with famous works such as Phong ba dinh, Kim Thach ky duyen, Song Tinh, Trung nu vuong. The other plays highlighted faithfulness and fought against rebellion. The development of Patriotic scholars’ Tuong expressed a profound divergence of ideological tendencies among elite literati and scholars at that time. 2.3.3. Folk Tuong Folk Tuong developed in the late 19th century when the Vietnamese society changed dramatically. The Nguyen’s feudal system no longer held political position and leading role as before. The urgent needs for inniovations completely demolished the “casing” form of ancient Tuong and aimed to meet the demand of enjoying folk Tuong. Folk Tuong includes plays such as Ma Phung Cam, Ly An Lang Chau, Xuan Dao loc thit, etc. The content of these plays criticized the social reality and highlighted the role of human, especially women. 78 Hue imperial palace the environment for the development of Vietnam classical drama 3. Conclusion In brief, thanks to the policy on open culture of Nguyen Dynasty and the passion on Tuong of the Nguyen kings, Tuong was developed properously during the second half of the 19th century along with famous authors including Dao Tan, Nguyen Hien Dinh and Bui Huu Nghia. By the way, it can not be denied that the second half of the 19th century was considered the most prosperous period of Tuong focusing on 3 typical lines: Royal Tuong, Patriotic scholars’ Tuong and Folk Tuong. REFERENCES [1] Ton That Binh, 1996. Storytelling nine Princess thirteen Nguyen Dynasty kings. Publisher Da Nang, Da Nang. [2] Hoang Chuong (Chaired editors), 2008. Dao Tan, centennial look back. Publisher. Writers Association, Hanoi. [3] Nguyen Duc Duat, 1974. A few comments on the book “A Brief classical drama history”. Art Research Journal No. 3, Hanoi. [4] Dinh Xuan Lam, Tran Quoc Vuong, 1964. On the origin and history of Vietnamese classical drama. Literary Journal No. 4, Hanoi. [5] Phan Huy Le, 1962. History of feudal Vietnam, Volume 2. Publisher Education, Ha Noi. [6] Doan Nong, 1911. The legend of classical drama. Publisher Mai Linh, Hanoi. [7] Mich Quang, 1963. Study the classical drama. Publisher Culture, Hanoi. [8] Van Tan, 1957. Preliminary Vietnam literary history. Publisher Literary History and Geography, Hanoi. [9] Pham Phu Tiet (posthumous), 1987.Conversations about opera act, (Hoang Chuong introduced). Publisher Cultural, Hanoi. 79