Tran Nguyen Dan poetry- Responsibility for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and the people

Abstract. Tran Nguyen Dan, nickname Bang Ho, was a great poet, a national intellectual, a representative thinker of the country in late phase of the Tran dynasty. During his life of political activity and composing, he always advocated of implementation of the ideal powerful people and prosperous nation, supported and encouraged talents to devote their efficiency to develop the country, care of people’s living. This article focuses on analyzing Tran Nguyen Dan poetry, clarifying responsibility of the officers for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and the people. From there we can confirm his position and contribution to the history of ideas and national literature.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0037 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 86-92 This paper is available online at TRAN NGUYEN DAN POETRY- RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE FORTUNE OF THE DYNASTY, THE NATION AND THE PEOPLE Vu Van Long Continuing Education Center Thanh Mien, Hai Duong Abstract. Tran Nguyen Dan, nickname Bang Ho, was a great poet, a national intellectual, a representative thinker of the country in late phase of the Tran dynasty. During his life of political activity and composing, he always advocated of implementation of the ideal powerful people and prosperous nation, supported and encouraged talents to devote their efficiency to develop the country, care of people’s living. This article focuses on analyzing Tran Nguyen Dan poetry, clarifying responsibility of the officers for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and the people. From there we can confirm his position and contribution to the history of ideas and national literature. Keywords: Tran Nguyen Dan, Bang Ho, great poet, national intellectual. 1. Introduction After a long period of developing and flourishing, into the second half of the fourteenth century, under the helm of the Kings of the Late Tran dynasty, the Great Vietnamese fell into a state of crisis, severe recession that threated all people’s lives and negatively impacted the country’s independence and autonomy. In the face of historical requests, the contemporary progressive intellectual scholars found that they needed to seize the opportunity and responsibility to participate in the cause of strengthening and developing the country. Although coming from aristocracy, Tran Nguyen Dan (1325-1390), nickname “Bang Ho” (man as pure as Ice Lake), had earlier revealed the thought of a Confician scholar, a national intellectual with great learning, acumen and depth in receiving political and social issues as well as enthusiasm of contributing talents to the country. Consequently, in more than 40 years of being an official and doing political activities, Tran Nguyen Dan always advocated of powerful people and prosperous nation ideal, taking care of people’s lives as if that was the root of peacefulness and prosperity. Studying and learning Bang Ho’s poetry were interested in many works [2, 3, 8, 10]. However, for different purpose of approaching, there was no researcher that deeply analysed to clarify those policises of Tran Nguyen Dan. This article about Bang Ho’s poetry will contribute to shed more light on his life, ideas and personality. Received date: 12/12/2016. Published date: 1/5/2017. Contact: Vu Van Long, e-mail: 86 Tran Nguyen Dan poetry - responsibility for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and... 2. Content 2.1. Responsibility for the destiny of dynasty and country Country in mind of a Confician scholar is a particular source of inspiration that creates success and name for each poet, regardless of the Angel, scholar, King, offices, generals or affordable... Controling the Nation and pacifing people, heroically fighting against the enemy, destroying the worst and consolidating the Dynasty became major sources of ideas for poetry in phase Tran - Ho. In late fourteenth century, the Tran dynasty moved from flourishing into recession with turmoil in political affairs. Confucians gradually grew and awared of their roles in the literature, followed the “Dong A Spirit” (“Dong A” are two words separated from “Tran” word) and patriotic tradition of national pride. They were the main force that pushed artist’s responsibility up to centre of literature. Although “Dong- A Spirit” was not as strong as before but it still had enough power to help him believe in ethnic values and positive changes of society in future. Bang Ho’s poems were almost unspecified the time they were composed. To find out them, researchers need to relate to the history and current at that time events to answer. This is also the solution for us to find out and explain the personality, career and thoughts of Bang Ho, noble man as an aristocrat changed into a Confucianist. Bang Ho himself, at early age was taken care and educated towards training talent, succeeding “people of fathers” generation. However, the time of “sword saddle” and glorious victories were over. In XIV century, historical factors of social were changed, national consciousness were developed higher. He understood the need of strongly cheering education and training talents as well as expanding learning objects. After disorder of Duong Nhat Le, the country went into a new phase. Early, Tran Nguyen Dan had many big plans. He continued to cheer education, call for Confucian talent to help the nation. Despite of knowing “Forbidden enclosure dream” liked “cold ashes” to Chu Van An this time, Tran Nguyen Dan was still keen on inviting that teacher back to the reign to help Nghe Tong King to restore his Kingdom: “In Lily curtain lonely crane was suddenly frightended/ Calamus wheels willingly came back for people/ In flourish time, God would help/ Did not let you old on mountain” (Donated Chu Tieu An). In this period, Tran Nguyen Dan was better aware of Confucian’s idea, put the interests of country and people above the clan’s and specific kings’ to persuade talents to show up. He did not only urge teacher Chu “came back for the people”, but also directly reminded the kings of responsibility to the country: “Leisure time, just think of preserving the land/ In sleep, still dreamed that he came Thang Long himself ” (Wrote after the poem that King’s Father wrote on Thien Truong mansion, Trung Quang palace). In poetry, Bang Ho mentioned Thang Long, the country’s capital, where decided critial policies... The King’s behaviors associated with Thang Long, national responsibility and increasing consciousness. In Bang Ho, measure of value was based on popularity. It was the same even in his hobby reading. Reading the poem “Poem composed during night sailing on”, we could see all poet’s heart that reading “was not only for fun and relaxation“ [8, 77], for expressing aspirations, ideals, but more importantly, for finding strategies to help the people. Even when the poet exchanged and offered wine with friends, he did not change. These became the principle of his life. Seeing poem “Wrote after the rhyme of poem “Events in Tan Binh” of Pham Su Manh in Tan Binh An mansion”, we would see that Bang Ho always looked forward to the “Strong-willed scholars”, talent and stuff 87 Vu Van Long people to overcome all the challenges and raise the voice of heart without losing people’s expectations (intelligent Lord tied to the nation): “Strong-willed scholars did not reject the risk of crossing the sea/ Raised the voice with all the heart/ Wore frost coat and sunny hat, repaid intelligent Lord/ Came in tiger den and snake hole, consoled remote people”. Not only to the general military on battlefield, but also imperial ministers in the court, the poet frankly expressed his views. In poem celebrating the promotion of Nguyen Trung Ngan, he still used “People admiration” as a standard: “As bright as the Great Bear, As high as Thai Son Mountain/ People all admired the minister” (Happy Gioi Hien’s promotion). In patriotic inspiration tied to the fortune of the Tran dynasty, at any moment or in any circumstance, we still see that Bang Ho considered the purpose for people, saving people, lowly people, people’s living, remote people” the criteria, the measure of praise, encouraging himself and others. Therefore, when holding the post of “Đại tư đồ” (Prime minister) which had time close to the King, he had not ever forgotten the responsibility “devoting to the King, benefiting the people”, dissuading, timely warning the King of taking care of people’s living as well as social safety and danger: “So happy to enjoy weather at the end of fall in cold mist/ Truly said spring scence not to betray old oaths” (September, contemplated daisy and wrote after King’s poem). Common sense, as a person with power in the court, being brothers in royal and always closing to the King, he could dissuade, directly expressing the issues needed presenting a memorial. However, the poem context showed was a sightseeing trip with daisy bloom in fall, the best time of year, where the ethereal inspiration appeared. Nghe Tong and Nguyen Dan themselves deeply understood Confucian education, would have no difficulty in discussing, explaining the poem implications. Thus, through the poem, we understand that although the Prime minister could dissuade and express honest opinions anytime he wanted, sometimes, implications in poetry had greater impact than directtly words. Ho Nguyen Trung considered: Bang Ho made “insinuating poetry to wholeheartedly admonish”. Indeed, in any time, “functions” role of poetry has always existed. Especially when writers awared of using poetry to express their will, this power would be utilized thoroughly. Since then, it is cleared that Tran Nguyen Dan poetry was mainly “willing poetry”. Reading two verses “I want to praise but have no more word/ wish spring wind from four seas are in one happy house” (Write after the rythme of “Grant party for new Doctors in Quan Duc palace hall”, we would understand his deeply heart for the country and the people. 2.2. Responsibility for People Discussing on Vietnamese poetic tradition, one of the fundamental expressions of patriotism was directing towards people’s lives, became an inspiration throughout the ages. This is also important characteristics in compositions of Tran Nguyen Dan, the typical Confucian intellectuals in the late fourteenth century. His poetry continued to gradually concretizing, deepening the tradition of interesting, considering the important role of the people in literature. Previously this tradition originated from love of nature, country, people that was purely nationalistic. To the middle of the fourteenth century, changing in social and cultural situation led to the confirming of role of Confucianism and inspiration responsibility of the scholars to the people in Bang Ho was partly affected by Confucianism. Hence, his expression was copious, deep, close, associated with reality 88 Tran Nguyen Dan poetry - responsibility for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and... and concretized by practise view that much or less ruled over the dynasty policies in late decades of the XIV century. In other words, Bang Ho poetry was the expression of concretizing idea “Relate to the People”. Through practical activities, a measure of the officer success, Nguyen Trai in the fifteenth century, developed and upgraded Bang Ho’s idea to “Benevolence and righteousness ideology” of the time. Better than anyone else, Tran Nguyen Dan is considered thinker of the time. He himself had held key position in about 15 years, “leader officer of the dynasty”, he found a direct relationship between the survival of royal dynasty and “Relate to the People” policies. Therefore, he did not stop proposing ideas to the court and regard “Relate to the People” as inspiration source for his career of poetry. Being knowledgeable of Confucian books, he understood the words of Confucian deities: “Having the Way, The People would have the country; Losing the Way, losing the Country” [13;348]. Then he did not use aristocrat power to benefit. He used responsibility of a loyal scholar to express the plight of all people: “All people lives were like fish in cauldron with boiling water/ Northern Yen land, Eastern Bien land became mounds/ Coming back boat was not tranquil the dream of sailing yet/ Borrow fishermen light to shine ancient books” (Poem composed during night sailing on). The poem showed the status of a man just entering mandarinate with a minor post and no major role. However, he was clearly aware the responsibility of “a person benefit from King” had to take care of the nation and people. Details about “ancient books” in this case was not merely pleasure, but also a manifestation of anxiety, concern in sense of a responsible scholar who shared the emperor with anxiety and trategies to help the people escape from “critical situation” (burned fire and boiled water). This awareness was also confided in poem “Write in June in the Tiger lunar year” (1362). The author expressed his feelings of gathering data on disaster in many districts to submit to the King: “This year, drought in summer, flood in autumn/ Rice was dry, seeds were rotten, so much trouble/ Read three thousand books but useless/ Head was grey but still betray love for the people” (Write in June in the Tiger lunar year). Read the poem, we could feel helpless mood of the man understanding “three thousand books” “Shi Jing” and “Shu Jing” (Classic of Poetry, Classic of History) were “useless” to face with disasters. In our opinion, probably the love for people urged him to spend years studing astronomy and calendar, learning the laws of the earth and stars to find ways controling disasters. Ho Nguyen Trung confirmed that Bang Ho “well understood the calender”, “refinedly served religion, effectively prayed for rain”, formerly made astronomical book named “Hundreds centuries through period” [4;726]. It is clear that, Tran Nguyen Dan’s care for the people was not only idle talk but in action. In our opinion, due to coming from aristocracy, he did not have much time contact and understand people’s lives, so his feeling was not as rich and deep as Nguyen Phi Khanh, Nguyen Trai... Bang Ho also encouraged scholar class to promote the spirit of the artist to take care of people’s living. Apart from mandarinate, to Tran Nguyen Dan, poetry was thought, was the soul, the voice, the evidence of dedicating spirit to life. When stood in front of a majestic works of the Buddha, poet did not see the reverence but the illusory, impractical because some people were willing to “pour money” to do useless things while the people’s lives were still fatigued in difficulties. Poem content showed Bang Ho’s attitude “Excepting Buddha”. He was not satisfied with following acts: “A laugh at the lack of worry decorating jewels/ Carving dragons and snakes tired the people” (Bao Nghiem tower). In our view, 89 Vu Van Long Tran Nguyen Dan stood by Truong Han Sieu, Le Quat, Ho Quy Ly... in the mission of demolishing the Buddhist temple forces, puting ahead country and people’s interests. To him, Bao Nghiem tower was just bright like Khue starlight whether it really made sense to life. The word “a laugh” showed the strictly critical attitude of Bang Ho towards all useless things in society, not only the cult and expanding temples. The chivalrous sense of Bang Ho was influenced by Le Van Huu (XIII century). Certainly, Tran Nguyen Dan would highly agree when he read Le Van Huu’s criticisms to King Ly Thai To: “spent too much money and people’s strength on the construction of temples”, “that was not happiness but plunder people’s blood” [12;90]. Building towers and expanding pagodas at that time also reminded King Tran Du Tong (1341-1369) who dissipated, tormented people with “digging ditch” in the harem, forcing Hai Dong people carry saltwater from the sea to feed seafood, crab, fish, tortoise [5;178]. . . Tran Nguyen Dan dissuaded, reminded and tied people, from the emperor to officers, poetry friends and students to the responsibility of “looking after people” [7;925]. To him “people heart” was subject to praise and cheer. Therefore, in many poems, he affirmed that people succeeded in “the madarinate” because they are believed by people. For example, to Nguyen Trung Ngan, he writes: “People all admired the minister”, to Pham Su Manh: “Get into Tiger dens and snake holes to calm people”, with Nguyen Han Anh: “Calmimg People and helping the life were their responsibility”... With a sense of responsibility “Control the nation, secure the people”, Bang Ho tilted towards Confucians as if that duty was his own. In our opinion, to Bang Ho, “caring for People’s living” [14;169] was not only the responsibility of a person holding throne, aristocrats but the officers and widely “talents”. According to Tran Thi Bang Thanh, compared with Tran Nhan Tong in ideology “Relate to the People”, Tran Nguyen Dan “went on a step” [9;29] when he really believed in Confucians and thought that the King’s assistants were then not only aristocrats, military leaders but also Confucians, a new talent class of the era. Tran Nguyen Dan was really reasonable to say much about the responsibility of officers. It was because he had seen “the trend of moving to opposition of the state and the people was exposed more and more clearly at late phase of the Tran dynasty” [15;173] and he had clearly found the nature of the Tran dynasty’s aristocratic landlords after success in war of resistance to Nguyen enemy. The aristocrats gradually became landowners and had property of slave - owners” [15;172]. Therefore, he toke the initiative to abandon “aristocratic interests” and decided to send himself in resignation for a secluded life in Con Son. During the final years of his life, despite painful mood, he still put fully trust in Confucian scholars, sided with the interests of the people and the country. This explained why his poetry in any topic or theme was always refered to the benefit of all people. For example, in the poem “Write behind Lo Ba officer collection of poems”, he wrote: “Restoration time, literary fortune was over Hien, Hy time/ People sang happily prosperous life”. Bui Van Nguyen commented deeply: “Tran Nguyen Dan had deep mentality and loving heart. Athough living in palatial mansion, he still thought of the horrible lives of the pariah” [6]. According to us, “loving heart” in Bang Ho poetry liked a red through thread, the longer it was protracted, the more solid it became. Hence, at the end of his life, he sometimes wanted to become a Taoist, practiced lifestyle “wu-wei” (or “no action” - refraining from activity contrary to nature), unworldly life, but scholar’s responsibility did not let him perform it. Reading the two ending statements in poem 90 Tran Nguyen Dan poetry - responsibility for the fortune of the dynasty, the nation and... “Small rain”, we would understand his heart: “Waking up, incense – burner had ruined long ago/ The old man in the village did not take the plow back yet”. Indeed, until now when we are exposed to Tran Nguyen Dan’s poetry, we can partly understand his ideas and personality. Contemporary, did all people understand him? That was the poet’s preoccupation. Sometimes he could only keep the feelings his own, could not bare all to others: “Self - laugh sinking and floating, there was no way/ Throat was sore without swallowing and releasing/ Depend on the life to get through everything/ Grey head royal subject was not joined to plans” (Respond to Luong Giang officer while in ill). It was truth that if Nguyen Trai was not Bang Ho’s grandson, could he fully understood grandfather’s feelings? In “Old Stories about Bang Ho”, Nguyen Trai wrote: “He sent his body in forest, but his mind still directed toward the nation. The loving heart was never relieved” [1;105]. Thus, with inspiration of closing to the people, for the people, loving the people, caring of the people, Tran Nguyen Dan demonstrated a profound concept about responsibility of the scholars in poetry. This content was not new and somewhat had sense of “formula”, but it presented an exchange step “the tradition of considering the role of people that was common in the Ly – Tran dynasty”. In tradition, “the court had an opening look and interested in people” [2;94], “Slowing down people power for long lasting plan” (Tran Hung Dao)... laid steady foundation for policies of national treatment that directe
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