Vietnamese diplomatic poetry

Abstract. Diplomatic Poetry refers to poems composed by Vietnamese diplomats during their mission to China. It is a kind of literary composition functioning as both literature and art. These include both thơ đi sứ (poems are written in the journey of diplomacy) and thơ tiếp sứ (poems are written to welcome envoys). To understand diplomatic poetry had two primary types of poetry: poetry and poetry to porcelain wares. This is an important key for readers to unlock the Diplomatic Poetry of Vietnam.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1067.2017-0036 Social Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 5, pp. 80-85 This paper is available online at VIETNAMESE DIPLOMATIC POETRY Tran Thi The The Faculty of Philology, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. Diplomatic Poetry refers to poems composed by Vietnamese diplomats during their mission to China. It is a kind of literary composition functioning as both literature and art. These include both thơ đi sứ (poems are written in the journey of diplomacy) and thơ tiếp sứ (poems are written to welcome envoys). To understand diplomatic poetry had two primary types of poetry: poetry and poetry to porcelain wares. This is an important key for readers to unlock the Diplomatic Poetry of Vietnam. Keywords: Diplomatic, Diplomatic Poetry, the journey of diplomacy, Viet Nam, 9 centuries (10th – 19th). 1. Introduction Diplomatic Poetry came into being and developed alongside the Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic relations during the medieval period. This is attributed to the –Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic process which began in the year 976 (during the Dinh Dynasty) and completed in 1884 (during the Nguyen Dynasty) when the Treaty of Tientsin was signed by the Qing dynasty to recognize the French protectorate over Annam and Tonkin, officially putting an end to the “investiture beseeching and tributary activities”. From the perspective of literary evolution, Vietnamese diplomatic poetry came into being and developed in about nine centuries (10th – 19th). This type of poetry was closely associated with politics and cultures of various dynasties under the Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic relationship of “investiture beseeching and tributary”. Diplomatic poetry consists of poems composed by Vietnamese envoys while they were on the way to China to present tribute as well as poems composed during the receptions or farewell of Chinese envoys. At the early stage, the diplomatic poetry mostly included poems composed at the reception or farewell parties for the Chinese envoys. Later, envoy poetry dominated the front with the contribution from a great number of poet-envoys. Envoy poetry has been the subject of many studies. Recently, envoy poetry has become a popular topic in many different theses while a comprehensive research project on envoy poetry remains undone. Vietnamese Diplomatic Poetry of the 10th and 14th Received date: 1/1/2017. Published date: 3/5/2017. Contact: Tran Thi The, e-mail: tranthe.ncsk32@gmail.com 80 Vietnam’s Diplomatic centuries drew the attention of scholars. However, diplomatic poetry in this period is mainly indirectly approached. Some articles have taken diplomatic poems as research subject are: "A brief description of diplomatic poetry during the Tran Dynasty and the Nguyen Dynasty diplomacy" by Tran Thi Bang Thanh, Pham Tu Chau; "Dong A Spirit in Tran Dynasty Poems" by the Literature Institute authors; "Vietnamese diplomatic poetry in Vietnamese and Chinese cultural exchanges during the Middle Ages" by Wu Zai Hao, "The Diplomatic Poem of the Middle Ages Vietnam written on Hunan scenery and the case of Nguyen Trung Nga" by Nguyen Cong Ly. These writings studied the diplomatic poetry of the 10th - 14th centuries in terms of inspirations, styles, and tone rather than ít classification. Diplomatic, Diplomatic Poetry are both features and criteriation which are used to define /distinguish diplomatic poetry and other types of poetry. We cannot study about diplomatic poetry without learning about Diplomatic and Diplomatic Poetry. This is also the main content of this article. 2. Content 2.1. Welcome/ Farewell Poetry for Chinese envoys Chinese envoy welcome verses refer to extempore poems which Vietnamese diplomats recited back and forth to compose in order to welcome or bid farewell to Chinese envoys who were dispatched to Vietnam to perform investiture or complete other diplomatic missions. This type of poetry also served as an efficient tool for poet-diplomats to promote Vietnamese culture and demonstrate Sino-Vietnamese ally relationship. Chinese envoy welcome/farewell poetry functioned as both a diplomatic tool and a form of art; the verses are both rational and emotional; they praise the Vietnamese nation while also highlighting Sino-Vietnamese friendship. These are parallel characteristics which add more meanings for the main content of Dai Viet welcoming poetry. Extempore poems which Vietnamese diplomats recited back and forth to compose to welcome or bid farewell to Chinese envoys has been an unique aspect of Vietnam’s Middle Ages diplomatic poetry. Chinese envoy welcome poetry came into being before the formation of Vietnamese envoy poetry. This type of poetry laid a ground for the Middle Ages envoy poetry. At the earlier stage of diplomatic poetry, the extempore poems composed during envoy welcome/farewell parties played a central role. Later, this type of poetry diminished and was then replaced with poems composed by Vietnamese envoys on their way to the Chinese capital to present tributes. Envoy welcome poetry came into being and developed alongside the historical period while Vietnamese diplomats were tasked to welcome Chinese envoys. The welcoming of Chinese envoys was considered an extremely important event of the feudal dynasties. In addition to fundamental welcoming protocols and banquets, it was a custom that Vietnamese diplomats composed extempore poems as a present for envoy welcome, farewell and response. Envoy welcome poetry marked its first existence in the year 987 when Chinese envoy Li Jue was sent to Vietnam for the second time. Being aware that Li Jue was well-versed in literature, King Le Dai Hanh asked monk Do Phap Thuan to disguise himself as a boatman to pick up Li Jue. Do Phap Thuan and Li Jue recited “Vinh nga” poem together. In the same year, the King asked Master Monk Khuong Viet 81 Tran Thi The to compose a poem to bid farewell to Li Jue. By the 18th century, envoy welcome poetry enjoyed its heyday and recorded a great number of achievements. They included poems composed by kings, mandarins and generals of Tran dynasty for Chinese envoys welcome, farewell and literary exchanges. The Le dynasty saw less of envoy poetry. In the book, Lich trieu hien chuong loai chi, in the chapter entitled Nghi thuc tiep dai (Reception Protocols), Phan Huy Chu recorded 4 poems composed by King Le Tuong Duc to bid farewell to Chinese envoys, Tram Nhuoc Thuy and Phan Hy Tang. However, this type of poetry was not seen in the later period of the history. Welcome/farewell poetry for Chinese envoys include: couplet poems, gift poems; thanking poems; and farewell poems. For this genre of poetry, there is always a specific subject of dedication. The challenge for the responder is to be fast and flexible to respond to the challenger’s trick questions. Our ancestors managed to not only accomplish their missions successfully but also made the country proud of her own cultural distinctiveness. To understand poems composed by Vietnamese poets to welcome/ farewell to Chinese envoys it is important to assess them in relation to the later poems. On the other hand, it is essential to find out who these poets wrote about. . . Welcome/farewell poetry for Chinese envoys was both functional and artistic. It functioned as a diplomatic tool while staying true to an art form to demonstrate emotions and attitudes of the writer: “For envoy poetry, the writer paid due attention to balancing between “emotions” and “attitude” towards Chinese envoys and the Chinese Imperial Court. Whenever the Sino-Vietnamese relations experienced tension, “the combination of “emotions” and “attitude” in envoy poems was more clever and sophisticated” [4;86]. However, functionality was always a distinctive characteristic of envoy poetry. The essential and urgent issues for poets-diplomats “were not to compose for its pure aesthetic value but to create works of art to support socio-political activities, defend the national system and dynasty, build an ideal personality, and accomplish all those historic tasks” [6;135]. The core theme of welcome/farewell poetry for Chinese envoys is the writer’s diplomatic spirit and attitude: “Envoy meetings, regardless of the pleasant or tense atmosphere were always very subtle and complicated mind games by nature” [4;81]. The diplomats/politicians of Dai Viet always stayed rational at the parties to show their flexible but noncompromising attitudes towards the opponent so that they demonstrate the sincerity of the host country yet maintained national sovereignty, independence and self-reliance. With their intellectuality, talents, and competence, the diplomats of Dai Viet managed to demonstrate an authentic Vietnamese culture to the Chinese envoys. In addition to the diplomatic purpose of the banquets, envoy poetry also revealed friendship between diplomats of Dai Viet nation and distinguished guests from China. Going beyond the diplomatic protocols, the verses were considered a bridge bringing people together in their meetings. Who would think these verses simply functioned as diplomatic and political tool with no sentiments? It was nothing but emotions that enabled envoy poetry which was considered as dry literary compositions to exceed the boundary of functionality poetry to smoothly penetrate the territory of art. In addition to diplomatic purpose and literary exchanges with Chinese envoys, the Vietnamese and Chinese poet-diplomats also covered various topics, including natural beauty, history and social life of Vietnam and China. As a result, the formal verse poetry/political discourses expanded to “distal” themes. With a light and flowing way of 82 Vietnam’s Diplomatic expression and increased lyricism, diplomatic poetry “renewed” itself to blur the boundary between functionality literature and art. 2.2. Vietnamese Envoy Poetry Envoy verse was composed by the envoys of Dai Viet along the way to China to perform diplomatic tasks. Writers included a great deal of Vietnamese envoys dispatched to China, who managed to create a distinctive form of literary art. Envoy poetry contributes to demonstrating the course of history, the prosperity and deterioration of dynasties and the Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic relations. Envoy poetry also reveals the inner sense and sentiments of poet-envoys and their worldview. Envoy poetry came into being and developed along the dispatch of Vietnamese envoys to China – “the verses were composed en route with a limit being the infinity of life” [1;46]. The dispatch of regular embassies to the Chinese capital to present tributes began in the 10th century and ended in the 19th century. However, the documentation of envoy poetry available could only be traced back to the 13th century (Tran Dynasty). In the later periods, envoy poetry continued to enjoy its heyday during Le, Tay Son and Nguyen dynasties. Over 7 centuries from the 13th to the 19th century, envoy poetry became a special type of poetry and an important “member” of Middle Ages diplomatic poetry. On the importance of this type of poetry, authors of “Vietnamese envoy poetry”, Pham Thieu and Dao Bich Phuong wrote: “From Tran and Nguyen dynasties, Vietnamese envoy poetry had become an independent type of poem, which then continued to flourish through many dynasties with unique characteristics” [1;20]. Envoy poetry involves a great number of Vietnamese envoys. According to Pham Thieu and Dao Phuong Binh, there were about 60 envoy poets from Tran to Nguyen dynasties. However, in Some stories by author’s Vietnam, author Trần Văn Giáp believed the number was about 110. During the Tran Dynasty, the envoy poets included Nguyen Trung Ngan, Đinh Cung Vien, Mac Đinh Chi, Pham Su Manh. . . During Ho - Le dynasties, there were Nguyen Truc, Đo Can, Quach Huu Nghiem. . . During Le – Mac dynasties, there were Nguyen Gian Thanh, Le Quang Bií, Hua Tam Tinh. . . During Le – Trinh dynasties, there were Phung Khac Khoan, Nguyen Mau Ang, Nguyen Tong Khue. . . During Tây Sơn dynasty, there were Đoan Nguyen Tuan, Ngo Thi Nham, Nguyen Đe. . . And during Nguyen dynasty, there were Le Quang Đinh, Trinh Hoai Duc, Nguyen Du. . . The huge archive of envoy poetry contains “hundreds of collections of dozens of thousands of poems composed from the Tran dynasty to the Nguyen dynasty” [1;9]. Popular titles in envoy poetry included Vang su, Su trinh, Su Thanh, Su Hoa, Hoa trinh, Hoa thieu, Bac hanh, Yen hanh, Su Yen, Hoa Nguyen, Bac su, Su trieu, Phụng su, Su Bac, Tu huong. . . Being associated with diplomacy, envoy poetry was first and foremost functionality poem: “Through conventional protocols such as submitting a letter concerning investiture to the King, present tributary offerings, congratulate a new king, pay respect at the funerals, longevity celebrations or returning a favor. . . by the Vietnamese envoys – their missions were to defend national integrity, national sovereignty and independence, repel and preclude enemy’s invasion conspiracy” [4;87]. However, throughout their long journey, when envoys had an opportunity to experience the huge geography space of both Vietnam and China, having been inspired by beautifu and exotic landscape, the unique inner sense of each envoy made their 83 Tran Thi The verse unique. Therefore, envoy poetry was not simply historical poetry but also lyrical compositions of high literary values. In general, envoy poetry explores 4 major inspirations and topics including: couplet poems composed during banquets between Vietnamese envoys and Chinese King and mandarins; poems featuring natural scenes while envoys were on the way to China to present tributes; poems about history; poems reflecting the inner sense of envoys living far away from their homeland. These major themes created unique characteristics and values for envoy poetry. However, there was very blurry boundary between these topics, they were very often encompassed in one composition. In envoy poetry, couplet poem is an important part. It is important to acknowledge that during a thousand year of self-sufficient feudal regime, the Chinese imperial courts always considered our country as a barbarian tribe. Therefore, envoy dispatch created an opportunity for our ancestors to affirm the well-established independence, cultural identity and historical tradition of the Dai Viet nation. The couplet poems demonstrated the unique Vietnamese culture. These poems featured optimistic spirit, words were well-chosen while emotions and attitude were very well-presented. They revealed free and open soul of the authors, who showed faith and pride while introducing their nation. Poems featuring natural scenes played a key part in envoy poetry. On their way to China to present tributes, Vietnamese envoys were mesmerized by Chinese beautiful scenery, which was mirrored in their poems naturally. The nature in these verses could be an apricot branch seen on Duu Linh mountain, the flock of wild goose spreading their wings over Linh Nam mountain range, moon light over Han river, Hoang Hac tower, Ti Ba temple, Tieu Tuong river, Tam Duong water wharf. . . In addition to verses praising Chinese natural beauty, Vietnamese envoys also demonstrated their immense love for their homeland by comparison the nature of the North. Although the Vietnamese nature in these verses were just the images which the envoy poets revived in their memory, its beauty was incomparable because it was featured by the nostalgic envoys who were far away but never stopped loving their homeland. Poems about history accounted for considerable volume. They featured history, made commentary and evaluation of certain historic figures or historical events using literary images and poetic language. As such, the authors presented their worldview and life philosophy. The envoy poets also expressed their nostalgia and empathy for the past as well as their thoughts and concerns about life. That is why, featuring history remained a unique feature of envoy poetry. Poems reflecting the inner sense of nostalgic envoys have always been emotional for the depth and authenticity of the feelings they reveal. These lyrical verses demonstrate clearly the characteristics of literary art in diplomatic/functionality literature. Poets reveal their true selves through verses – their joys, longings, pride, and even homesick. All these feelings were denoted emotionally and truthfully. The constant nostalgia for the homeland always stood out in these compositions. The feeling of the nostalgic envoys/poets was mirrored in different tones and nuances: sometimes it was the sorrow and loneliness being away from their loved ones, friends and home; other times it was the pride for the national history to an extent that Chinese landscapes only reminded them of their home country. And so, the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful China, the formal royal reception, the hearty diplomatic feasts could not compensate for the nostalgia. None of that could prevent the poets from longing to be home again. Therefore, the envoys always experienced 84 Vietnam’s Diplomatic “spiritually in the southern land while physically in the north” (Ngo Nhan Tinh). They kept tossed and turned as “in every single dream at night, they never stop missing home” (Phung Khac Khoan). The inner sense of each envoy reflected in their verses brought envoy poetry authentic, touching and rich feelings. 3. Conclusion With two sub-categories above, diplomatic poetry became a separate genre, which forms part of the unique composition of the Middle Age poetry. Through welcome/farewell poetry and Vietnamese envoy poetry, readers can have a closer look at diplomatic relations in the old times as well as the national history. Diplomatic poetry of the X – XIX centuries has contributed to the recreation of life in theMiddle Age. Along with other historical documents, diplomatic poetry enriches the history. REFERENCES [1] Dao Phuong Binh, Pham Thieu, 1993.Diplomatic Poem. Social Sciences Publishing House, Ha Noi. [2] Nguyen Cong Ly, 2011. The Diplomatic Poem during the Middle Ages of Vietnam about Hunan’s landscapes and the case of Nguyen Trung Ngan. Presented at the International Conference on "Cultural Relations, Vietnamese-Chinese Literature". [3] Multiple Authors, 1981. "Dong A Spirit in Diplomatic Poems during Tran Dynasty, Vietnamese literature on the road against invasions of Feudal Chinese, Literature Institute. Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi. [4] Multiple Authors, 1981. Vietnamese literature on on the road against invasions of Feudal Chinese. Institute of Literature, Social Sciences Publishing House, Ha Noi. [5] Tran Thi Bang Thanh, Pham Thi Tu Chau, 1974. Aspects of diplomatic poetry of the Tran dynasty during the communication with the Yuan Dynasty". Journal of Literature, No. 6, Pg.15 - 28. [6] Tran Nho Thin, 2012. Vietnam Literature from 10th century to the end of the 19th century. Education Publishing House, Ha Noi. [7] Wu Zai Zhao, 2006. Sino-Vietnamese diplomatic poetry in the exchange of Vietnam and Chinese culture in the history of the Middle Age. International Conference "Vietnamese literature in the context of regional and international cultural exchanges", Literature Institute. 85
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