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Seven Vietnamese Figures Celebrated by UNESCO

by Zhu Ru
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The UNESCO General Conference has passed a resolution on the list of eminent personalities and historical events commemorated, including the 300th anniversary of the birth of talented Vietnamese medical herbalist Hải Thượng Lãn Ông Lê Hữu Trác.

Over the years, seven Vietnamese figures have been celebrated by the UN culture agency in this way, including the 600th birthday of Nguyễn Trãi (approved in 1980), the 100th birthday of President Hồ Chí Minh (1990), the 250th birthday of poet Nguyễn Du (2015), the 650th death anniversary of scholar Chu Văn An (2019), the 200th birthday of poet Nguyễn Đình Chiểu (2021), and the 250th birth and 200th death anniversaries of poetess Hồ Xuân Hương (2021).

Lê Hữu Trác, saint of herbal medicine 

The statue of the renowned herbal doctor Hải Thượng Lãn Ông erected in Hà Tĩnh Province. Photo dientudacam.vn

Lê Hữu Trác (1724-91), alias Hải Thượng Lãn Ông, hailed from the northern province of Hưng Yên.

He was not only a great herbal doctor, but also an excellent poet and writer, and a progressive thinker with a profound humanitarian spirit. After passing away, he was honoured as the “Patron Saint of Medicine in Việt Nam”. 

He left a large number of works, which reflect his deep knowledge, progressive thought, and morality, and set a bright example in medical ethics and practice for generations. For these reasons, he is considered one of the fathers of Việt Nam’s traditional medicine.

Nguyễn Trãi, man of culture

Nguyễn Trãi is considered one of the greatest literary figures in Vietnamese history. Illustrative picture courtesy of Thăng Long – Hanoi Heritage Conservation Centre.

Nguyễn Trãi (1380-1442) was a prominent Vietnamese poet, scholar, and statesman during the early 15th century. He is considered one of the greatest literary figures in Vietnamese history.

He played a significant role in the political and cultural landscape of Việt Nam during the Lê Dynasty.

He is best known for his poetry, which is characterised by its eloquence, depth, and patriotic themes. His most famous work is the epic poem Bình Ngô Đại Cáo (Great Proclamation upon the Pacification of the Wu), which celebrates the successful war of resistance against the Chinese Ming invaders and the restoration of Vietnamese independence. He is revered as a national hero and a symbol of Vietnamese literary and intellectual excellence.

Hồ Chí Minh, national liberation hero

UNESCO honours President Hồ Chí Minh as a Hero of National Liberation and a Great Man of Culture of Việt Nam. VNA/VNS File Photo

At the General Conference of UNESCO in 1987, President Hồ Chí Minh (1890-1969) was hailed as “an outstanding symbol of national affirmation, who devoted his whole life to the national liberation of the Vietnamese people, contributing to the common struggle of peoples for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress”. 

For the Vietnamese nation, President Hồ is a genius leader and a hero of national liberation, a great teacher of the Vietnamese revolution, an outstanding diplomat and the inspiration for the confidence in the victory of the struggle for national independence and people’s prosperity.

For people around the world, the president is a close and loyal friend, a symbol of the aspiration for peace and the struggle against oppression and inequity, and an emissary of peace, solidarity, friendship, and cooperation among nations.

Nguyễn Du, celebrated poet

The statue of celebrated poet Nguyễn Du in Hà Tĩnh Province. Photo laodong.vn

Prominent Vietnamese poet and World Cultural Celebrity Nguyễn Du, also known as Tố Như and Thanh Hiên, was born on January 3, 1766, to a noble family in Thăng Long (former name of Hà Nội).

His literary masterpiece Truyện Kiều (The Tale of Kiều) is regarded as the most significant literary classic of Việt Nam. The work has been translated into more than 20 languages and is cherished for its creativity, independent thinking and distillation of Vietnamese culture.

Throughout the poem, Du depicted the beauty of true love and loyalty, and the unyielding hope for justice.

Chu Văn An, eminent educator

The great teacher of Việt Nam’s education – Chu Văn An. Photo courtesy of Hà Nội’s Department of Culture and Sports

Chu Văn An (1292 -1370) is considered a brilliant educator of Việt Nam, who devoted his life to the humanistic education philosophy regardless of his students’ wealth, teaching that learning goes hand in hand with practice, and lifelong learning contributes to society.

His thoughts not only affected multiple generations of Vietnamese but also contributed to the development of humanistic values in the region. His educational perspective has progressive values, close to the modern values that UNESCO summarised as “learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be human”.

Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, great patriot, poet

The portrait of Nguyễn Đình Chiểu by painter Thanh Xuân

Nguyễn Đình Chiểu (1822-88) was born in Bình Dương District, Gia Định Province (now District 1, HCM City).

The blind poet was not only known for his nationalist and anti-colonial writings against French colonialism of Cochinchina and his exemplary teaching, but also a popular medical practitioner. He is a shining example for people with disabilities around the world. Despite his blindness, he studied Confucianism and herbal medicine with his relatives.

His typical work of Lục Vân Tiên (The Tale of Lục Vân Tiên) is an epic poem written in nôm (the ancient Vietnamese ideographic script) in the 1850s. It is regarded as one of the two most recognisable and influential epic poems in Vietnamese history, besides The Tale of Kiều.

His poems tell us about the people’s worries in wartime, their war injuries and losses.

Hồ Xuân Hương, ‘The Queen of Nôm poetry’

A portrait of Hồ Xuân Hương, painted by Lê Lam.

Hồ Xuân Hương (1772-1822), whose name means “Spring Essence”, is also one of the most Vietnamese prominent poets.

Born into feudalism, which disregarded the role of women, she became renowned for her poetic skills, especially for her subtly risqué poems which used double-entendres and sexual innuendos to comment on several social, religious and political issues.

A concubine, she had the courage to mention many topics that were taboo for women at that time.

Source: Vietnam Net

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