Monday, September 26, 2011



by D ươ ng Đ ình Khuê

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD................................................................................PART ONE: THE PROVERBS................................................3CHAPTER I: MORAL PRECEPTS..........................................9CHAPTER II: PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS.........29CHAPTER III: SOCIOLOGICAL AND GEO-HISTORICALOBSERVATIONS....................................................................47CHAPTER IV: METEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC.........55OBSERVATIONS....................................................................55PART TWO: THE FOLK SONGS..........................................62CHAPTER V: MORAL SONGS.............................................68CHAPTER VI: ROMANTIC SONGS....................................83CHAPTER VII: INSTRUCTIONAL SONGS......................156CHAPTER VIII: SPECIAL SONGS....................................179PART THREE: THE TALES OF OLDEN TIMES..............194CHAPTER IX: INSTRUCTIONAL TALES.........................197CHAPTER X: EDUCATIONAL TALES.............................227CHAPTER XI: ENTERTAINING TALES...........................279CONCLUSION.......................................................................352
BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................................354 In 1First PagePrevious PageNext Page / 366Sections not availableZoom OutZoom InFullscreenExit FullscreenSelect View ModeView ModeSlideshowScroll ReadcastAdd a CommentEmbed & ShareReading should be social! Post a message on your social networks to let others know what you're reading. Select the sites below and start sharing.Readcast this DocumentLogin to Add a CommentShare & EmbedAdd to CollectionsDownload this Document for FreeAuto-hide: on* html div#toolbar { position: absolute; bottom: auto; }.autogen_class_views_documents_fourgen_toolbar > div#toolbar { margin-left: -505px; left: 50%; position: fixed; bottom: 0px; }* html div#exit_fs_button { position: absolute; bottom: auto; right: 0px; top: 0px; }.autogen_class_views_documents_fourgen_exit_full_screen_button > div#exit_fs_button { right: 0px; position: fixed; top: 0px; } THE VIETNAMESE FOLK LITERATURE by D ươ ng Đ ình Khuê TABLE OF CONTENTS FOREWORD................................................................................PART ONE: THE PROVERBS................................................3CHAPTER I: MORAL PRECEPTS..........................................9CHAPTER II: PSYCHOLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS.........29CHAPTER III: SOCIOLOGICAL AND GEO-HISTORICALOBSERVATIONS....................................................................47CHAPTER IV: METEOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC.........55OBSERVATIONS....................................................................55PART TWO: THE FOLK SONGS..........................................62CHAPTER V: MORAL SONGS.............................................68CHAPTER VI: ROMANTIC SONGS....................................83CHAPTER VII: INSTRUCTIONAL SONGS......................156CHAPTER VIII: SPECIAL SONGS....................................179PART THREE: THE TALES OF OLDEN TIMES..............194CHAPTER IX: INSTRUCTIONAL TALES.........................197CHAPTER X: EDUCATIONAL TALES.............................227CHAPTER XI: ENTERTAINING TALES...........................279CONCLUSION.......................................................................352BIBLIOGRAPHY...................................................................354

In my previous work, The Masterpieces of Vietnamese Literature, I endeavored to reveal to the foreign reader the wealth of our ancient written literature. Although I was determined to confine myself to the simple role of translator, I have been induced to set forth briefly the psychology of these scholars of old, their conception of life, their moral principles, their reasons for joy or sadness. They were undoubtedly theelite of our nation; nevertheless, I did not point out that their literaryworks interpreted somewhat imperfectly the very psychology of the
Vietnamese people taken as a whole. Heirs and defenders of the philosophical teachings which had come from China, the Vietnamese scholars somehow remained detached from the strong currents of ideasand feelings that stirred up the heart of the nation.

Of course, there werecontinual exchanges between the Chinese contribution and the nativethought, especially since the middle of the 18 th century; however, these were still not sufficient for the scholars’ literature to represent in itself the true Vietnam of old. Besides, the reader may have noticed that the scholars, works have been mainly concerned about metaphysical, psychological and moral subjects: family, fatherland, love, man’s destiny, the vanity of all mankind’s trifles, and so on.

Very little was written about the
Vietnamese people’s social and economic life, habits and customs. That was certainly an aristocratic attitude, but it also left a deplorable gap, fortunately filled by the folk literature. The study of the later thus promises to offer a considerable psychological and sociological interest. It is known that the folk literature includes proverbs, songs and ancient tales. What qualifies these works as folk literature?One would be tempted to answer: the anonymity of their authors,or rather their collective authorship. Nevertheless, we must realize that a proveb, a song or a tale is necessarily created first by somebody, usually anonymous, but sometimes well known too.

For example, the following proverb taken in the Gia Hu ấ n ca of Nguy ễ n Trãi:
Th ươ ng ng ườ i nh ư th ể th ươ ng thân
Have compassion for others as for yourself or the following song: G ố i r ơ m theo ph ậ n g ố i r ơ m,Có đ âu d ướ i th ấ p mà ch ồ m lên cao ?
The straw pillow has to stay in the position of a straw pillow,
How dares it jump up from its lowly position to a higher one?
taken from the L ụ c Vân Tiên by Nguy ễ n Đ ình Chi ể u.

Therefore, the main characteristic of the folk literature is that such a proverb, song or tale has fallen into the public domain, is present on all tongues, in all memories, in fact because it perfectly reflects everybody’s ideas and feelings. So, in my opinion, it would be better tor
eplace the criterion of collective creation by that of public appro- priation. I do not mean to say that the folk literature is not sometimes theresult of a collective creation, for its present wording is probably not theoriginal wording which must have undergone many modificationsthroughout the centuries.Can we date the folk literature’s works? This erudite question isextremely difficult. Some writers (particularly Tr ươ ng T ử u in his KinhThi Vi ệ t Nam) have tried to solve it by following three clues: 1. The Language: a/ The folk works containing no Sino-Vietnamese word would have dated back to prehistoric times. For instance, the following song:
L ạ y tr ờ i m ư a xu ố ng L ấ y n ướ c tôi u ố ng
L ấ y ru ộ ng tôi c ầ y,Cho đầ y n ồ i c ơ m. '
Pray Heaven let it rain
To give us water to drink
To fertilize our rice fields,
And so to fill our rice pots.

b/ In contrast, works having any Sino-Vietnamese word would date back to the Chinese domination or the succeeding independence period.
2. The psychological tendency: a/ The unsophisticated works would belong to the prehistoric period because in those ancient times the Vietnamese people lived very simply under the patriarchal or even matriarchal system, without anyconflict of interests or emotional problems. For instance, the following song:
Ông ti ể n ông tiên
Ông có đồ ng ti ề nÔng gi ắ t mái tai
Ông cài l ư ng kh ố Ông ra hàng ph ố
Ông mua mi ế ng tr ầ u
Ông nhai tóp tép,
Ông mua con chépV ề ông ă n c ơ m
Ông mua m ớ r ơ mV ề ông để th ổ i
Ông mua cái ch ổ i V ề ông quét nhà
Ông mua con gà
V ề cho ă n thócÔng mua con cóc
V ề th ả g ầ m gi ườ ng
Ông mua n ắ m h ươ ng
V ề ông cúng c ụ .

Mr. So and So is as happy as an angel He has some coins
That he puts close by his ears Or hides in his loin cloth.
He goes out into the street To buy a quid of betel
That he chews noisily. He buys a carp
That he will eat with rice He buys a bundle of straw
To be burnt in the kitchen. He buys a broom
To sweep his house He buys a chicken
That he wil feed with unhusked rice. He buys a toad
To be released under his bed. He buys a stick of incense
To be burnt on the altar of his ancestors.

b/ With the Chinese domination Confucianism was introduced into Vietnam. It is a rationalist philosophy preaching an authoritative regimein society and family, and the supremacy of reason over instinct. TheVietnamese people reacted with mischievous jests against this sterndiscipline so unsuited to their temperament, good-hearted and freedom-loving. The following song is an example:

Gái chính chuyên l ấ y đượ c chín ch ồ ng Vê viên b ỏ l ọ gánh g ồ ng đ i ch ơ i.
Không may quang đứ t l ọ r ơ i, Bò ra l ổ m ng ổ m chín noi chín ch ồ ng.

The virtuous woman has married nine husbandsShe kneads into balls, put them in a jar to carry with her in a basket 1 when she strolls along the streets.Unfortunately, the basket trap breaks, and down falls her jar From which crawl in turmoil her nine husbandsin nine different directions. 1 The traditional way to carry heavy loads in Nord Vietnam is by means of two baskets suspended at the ends of a six-feet long bamboo pole which the carrier balances on his left or right shoulder. c/ After freeing herself from Chinese domination, the independent Vietnam had no time to relax into a peaceful life.

Compelled to endure adeadly struggle against her too powerful Northern neighbour, she had also to expand her “vital space” southward because of her fast-growing population. Of a thoroughly peaceful nature, the Vietnamese people had thus been forced to live in a state of continuous alarm and to prepare all their sons for the battle front.

Only the privileged class, the scholarsunfit for physical exertion, and the women remained at home. The latter group therefore monopolized the economic power, and attained a much stronger position in both society and family than that allowed by the Confucianist philosophy and the moral or legal regulations that derived from it. Thus, the very important role given to women in folk tales and songs is understandable, a role that is placed rather low in both theChinese literature and the works of the Vietnamese scholars.

3. The shift in rythm in the folk songs.

Indeed, Tr ươ ng T ử u asserts that the 6/8 rythm, so charac-teristically Vietnamese, does not date back to as early as the foundationof the Vietnamese nation. Rather, it has been the result of a long metamorphosis. For instance, in the song quoted above:
L ạ y tr ờ i m ư a xu ố ng L ấ y n ướ c tôi u ố ng L ấ y ru ộ ng tôi c ầ y
Cho đầ y n ồ i c ơ m
if the first two verses are completely irrelevant to the 6/8 rythm, the third and fourth ones obviously draw nearer to it. From then on, assumesTr ươ ng T ử u: a/ The songs created on a free rythm, completely different from the 6/8one, would have appeared in the first centuries of our history;

b/ Those created on still coarse rythms but coming close to the 6/8rythm, would have appeared during the Chinese domination; c/ Those created on the 6/8 rythm would have dated back to the period after national independence. As this is not intended to be an erudication work, no discussions of the above theory will follow.Can we classify folk works by region?

In others words, can we tell the local origin of each work, whether it comes from the North, theCentral or the South of Vietnam? Probably, if one is patient enough. But in my opion, this erudition issue is not of any importance.One reason is that the Vietnamese are an extrememely homo- geneous people. Except for the moutainous ethnic minorities whosenumber is only a very small fraction of the population, the Vietnamesedescend from a single race which, from its Red River Delta cradle, has gradually moved southward down to the Cambodian frontiers, inrelatively recent times.

Let us briefly review the two main areas of expansion.- Gradual annexation of Champa from 1069 to 1697 by the L ý , Tr ầ n, Lêkings, and finally by the Nguy ễ n princes;- Gradual annexation of Lower Cochinchina (which was part of the Khmer kingdom) by the Nguy ễ n princes from 1708 to the arrival of the French in the middle of the 19 th century. Besides, during their southward expansion, the Vietnamese peoplebrought with them their culture, their customs, their literature, so that many proverbs and tales are found almost identical throughout the threeregions. The songs from the Center bear the particular mark of theChàm people, and those of the newly acquired South have innuendoes peculiar to that region.

What classification, then, are we going to adopt to study the folk literature? In my previous work, I discerned three great periods in theold literature: - the beginning comprising the L ý , Tr ầ n, H ồ dynasties;- the development period, during the Lê dynasty interrupted by the M ạ cinterregnum; and - the full blooming period stretching from 1740 to the beginning of the20 th century.

This classification fits the evolution of the prevalent philosophy ineach of those great historic periods, on the one hand, and the wide- spread increase of the nôm’s use in literature on the other hand.Undoubtedly, such classification would not be available for the study of folk literature, given the difficulties set forth above concerning thedating of folk works. For the same reason, a geograpraphic classi- fication must be dispensed with.

What is then to be done? First, we notice that the scholars’ literature is composed almost solely of poems, worse, poems composed on a very few rigid patterns:the Đườ ng Lu ậ t (verse of 5 or 7 words), the L ụ c Bát (alternated versesof 6 and 8 words), the Song Th ấ t L ụ c Bát (2 verses of 7 alternated with 2of 6/8), and the Ả Đ ào song.

Fortunately, the folk literature is much more diversified. 1. Avoiding the long philosophical dissertations of which the scholarsare fond, the folk writer tries to condense high rules of behavior with hisvillage’s customs, the meteorological signs from the clouds’ color or thebirds’ song.... - in short sentences, easy to memorize, most often rhymed, sometimes not, but always giving a sharp picture that holds theattention. These are proverbs. 2. To express his feelings of joy, sadness, hope, disappointments in love, family or fatherland, the folk writer uses verses always easy to be recited melodiously, or even sung in the tune of some popular melodies, with or without music.

These are songs. 3. Finally, the folk writer uses prose to express ideas and feelings in story form, his imagination being given free reign. These are tales. Thus, what distinguishes the three forms of the folk literature we just looked into is neither their form nor their substance, but the spirit inwhich they have been composed.Certainly, form may be used to distinguish the tale, always in prose, from the song and the proverb (the proverb, even if not rhymed, is always a short sentence and cannot be confused with the tale).

But thecriterion of form is not enough when we want to distinguish the song from the rhymed proverb. Indeed, it is not unusual to verify that some proverbs, listed as such in one anthology, are classified as songs inanother anthology, or vice versa.There is no difference in substance among the proverb, the song and the tale. A single topic such as friendship, can be developed at the same time by proverbs, songs and tales.

The proverb will condense in short sentences the duties of friendship, or the way, fair or unfair, inwhich friends behave toward each other. The song will exalt the joy of friendship or bemoan the false friends’ betrayals. And finally, the talewill develop a little drama, put on stage more or less actual charactersto relate some adventures which have happened to true or false friends. However, the song is often but the developed form of the proverb,or conversely the proverb is but the concise form of the song.

For instance: Proverb: Trâu c ộ t ghét trâu ă n
The yoked buffalo hates the grazing one.Song:
Trâu c ộ t thì ghét trâu ă n,Quan võ thì ghét quan v ă n dài qu ầ n.

As the fastened buffalo hates the grazing one,So does the officer hate the long-robed civil servant.

Proverb: T ố t g ỗ h ơ n n ướ c s ơ n X ấ u ng ườ i đẹ p n ế t còn h ơ n đẹ p ng ườ i.

As good wood is better than a fine coat of paint

So is a virtuous, ugly woman better than a bad beautiful one.The true criterion differentiating the three forms of the folk lit-erature is therefore the spirit which has inspired their creation. The proverb teaches; it is the voice of reason. The song moves; it is the voiceof the heart.

Finally, the tale diverts while teaching and touches thereader’s heart by adding a bit of imagination. Of course, this criterion isnot to be rigidly applied: it is easy to find in some proverbs deepaffection or indignation, as well as to find in some songs very interesting sociological information. In spite of these somewhat blurred fluctuations, I do believe that the above criterion is sound. It will guideus in the classification of proverbs, songs and tales; moreover, it will show us in which spirit we have to study them.

Last but not least, this study period - we must not forget - concernsitself only with the pre-French domination. Because of this domination,radical transformations have taken place in all domains, cultural as well as political, economic and social. -


Proverbs are short sentences, very easy to remember. How? 1. Most often, by the use of rhyme: a/ which may be two words 1 in the same sentence. These two rhymedwords’ positions are movable. Occasionally, the first word rhymes withthe second as follows:

Lo bò tr ắ ng r ă ng
To be anxious about the cow’s white teeth

The second word may also rhyme with the fourth one:
T ố t danh h ơ n lành áo
Good fame is better than fine clothes.

b/ Sometimes proverbs consist of two verses. In that case, the last wordin the first verse rhymes with the first one in the second verse:

L ấ y v ợ xem tông L ấ y ch ồ ng xem gi ố ng
Before taking a wife, inquire about her ancestors Before taking a husband, inquire about his family.

or with the third:

M ộ t mi ế ng gi ữ a làng B ằ ng m ộ t sàng xó b ế p.

A morsel eaten at the village banquet Is worth a basketful eaten in the corner of your kitchen .or the fourth:

S ố ng vì m ồ m ả Không s ố ng vì c ả bát c ơ m.

Your life depends on your ancestors’ tombs And not on the rice you eat. or with the fifth:
Bi ế t thì th ư a th ớ t 1 In general, words in the Vietnamese language are mono-syllabic - 6 -

Không bi ế t thì d ự a c ộ t mà nghe .
Speak if you know,Other wise you’d better lean on the post and listen.

or finally with the sixth word of the second verse:

M ộ t cây làm ch ẳ ng lên non Ba cây ch ụ m l ạ i nên hòn núi cao .
A lone tree cannot make a forest But three trees gathered together form a high hill.

Sometimes proverbs are not rhymed. Even then, they are easy toremember by means of two other ways: a/ by the parallelism between the two parts of the sentence:
Gi ầ u đ i ế c sang đ ui.
The rich man is deaf and the nobleman is blind.

No nên b ụ t Đ ói nên ma.
urfeited, one behaves like Buddha
Starved, one becomes a demon.

b/ or by a striking image:

Chó c ắ n áo rách
The dog barks after ragged clothes.
Máu loãng còn h ơ n n ướ c lã.
Diluted blood is better than pure water.

Ă n cháo đ ái bát .
He urinates into the bowl from which he just ate soup. It is necessary to distinguish proverbs from idioms that do notexpress a moral rule or some other observation. Idioms are ready-made phrases that come spontaneously when the common man wants toexpress an idea, for these phrases are colourful, picturesque, easilyremembered and often repetitive. For instance:About a fertile region, it is said to have: - 7 -

Ti ề n r ừ ng b ạ c b ể .
As much money as there are trees in the forest or water in the oceans .

A slanderer is compared to:
Mi ệ ng hùm, n ọ c r ắ n.
The tiger’s mouth or the snake’s venom.

To place some ill-famed fellow in the hierachy of this contemptible class, the following verdict is used: Đầ u tr ộ m đ uôi c ướ p. At the head of thieves, and at the tail of pirates. The stupid man is pitilessly mocked at in the following comparison:

D ố t đặ c cán mai.
His ignorance is as dense as a spade’s handle.

Two paramours are defined as:
Già nhân ngãi non v ợ ch ồ ng.

More than lovers and less than a married couple.
The bittersweet words exchanged between the members of adisunited family sound at times light and at times heavy:

Ti ế ng b ấ c ti ế ng chì.
Words of cork and words of lead.
and so on.An extensive study of idioms would be useful to show more fullythe numerous and very ingenious rhetoric forms used by the common people. But, as the main purpose of this work is to reveal to the foreignreader the psychology and customs of the Vietnamese people, it will beconfined to the study of proverbs.The proverb, as we know, teaches. What does it teach? First, moral precepts. Then, lessons of experience acquired from the observation of human behaviour, of sociological facts or of natural phenomena. Thereare therefore four groups of proverbs:1. Moral precepts; - 8 -

2. Psychological observations;3. Sociological observations;4. Observations of natural phenomena. - 9 -CHAPTER IMORAL PRECEPTS

F rom the large storehouse of moral precepts inherited from folk wisdom, two opposite trends emerge: one, dogmatic, with a clear relationship to the best Confucianist teaching; the other, utilitarian,derived rather from seft-interest. But we should not conclude that thedogmatic moral precepts appeared only after the introduction of Confucianism into Vietnam.

This doctrine merely codified and syste-matized moral rules in a society which had already reached some degreeof social and economic development. The ancient Vietnamese society, asthat of the ancient Chinese, subsisted on agriculture, livestock, fishingand hunting, at different technical levels. The fulfillment of thosevarious social tasks necessarily required a social organization foundedon the authority of the pater familias, the rights of ownership andinheritance, loyalty, joint responsibility, charity, and so on.

Thus, very probably, many dogmatic moral precepts actually preceded Confu-cianism rather than originated from it. It remains true, though, thatConfucianism, a broad and coherent synthesis of alrealdy existing andlater acquired ideas, had a profound influence on the Vietnamese peopleafter it was introduced into Vietnam.So, if I said beforehand that the dogmatic morals show their evidentkinship to the best Confucianist teaching,

I simply meant that theycorresponded with Confucianism rather than originated from it.1. Dogmatic Morals.Although usually illiterate, the common people greatly admired theConfucianist doctrine taught in schools, the study of which opened theway to the highest socials ranks. Their veneration was such that it became superstitious. M ộ t ch ữ thánh, m ộ t gánh vàng. A word from the holy master is equal to a load of gold. - 10 -

And if one found at home or in the streets a sheet of written paper,he would hasten to pick it up and would respectfully burn it afterwardsinstead of throwing it into the garbage can.This veneration for Confucianism was perfectly understandable because the doctrine was marvelously adjusted to the Vietnamese modeof living, and this veneration was even to increase with the great privileges granted by the monarchical regime.

It is no wonder, therefore,that the common people willingly welcomed the principal Confucianistdogmas, a brief survey of which follows.The Confucianist education aimed at teaching its disciples the art of:- improving themselves;- managing their domestic affairs;- governing their country;- pacifying the world.We will follow this order, while noting that political mattersconcerned only the scholars; the common people took almost no interestin them, as is evidenced by the following proverb:

Thành đổ đ ã có chúa xâyVi ệ c gì gái góa lo ngày lo đ êm.

If the citadel has fallen, the king must restore it.Silly is the widow who worries about it day and night .This attitude was entirely different from the scholars’:

Qu ố c gia h ư ng vong, th ấ t phu h ữ u trách.
Even the humble citizen must share responsibilityin the prosperity or decadence of his country. We will search later for the reasons behind these divergent points of view. For now, let’s confine ourselves to study, among the dogmaticmorals, only three elements:- Duties toward oneself;- Duties toward the family

;- Duties toward society. - 11 -

Duties Towards Oneself .

There are three distinct groups: the physical, the moral, and theeconomic duties.

a/ Physical duties .
“A sound mind in a sound body”, this twofold aimof Hellenic education was not achieved, we must admit, in perfect balance by our people, for whom the intellectual concerns prevail over the bodily ones. We should not look in our ancient proverbs for exhortations to sports, a field most often reserved for athletes striving for fame in military exploits. In these proverbs, only some precepts advisingcleanliness and temperance can be found. Even these disclose a preoccupation more of a moral rather than a physical nature . About cleanliness :

1- Đ ói cho s ạ ch Rách cho th ơ m.
If you be hungry, be clean, If your clothes be worn out, let them be sweet smelling.

2. Nhà s ạ ch thì mát Bát s ạ ch ngon c ơ m. A clean house is cool A clean bowl gives appetite. About temperance :
3. Ă n ít ngon nhi ề u.
Less eating, more appetite.

4. T ử u nh ậ p ngôn xu ấ t.
When alcohol goes in, words go out.

b/ Moral Duties .

Unlike the above, there are plenty of moral counsels.A careful study of these reveals the essentially intellectual tendencies of our race deeply impregnated with Confucianist and Buddhist thinkings.First, honesty:

5. Gi ấ y rách gi ữ l ấ y l ề .

The more a book is worn out, the more it must be taken care of.

- 12 -

6. T ố t danh h ơ n lành áo.

good name is better than fine clothes.

7. Trâu ch ế t để da Ng ườ i ta ch ế t để ti ế ng.
The dead buffalo leaves its skinThe dead man leaves behind his reputation.

8. S ố ng đụ c sao b ằ ng thác trong.
Better to die with honor than to live in dishonor. To achieve honesty, one should obviously start with being frank:

9. Ă n m ặ n nói ngayCòn h ơ n ă n chay nói d ố i.

To eat meat and speak frankly Is better than to fast and lie.

10. M ộ t câu nói ngay B ằ ng làm chay c ả tháng

. A sincere word is equal to a whole month of lent.

11. M ộ t l ờ i nói d ố i Sám h ố i b ẩ y ngày.
Expiating one lie Needs seven days’ repentance. Our ancestors were aware that the flesh is weak, and that the mosthonest person may be induced to bad behaviour by his passion. So theywisely recommended moderation of desires as a brake to all sinfulactivities:

12. Có hoa m ừ ng hoaCó n ụ m ừ ng n ụ .
Welcome a flower Also welcome a bud. - 13 -

That does not imply that our ancient education wanted to formeffeminate men ready to cringe before difficulties of unfairness. If it iswise to accept a modest way of living, it is cowardly to abdicate all willand perseverance.

13. Ch ớ th ấ y sông c ả Mà ngã tay chèo.
On a large river Do not panic and abandon the rudder.

14. Có chí làm quanCó gan làm gi ầ u.
He who has a strong will becomes a mandarin
He who is audacious becomes wealthy.

15. Còn n ướ c còn tát.
Keep on drawing as long as there is still water.

16. H ữ u chí cánh thành.
Success will reward your efforts.

17. Thua keo này B ầ y keo khác.
If you be beaten in a match
Try another.

18. N ướ c ch ẩ y đ á mòn.
Running water may wear down a stone.

19. Công n ợ tr ả d ầ nCháo húp quanh bát.

Debts are to be paid gradually As hot soup is to be eaten around its bowl. Will and perseverance must chiefly be applied to work andstudy:

20. Gi ầ u đ âu nh ữ ng k ẻ ng ủ tr ư a - 14 -

Sang đ âu nh ữ ng k ẻ say s ư a t ố i ngày .

Those who get up late never become richThose who are drunk day and night never stand in high social position.

21. Ă n n ễ ng ồ i không Non đồ ng c ũ ng l ở .
If you do nothing but eat Even a copper mountain of yours would be fast used up.

22. T ấ c đấ t t ấ c vàng
. An inch of land is worth an ounce of gold.

23. Hay h ọ c thì sang Hay làm m ớ i có.
By dint of study, you will be a high official
By dint of work, you will be wealthy.

24. Có đ i m ớ i đế nCó h ọ c m ớ i hay.
If you wish to be in some place, you have to go there If you wish to become a learned man, you have to study.

25. M ộ t kho vàng Không b ằ ng m ộ t nang ch ữ .
A warehouse of gold Is not worth a belly full of characters.

26. Dao có mài m ớ i s ắ c
Ng ườ i có h ọ c m ớ i khôn.
To be cutting, a knife must be sharpened To be wise, a person must study. As you acquire a great fortune through work, study or luck, it will be rapidly dissipated if you do not maintain it with caution and thrift,two essential virtues of the peasant.

27. Ki ế n tha lâu c ũ ng đầ y t ổ . - 15 -

By virtue of long work, the ant succeeds in filling up its nest.

28. Làm khi lành Để dành khi đ au.
Work while you are healthyTo protect yourself when you get sick.

29. Ă n m ắ m thì ng ắ m v ề sau.
While eating pickle, think of the coming thirst.

30. Ă n t ố i lo mai.
At dinner tonight, worry about tomorrow’s lunch. Duties Toward the Family Up to the beginnings of this century and even beyond to the greatsocial and literary revolution of the 1930’s, the Vietnamese family wasvery tightly structured.

It was not unusual to see three or four generations living under the same roof and submitting to the supremeauthority of the pater familias. Indeed, the individual was nothing in our ancient society; he could fully grow only within two communities: theone established by blood ties, i.e., the family; and the other comprisingall individuals living under the same laws and customs, which form inthe narrow sense the village and in the larger sense the fatherland.Concerning the role of parents with their children:

31. Yêu cho v ọ t Ghét cho ch ơ i.

If you love your children, whip them If you hate them, let them play.

32. Con d ạ i cái mang. The mother is responsible for her children’s misdeeds.

33. Con h ư t ạ i m ẹ Cháu h ư t ạ i bà. -

16 - It is the mother’s fault if her child is naughty And if a grandchild does not behave, it is the grandmother’s fault.

34. Công cha nh ư núi Thái S ơ nCông m ẹ nh ư n ướ c trong ngu ồ n ch ả y ra .

The father’s beneficences are as great as a giant mountain And the mother’s are as infinite as water flowing from a source.

35. Cá không ă n mu ố i cá ươ nCon c ưỡ ng cha m ẹ tr ă m đườ ng con h ư .
As unsalted fish is soon rotten,So the disobedient child will be spoiled.

Filial devotion was particularly put to the test when one wanted tomarry. The Confucianist morals indeed required a complete submissionto the parents’ decision:

36. Cha m ẹ đặ t đ âuCon ph ả i ng ồ i đấ y.
Where the parents place you,There you must sit. Nevertheless, our people’s frame of mind generally induced the parents not to violently oppose their children’s wishes:

37. Ép d ầ u ép m ỡ Ai n ỡ ép duyên.
One can squeeze oil seeds But must not impose a reluctant marriage. About duties of the wife toward her husband:

38. Thuy ề n theo lái Gái theo ch ồ ng.
Like the boat moving according to its helm,The wife must obey her husband. About duties between siblings:

39. Anh em nh ư th ể chân tay.
Siblings are as the limbs of a body. -

17 - 40. L ọ t sàng xu ố ng nia.
What goes through the sieve will gather in the winnowing basket .

(meaning that one must not worry if one brother is better off thananother, particularly in the sharing of the paternal estate)

41. Ch ị ngã em nâng Đừ ng th ấ y ch ị ngã em b ư ng mi ệ ng c ư òi .

If your sister falls down, help her up Don’t burst out laughing at her.

42. Anh em khinh tr ướ c Làng n ướ c khinh sau.
By scorning one another Brothers give their neighbours opportunity to scorn them. About duties to the extended family:

43. Máu loãng còn h ơ n n ướ c lã.
Diluted blood is thicker than pure water. (a distant cousin is better than a stranger)

44. M ộ t gi ọ t máu đ ào H ơ n ao n ướ c lã.
A drop of diluted blood Is better than a pond of clean water .(The affection of one family member is more precious than that of many strangers.)

45. S ẩ y vai cha còn chú S ẩ y m ẹ bú dì.
If your father were missing, you would still have your uncle;
If your mother were missing, your aunt would be there to feed you.

46. S ẩ y vai xu ố ng cánh tay.
What falls from the shoulders comes down to the arms.

47. Môi h ở r ă ng l ạ nh. -

18 - When the lips part, the teeth feel cold.

48. Tay đứ t ru ộ t sót.
When the hand bleeds, the bowels hurt . Duties Toward Society Nowadays, in big cities tenants in the same building are strangers toone another. It was different in the old days, when all inhabitants of avillage were well acquainted with one another and felt united. The holyduties of hospitality, charity and gratitude are losing ground more andmore in our individualistic society where man has become a wolf to hisfellowmen.

This has been the unavoidable result of the fast-paced wayof living. We can perhaps only direct a thrilling thought back to the goodold days by reading the following proverbs that would make many of our contemporaries laugh; but we are firmly convinced that these proverbs will again be honoured when our unfortunate country has gonethrough its present harsh ordeal.About humanity and charity:

49. Làm phúc c ũ ng nh ư làm gi ầ u.
By helping others, you accumulate your own wealth.

50. Mi ế ng khi đ ói B ằ ng gói khi no.
A small morsel given to a hungry man Is equal to a large parcel given when he is full.

51. Dù xây chín đợ t phù đồ Không b ằ ng làm phúc c ứ u cho m ộ t ng ườ i. Building a nine-story stupa Bears no comparison to helping an unfortunate person. About hospitality:

52. Lo ch ậ t b ụ ng Lo chi ch ậ t nhà. - 19 -

Worry about your mean heart Rather than about your narrow house. (to receive people coming to ask for hospitality)About solidarity:

53. M ộ t con sâu làm r ầ u n ồ i canh.
One sole worm ruins a whole pot of soup.

54. M ộ t con ng ự a đ auC ả t ầ u chê c ỏ .
When a horse is sick All its companions in the stable refuse to be fed.

55. Trâu ch ế t bò c ũ ng l ộ t da.
If the buffalo dies, the cow will also be skinned.

56. Ng ự a ch ạ y có b ầ yChim bay có b ạ n.
Horses run in herds And so do birds fly in flocks.

About gratitude:

57. Ă n cây nào Rào cây ấ y.
Make a fence around the treeThe fruits of which you eat.

58. Ă n qu ả nh ớ k ẻ tr ồ ng cây.
When eating a fruit, think of him who has planted its tree.

59. U ố ng n ướ c nh ớ ngu ồ n.

When drinking water, think of its source .

2. Utilitarian Morals - 20 -

Much more instructive than the dogmatic morals are the utilitarianones. Indeed, the former are only adaptations of the scholars’ teachings by the common people, whereas the latter are truly the people’s voice,the exact expression of their thoughts and feeling.

1/ Realistic Precepts.They treat all subjects. We may say that they comprise the folk wisdom encyclopedia, the vade-mecum of what we now would callPublic Relations. Let us try to pick up some aphorisms. Nothing is more ridiculous or hateful than the ass believing itself to be a phoenix. Our ancestors understood it, and explained to the youth:

60. Khôn cho ng ườ i rái D ạ i cho ng ườ i th ươ ng D ở d ở ươ ng ươ ng Ch ỉ t ổ ng ườ i ghét.
The wise is admired And the ignorant may get sympathy, But the fool who doesn’t know he is a fool Makes himself hated by everybody.

The choice of your future husband is an important decision onwhich depends the happiness or misfortune of your whole life. As such,you must give it your most careful attention

. 61. L ấ y v ợ xem tông L ấ y ch ồ ng xem gi ố ng.

Before taking a wife, inquire about her ancestors; Before taking a husband, inquire about his family.

62. Dâu d ữ m ấ t h ọ ,Chó d ữ m ấ t láng gi ề ng.

A naughty daughter-in-law alienates the family; A naughty dog keeps away the neighbourhood. 63. N ồ i nào vung ấ y. To each boiler its lid. - 21 -

(one must marry someone of the same social rank) 64. Cái n ế t đ ánh ch ế t cái đẹ p. Virtue is more valuable than beauty. Now, you have to manage your family gently but firmly. Thesimplest way to success is to begin as early as possible:

65. U ố n cây t ừ th ủ a còn non D ậ y con t ừ th ủ a hãy còn th ơ ngây.

A branch is to be bent when it is still tender A child is to be educated when he is still young.

66. D ậ y con t ừ th ủ a còn th ơ D ậ y v ợ t ừ th ủ a b ơ v ơ m ớ i v ề .

As a child is to be educated when he is still young So is your wife when you have just married her. You have to manage your own life. To guide you, nothing is better than experience:

67. Có d ạ i m ớ i nên khôn .

From past mistakes comes wisdom.

68. H ọ c b ấ t nh ư hành.

Theoretical learning is not as valuable as practical experience.

69. Tr ă m hay không b ằ ng tay quen.

Experience outruns study.

70. Đ i m ộ t ngày đ àng H ọ c m ộ t sàng khôn .
A day’s journeySupplies a basketful of wisdom.

71. H ơ n m ộ t ngày Hay m ộ t ch ướ c . An extra day of life Brings experience. - 22 -

72. B ẩ y m ươ i h ọ c b ẩ y m ươ i m ố t .

A seventy-year old has something to learn from a seventy-one-year old. Experience will give you a thousand useful recipes for success inlife. Do you feel weak standing by yourself? Solidarity with others maygive you strength:

73. M ộ t cây làm ch ẳ ng nên non Ba cây ch ụ m l ạ i nên hòn núi cao
. A lone tree cannot make a forest But three trees gathered together form a high hill.

74. Khôn độ c không b ằ ng ng ố c đ àn.

A lone wise man is worth less than a bunch of fools.

75. M ạ nh ờ n ướ c N ướ c nh ờ m ạ .
Young rice plants need water (to grow)Water needs young rice plants (to remain cool). Indiscriminate association may be foolish because:

76. Ở b ầ u thì tròn Ở ố ng thì dài.
In a gourd one becomes round And long in a pipe.

77. G ầ n m ự c thì đ enG ầ n đ èn thì sáng.
Near ink one blackens oneself Near a lamp there is light.
78. G ầ n l ử a rát m ặ t.
Standing near the fire, you may burn your face.

79. H ọ c th ầ y không t ầ y h ọ c b ạ n .
One learns from friends more than from the teacher. - 23 -

Above all, be cautious in your speech: 80. Tai vách m ạ ch r ừ ng. Walls have ears, and forests have fissures. 81.
Ă n có nhai Nói có ngh ĩ .

Chew slowly while eating,Think over while speaking.

82. M ộ t l ờ i nói, m ộ t gói vàng M ộ t l ờ i nói, m ộ t gói t ộ i.
A word may be a piece of gold or a sin.

83. Ă n b ớ t bát Nói b ớ t l ờ i.
Eat fewer bowls (servings of rice)Speak fewer words.

84. Ă n l ắ m thì h ế t mi ế ng ngon Nói l ắ m thì h ế t l ờ i khôn hóa r ồ .

From eating too much, food is no longer appetizing From speaking too much, wise words become foolish ones.

85. Bi ế t thì th ư a th ố t Không bi ế t thì d ự a c ộ t mà nghe .

Speak if you know;Otherwise, you’d better lean on the post and listen. 86. Đ a ngôn đ a quá. Much speaking, much erring.

87. Ch ử i cha không b ằ ng pha ti ế ng .
To caricature someone’s voice is worse than to insult his father. Be careful also about your acts: 88. Cái s ẩ y n ẩ y cái ung.

A scractch easily becomes an abscess. interests.


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