AN OVERVIEW OF VIETNAM'S TREASURE OF FOLK FUNNY STORIES
NGUYEN CHI BEN*
The first person who used the term funny story in Vietnam, was perhaps Mr. Dang Thai Mai, an outstanding researcher. He used it in his article Human significance in funny stories carried in the Review Tri Tan in three issues of 81, 82 and 83 in 1943. However, not until the 1960s that the term “funny story” was established as the name of a folk genre of narrative story in the treasure of Vietnamese folk literature. Before 1943 and in the following years, terms like funny story, punch, anecdote, laugh, smile, funny folk tale, joyful story, sadness relieving story, satirical story often appeared in collections of funny stories of different authors.
That is why when identifying names of funny stories, we meet with several terms such as joke discussion, satirical story, funny story and punch. The term funny story is mostly used. In the Literature Dictionary, when defining the term, Associate Professor Chu Xuan Dien wrote: "It is also called humourous stories (meaning forest of laughs) which is one of the narrative genres representing the school of folk humour consisting of types of story different in depicted targets and humour. In Vietnamese folk funny stories, they are humourous and satirical stories."(1) Humourous stories is not exactly a separate funny story. That name is used to call funny stories in general either humourous or satirical. So, at first, humourous stories had a broad sense and was not necessary a "vulgar story" as commonly understood. In common concept, humourous stories is humorous, satirical and vulgar. We accept that concept." (2)
* Asst. Prof. Dr. Institute of Culture and Information.
1 Many authors. The Social Science Publishing House, Hanoi, 1984, Vol.2, p. 454
2 Folk literature, The Ministry of Higher Education and Vocational Training, Hanoi, Vol. 2, p. 206
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That is why, the term "funny story" is accepted in all recent projects of collection and research on folklore (3). There has not been agreement among folklore researchers about classification of funny stories. Authors of the book “History of Vietnamese literature” (4) of the Pedagogy University divided funny stories into three categories: humorous story, satirical story and “truyen humourous stories”. Professor Dinh Gia Khanh and professor Chu Xuan Dien , in their book “Folklore literature” (5) divided funny stories into two types humorous story and satirical story. They identified “humourous stories stories” are humorous stories and satirical stories containing vulgar elements. In the textbook The Vietnamese Folklore Literature (6) of Prof.Dr. Le Chi Que, Associate Prof. Vo Quang Nhon and Associate Prof. Nguyen Hung Vi divided funny stories into two categories “ humorous and satirical stories. They also divided satirical stories into two sub-groups: friendly satirical stories and satirical stories about enemies. Associate Professor Hoang Tien Tuu, in the book The Vietnamese Folklore Literature maintained that folk funny stories mean humourous stories, humorous story and satirical story. Commenting on the categorization of funny stories, Prof.Dr. Kieu Thu Hoach said”. In our country, categorisation of Funny stories is still a controversial issue.” (7)
In general, based on the objectives of story makers, funny stories are divided into two categories: humorous stories and satirical stories. As far as story makers are concerned, there are funny stories produced by individual, and funny stories produced by collectives. In these cases, the producers are different. Individual make funny stories. There are cases where story makers are all members of a village and where funny stories are circulated.
As compared with other genres of folklore of Vietnam, funny stories was collected and studied later.*
1. From the 10th to 19th centuries, given the concept saying that funny stories were only for entertainment and were made by lower casts in society, scholars did not considered collection of funny stories their objectives. In that period, only some Chinese books recorded funny stories. The book Cong du tiep ky tuc bien of
3 According to Prof. Dr. Kieu Thu Hoach, this term is equal to the term tieu tho¹i
4 Vol.1, 3rd edition, 1970 The Educational Publishing House.
5 The Higher Education and Vocational Training Publishing House, Hanoi, vol1 (1972) and vol.2 (1973)
6 The Bookshelf of DHDT, Hanoi, 1990.
7 In the article “Some Issues in Studying Funny Stories”, Literature Review, 2nd edition, 1999, p.27
* Reference: an article of Vu Mai Hoang, Op.cit.
An Overview of Vietnam’s Treasure … 15
Tran Quy Nha (8) was revised on the basis of the book Cong du tiep ky tien bien of Vu Phuong De. Cong du tiep ky ( which means anecdotes written during free time) was produced by Vu Phuong De in 1975 and supplemented by Tran Qui Nha. Among the 7 categories identified by Tran Qui Nha, Mong ky-Phu tap ky consisted of stories very close to funny stories. The part included 18 stories numbered from 33 to 50. Stories numbered 33, 41, 43 and 45 contained humorous elements.
The book “Son cu tap thuat” of Dan Son written in late 18th century has two funny stories: Khanh thuong (Mean trader) numbered 28 and “Dich quan hoi” (The Association of mandarin exchange).
In the 19th century, the book Van nang tieu su which included short stories in Chinese written by Pham Dinh Duc (9) recorded and edited. According to Vu Mai Hoang (10), Van nang tieu su included original text in 5 volumes with 103 stories. Its appendix had 5 articles and 2 forewords. The 6th story (Greedies results in difficulties) and the 19th story (Human head, animal voice) of the 2nd volume, the 4th story (Physician and sorcerer play joke on each other), the 6th story (Greedies, anger and stupidity), the 7th story (Greedy) and the 12th story (A quick-minded bad soldier) of the 4th volume were the stories collected and included in books of funny stories by folklore researchers.
In the early 20th century, a book of funny stories in Chinese-transcribed Vietnamese was printed in 1916. Its origin was kept by Phuc An. It was new humourous stories (or Telling humourous stories). The first volume included 29 stories and the second volume included 18 stories dealing with different contents and targets. It is noticeable that 14 funny stories with vulgar elements appeared in the book.
Under the French rule, the book which started the process of collecting funny stories in national language was Humorous stories of J.J.B. Truong Vinh ky was published in 1882 (edition of the C.Guill et Martinon book shop). The book included 38 stories collected by Truong Vinh Ky and were told in a natural literary style. The language was the daily used language of Southern Vietnam in late 19th century. It is possible to say that the book is the first brick that laid the foundation to the collection and publication of funny stories in national language latter on.
8 According to Nguyen Dang Na, the article Tuc cong du tiep ky, author and work, Han Nom Review, 2nd edition, 1989 and the book Van xuoi tu su Vietnam trung dai, the Educational Publishing House, 2nd edition, Hanoi 2001, p.397-404, the book named Tuc cong du tiep ky and its author is Tran Tro.
9 He was born in 1849, passed baccalaureate, one assumed the post of district education officer and mandarin
10 In the article Collection and editing folklore sunny stories of the Vietnam: from the beginning to the late 20th century in the book A century of collection and study of folklore, The association of folklore.
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In 1886, A.Landes published the book Contes et legends annamites (L’ imprimerie colonial Publishing House, Sai Gon). The part of funny stories are one of the three parts: legends, tales and funny stories. With 22 funny stories, A.Landes made a great contribution to the collection of folk funny stories.
In 1888, Truong Vinh Ky published the book. Interesting and useful stories collected from stories of the past (edition of ADG shop, Bock). It had 40 funny stories among 74 stories in the book.
In 1895, Huynh Tinh Cua published the book Tedium-relieving stories (11). The book was written with an aim of reducing tedium, for enjoyment. However, it included many folktales. Only 1 story was later collected by Vuong Hong Sen and put into his book Funny stories of the past. That was the story Ky vien story.
In the 20th century, more books of funny story, humorous story and humorous stories were published. In 1910, the book “Doi co ky quan” edited by Mr. Dang Le Nghi and published by the Phat Toan Publishing House included 42 stories with some funny stories. They were the 10th story (What is done by night appears by day), the 22nd story (Frog breaks pot), and the 40th story (Ginger treat bon don illness) (12). In 1912, Phung Hoang Sang announced the book “Humourous stories” published by the Phat Toan Publishing House. This was a continuation of the flow of Truong Vinh Ky’ Funny stories, a collection of high quality. (13)
In 1913, Tran Phong Sac edited the book Humorous stories (Imprimerie commerciale C. Ardin, 1913. it consisted of 2 volumes. The first volume has 98 funny stories, and the second volume had 66. This book included a large number of funny stories as compared with previous edition. It was noticeable that the author used the language of daily life of Southern Vietnam in the early 20th century.
In 1913, in Hanoi, Han Khanh published the book “Humour” (printed by the Mac Dinh Chi Printing House). The book had the subtitle as “story of some beautiful women and gentlemen of Vietnam in the past. It had only one funny story: Less intelligent than women.
In 1914, Phung Hoang Sang and Duong Diep published the book “Truyen tieu dam” including 50 stories. The book was printed by the Imprimerie de l’Union printing House in Sai Gon. Though the name of the book is “Truyen tieu dam” in the first part of the book, the two authors did not use this word but “humourous stories”. Their viewpoints and aims were manifested through the following verses:
11 We used the 6th edition of Khai Tri, 1960.
12 We read this stories in the book Funny Stories of the Past, Vuong Hong Sen, the Viet Huong Publishing House, 1972.
13 We used the 5th edition of the Past and present Publishing House, 1928 and collection of Vuong Hong Sen’s Funny Stories of the Past, the Viet Huong Publishing House.