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A Vietnamese Catholic culture

When I was a child of six or seven, I often used to amuse myself by leafing through the enormous French mail order catalogue, the Manufacture d'armes et de cycles de Saint Etienne. All sorts of things enchanted my imagination.
 
But I always flipped quickly through the pages featuring crucifixes, her. rifled by the sight of the blood-stained figure of Jesus. Many of my young friends shared the same feeling. This shows how much the Vietnamese, from childhood, feel alienated by the God of the Westerners.
 
It was only later, at the lycée, that I discovered the beauty of this religion through my reading of Le Génie du Christianisme by Chateaubriand.
 
Why is it that, ever since its implantation in this country in the 17th century, Catholicism has never been able to acquire a national character, unlike Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism which were also imported religions?
 
First of all, because of its intransigence, which refuses to admit divinities other than its own and bans the ancestor worship so deeply rooted in the Vietnamese soul. In addition, Vietnamese Catholicism is marked by an “original sin”: it is thought to be anti-national. As early as the period of French conquest the cross had served ,the sword; throughout the time of colonial rule and the two wars of liberation, the Church was on the side of the foreigner.
 
For several decades now, clear-minded Christian intellectuals and prtem have been striving to integrate their community into the great national family. At the end of the American war, the declaration of reconciliation made by the archbishop of Sai Gon in 1975 marked a turning-point for Christianity in Viet Nam.
 
It is time that non-Catholic Vietnamese should be aware of the Catholic cultural contributions to the national patrimony. There is a dearth of both in-depth studies and popular works on this subject. But a Catholic culture exists, marked by great names and important works.
 
ỉn the field of politics, Nguyen Truong To (1828-1871) is well known as a Confucian scholar, a learned patriot whose mind was open to Western Ideas, ỉn the face of the French conquest, he recommended judicious reforms with a view to modernization. Had his recommendations been adopted by the royal court, Viet Nam would have known another destiny.
 
In architecture, there is the stone cathedral built by Father Six at Phat Diem (Ninh Binh) bearing a strong traditional imprint.
 
In art, the painter Le Van De (1906-1966) made a name for himself for the frescoes he painted at the Vatican, and for his magnificent lacquer and silk paintings which ally Western Perspective to oriental art.
 
In literature, Han Mac Tu (1912-1940) heralded the movement of “New Poetry” in the 1930’s through his works tinged with symbolism and mysticism. Attempts at translation of the Bible have enriched and made more flexible the Vietnamese language.
 
In addition there are liturgical hymns in Vietnamese, parish brass bands which popularize Western music, and saints’ feast days with their regional pomp - so many contributions to popular culture.
 
Learn more about Vietnamese Catholic culture through Vietnam and Cambodia in 2 weeks
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Update : 14-07-2017

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