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Vietnamese Epic National Poem: THE TALE OF KIEU

Original Title in Vietnamese: Doan Truong Tan Thanh
By Author: Nguyen Du 
About the Book
This is the story of a young lady named Vuong Thuy Kieu. Kieu was very beautiful and learned as well. She was born into a well-educated family, and she was in love with a young man, Kim Trong. Then disaster fell on her family. Her father and her brother were imprisoned. In order to solve the family's problem, she had no choice but to sell herself. From then on, catastrophe after catastrophe fell on her. She had to follow her fate: being cheated, two times being held in a pleasure house (whorehouse) as a singer, concubine, servant.
We may say this is a sad story of a talented lady who had bad fate. In this story Nguyen Du wanted to tell us through the fate of Kieu to be widened into the fate of human beings in the wicked feudal society along with its cruelties and injustice. He wanted to scream out loud, a scream that breaks our heart. Thus the title of the story DOAN THANH TAN THANH, or as it is more popularly known, KIEU's STORY.

Nguyen Du's inspiration:

Nguyen Du tried to explain to us that disaster that befell Kieu is the conflict between talent and fate [See opening lines of the story]. Kieu had to endure a lot of suffering and hardship because she is beautiful and talented. The more you are talented, the more bad luck may strike you.
To Nguyen Du to settle this conflict, the matter of the heart must come into being. By the end he wrote that the heart is three times more important than the talent. The inspiration of Nguyen Du's was the inspiration of considering men's fate. How could men live in a society full of injustice and cruelties? Kieu was built in the image of perfection, she was the essence of desirability by men. Kieu was not only beautiful, she was also talented.  
In one word she was the perfect combination of beauty and talent. Such a lady must have a good life with happiness but because she was living in an unjust, cruel,wicked society, all that she got was turning against her and she fell victim to a disaster that destroyed her. Kieu had become a victim of the society. But she never accepted her fate; she was always fighting against it. There was a rebel in Thuy Kieu. We may say that the more she fought the more she failed, and as she became aware of her fate, her failure became more bitter. 

Nguyen Du was writing Kieu's story with his blood and his tears.

The Kieu Story and the Vietnamese People

  • 6/8 verses are popular and easy to understand
  • The Kieu story is a masterpiece that every Vietnamese knows
  • In conversation we refer to citations from KIEU
  • In life every event that happens may refer to a part of Kieu's story
  • KIEU may be used as a book to predict the future (on the first day of the year - Boi Kieu)

Extract from THE TALE OF KIEUVietnam's Epic National Poem: "Truyen Kieu"                                    by NGUYEN DU (1766-1820)


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