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Folklore and the national culture
14/3/2007 10:7' Send Print

Culture, including folklore is the product of social development at a certain level. However, after taking shape, culture will again influence the society as the “spiritual foundation of the society”, and “the motivation and objective of social development”.

Vietnam is a Southeast Asian country, which has its own folklore with a special trait. This is the oral cultural tradition, which is different from both China and India who have a written cultural tradition. Vietnam’s folklore was formed and developed very long ago, originating from primitive society. In the sovereign feudal time while the scholarly, professional and court culture was formed and developed, folklore still existed and played an important role in the development of Vietnam’s culture and society, particularly among the working masses.

Vietnam’s historical and social tradition defined special characteristics of the national culture. Village culture was dominant over urban culture, oral culture prevailed over written culture, conduct was based on sentiment rather than reason, and patriotism was the axis of Vietnam’s ideology where the national cultural values were produced and integrated.

In this general setting, we can see the prominent role of folklore in the national culture and social life.

1 – Folklore as the root of national culture

It is often said that folklore is “the root of national culture”, “the original culture”, and “the mother culture”. This means folklore is closely connected to the nation’s long-standing history and is the source, which generates and fosters the national culture.

2 – Folklore and the nation’s cultural identity

Cultural identity can be understood as the core factor which forms the national identity, and again the national identity will create the nation’s strong will or vitality and experiences. Thanks to it, a nation can exist and steadily prosper against the harsh challenges of history. Cultural identity generalises all the special traits of the national culture. This culture has been formed, has existed and has been developed during the nation’s long history creating sustainable, everlasting, abstract and potential special characteristics. Cultural identity can be defined only through many nuances, which manifest it. Cultural identity is something abstract, hidden and sustainable, while cultural nuances are often concrete, exposed and variable.

From this general view we can look at the diverse nuances of Vietnam’s cultural identity such as patriotism, community spirit, and openness, harmony and adaptability in cultural exchange, affection in social conduct, and adjustment and friendliness in the treatment of nature.

3 – Folklore as the value system and symbol of national culture

Folklore and its value system and symbols have established a folk consciousness and national soul, which regulate the people’s behaviour, sentiments and wishes. So efforts to foster the national soul and sentiment and to build and consolidate national symbols must stem from folklore.

In the current globalisation process, more than ever before, we must conserve, enrich and promote the nation’s cultural identity, considering it as the ID card in the processes of international integration and exchanges. It is necessary to see the role of folklore as the root, identity, value system and symbol of national culture.

Ngo Duc Thinh