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Preserving and promoting the character of national culture
18/8/2007 9:47' Send Print

For centuries, the character of the national culture has been its strong vitality which has helped the Vietnamese people to overcome many difficulties and challenges and grow in strength. Realizing the important significance of the national character, the Vietnamese Communist Party has issued a number of directives and resolutions in order to mobilize both internal and external resources to preserve and promote the character of the national culture in response to the development needs of society and the people in the process of accelerating industrialization and modernization and international economic integration.

Return to the character of national culture

Culture is an extremely valuable heritage which has been descended down from generation to generation. Culture appears in all aspects of social life: emotional culture, exchange culture, business culture, oral culture etc. Culture is the treasure of the nation in the process of international integration.

Understanding fully and comprehensively the concept of culture is not a simple matter. There are a number of concepts as different individuals have different perceptions about culture. Some assume that culture includes material culture and spiritual culture, and that culture is the joining of separate material and spiritual features. Intellect and emotion determine the nature of a society or a group of people in society. Some others view that culture, in a broad sense, is the whole spiritual life of society, and includes eight aspects: ideas, morals, life-style, education and training, science and technology, literature and art, cultural exchange, public information, cultural institutions, and cultural life. In a narrow sense, it includes way of life, life-style, literature and art, public information, publication and newspapers, customs and practice, social morals and cultural professions.

Access to culture from different angles gives rise to a different understanding of culture. President Ho Chi Minh – a world well-known cultural man, the great leader of the Vietnamese people, said that: “for the existence and as the purpose of life, mankind became creative and invented languages, writing, morality, law, science, religion, literature and art, and made tools for daily life to make food, clothes and housing and methods of using such tools. All this creativeness and inovation are culture. Thus, creative labor is the source and starting point of culture. To make it a true culture, all creation should be geared toward humane values, the improvement of awareness and personality. These valuable values significantly contribute to the formation of the particular character of each nation and/or community.

For the Vietnamese Communist Party, culture is a practical part of social life. It has its own rules of development, of which the national natue is the basic feature of the culture reflecting the relationship between the nation and the culture in the context of how the nation has been formed. The internal forces of a nation are indeed, on the one hand, the great man power while on the other hand the tradition and character of that nation which is crystalized and developed over time.

National nature is an important feature upon which the Vietnamese Communist Party has always considered the forefront issue as it is the core nature of the national culture. National nature is the fundamental basis for an advanced culture which is formed from the internal forces for the construction of a strong country and sustainable development. The national character of the culture is the product of the development of national nature. Our history witnessed various glorious struggles and many sacrifices against foreign invaders for the protection and maintenance of national cultural character. Today, many overseas Vietnamese people desire to return to their native, motherland to access and imbue themselves in national cultural character once again.

The national character is the core of the culture. Over the centuries, the national cultural character has been the vitality which has helped the Vietnamese people to overcome many difficulties and challenges and grow in strength and constantly develop. This is the solid and sound “fulcrum” for the Vietnamese people to open to the world. National nature is the core component of culture, the national character of culture is the most typical symbol of culture and/or the sustainable value of a nation. It is the unique quintessence of the Vietnamese culture. This can be particularity observed in the lifestyle, way of dressing, customs and practice, festivals, faith and the treasure of popular culture.

The character of Vietnamese national culture includes sustainable values, the quintessences of ethnics that members of the Vietnamese nation have nurtured over thousands of years in the struggle for national construction and protection. It has been handed down but further built up from generation to generation through different developments in our history. Thus, it is the crystallization of the most special and beautiful elements of all the ethnics of the Vietnamese nation. It has been sustained throughout our history and has been the adhesive that has united the Vietnamese community together for the common existence and development. One can see the national character of the culture in the deep patriotism, spirit of relying on national strength, unity, the sense of associating together the individual, family, village and the nation, charity and lenience, sticking to moral principles, industriousness and creativeness in labor, subtlety in behavior and simplity in life.

Vietnamese people are very patriotic, and defiant towards the enemies, and united in their struggle to protect national sovereignty and independence. This is an expression of the national spirit, the awareness of protecting an preserving every thing belonging to the Vietnamese nation. The Vietnamese people have struggled against their enemies using every means that they have such as weapon and culture. Through the revolutionary stages, culture has always been considered part of the armoury. Culture was used as an deadly weapon when struggling against their enemies. Along with the national character, culture has successfully promoted the effectiveness of the national struggle.

Culture and nation are two different categories but closely associated with each other as the difference between nations is the difference in culture. The character of each nation is essentially reflected in the character of the culture of that nation. On the other hand, the cultural life and spiritual values of each nation is an indicator for assessing the cultural standards of that nation and/or defining what nation it belongs to. Thus, losing the character means losing the nation.

Man cannot live without the community and one nation cannot live without the world. In history, nations has always had contact and exchange with each other through waves of migration, wars, economic exchange, diplomatic relationships and marriage etc. Therefore, the character of a national culture is not only formed by its own elements but also by factors, quintessence of foreign cultures which are received and processed by nations into specific features of each nation. Availing itself of its value and significance, the character of national culture has everlasting vitality.

Through exchange and integration, foreign cultures have co-existed with the Vietnamese culture. Overtime, it has constantly received new influences and values to enrich itself while maintaining and promoting its core nature and quintessence. It has become the spirit and profound stand of the Vietnamese nation in its effort to maintain itself during the international integration.

New features in the preservation and promotion of the character of national culture

Vietnam has 54 ethnic groups which, individually, have their own nuances and indigenous features which supplement each other, complete the Vietnamese culture in general and promote national unity. This shows that the overall Vietnamese culture is an unified and diversified culture within the community of Vietnamese ethnic groups. The traditional cultural treasure of the nation has been preserved and promoted through cultural activities which are regularly and continually carried out across the country. Many traditional arts such as classical drama, traditional opera, Hue Chantey etc have been preserved and are performed which attract a great number of audience. Festivals are regularly held on traditional holidays. Many art festivals are held at home and abroad. Many works and writings about the revolution and national resistance wars have been published. A number of collection of popular culture and intellectual culture in Vietnam have been issued which enables the study, preservation and promotion of ideological values, and the aestheticism of the Vietnamese nation. Many authors tends to exploit the treasures of popular culture for their own creations.

The protection of cultural heritage is a task which has been given due attention by our Party and State in order to hand down to later generations. There arises campaign amongst the masses to do relevant things to remind people about our original point, honour revolution and national resistance wars, commemorate national heroes and martyrs, appreciate our cultural well-known men, pay gratitude to revolutionarily credited people etc. This campaign helps to preserve valuable spiritual cultural heritage such as patriotism, humane and lenience etc and nurture the spirit and vitality of the Vietnamese people to strive forward.

Historical and cultural relics are being preserved and refurbished for later generations’ appreciation and awareness of the national history. Our country is proud of its 7 cultural heritages recognized by UNESCO: Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Hoi An ancient streets, Hue ancient capital, My Son holy land, and immaterial cultural heritages including Hue royal ceremonial music and songs, and the Central Highland festival of gongs. In November 2006, the week of APEC Summit was organized in Vietnam. Although this summit was a big political and economic event, its success was partly attributed to our national cultural character. During this week, a series of cultural activities were held such as a gala of Vietnamese cultural heritage to welcome APEC summit, the Hue culture and the quintessence of Hanoi and other art performances to display the formation of our national history.

Vietnam has asserted itself and created a great deal of fine impressions to international friends through its behavior and contacts and rich cultural treasures. New progress in international integration has produced positive results: on 11th January 2007 Vietnam officially became a full member of the WTO, and is recommended as the only candidate from Asia to take a non-permanent position on the UN Security Council. This shows the recognition by the international community toward the prestige and status of Vietnam in the early years of the 21st century. Many newspapers in the world praised that Vietnam as being not only capable of utilizing its economic capacity and political power but also of asserting its cultural strength and character.

Not only paying attention to the preservation of traditional cultural character, the Vietnamese people also duly receive quintessence of the world civilization to improve themselves. Achievements of scientific and technological revolution and the expansion of international exchange are good opportunities for us to acquire intellectual outcomes from the mankind. We can avail ourselves of these opportunities and outcomes to renew our culture which harmoniously combines our traditional elements with modern features, and national nature with international essentials. Our traditional tunic now has renovated trait. Some songs are composed according to modern tunes with input taken from folk songs. This combination makes them more attractiveness to audiences. Vietnamese people, and young people in particular, are still simple and plain, intelligent and quick-minded and sensitive to modern changes. In addition to fine traditional customs and practice, Vietnamese people eagerly participate in western cultural activities such as celebration of Christmas, Valentines day, Halloween etc.

Preserving and promoting the character of national culture

In order to respond to the development requirements of people and society in the process of industrialization and modernization and international economic integration, for the time being, our Party and State will gear up its efforts to the following basic and immediate tasks:

- Accelerating propaganda and promoting the awareness of people to participate in cultural activities, especially the movement of “The whole community unites to build cultural life”. Timely discovering and commending typical exemplary individuals and entities who have made a significant contribution to the cultural life. Sparing no money or effort to build pilot cultural districts and towns in provinces. Attaching importance to the construction of cultural institutions, developing and promoting quality of the movement to create cultural families, villages and wards. Bringing into full play the creativeness of people, and applying appropriate models to cultural activities in each region and area.

- Paying due attention to the preservation and development of cultural values, the national character and traditions. Great efforts should be spent on the collection and exploitation of material and immaterial cultural values. Continuing to organize cultural festivals of some minority ethnic groups who have typical cultural characters in order to promote the awareness of preserving and honoring traditional cultural values as a general cultural treasure of the Vietnamese people. Protecting and preserving art works, valuable objects and special relics. Improving the quality of art and literature, cultural works. Preparing investment plan for composing scripts, preparation of programs and plays. Training artistic talents. Organizing contests of art and literature to select the best pieces of works which have a high educational and aesthetic nature. Preventing negative phenomena in cultural activities.

Actively building popular cultural life and a healthy cultural environment. Developing the socialization of art and cultural activities. Mobilizing resources and social creativeness to invest in cultural projects and institutions. Encouraging individuals, organizations, families and associations to participate in art and cultural activities, controlling and protecting cultural heritages and relics. Improving quality and expanding the coverage of cultural products in response to the higher demands of enjoying quality and the diversified cultural activities of people. Making culture become the inner and indigenous life of each community, family and individual. Perfecting the value standard for Vietnamese people.

- Expanding international cultural exchange. Selectively receiving humane value, scientific and technological achievements of foreign countries. Actively introducing the Vietnamese cultural quintessence and character and great achievements of 20 years of renovation and the policy of international integration of our Party and State in order to improve the prestige and position of our country in international arena and making the best use of assistance from advanced countries for the development of culture.

- Strengthening the examination and control and the State management of cultural activities, publication, newspapers and preservation of cultural values, art performances, copyrights, advertisement and cultural services. Preventing anti-cultural and non-cultural phenomena.

- Enhancing the training of managerial and professional staff of cultural branch, especially ethnic minority staff. Cultural staff at grassroot level should be continually and furtherly trained to satisfy the demands of preserving and promoting the character of national culture in the new period in order to actively contribute to the comprehensive renovation of Vietnam.

Chu Thai Thanh