Chinese literature scores a hit with Vietnamese

Updated: 2015-11-05 08:09


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Chinese literature scores a hit with Vietnamese

Students from China and Vietnam celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival by writing Chinese characters in Hanoi.[Photo/Xinhua]

Of all the foreign influences in Vietnam, there is plenty of evidence that Chinese culture is among the strongest.

Many of the major bookstores in Hanoi, for example, display their selection of translated Chinese literature in the most coveted, high-profile spots. The study of the Chinese language is increasing, courses at Vietnamese colleges are crowded with students and almost all universities have established Chinese faculties. Additionally, Chinese language contests are swamped with hundreds of competitors, and thousands of Vietnamese students take exchange trips to China each year.

Bilateral relations and political ties may have experienced some ups and downs in recent years, but Chinese culture is gaining popularity, especially with the younger generation.

At a bookshop on Dinh Le, a central Hanoi location known as "Book Street", Chinese books, both classical literature and romantic novels, are prominently displayed on a large shelf near the entrance. Classic multivolume epics, including Outlaws of the Marsh and Romance of the Three Kingdoms, sell well to customers of all ages, said a staff member identified only as Thanh.

Vietnamese readers choose these books because they are interested in stories of brave and chivalrous men, while older readers are returning to the books they read and enjoyed many years earlier, Thanh said.

It is not just the historical classics that are popular, said one of the bookstore's managers.

"Sales of works by Chinese contemporary and modern writers, including Mo Yan and Lu Xun, are also stable, unlike romantic novels which are 'hot' only just after they have been published," the manager said.

In recent years, a number of online Chinese literature sites have helped to inform and attract a new group of readers from Vietnam. To get around the language barrier, they use online translation tools to learn about a book's contents, and then seek out translated editions.

Vietnam translations

From 2009 to 2013, a total of 841 Chinese book titles were translated and published in Vietnamese. Of those, 617 titles were published only online.

One of the best-known translators of Chinese literature in Vietnam, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuong, a lecturer at Hanoi National University of Education, said online-only Chinese literature is particularly popular among young readers because of its entertaining stories.

"But the literary quality and artistry are debatable," she said.

One of Nguyen's latest efforts, the Vietnamese translation of Yan Lianke's Hard As Water, recently won an award from a writers' association in Hanoi. Yan is a global prizewinning author from China, although this was the first time he had been recognized in Vietnam.

"There are many great honored authors and novels in Chinese modern literature who have not been introduced to Vietnam yet. I hope to introduce more award-winning titles from China to Vietnam in the future," Nguyen said.