(No.3, Vol.8,Jun-Jul Vietnam Heritage Magazine)
“Get ready to fight against the Autum-Winter French attack” poster produced by Tuyen Quang Department of Information. Poster printed on “Giang” paper, using stone prepress technique.
No. 1 of ‘The Avantguard’ Journal, the new culture propoaganda organ of the Vietnam association of patriotic culture experts, published on 10 November, 1945.
The song ‘Call to Youth’, music by Luu Huu Phuoc, lyrics by Huynh Van Tieng and Le Khac Thieu
A portrait of Uncle Ho with three kids representing the North, Middle and South of Vietnam. Blood painting on silk by Diep Minh Chau, 1947.
Uncle Ho’s Portrait, by sculptor Nguyen Thi Kim
No.1 of ‘Independent Vietnam’ Newspaper, Viet Minh propaganda machine in Cao Bang Province, established by Nguyen Ai Quoc, pullished on 1 August, 1941
The Prison Diary of Ho Chi Minh. National treasure
The song ‘Marching on Hanoi’ by Van Cao
Faces of the top people in the literary and artistic world of Vietnam by Phan Tai
In February 1943 at the Meeting of the standing committee of the Indochinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, ‘Draft of the foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ the party’s first political guidelines on culture written by the General Secretary Truong Chinh was debated and passed. This is a historical document that shows principles and directions for building a new culture – the revolutionary culture.
The draft highlights the Party’s standpoint and basic philosophy as related to culture and arts. It puts forward three principles to build the new culture: nationalist, popular and scientific. Culture is one of the three main frontiers; the economy and politics being the other two. In parallel with political revolution, cultural revolution must be conducted. Only being in control of the cultural movements can the Party control the public opinion and will the Party’s propaganda be effective.
The Draft’s ideological content has correctly and timely reflected the demands for building a revolutionary culture, and is the important guideline for giving birth to new culture and arts of Vietnam.
While the August Revolution was being celebrated, while a myriad of complex things are to be built, while the new Republic immediately faces new perils in the face of internal and foreign enemies, the Party and Uncle Ho went on establishing a new government, which means not only developing the economy, building democratic institutions, but also strengthening the foundations of new culture based on traditional values of the people, in order to defend the independence and affirm the power and the master status of the people.
At the first National Cultural Congress that took place in Hanoi capital on Nov 24, 1946, Chairman Ho Chi Minh said, ‘Culture lights up our nation’s way’. That shows that the Party and Uncle Ho highly appreciated the guiding role of culture in the nation’s development and the revolution movement.
Exhibition ‘Literature and art in the war of resistance (1945-1954)’ has highlighted the Party’s and Chairman Ho Chi Minh’s policies and ideology on cultural revolution.
Almost 200 images, documents and artifacts from the collections of the National Museum of History and Vietnam Literary Museum at the topical exhibition ‘Literature and Arts in the war of resistance (1945-1954)’ are showcased in 2 parts:
Part 1, The Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture and the Party’s policies regarding culture
‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ appeared at the time the Vietnamese people endured the exploitation of both the French colonialists and the Japanese fascists. They not only exploited us economically, but also poisoned us culturally by deception, demagogy and fake democracy. In such circumstances, Nguyen Ai Quoc came back to the country and decided to establish Viet Minh Front. He wrote letters to the fellow countrymen and women and published ‘Independent Vietnam’ newspaper to spread ideas, to lay bare the enemies’ conspiracies and crimes, and to call the people to be united in Viet Minh to fight away the French and the Japanese.
In 1943, the Viet Minh movement grew quite strong in the countryside but remained not so visible in the cities because it had not mobilized and recruited the intellectuals, especially the writers and artists to the unified national patriotic front. To fix that situation, the General Secretary Truong Chinh had written the Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture and at Vong La Commune, Dong Anh, Han?i, the Meeting of the standing committee of the Party’s Central Committee that took place on Feb 25-28, 1943 passed it.
The ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ printed in no. 1 of The Avangard Journal, the New Culture propaganda organ of the Vietnam association of patriotic culture experts, is currently kept at the National Museum of History.
As a coincidence, while the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ was being passed in 1943, Uncle Ho, who was in China, being kept a prisoner by Chiang Kai-shek, took time to think about building a new national culture for the future. The two events, though happening in different places and circumstances, took place at the same time and serve the same purpose and idea.
Immediately after the publication of the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture,’ patriotic intellectuals started actively supporting, participating, and initiating new culture – a revolutionary culture-building movement.
Recognizing the utmost importance of Culture, just one day after the country regained independence, on September 3, 1945 in the first meeting of the cabinet, Chairman Ho Chi Minh highlighted the six most urgent tasks of the Government, two of which were related to culture. First, illiteracy must be eliminated together with famine. Two, the people’s moral must be re-educated.
The Party’s important standpoints on culture, expressed in the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ have been complemented and completed by the demands in subsequent stages of revolution. And on each such stage, our Party further improved its policies on culture and arts. The VIII National Congress of the Party in 1996 has stressed: ‘All activities related to culture and arts must serve the purpose of building and developing an advanced culture, rich in national features, and creating a Vietnamese personality in the aspects of ideology, moral, spirit, emotions, lifestyle and establishing a healthy cultural environment for the development of the society.’
At the 5th meeting of the Central Committee (VIII term) in 2014, this policy was one step further improved to assert that ‘Culture is the foundation of the society, at the same time the motif that accelerates socio-economic development.’
These reliefs were made by artist and stage and film director Phan Tai. In his lifetime, he made hundreds of statues and reliefs that recorded the faces of the top people in the literary and artistic world of Vietnam.
The exhibition also quotes remarks and assessments of scholars, culture experts, writers and artists on the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ that have been published in books, journals and some of the Party’s documents related to culture, literature and arts.
Part 2, Literature and arts in the war of resistance (1945-1954)
The ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ that was passed in 1943 has widened the creative wingspan of writers and artists. Their profuse and intelligent production always firmly anchored in their mission within the revolutionary movement, reflects fully and truthfully the reality of the people’s life and struggle, and encourage the people in a timely and effective fashion as well as supporting the armed forces in fighting the war and building a new life.
In the letter to artists and painters on the occasion of the exhibition of their works in December 1951, Chairman Ho Chi Minh stressed: ‘Culture and Arts is also a front. You are the soldiers on that front.’
This letter of His was later published in no. 1986, Jan 5, 1952 of ‘Nation’s salvation’ newspaper, as the nation entered the all-out stage of resistance war against the French colonialists.
The Uncle’s teaching had greatly encouraged the writers and artists, stimulating them to work diligently for our cause. The years 1945- 1954 had given birth to a countless number of works of literature and art that served the war so well.
Among the works of this period there is a blood painting ‘Chairman Ho Chi Minh and children from all over the country’ by artist Diep Minh Chau. On Sept 2, 1947 as the country celebrated 2nd anniversary of the country, the artist attended a fair organized at Dong Thap Base listened again to Uncle Ho reading the Declaration of Independence on the radio and a group of children singing the song ‘Praising Chairman Ho’ by Luu Huu Phuoc. A powerful surge inside overwhelmed him. Though having never met the Uncle, but led by emotion, he cut his arm to get blood to paint a portrait of the Uncle with three kids representing the North, Middle and South of Vietnam. The blood painting was later sent to the Viet Bac base to be presented to Uncle Ho with a letter ‘To the nation’s Father Ho Chi Minh’ from the young author.
Regarding the blood painting of artist Diep Minh Chau, many have had a chance to see it, but mostly in the printed form. Today, the painting is kept at the National Museum of History. This is a silk painting, and painted with blood, so as time has passed, it has been discolored. But it is a proof of the love of the Vietnamese people toward Uncle Ho and their unshakable faith in his cause.
The statue ‘Uncle Ho’s Portrait’ was made by artist Nguyen Thi Kim, Vietnam’s first artist sculptor. She had the honor to directly sculpt His statue.
Every time we mention the name of composer Luu Huu Phuoc, many pieces of music immediately come to our mind, such as Hit the road, Call to youth, Uncle’s love shines over our lives, At 20 years, Out to the streets, Liberating the South, Praising the liberation army, Liberation march, Marching to Saigon…
He was one of the first Vietnamese composers to use the marching rhythms to awaken and appeal to young generations to join the nation’s liberation cause. Besides composing, he was also a political and social activist, and devout music educator for the youth. For his great contributions in the history of revolutionary music the Government had conferred upon him many medals and decorations of the highest order, such as First rank Independence Medal and the Ho Chi Minh Prize in Literature and Arts of first batch in 1996.
Among the many songs written about Hanoi, The song ‘Marching on Hanoi’ by composer Van Cao may be the most miraculous. It’s a miracle because it was written five years before the day our army marched to free Hanoi. In October, 1954 Hanoi opened all its gates to received troops from Viet Bac Base, who marched like sea waves that entered the city through all of its gates, exactly the way it was described so beautifully by Van Cao in the song. From the day it was written, the song, beloved by all, has become the triumphal song of the coming home sons of Hanoi yesterday, today, and ever after.
In the war of resistance against the French, propaganda paintings were sharp weapons to educate, prepare, motivate and stimulate the masses. They also helped convey the tasks to be done to serve the revolution, and lifted the masses’ spirits so they would accomplish those tasks. The content of those tasks has helped the genre of propaganda painting make big strides to perfection.
For the great contributions of writers and artists to the cause of revolution and in rebuilding and developing the country, since 1996 the Government has conferred Ho Chi Minh Prize – the highest prize for the authors of the best works of literature and arts. This prize is considered the highest honor a cultural worker can achieve. The Ho Chi Minh Prize is announced every five years on Independence Day (September 2).
Government literary and artistic prizes are handed to authors in the fields of music, literature, fine art, photo art, dance, cinematography, folk art and architecture. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism establishes and chairs a Prize Committee to counsel the Prime Minister on the list of those to be submitted to the President to consider. So far the decisions to confer Government literary and artistic prizes were signed in 2001, 2007 and 2012.
Since the time the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’ came to life, especially during the 1945-1954, activities of the party’s cultural organizations and creative work of journalists, writers, artists has diversified greatly. They have truly become the avant-guard troops on the ideological and cultural front, contributing their due to the success of the war of resistance against the French.
Today, with correct and creative policies, our Party, Government and people are building an advance culture, rich of national traditional features. In the past, as at the present, culture is always a front, and writers and artists are soldiers on that front. The revitalization of national culture in the framework of renovation, constructing and defending the Socialist Fatherland of Vietnam is proof of vibrant viability of the policies on culture and arts put forward by our Party in the ‘Draft of foundations of Vietnam’s culture’.
Vietnam National Museum of History
1 Trang Tien St, Hanoi
216 Tran Quang Khai St, Hanoi
Tel: (04) 3824-1384