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Celebrating International Women’s History: Ho Xuan Huong, Queen of Nom Poetry

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

For our second Women of Vietnam feature, we’re taking a closer look at Ho Xuan Huong, one of Vietnam’s most beloved poets often referred to as the “Queen of Nom Poetry.”

Even though her poems are widely known and there are even a number of streets named after her in Vietnam, Ho Xuan Huong has been something of an enigma. She is believed to have been born in 1772 and died in 1822. Her family history is disputed, but the general consensus is that she eventually became the concubine of a man named Tong Cuc, a ranking official of the Le Dynasty.

Despite her  role as a concubine, Ho Xuan Huong showed a rejection of social norms and irreverence uncommon for women of the time. (Remember that she was living in 17th/18th Century Vietnam–an era steeped in Confucian traditions, which brought with them the exaltation of education and family values, but often the subjugation of women as well.) Her convention-defying attitudes were conveyed in her poetry. She had an uncanny ability to write of mundane subjects, but inflect them with sensual undertones (or overtones). She was a master of the double entendre, delighting her audience and providing a rare voice against sociopolitical oppression.

Her poems were later translated into English by John Balaban in a book aptly titled Spring Essence, though it’s almost always better to read the original if you can. You can view some of them here.

Celebrating International Women’s History: The Trung Sisters of Vietnam

Monday, March 4th, 2013


Happy March everyone! March is a month chock full of events and activities. For the mathematicians, 3/14 is Pi Day. For the Irish and others who’ve adopted Ireland’s culture, 3/17 is St. Patrick’s Day. And for the literary enthusiasts out there, 3/15 marks the Ides of March, the date notoriously immortalized in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.

For us at the VNHELP office, we are happy to see March commemorated as International Women’s History Month. Why not take the opportunity to honor some of the celebrated women in Vietnamese culture through a “Women of Vietnam” series?

We’re kicking off the series with the Trung Sisters, better known to many Vietnamese as “Hai Bà Trưng.”

If you grew up in a Vietnamese household, then you are sure to have heard of the names of these two sisters floated before. If not, here’s your chance to be privy about two of the most celebrated figures in Vietnamese history.


Celebrating the Vietnamese Language for International Mother Language Day

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013



Did you know Feb. 21 is International Mother Language Day? This day celebrates multilingualism and cultural diversity across the globe. It’s been observed since 2000, after UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) decided to form a day recognizing the importance of linguistic diversity.

We think International Mother Language Day is a great way to celebrate the over 6000 languages that exist in this world. It’s also a good time for us to reflect on the richness of the Vietnamese language.