On display are over 20 publications chosen among more than 1,000 works published during the first development stage of Quoc Ngu in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, that the University Library of Languages and Civilisations (BULAC) has collected so far.
The exhibition, entitled "Chu Quoc ngu, a fundamental factor in the renewal of Vietnamese culture from 1860 to 1945", will run until May 31.
The exhibits include the first novels of Vietnam written in Western style such as “Thay Lazaro Phien” (Teacher Lazaro Phien) by Nguyen Trong Quan which was published in 1887, or “Chuyen doi xua” (The story of old life), which was released in 1866; and translated versions of some well-known Chinese and French works such as "The Story of Three Kingdoms" (1909) and “The Miserables” (1926). There are also the first issues of Gia Dinh newspaper published in July 1865 or Nam Phong magazine (1923).
According to Nguyen Thi Hai, who is in charge of the exhibition, BULAC's Vietnamese font is one of the oldest collected and preserved in France.
She said Vietnamese has been taught in Paris since 1869 at the Sorbonne University. It was not until the 1871-1872 period that this subject was officially put into teaching at the School of Oriental Languages, now the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations (INALCO).
At that time, the institute cooperated with scholars in the southern region of Vietnam such as Truong Vinh Ky and Truong Minh Ky to bring Vietnamese books and newspapers to France. At the beginning of the 20th century, the French government supported the spread of Chu Quoc ngu, so many Vietnamese publications were collected at the Interuniversity Library of Oriental Languages (BIULO) and the French School of the Far East (EFEO). Those books were later transferred to BULAC.
Quoc ngu was the result of the cooperation between western Catholic missionaries and Vietnam's first Catholic scholars to facilitate the preaching work. Its use was encourated by the French colonial regime in the late 19th century but was initially rejected by Confucian scholars. However, following the Duy Tan ('Renovation') movement, Vietnamese intellectuals began to realise the potential value of Quoc ngu as a medium for disseminating patriotic and anti-colonial ideas, and worked to develop it through translating foreign works and penning articles and literature.
Easy to read and write, Quoc ngu was gradually accepted and gained popularity in the country. It is now now universally used in Vietnam and is the official writing system./. VNA