China and Vietnam have had a long and close relationship over the years. Especially when it came to the 19th century, facing the invasion of Western countries, this relationship underwent tremendous changes and became more complicated than ever. In such circumstances, Vietnam’s attitude toward China – the Heavenly Kingdom had had a big difference from the previous period. However, this is not clearly presented in the literature because of the lack of relevant documents. To fill this gap, this paper makes use of Vietnamese envoys’ travel writings to China from 1868 (the first tributary trip of Vietnam to China after 16 years of interruption) to 1883 (the last tributary trip of Vietnam to China) for analyzing, to investigate the changing attitude of Vietnamese official-scholars and government toward China in the late 19th century; and to address the China’s influence on Vietnam in particular, and on East Asia area in general at the time, as well as to illustrate the changing thoughts of Vietnam in the pre-modern time. Finally, the result can suggest some lessons learned from those experiences for recent international relations between China, Vietnam and the other Asian or Western countries.
In China, the initial development of woodblock printing technology was associated with the multiplication of Buddhist scriptures and images. In the very early period, starting in the eighth century, printing was also used for these purposes in Korea and Japan; later it spread from China to Vietnam as well, where significant number of Buddhist texts were printed locally, starting around the fourteenth century. While the early printed copies of major Mahayana scriptures and even Chinese Buddhist canon (Tripitaka) in several countries of East Asia are well known (especially famous in the Koryo Tripitaka 高麗藏of the thirteenth century, which preserved many features of the earliest printed Chinese Buddhist canon), this talk focuses on the printing of so-called “apocryphal” (or “indigenous”) Buddhist scriptures that presumably were composed in China in the medieval period (they don’t have Sanskrit originals). Despite their non-orthodox status in the eyes of elite clergy in China, they played important role in transmission of Buddhist cults and ideas among masses not only in China, but also in other countries of East Asia, where Chinese forms of Buddhism became dominant. Some of these Chinese Buddhist texts were lost in China in the later period, but survived in Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, where they were transmitted in the pre-modern period, also in the printed form. Here we focus on one example of the Mulian Sutra (Mulian jing 目連經), which was composed around the twelfth century in China, based on the vernacular amplification of a scriptural subject: monk Mulian rescuing his mother’s soul from hell. This apocryphal scripture did not survive in China, but its reprints were made in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam in 1368, 1557 and 1762 respectively. As it was associated with the popular festival of soul’s salvation (Ullambana, or Zhongyuanjie 中元節in Chinese), this text was continuously reprinted in Korea and Vietnam in the early modern period and had significant impact on local literature and religious culture. Korean and Vietnamese reprints represent the special features of local printing technology and demonstrate its use in the transmission of Chinese popular texts in these countries.
For centuries the only books that circulated in East Asia were texts in literary Chinese travelling from China to peripheral states. In this lecture I will explore the reception of those texts in Japan, Korea and Vietnam and the efforts made to make them accessible to local readers. These operations conducted on literary Chinese texts were the first steps taken in vernacularization, and they later led to the production of vernacular translations and commentaries and ultimately to the dominance of vernacular texts. But Japan, Korea and Vietnam each chose different paths on the road to vernacularization and these differences defy easy explanation.
In this paper I make a preliminary and tentative attempt at comparing the ways in which vernacularized forms of Sinitic poetry (詩) were developed in Korea and Vietnam in the 17th-19th centuries. Taking my cue from Taylor (2008, 2020) and especially his consideration of “poems in demotic modes” and the quest for a “high-register vernacular voice,” I compare a range of hybridized and vernacularized forms of Sinitic poetry in Vietnam from the 16th and 17th centuries to analogous “irregular” or “anomalous” Sinitic poetry (soakpu 小樂府, kwach’esi 科體詩, pyŏnch’esi 變體詩, p’agyŏksi 破格詩, ŏnmun p’ungwŏl 諺文風月, yuktam p’ungwŏl 肉談風月, etc.) poems from late Chosŏn Korea and Korea’s Enlightenment Period (18th – early 20th centuries), as studied, for example, in Yi Kyuho (1986) and more recently in Pak Chongu (2009), Ku Sahoe (2015), and Sim Kyŏngho (2018). Questions addressed are the prosodic features of different types of vernacularized Sinitic poetry, the extent and varieties of vernacular accommodation, the extent to which the Korean examples sought to create a “vernacularized Sinitic voice,” and the fate of such poetry, both within contemporary generic hierarchies and in modern scholarship.