Korea-Vietnam 2022-2023 Speaker Series

The Vernacular Spreads a Rumor

A Study of the Nôm poems of Hà Tiên

March 10th, 2023
4:00 PM–6:00 Los Angeles Time

Presented by Dr. Claudine Ang

Claudine Ang is an Associate Professor of Humanities (History) at Yale-NUS College. She is the author of Poetic Transformations: Eighteenth-Century Cultural Projects on the Mekong Plains (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2019). Currently, she is working on another book, On Listening and Dissonance, in which she seeks to understand how kings listen to their subjects, how the vernacular spins tales about the classical, how the living communicate with the dead, and how dreamers eavesdrop on themselves in their slumber. 
Christina Han is Associate Professor of Asian History at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. She received her MA and PhD in East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. As a cultural historian, her research interests include premodern Korean literature and art. She has published widely on premodern Korean poetry and aesthetics. Her latest project looks at the Sihwa ch’ongnim, 17th-century Korean collection of sihwa (remarks on poetry) compiled by Hong Manjong. 

Associate Professor of Humanities (History), Yale-NUS College

Joined by Dr. Christina Han

Associate Professor of Asian History at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada


Ten Songs of Hà Tiên is a compilation of landscape poetry, dating to the mid-eighteenth century, that celebrates ten scenic sites in Hà Tiên. Composed in heptasyllabic regulated verse in the Chinese script, the poems are evidence of Ming loyalist attempts to shape the landscape of the Mekong delta. In the early twentieth century, poems following the same titles, but which were composed in the Vietnamese Nôm script, surfaced without attribution to an author. Since then, scholars have been divided about the Nôm poems’ authorial authenticity. Whereas some are convinced that they emerged from the hand of the person who composed the original poems, others remain doubtful. In my study of the poems, I examine the relationship between those composed in the Nôm and the Chinese scripts as rumormongering; rather than think about the Nôm poems as translations of the Chinese, I understand the process of vernacularization as one in which the Nôm poems spread their own variants, hubristic and even excessive, as creations in their own right. My study identifies the ways in which allusions from the original poems worked their way, in modified forms, into the vernacular poems. In so doing, I join the debate about the poems’ authorship, and I propose that the vernacular poems drew inspiration not from the originator’s work, but from the poetry of one of the author’s eighteenth-century interlocutors.

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