Poetic Transformations: Eighteenth-Century Cultural Projects on the Mekong Plains by Claudine Ang (review)pp. 493-499 Article
Poetic Transformations: Eighteenth-Century Cultural Projects on the Mekong Plains by Claudine Ang. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2019. Pp. Xvi + 291. $49.95 cloth.
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Nguyễn Cư Trinh 阮居貞 (1716–1767) & Mạc Thiên Tứ 鄚天賜 (Ch. Mo Tianci; ca. 1710–1780) are two outstanding figures in Vietnam’s southward expansion history. In contrast lớn the notable Vietnamese general Nguyễn Cư Trinh, whose effort in southern border protection was acknowledged as his great contribution lớn this enterprise of the Nguyễn lords (who ruled central and southern Vietnam 1558–1777), Mạc Thiên Tứ received và developed a heritage from his father Mạc Cửu 鄚玖 (Ch. Mo Jiu; 1655–1735), a Chinese Ming loyalist who
Ang’s work consists of two main parts, which follow an introduction. Titled “Cultural Projects on the Southern Vietnamese Frontier,” the introduction lays out the geopolitical và historical contexts of the “two political actors” (p. 6) and presents her research approach. Part 1, “Drama on the Frontier,” is reserved for in-depth analysis of Nguyễn Cư Trinh’s Sãi vãi. Part 2, “Lyrics & Landscapes,” giao dịch exclusively with Mạc Thiên Tứ’s Hà tiên thập vịnh và Nguyễn Cư Trinh’s response poems.
In the introduction, Ang cites a passage from Xiao Tong’s 蕭統 (501–531) preface of Wenxuan 文選 (Selections of refined literature): “observe the patterns <wen 文; lit. Writing> of man to transform the world” (p. 16). Although she acknowledges that the word “patterns” can mean both culture and writing, Ang decides to lớn focus on patterns as writing to emphasize the transformative power of language: “through writing, humans are able khổng lồ refashion & give structure khổng lồ the unpatterned parts of the world” (p. 17). Ang goes on to treat the writings of the two chosen Confucian literati as “cultural projects
In chapter 1, “Frontier Humor & the Inadequacies of Orthodoxy,” Ang liên kết Sãi vãi to lớn a memorial that Nguyễn Cư Trinh submitted to the Nguyễn lord in 1751 (about one year after he wrote Sãi vãi). She suggests that Nguyễn composed these two pieces of writing in order lớn find a solution for burning issues in the southern Vietnamese frontier society. Ang divides her close reading of Sãi vãi as a drama into eight sections. She delicately indicates that during the course of the play, the monk continuously changes his roles, moving “from an errant religious
In chapter 2, “The Classical in the Vernacular,” Ang shows how a Nôm (Vietnamese vernacular) text...