Vietnamese Women in History, Culture and Language

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The survey contains a short information on Vietnamists’ reports, delivered at the 19th interinstitutional seminar on the theme “Linguistic and Cultural Studies: Analytical Methods, Teaching Technologies” (MGIMO, June 2021).

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The 19th interinstitutional seminar was held on June 22 and 23, 2021, in hybrid format in MGIMO on the topic “Linguistic and Cultural Studies: Analytical Methods, Teaching Technologies”. On the first day, there was held a plenary session and the round table, devoted to the main concepts of foreign languages teaching methods. On the second day, there worked the following sections of the seminar: “Languages and Culture”, “Problems of Linguodidactics and Translation Studies”, “Women in the Society”, and “Women in Culture”. For the first time, the seminar widely presented researches with the female theme by Russian Vietnamists. M.A. Syunnerberg, an associate professor at the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Institute of Asian and African Studies (IAAS), History Chair of the Far East and Southeast Asian Countries, who for a long time has been dealing with the theme of the women’s status in current Vietnam, delivered the report on the theme “Woman as a Concept of the Vietnamese Social Thought and Historiography”. He tried to substantiate the statement that the Vietnamese national identity and the essence of Vietnamese culture is presented through the image of women. M.A. Syunnerberg attracted attention to the fact that the ancient population’s society in the territory of curtrent Northern Vietnam was based on the matriarchal principles. Their typical manifestation was the insurrection against Chinese invasion (the 1st cent. AD), was headed by women, the Trung sisters (Fig 1). Syunnerberg showed the dual role of women in traditional Vietnam, generated by neo-Confucian ideology. On the one hand, it posed the woman in the center of the social and political order as the key member of any family, but on the other, it limited the behavior and the role of women in the society by many rules. But as most men took part in numerous wars, women could perform an active role, first and foremost in economy, and influence in some degree the social and political sphere. The example of women’s status as a source of legitimation and historical succession in Vietnam is Empress Duong Van Nga (the 10th cent.), the wife of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh; after his death she was the wife of Emperor Le Hoan., the founder of the Early Le dynasty. The researcher showed some covers of magazines published in North and South Vietnam in the 1950s and 1960s with female photos on them as an example of the way to represent the country. Fig 1. Illustration for the report of M.A. Syunnerberg. The picture by the author A certain illustration to Syunnerberg’s research was the report on the theme “Epithets of Women in the Vietnamese Language” delivered by S.E. Glazunova, the senior teacher of MGIMO university in the Chair of Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Lao. The report has shown the changes of the ideals of female beauty in Vietnam depending on the epoch and their reflection in the language. There was a set of metaphors in Vietnamese classic literature for the ideal of female beauty, originated under great influence of Chinese literature. In the DRV socialist realistic prose emphasized mostly the hidden vitality and inner beauty of women. Curiously, current epithets for women’s beauty are mostly words, describing inner beauty (warm, true, devoted, open, with the sense of humor, able to self-sacrifice) (Fig 2). Fig 2. Illustration for the report of S.E. Glazunova. The picture by the author “The female theme” in the Vietnamese language was continued by E.I. Tyumeneva, professor of the MFA RF High Courses of Foreign Languages in the report on the theme “Representation of the Female Sex in Vietnamese Phraseology”. She mentioned that Vietnamese paroemia (proverbs, sayings, phraseology) mostly reflects the leading role of men in the family, while women are in the subordinate position, being homemakers; also, the paroemia contains pieces of advice for correct gender behavior in the family. Ye. Tyumeneva mentioned that in Vietnamese, one of isolating languages, there is no noun gender. Therefore, only lexemes with gender semantics (kinship terms and the words naming a female) can point to the belonging to feminine. Vietnamese proverbs and saying can point to gender implicitly, i.e., with the words pointing to the things or actions typical of a person, or with metaphors. Of course, short reports at the seminar could show some results but partially, sharing some themes of concern with colleagues. The participants will develop the themes of their researches in articles which are planned to be published in the transactions crowning the seminar.

About the authors

S. Ye Glazunova

Moskow State Institute of International Relations (University) MFA RF

Senior Lecturer


Copyright (c) 2021 Glazunova S.Y.

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