A special garden

A special man has a wonderful garden that is filled with sculptures.
Many are of historical figures, such as one of a person who became famous in the fight against the French.

Others are to do with characters from Vietnamese books.

The artist also likes to write poetry.

Green thumbs: Anh Vu and his wife Nguyen Thi Phung collaborated on this garden:he made the sculptures, while she took care of the plants.

Green thumbs: Anh Vu and his wife Nguyen Thi Phung collaborated on this garden:he made the sculptures, while she took care of the plants.

By Tien Dat

I visited sculptor Anh Vu on a warm autumn day. His ancient house is surrounded by a garden with fruit trees and flowers, as well as statues of Buddha and many famous persons. Vu’s statues are so lively that I first thought I had walked straight into a legend.

Born in 1943 in Trang Liet Commune, Tu Son District, Bac Ninh Province, the sculptor has devoted his life to sculpting famous historical figures. He’s also based many statues on characters from literature, such as the Dumb Luck of famous writer Vu Trong Phung and Chi Pheo, Thi No and Lao Hac from the works of writer Nam Cao.

Just as these famous writers are Viet Nam’s pride, with many of their works included in textbooks for students nationwide, Bac Giang Province is very proud of Vu because he made three out of eight statues in the province. His statue of Hoang Hoa Tham (1858-1913), the peasant leader who led the Yen The Insurrection and held out against French domination in northern Viet Nam for 25 years, sits at the Yen The site.

His Ngo Si Lien Monument at Ngo Si Lien Secondary School depicts a historian best known for being the principal compiler of the Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu, a comprehensive chronicle of the history of Viet Nam and the oldest official historical record of a Vietnamese dynasty still in existence. Lien is appreciated not only for the precision of his records but also for the innovative method of compilation: he was the first Vietnamese writer who extracted information for a historical book from collections of myths and legends such as Linh Nam Chich Quai and Viet Dien U Linh Tap. A statue of Nguyen Khac Nhu, a strong-willed anti-French fighter, is located in the centre of Bac Giang City.

When the province launched a contest to create a statue of Hoang Hoa Tham in 1984, Vu was not a front-runner.

“After my statue was chosen, Tham’s daughter Hoang Thi The returned home from abroad and visited me,” the sculptor said proudly.

Prominent in his garden is a statue of Pham Thi Nga, the mother of King Ly Thai To, the founder of the Ly dynasty in 1009.
Nguyen The Chinh, director of the Bac Giang Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said he liked the statue very much because it illustrated the typical woman of Kinh Bac (what is today Bac Ninh). These include facial structure and hairstyle, as well as the kerchief tied in a triangle around her forehead.
“What I like most is the King’s mother’s left hand holding Ly Cong Uan (the birth name of the King), who holds a 9-petal lotus symbolising the 9 Ly kings,” the director said.

Vu’s wife, Nguyen Thi Phung, said the couple called the place their Buddha Garden.

“My husband has a lot of passion for these statues. He invests all his time in making statues. Sometimes he just sits still thinking about making statues,” said Phung, adding that she sometimes jokes that he forgets her presence.

“He says the statues are his while the grass, flowers and leaves are mine. We have been living happily together at our old house with these statues for more than half a century,” Phung said.

Vu also enjoys writing poems. His poem collection Vet Chan Chim (Birds’ Track) won the Song Thuong Literature prize and he has won many other prestigious prizes for writing poems to protect the forests, including epic poem Long Chao Khac (Different Valley).

Vu said he preferred to communicate by means of poems and statues than speech. His way of talking is very simple, but in making art, he never allows himself to be careless.

“I have strict requirements before composing a piece,” he said.

Vu’s friend Nguyen Thanh Kim, a culture activist, said many of his works seemed to have a soul, particularly statues of writers and musicians.

“I don’t like uninspired or mediocre work — or constraints,” the sculptor told me. “Making art requires freedom.” — VNS

GLOSSARY

Born in 1943 in Trang Liet Commune, Tu Son District, Bac Ninh Province, the sculptor has devoted his life to sculpting famous historical figures.

To devote your life to something means to spend a lot of time, care, effort and love doing it.

He’s also based many statues on characters from literature, such as the Dumb Luck of famous writer Vu Trong Phung and Chi Pheo, Thi No and Lao Hac from the works of writer Nam Cao.

Literature is made up of things that have been written, such as books, especially books of high quality.

His statue of Hoang Hoa Tham (1858-1913), the peasant leader who led the Yen The Insurrection and held out against French domination in northern Viet Nam for 25 years, sits at the Yen The site.

A peasant is a poor farmer.

His Ngo Si Lien Monument at Ngo Si Lien Secondary School depicts a historian best known for being the principal compiler of the Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu, a comprehensive chronicle of the history of Viet Nam and the oldest official historical record of a Vietnamese dynasty still in existence.

If a work of art depicts something, it represents it.

To compile something means to put it together by gathering all sorts of information.

A chronicle is a factual report about events in the order in which they happened.

A dynasty is a system of government in which people from different generations of a family rule a country, one generation after the next.

Lien is appreciated not only for the precision of his records but also for the innovative method of compilation: he was the first Vietnamese writer who extracted information for a historical book from collections of myths and legends such as Linh Nam Chich Quai and Viet Dien U Linh Tap.

Having precision means being very accurate.

To be innovative means to make something out of an idea.

Myths are traditional stories that often include things about the supernatural world.

Legends, in this case, are stories that are historical but not necessarily true.

When the province launched a contest to create a statue of Hoang Hoa Tham in 1984, Vu was not a front-runner.

A front-runner is someone in the lead in a race or competition.

“After my statue was chosen, Tham’s daughter Hoang Thi The returned home from abroad and visited me,” the sculptor said proudly.

Abroad means overseas.

These include facial structure and hairstyle, as well as the kerchief tied in a triangle around her forehead.

Someone’s facial structure is the make-up of his, or her, face.

” He invests all his time in making statues.”

To invest means to spend something in the hope of getting something more. In this case it is about spending time to produce statues.

“I don’t like uninspired or mediocre work — or constraints,” the sculptor told me. “Making art requires freedom.”

Something that is mediocre is not very good.

Constraints are restrictions.

WORKSHEET

Find the words that mean the following in the Word Search:

1. A poor farmer.

2. Vet Chan Chim (Birds’ Track) is a _____.

3. Bac Ninh is a ____________ of Viet Nam.

4. Nguyen Thi Phung is Anh Vu’s _____.

5. Hoang Thi The is Hoang Hoa Tham’s ___________.

m t a t g t j e r m i n s t m
w c f o r e s t e c o b u e g
h h a h l c o e i a m u s k r
d a t m n a m r r n b f b e e
b i t k b n r s e u a f u e e
t r e e a a s e v o s a p t n
u n i t e d a u g h t e r a l
e n r i n m b i r i k o o p a
l n o y e a r o a a e u v a n
s e v o n t y l d j r w i f e
s h p e a s a n t i y o n r i
e e r r e a e a p h a t c e n
b u f f a l y o w o u y e n p

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2013

1. Peasant; 2. Poem; 3. Province; 4. Wife; 5. Daughter

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