Lục Vân Tiên: Its Relation to Prior Texts

In this article I discuss a verse narrative, Lục Vân Tiên, written by Nguyễn Đình Chiểu in the late 1850s. It is a story about the adventures of a young scholar, Lục Vân Tiên. On his way to the capital to take the mandarin exams he first saves a young woman, Kiều Nguyệt Nga, from robbers and then learns that his mother has died. He goes blind from weeping and his future in-laws leave him in a cave to die, but he surmounts these misfortunes, regains his sight, marries the loyal Kiều Nguyệt Nga, and becomes ruler of the land of Sở. To understand this text I look at prior texts that it evokes, including Chinese historical romances, older Vietnamese verse narratives like Nhị Độ Mai [The Twice-Blooming Plum Tree], the Confucian Four Books and Five Classics, and Vietnamese folk tales, proverbs, and folk poetry [ca dao]. I conclude that this tale can be seen as both a historical romance in the Chinese style and a Vietnamese folk tale expressing the communal spirit of Vietnamese common people.