Culture Culture

09/03/2021 - 09:11

The “second shelter” of Trinh Cong Son

It was a day near Tet more than ten years ago.

Trinh Cong Son's room was opened for the first time after ten years of closing. Nobody, not even his dearest ones, had entered the room since the fateful day of April 1, 2001. It was his private place, where Trinh Cong Son wrote, painted and sat with his close friends.

There were an old-styled wooden set of table and chairs and a white rattan chair of his own. On the table were handwritten manuscripts of his songs and letters from people all over the world to 47C Pham Ngoc Thach St., District 3, Ho Chi Minh City. There were paintings on the wall and unfinished ones on the easel. There were also bottles of wine, both empty or half full.

Twenty years have passed since the day Trinh Cong Son returned to "exhausted dust". But it seemed that the familiar melodies of his songs were still there lingering vaguely on the keys of the quiet piano in the corner.

An inventory of what in the room was made. Fortunately, time and climate had not yet damaged the most vulnerable sheets of paper. Those who were present that day found a treasure.

There were still many things that Trinh Cong Son left behind which had never been announced. There were many articles that had never been read and lots of unfinished songs with only their first notes.

As for me, a painting lover, it was hard to describe the joy I felt when I watched and held in hand Son’s paintings, all of which were painted in 1992 on cardboard in pastel. They included unique abstract and semi-abstract paintings of a person who considered painting “his second shelter” besides music. When language and sounds surrender, colors voice to comfort and lull him.

Besides music, the deceased musician Trinh Cong Son had a passion for painting

The poet Nguyen Duy and I were entrusted by the Trinh Cong Son’s family with reading, selecting, and compiling Trinh Cong Son's posthumous manuscripts in his closed room for ten years into a book. It is hard to describe our joy of being the first to read pages about his feelings and contemplation of diverse life and even peaceful death in a language that was so fantastic and different.

“Singing makes one miss people. To miss a person is to miss the whole world. The beautiful body of this world has once outlined vague and mythical paths of life. Music and singing are born to celebrate a heel, a hand, lips, eyes, cheeks, sometimes even fragrant hair, then come the smile and tears of a lifetime.”

“Be apricot blossoms like mornings 

Flowers on Tet

The flowers stay and the withering goes away

Because one wakes up every morning

One starts a new day

And says to each other: Good morning

Morning is the last flash of light in the heart of the desperate.”

“The world of painting is an open world without closure. It may have a beginning, but without an end. It is a complete world in suspense. True art is the message that stays when all other forms of existence have gone.

We gathered his posthumous manuscripts in a thick book entitled “Trinh Cong Son, Who am I, Who am I” (Youth Publishing House, first printed in March 2011 and reprinted many times).


The Ky Hoi Calendar 2019 of Trinh Cong Son’s paintings contained one of the paintings found in his private room. The year 2021 marks 20 years since the day on which the talented artist bid adieu to the human world: "Nhung hen ho tu nay khep lai, than nhe nhang nhu may.” (Dates are closed from now on; the body is as gentle as clouds.” In addition to programs paying tribute to Trinh Cong Son in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hue, his hometown, there will be a publication about “his second shelter.” 

The book “Trinh Cong Son’s Painting,” intended to be published in April 2021, contains pastel paintings in this article.

Story and photos: Nguyen Trong Chuc