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Continuing the flow of Zen poetry

TTH.VN - The value of Zen poetry throughout the history is again confirmed and spreading in the contemporary life at “The Vietnamese Zen Poetry Week” held in Hue at the end of March.

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 Exhibition of Vietnamese Zen poetry written in Chinese calligraphy


Zen poetry describes feelings and emotions of the world in a Zen manner. It reveals the beauty of nature and people’s soul. Poems by Zen masters are considered the initial foundation of the Vietnamese written literature.

According to Prof. Zen Master Le Manh That, Zen poetry is one of the most cherished traditions of Vietnamese literature. Zen poetry is mostly written not in times of leisure or excitement, but from poets’ first-hand experiences in the face of real-life problems.

Vietnamese people’s spiritual values, wisdom and soul are profoundly and concisely depicted through Zen poems by Zen masters and true monks, especially in the Ly-Tran-Le-Nguyen periods. Reading Zen poetry, readers understand not only various aspects of Buddhism but also life and behaviors of people in life.

According to Nguyen Xuan Hoa, a culture researcher, Vietnamese Zen poetry is a gem in the Vietnamese literature heritage with its all-important contributions from the very beginning of the Vietnamese poetry. Zen poetry is always mentioned as part of the literature in Ly-Tran dynasties. 

 “The Vietnamese Zen Poetry Week” attracts many people’s interests

With the efforts of Nguyen Duy, the poet, and American writers, the well-embellished anthology of “Ly-Tran Zen Poetry” in Chinese, Vietnamese and English, as beautiful as a piece of art, was published. The book has been on display in Vietnam, America and Europe. Another one is the trilingual collection of “Le-Nguyen Zen Poetry.” The appearance of those books demonstrates that research on Zen poetry is carried out not only in Vietnam but also abroad. 

The Vietnamese Zen Poetry Week held in Hue continues to recognize the value of Zen poetry throughout the history, not only in the Ly-Tran periods but also in the Le-Nguyen periods.

“Activities such as reciting Zen poetry and writing Zen poetry in calligraphy help us see the unique value of this heritage. They should be continued as contributions to clarifying the value of the Vietnamese poetry,” said Hoa. 

Continuing the flow

The Vietnam Zen Poetry Week proves that the flow of Zen poetry is always continued. In addition to the exhibition and the performance of Zen poetry, the seminar on the Vietnamese Zen poetry discusses many issues of meditation in connection with protection of the country and people’s well-being and the flow of Zen poetry from Ly-Tran periods to our contemporary period.

According to Dr. Nguyen Thi Tinh Thy, the flow of Zen poetry is continued in contemporary poetry. Zen poetry and Zen-flavored poetry still thrive in a very creative manner, which can be seen in their diversity in form including six-eight verse, seven-word verse, free verse in addition to quatrain. Their themes are diverse too, about not only religion but also landscape, life, and even poets’ private lives. Poetry by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh, Minh Duc Trieu Tam Anh, Bui Giang, etc. show their equanimity, contentment, and lives without worries.

The Vietnamese Zen Poetry Week attracts the attention of culture researchers in Hue and from other places, and foreign scholars. According to Le Thi Kim Hoa (Hue City), this cultural event helps people deeply understand philosophical and wise thoughts of ancient people imbued in Zen poetry. It is also a chance for the young to get into contact with Zen poetry and better understand the cultural quintessence of the nation which is handed down from generation to generation.

From France, Prof. Cao Huy Thuan sent a letter expressing his excitement when the Vietnamese Zen Poetry Week was held in Hue. He hopes that Zen poetry lives on in the modern age. According to Thuan, the religion is strong when meditation is strong, and when the religion thrives, morality is improved and security is ensured.

“There are not necessarily sounds of bells or images of pagodas or Buddhist terms to be a Zen poem. Zen poetry is poems about religion which are abundant now, and some of them are very beautiful,” said Thuan.

According to Dr. Venerable Thich Trung Dinh, Zen poetry is very necessary in our current life. In the 4.0 era, life is very fast. It is Zen poetry that gives people peace in mind and helps them establish a peaceful happy life.

According to Nguyen Ba Chung, a Vietnamese poet in America, in the current process of globalization, the Vietnamese culture is spreading to the world and the world’s culture is also introduced to our country. Meditation has been recognized and is present in various fields such as culture, science, psychology, health care, fitness, music, poetry, etc. In his book “The Way of Zen,” Alan Watts says meditation is one of the most precious gifts of Asia to the world. Zen poetry, especially Vietnamese meditation, can therefore become a “cultural hyphen” that connects Vietnam and the world.

Story and photos: Minh Hien


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