Traditional Vietnamese culture reflected the influence of neighboring China. Vietnamese art, architecture, music, and literature all followed Chinese forms. With the advent of French colonialism in the late 19th century, however, the influence of Western culture replaced that of China. Modern Vietnamese cultural expression combines the socialist realism of Communist systems with current trends in the capitalist world.
Before French colonial rule, literature in Vietnam was divided into two styles: a classical style based on the Chinese model and a vernacular one based on local themes and genres. Classical literature was written in literary Chinese and took the form of poetry, history, and essays. Vernacular literature was written in chu nôm and took the form of poetry or verse novels.
French colonial rule significantly influenced Vietnamese literature. Drama, poetry, and novels began to be written in quoc ngu and imitated Western models. This trend continued in the South after the country was divided in 1954. In the North, a new form of literature, called socialist realism, developed. In this literature, actual people and events are depicted in an idealized, optimistic way to provide a glimpse of the “glorious” future in a socialist, or Communist, society. In modern Vietnam, however, the influence of socialist realism is in decline, as writers increasingly seek a more realistic approach to describing the problems of society and the bitter legacy of the Vietnam War.
In the precolonial era, art and architectural styles were patterned after those in China.
Traditional Vietnamese religious temples and official buildings were usually constructed of wood with tile roofs and typically included intricate carvings. Painting, usually on silk, followed classical modes current in China with an emphasis on landscapes, birds and plant life, and calligraphy. Sculpture, in wood or in stone, was usually Buddhist in inspiration. The ceramics industry was relatively well developed, and artisans produced wares both for household use, such as bowls and plates, and for religious purposes, such as statues. After the French conquest, Western styles predominated. Official buildings were often built in French colonial style, and schools of Western painting became popular.
These trends have continued to the present. Architecture now tends to follow international styles, although there is some effort to preserve the distinctive character of major cities such as Hanoi, Hue, and Ho Chi Minh City. Abstract painting has become popular, although traditional modes and folk art continue to attract interest. Lacquerware and woodwork are produced primarily for the tourist trade. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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