Australian defends autonomy of Vietnamese arts in new book

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Australian writer Kerry Nguyen-Long (3rd,R) in the day of releasing her book, "Arts of Việt Nam 1009-1945" in Hanoi on January 30

The Gioi (World) Publisher on January 30 released Australian author Kerry Nguyen-Long's "Arts of Việt Nam 1009 1945," an academic treatise which establishes that the Vietnamese arts developed independently from Chinese culture.

With more than 300 illustrations, the book chronicles major categories of Vietnamese arts from architecture to painting, presenting them in historical context. It details their features in each historic period and explains why new styles emerged while others were abandoned, according to the publisher.

The book delves into various craft techniques, sculptural styles, esoteric symbolism and its evolution, and the response from Vietnamese artists to the 20th century advent of the so-called fine arts, it said.

Kerry Nguyen-Long, a contributing editor for the international bimonthly magazine Arts of Asia published in Hong Kong, has never lived in Vietnam, but spent 15 years in the Philippines, where she studied Vietnamese art and fell in love with it.

She soon discovered that many large museums worldwide and some international art catalogs neglected to mention Vietnamese art. Furthermore, many insiders and experts in the art world believe that Vietnam's art owes a giant debt to Chinese culture.

A handbook published in 1999 by a renowned museum, which she did not give any name, said that Vietnamese blue and white porcelain had been exhaustively renovated by Chinese potters during the period in which China dominated Vietnam. Other academic documents claim that Vietnamese art culture has simply followed trends set by China, Kerry said.

Cover of the book "Art of Việt Nam 1009-1945"
Vietnamese items are often juxtaposed beside Chinese ones, which are considered the original, at art exhibitions, she added.

Pursuing her belief Vietnamese art evolved separately from Chinese culture, Kerry decided to embark on a massive research project.

The author said that she wanted to contribute something in defense of Vietnamese art culture.

Supported by her husband Nguyen Kim Long, whom she met in the Philippines, Kerry spent nearly five years researching and collecting materials for the book.

Most of the photos were taken by her husband, who traveled extensively collecting materials and also helped his wife translate, since she only knows rudimentary Vietnamese. Grateful for that, she added his name, Long, to hers, and used the combined name, Kerry Nguyen-Long, as her pen name,

Tran Doan Lam, head of World Publisher, said in the book, Long-Nguyen carefully differentiates the styles and the colors of Vietnamese and Chinese ceramics.

The development of Vietnamese arts through each historical period, from the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) to the Tran, Le and Nguyen Dynasties (1802-1945), is analyzed clearly in the book, he added.

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