Article

The Vietnamese National Flag And National Anthem (Part 2)

II. THE VIETNAMESE NATIONAL ANTHEM

A. THE EMERGENCE OF THE CONCEPT OF A NATIONAL ANTHEM IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY

The concept of the national anthem appeared simultaneously with the concept of the national flag. From ancient times, man has used music or songs to mark the presence of a leading figure. In the olden days under the monarchy, however, those pieces of music or songs were considered as the separate symbols of individual kings, noblemen, or representatives of leading families in the community. Regarding their contents, they could be a prayer from that leader asking protection from God or a patron Saint, an article praising him and extolling his accomplishments or those of his family, or a description of the peaceful castle life or of the strength of the community he was commanding.

Only with the French Revolution in 1789, when the country was considered as the property of all the people living in the community, was a song used as a symbol for the entire nation. The French used the term hymne national to refer to this type of song. The French concept was gradually accepted by other countries and English speaking nations used the term national anthem when referring to the song representing their own country. The French hymne national or the English national anthem was translated in Vietnamese as quốc thiều if we put the emphasis on the music or quốc ca if the emphasis is on the lyrics.

Regarding specific implementation, the first national anthem in the world is the Marseillaise of France. This song written in 1792 by a French engineer, Captain Rouget de Lisle was entitled War Song for the Army of the Rhin River (Chant de Guerre Pour l’Armée Du Rhin). It subsequently became famous when a battalion of volunteers made up of soldiers from the city of Marseille sang it as they moved from Marseille to Paris, thereby earning for the song the nickname of La Marseillaise. This song was widely disseminated throughout France beginning in 1792 and in 1795 it was officially chosen as the national anthem of France.

After the French launched the notion of a national anthem, many other countries accepted this notion and adopted their own national anthems. Some national anthems were chosen to mark the presence of royalty. This is the case of God Save The King or God Save The Queen if the Chief of State was a queen. This song has been used in England since before the French Revolution, but it was not until 1825 that it was considered officially as the national anthem of England.

B. THE SONGS WHICH HAVE EMERGED IN VIETNAM AS NATIONAL ANTHEMS

1. The First Appearance of a National Anthem: Melody on The Ascent to The Throne of Emperor Bảo Ðại (the last Emperor of the Nguyễn Dynasty)

In ancient Vietnam, as well as in older monarchic countries, musical compositions and songs were used during solemn ceremonies to mark the presence of the king. The notion of a national anthem only appeared in our country when it fell under the yoke of the French colonialists.

Throughout much of the French colonial period, however, the Vietnamese people did not have a national anthem. Cochinchina was a French colony at the time and during important ceremonies, the music played was the French Marseillaise. In Huế, at the court of the Nguyễn dynasty there were a number of musical pieces used in the presence of the king. They were not, however, anthems in the true meaning of the word.

During World War II, Emperor Bảo Ðại established a national anthem and national flag with one decree. The national anthem was the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne (Ðăng Ðàn Cung). It was a Vietnamese classical musical composition and was used by the court of Huế when the king came to the altar of Nam Giao to represent the entire nation at the ceremony of offerings to heaven. This ceremony was celebrated every three years and was considered as the most important ritual of the court. Therefore, the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne was also regarded as the most solemn piece of music. That is why Bảo Ðại used it as the national anthem while the Spirit of the Dragon Flag was chosen as the national flag. Both the Spirit of the Dragon Flag and the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne were used only on the Ðại Nam (or Greater South) territory which included Central Vietnam (Annam) and Northern Vietnam (Tonkin). Southern Vietnam (Cochinchina), which was considered as part of the French territory, used the Marseillaise.

2. The Second National Anthem: Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient under the Trần Trọng Kim Government

After the Japanese had overthrown the French and Vietnam was declared independent, the Trần Trọng Kim government issued a program of national renaissance on May 8, 1945, in which Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient (Việt Nam Minh Châu Trời Ðông),composed by a musician named Hùng Lân, was chosen as the national anthem. The Vietnamese lyrics of the song are as follows:

Việt Nam, minh châu trời Ðông!
Việt Nam, nước thiêng Tiên Rồng!
Non sông như gấm hoa uy linh một phương,
Xây vinh quang ngất cao bên Thái Bình Dương.
Từ ngàn xưa tài danh lừng lẫy khắp nơi.
Tiếng anh hùng tạc ghi núi sông muôn đời.
Máu ai còn vương cỏ hoa
Giục đem tấm thân xẻ với sơn hà.
Giơ tay cương quyết,
Ta ôn lời thề ước.
Hy sinh tâm huyết,
Ta báo đền ơn nước.
Dầu thân này nát tan tành gói da ngựa cũng cam,
Thề trọn niềm trung thành với sơn hà nước Nam.

English translation:
Vietnam, bright pearl of the Orient!
Vietnam, sacred country of fairies and dragons!
Your land is like a majestic flower of brocade,
Built gloriously and high above the Pacific Ocean.
From ancient times illustrious names have abounded throughout the land.
The fame of heroes has been forever recorded by the mountains and rivers.
Their blood stains the ground
Their torn bodies are one with the mountains and rivers.
As I hold out my hands resolutely,
I reiterate my vows of loyalty.
As I offer in sacrifice my heart and blood,
I repay my debt to my homeland.
Though this body may be completely shattered and wrapped in a horse’s skin, I will not waver,
And swear to remain faithful to Vietnam, my homeland.

The national anthem was used with the Fire flag in Northern and Central Vietnam. It was not used in Southern Vietnam because Southern Vietnam, which was controlled directly by the Japanese after the French defeat, was not returned to the Court of Huế until Bảo Ðại was about to abdicate. Hence from the time of the Japanese victory against the French until the Viet Minh Front consolidated its government in Southern Vietnam, that entire territory had no national anthem. The song used by nationalists in Southern Vietnam when they rose up to fight for the independence of Vietnam was the March of the Youths or Call to the Youths of the Advanced Guard Youth Organization (Thanh Niên Tiền Phong). They also used that organization’s yellow flag with a red star. As we will show later, the music from the March of the Youths or Call to the Youths is the same tune as the national anthem which we are currently using.

3. The Third National Anthem: The Marching Song of the Vietnamese Communist (VC) Party

When they usurped the government, the VC used as their national anthem The Marching Song (Tiến Quân Ca) composed by a musician named Văn Cao. This song was first used when they started organizing their armed units and, to this day, it continues to be their national anthem.

4. The National Anthem of the Republic of Cochinchina

When the Republic of Cochinchina was established in 1946, the leaders of the movement of Autonomy for Cochinchina used as their national anthem a musical composition authored by Professor Võ Văn Lúa, a high school teacher during the French rule. His song took its inspiration from the first few verses in a famous poem, Chinh Phụ Ngâm Khúc or The Elegy of the Warrior’s Wife, written in the 18th Century by Đặng Trần Côn. Afterwards, the Republic of Cochinchina used another song also composed by this educator, but both the tune and lyrics were not much better than those of the previous song. These bizarre national anthems were on a par with the “malaria flag” that was used as the national flag for the Republic of Cochinchina. They were the subject of ridicule by the people of Southern Vietnam, and today when we recall these songs, we do not know whether to laugh or to cry. That is because though completely absurd, they were used as symbols for an organization which opposed the unification of Vietnam and which caused much suffering and many deaths for those who fought for this unification.

5. Our National Anthem Today

Our current national anthem has a distinctive history. The musical composer was Lưu Hữu Phước, a former student from Pétrus Ký high school and alumnus of the University of Hanoi. If I am not mistaken, this tune was composed while Lưu Hữu Phước was still in Pétrus Ký high school. In 1942, he was a student at the University of Hanoi. During World War II, the University was the only institute of higher education for all the countries in Indochina. It had about 800 students of whom half were Vietnamese, the remaining being from Cambodia, Laos, France, and even from some neighboring countries such as China and other Southeast Asian countries.

Because it was the only university for all Indochina, the University of Hanoi was the gathering place for all the Vietnamese students at the time. The patriotic students who joined revolutionary political parties to fight for the independence of Vietnam established secret cells there. In particular, the main leader of the Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam (Ðại Việt Quốc Dân Ðảng), Trương Tử Anh, and a core member of the party, Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn, were students at the University during World War II. Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn, who was a gifted musician, was elected Music Director of the General Association of Indochinese Students (Association Générale des Etudiants Indochinois) and was assigned the secret task of guiding students’ cultural activities towards the fight against colonialism.

On the evening of March 15, 1942, the General Association of Indochinese Students (GAIS) organized a concert in the Great Lecture Hall of the University of Hanoi to raise money to help indigent patients being treated in the hospitals where medical and pharmacy students were interning. The Vietnamese students who were active members of the GAIS decided to take this opportunity to introduce a special musical composition entitled the Students’ March (Sinh Viên Hành Khúc), or Marche des Etudiants in French. Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn had been assigned the task of selecting the music for that event. At the time, Lưu Hữu Phước had given him several tunes which he had composed. Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn considered that of all Lưu Hữu Phước’s drafts, the music that we currently use as our national anthem was best able to stir the fighting spirit, and therefore chose it as the tune for the Students’ March. Subsequently, a drafting committee to write the lyrics to accompany the music was established and included Ðặng Ngọc Tốt, Mai Văn Bộ, Huỳnh VănTiểng, Phan Thanh Hòa, and Hoàng Xuân Nhị. The lyrics included three stanzas and a chorus. The first stanza and chorus in Vietnamese are as follows:

Này sinh viên ơi! Ðứng lên đáp lời sông núi!
Ðồng lòng cùng đi, đi, mở đường khai lối.
Vì non sông nước xưa, truyền muôn năm chớ quên,
Nào anh em Bắc Nam! Cùng nhau ta kết đoàn!
Hồn thanh xuân như gương trong sáng,
Ðừng tiếc máu nóng, tài xin ráng!
Thời khó, thế khó, khó làm yếu ta,
Dầu muôn chông gai vững lòng chi sá.
Ðường mới kíp phóng mắt nhìn xa bốn phương,
Tung cánh hồn thiếu niên ai đó can trường.

Chorus:
Sinh viên ơi! Ta quyết đi đến cùng!
Sinh viên ơi! Ta thề đem hết lòng!
Tiến lên đồng tiến! Vẻ vang đời sống!
Chớ quên rằng ta là giống Lạc Hồng!

English translation:
Students of Vietnam! Arise and heed the call of the homeland!
As one heart, let us go and open the way.
For the love of our nation, do not forget our millenary history,
Brothers from North to South! Let us unite!
Our young souls are like pure crystal.
Unsparing of our ardent blood, let our efforts increase!
No danger, no obstacle can hold us back,
Despite a thousand trials, our courage is unshaken.
On this new road, our eyes embrace the horizon,
Our soaring youthful spirit is undaunted.

(Chorus)
Students of Vietnam! We resolve to go to the end!
We vow to give of ourselves completely!
Moving forward together for a glorious life!
Do not forget that we are the generation of the Lạc Hồng!

Those Vietnamese lyrics were meant for the Vietnamese students with the intention of encouraging the Vietnamese people to fight for their homeland. Since, as mentioned above, the University of Hanoi in those days had many non-Vietnamese students, there were also some French lyrics so all the students at the University could use the song. Of course, the French version could not mention just Vietnam but referred to Indochina to be consistent with the name of the GAIS. The French lyrics were also written by the same drafting committee:

Etudiants! Du sol l’Appel tenace
Pressant et fort, retentit dans l’espace.
Des Côte d’Annam aux ruines d’Angkor,
A travers les monts, du sud jusqu’au nord,
Une voix monte ravie:
Servir la Chere Patrie!
Toujours sans peur et sans reproche
Pour rendre l’avenir meilleur.
La joie, la ferveur, la jeunesse
Sont pleines de femmes promesses.

Chorus:
Te servir, chère Indochine,
Avec coeur et discipline,
C’est notre but, c’est notre loi
Et rien n’ébranle notre foi!

English translation:
Students! The call from the land,
Tenacious and pressing, resounds through the air.
From the coasts of Annam to the ruins of Angkor,
Throughout the mountains from south to north,
A voice rises delighted:
Serve the beloved Homeland!
Always without reproach and without fear
To achieve a better future.
Joy, passion, youth
Are full of rich promises.

Chorus:
To serve you, dear Indochina
With heart and discipline,
It is our goal, it is our law
And nothing will shake our faith!

The concert held on the evening of March 15, 1942 met with great success and the Students’ March, or Marche des Etudiants in French, was recognized officially as the song for the GAIS. That summer, the Association held a graduation ceremony at the Hanoi Opera House. This time, the Governor of Indochina and many other French senior officials attended the event. The Students’ March was performed by the French Navy’s orchestra. The eloquent tune had everyone excited and as it filled the hall, everyone present at the graduation ceremony for the University of Hanoi class of 1942, including the French high level dignitaries, stood up solemnly to salute it. It was subsequently propagated everywhere. The French, Cambodian, and Laotian students of course used the French lyrics. As for the Vietnamese students, those who focused only on their studies and did not participate actively in the political struggle only knew the French version. Those who fought passionately for national independence circulated the Vietnamese lyrics throughout all three regions of the country during that summer, especially the first stanza of the song. Consequently, by 1943, the Students’ March was well known by the Vietnamese people in all three regions of the country.

In 1945, following the Japanese defeat of the French, the Advanced Guard Youth Organization was established in Southern Vietnam and adopted that song for its party. The song was renamed the March of the Youths (Thanh Niên Hành Khúc) or Call to the Youths (Tiếng Gọi Thanh Niên). As for the lyrics, the word students was replaced with the word youths. By the time the French regained control of Southern Vietnam in the end of 1945, the Advanced Guard Youth Organization had already mobilized Vietnamese patriots in Southern Vietnam against them under the yellow flag with a red star and the March of the Youths or Call to the Youths.

In 1948, at a historic meeting in Hong Kong between former Emperor Bảo Ðại and several prominent patriots as well as representatives of various political and religious organizations from Vietnam, Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn proposed the March of the Youths as the national anthem for Vietnam. The conference adopted the proposal and the song was renamed the National March (Quốc Dân Hành Khúc) or Call to the Citizens. (Tiếng Gọi Công Dân). Regarding the lyrics, the first stanza from the March of the Youths mentioned above was used, with the word citizens replacing the word youths.

On June 2, 1948, an interim government was established with General Nguyễn Văn Xuân as Prime Minister and the National March or Call to the Citizens was officially used as the national anthem. When Ngô Ðình Diệm toppled Bảo Ðại to establish a republic, the Constitutional Assembly elected in 1956 raised the issue of selecting a different national anthem. At the time, however, the majority of musical compositions proposed as the national anthems did not meet the criteria for acceptance. The only one deserving to be considered as national anthem was Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient by composer Hùng Lân which the Trần Trọng Kim government had chosen as the national anthem in 1945. Nevertheless, neither Ngô Ðình Diệm nor his brother Ngô Ðình Nhu accepted the use of Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient.

In 1945, both the Nationalist Party of Vietnam (Việt Nam Quốc Dân Ðảng) and the Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam (Ðại Việt Quốc Dân Ðảng) merged into one party under the name of Nationalist Party (Quốc Dân Ðảng) and the Party chose Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient as its song. Subsequently, the two parties went their separate ways but both still kept Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient as their party song. That is why Ngô Ðình Diệm and his brother did not want to use this song for the national anthem. In the end, the Constitutional Assembly in 1956 decided to keep the National March or Call to the Citizens as the national anthem, but changed the lyrics as follows:

Này công dân ơi! Quốc gia đến ngày giải phóng.
Ðồng lòng cùng đi, hy sinh tiếc gì thân sống!
Vì tương lai quốc dân, cùng xông pha khói tên,
Làm sao cho núi sông từ nay luôn vững bền.
Dầu cho thây phơi trên gươm giáo,
Thù nước lấy máu đào đem báo.
Nòi giống lúc biến phải cần giải nguy,
Người công dân luôn vững bền tâm trí,
Hùng tráng quyết chiến đấu làm cho khắp nơi
Vang tiếng người nước Nam cho đến muôn đời!

Chorus:
Công dân ơi! Mau hiến thân dưới cờ!
Công dân ơi! Mau làm cho cõi bờ
Thoát cơn tàn phá, vẻ vang đời sống
Xứng danh ngàn năm dòng giống Lạc Hồng.

English translation:
Oh citizens! Our country has reached the day of liberation.
Of one heart we go forth, sacrificing ourselves with no regrets!
For the future of the people, advance into battle,
Let us make this land eternally strong.
Should our bodies be left on the battlefields,
The nation will be avenged with our crimson blood.
The Race in times of crisis must be rescued,
We the People remain resolute in our hearts and minds,
Courageously we will fight so that everywhere
The glory of the Vietnamese will resound through eternity!

Chorus:
Oh citizens! Hasten to offer yourselves under the flag!
Oh citizens! Hasten to defend this land
Escape from destruction, and bask our Race in glory
Be forever worthy of the Lạc Hồng descendants.

Note from the Translator: Below is Professor Nguyễn Ngọc Bίch’s English singing version of the anthem:

Sons/Girls of Vietnam, it’s time our land be free.
With one same heart let’s sacrifice ourselves!
For our future let’s brave all dangers
To secure our land for now and ever.
Though we may die on the field,
Our blood we’ll spill for the land.
And when our race needs to be saved,
We shall always respond in time
And fight with great might so the whole world
Will see Vietnam shine like a beacon!

Chorus:
Citizens, let’s step forward now!
Citizens, rally the flag now
And save our land, make its name shine
Forever worthy of our race.

The music and lyrics were used during the First and Second Republic until today.

C. THE ISSUE OF CHANGING NATIONAL ANTHEMS

To summarize, except for the awkward music which the Republic of Cochinchina used as its national anthem, but which really cannot be considered as such, the Vietnamese have had altogether four songs deserving the title of national anthem. They are the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne, Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient, the Marching Song, and the National March or Call to the Citizens. These four national anthems were paired with four national flags: the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne with the Spirit of the Dragon Flag, Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient with the Fire flag, the Marching Song with the red flag with a yellow star, and the National March or Call to the Citizens with the yellow flag with three red stripes.

1. Comparing the National Anthems with One Another

The Melody on the Ascent to the Throne is a Vietnamese classical musical composition in the category of court music. This type of music is solemn and peaceful in nature, as opposed to sensual music which expresses passionate emotions and which is used exclusively for entertainment or happy gatherings. The Melody on the Ascent to the Throne was the court music used during the ceremonial offering of the King at the altar of Nam Giao. Therefore, it is stately, but it is not eloquent and does not stir the spirit of its listeners. Vietnam Bright Pearl of the Orient is a modern piece of music and is more exciting than the Melody on the Ascent to the Throne, but the heroes it praises are quiet heroes. Consequently, it does not generate as much enthusiasm from its audiences as the National March or Call to the Citizens. Since it is a march, our current national anthem exhilarates the spirit of its listeners more powerfully. On the other hand, given the historical circumstances, it has played a positive role in the struggle to bring independence and freedom to the people of Vietnam. During World War II, under the name of Students’ March, it was used to awaken the fighting spirit of the Vietnamese people. When the French brought their troops to recapture Southern Vietnam, under the name of March of the Youths or Call to the Youths, it was used to encourage Vietnamese soldiers holding sharp bamboo sticks to fight against the French Expeditionary Corps. When France officially recognized the independence and unification of Vietnam, it became the national anthem with the name of National March or Call to the Citizens.

The Marching Song of the VC also stirs the spirit of the listener like our national anthem does. Regarding the lyrics, from the Students’ March to the March of the Youths to the National March, our national anthem says no more than “The nation will be avenged with our crimson blood”. The Marching Song, meanwhile, with the words “We vow to dismember our enemy and drink their blood” is clearly excessively murderous and could lead the world to view the people of Vietnam as barbaric. From a political standpoint, the March of the Youths was instrumental in encouraging young patriots in Southern Vietnam to hold sharp bamboo sticks to fight against the French Expeditionary Corps. By contrast, the Marching Song emerged as the chant used to greet that Army when it landed in Northern Vietnam according to the agreement with Hồ Chí Minh spelled out in the Covenant of March 6, 1946. Subsequently, it was used when the Viet Minh and French troops cooperated in the Vietnamese-French Joint Control Committee to attack the military zones of the Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam, Nationalist Party of Vietnam, and Vietnam Revolutionary League (Việt Nam Cách Mạng Ðồng Minh Hội).

2. The Reasoning of Those Who Want to Change the National Anthem

Those who want to change the national anthem have presented many different arguments. Among them, only one warrants our attention. This argument is based on the fact that the composer of the music we use in our national anthem is Lưu Hữu Phước, currently a communist cadre, and that he has spoken out to insult Vietnamese nationalists as shameless for taking his music and adapting the lyrics for their usage. A number of Vietnamese nationalists have expressed their discomfort regarding this matter and those who want to change the national anthem have used this as an argument to call for abandoning our current national anthem.

a. Comments about Lưu Hữu Phước as an Individual

Since the argument above is based on the person of Lưu Hữu Phước, we need to know about him as an individual before passing judgment. During World War II, Lưu Hữu Phước was a student with patriotic spirit. Like many other students at the University of Hanoi, he only advocated for the independence of Vietnam but did not join any political organizations. Before the VC usurped the government, Lưu Hữu Phước worked with Nguyễn Tôn Hoàn as an officer of the Nationalist Party of Greater Vietnam at the University of Hanoi.

When the VC usurped the government, Lưu Hữu Phước and several other students joined the Neo-Democratic Party, a political party which collaborated with the VC in the Viet Minh Front, but which initially differentiated itself from the VC Party and often competed against it. However, through a combination of bribes and coercion, the VC pulled most of the Neo-Democratic Party members into the Communist Party and only used the name of Neo-Democratic Party as a label to make people believe erroneously that the regime they were building was not a one-party regime.

Lưu Hữu Phước was one of those members of the Neo-Democratic Party who was dragged into the Communist Party. He lacked the mettle to fight back and was eliminated from the political arena like Ðặng Ngọc Tốt. In addition, he did not have the vicious spirit which the VC needed and used with Huỳnh Tấn Phát, Huỳnh Văn Tiểng, Trần Bửu Kiếm. Nor did he have any special political skill that the VC could exploit as they did with Mai Văn Bộ. After all, Lưu Hữu Phước was just a musician. Therefore, the VC used him as literary workman to produce music at the orders of the Party and to speak up on other matters when the Party needed it. In short, Lưu Hữu Phước composed the music for the National March or Call to the Citizens while he was still a student full of patriotic fervor. Today, he is a literary workman for the VC and all his statements are mere regurgitations of the VC Party line.

b. General Perception around the World Regarding the National Anthem

Even if at the time when he composed the music for the National March, Lưu Hữu Phước was a member of the Communist Party, and even if it was his idea to criticize us for using it, we should not have to concern ourselves with this issue. This is because the general perception around the world regarding the national anthem is that when a musical composition has been recognized by the population as the national anthem, it is no longer the property of one individual but rather it belongs to the entire nation. Thus, the individual who composed the music as well the one who selected it for the national anthem are not issues that need to be discussed. We have a remarkable precedent for this.

That is the case of The Marseillaise which was chosen as the French national anthem. This anthem was composed in 1792 by a French nobleman named Rouget de Lisle. At the time, King Louis XVI was still ruling and Rouget de Lisle was an officer in the French Army. In 1793, Louis XVI was executed and Rouget de Lisle was arrested because he was an aristocrat and a member of the royalist party which opposed the Revolution. Lazare Carnot, a Member of the Committee of Public Safety under the National Convention, wanted to save a fellow army officer who was also the composer of the Marseillaise. He proposed that Rouget de Lisle swear loyalty to the Revolution in order to be pardoned, but Rouget de Lisle refused to repudiate his royalist convictions. In the end, he only escaped death because the revolutionary government which instigated the Great Terror under the leadership of Robespierre was overthrown before his execution sentence was carried out. Yet, even though after 1793, Rouget de Lisle was against the Revolution, the French Revolutionary government continued to use the Marseillaise which he had composed in 1795 and officially decided to use it as its national anthem.

c. The Case of the Marching Song Being Used as the National Anthem by the Vietnamese Communist Party

The Marching Song which was used by the VC Party as their national anthem was composed by musician Văn Cao at the time when the VC had not yet usurped the government of Vietnam. It is not clear whether or not Văn Cao was already a Communist Party member at the time he created this music. What is certain is that later on, he joined the Communist Party. Like many artists who were fervent patriots in those days, he nevertheless came to understand the true character of Communism. It is worth mentioning that he was braver than many others such as Lưu Hữu Phước, for example, and dared voice his discontent and opposition. He participated in the Nhân Văn Giai Phẩm movement in 1956 and categorically rejected the VC Party. In the eyes of the VC today, Văn Cao is a traitor to the Party, a reactionary, and a counter-revolutionary.

With their dictatorial and brutal policy, and their pride in always toeing the Party line, the VC are very embarrassed that their national anthem was composed by a musician considered as a traitor to the Party, a reactionary and counter-revolutionary. Consequently, they did not want to follow the generally accepted concept which began with the history of The Marseillaise of France and which consists in disregarding the later political stance of the anthem’s composer. They offered a substantial reward to the individual who could create a song deserving to be their new national anthem. Among the hundreds of compositions received in the contest, however, they could not select any one song that appealed to the soul. In the end, they reluctantly had to keep The Marching Song as their national anthem.

As for us Vietnamese Nationalists, we have followed the conventional wisdom regarding the national anthem and don’t find it offensive that the author of our national anthem has become a worker for the VC. And if anyone brings up the fact that Lưu Hữu Phước insulted us for using his music in our national anthem, we can tell them to put his insults in the mouth of Văn Cao and send them to the VC party.

3. The Duty of Vietnamese Nationalists Regarding the National Anthem, the National March or Call to the Citizens

The Vietnamese Nationalists are blessed with a powerful national anthem which has been used to inspire patriots in their fight for the independence and freedom of their country. This anthem is well matched with the yellow flag with three red stripes. Given its intrinsic value bolstered by the historical role which it has played, it always generates strong emotions in the hearts and minds of Vietnamese patriots. Since it has been officially established as the national anthem of the independent Vietnamese nation, it has been known and recognized by many countries around the world. In Vietnam, together with the yellow flag with three red stripes, it was the rallying factor for millions of military and civilian fighters struggling for the freedom of the Vietnamese nation. It was the song that accompanied to the cemetery hundreds of thousands of people who died for their Vietnamese Homeland. As such, it is also our sacred treasure just like our national flag. Presently, the National March or Call to the Citizens is not used officially on Vietnamese territory, but as everyone within Vietnam knows, it is the song of the nationalists fighting against the Communists. Outside of Vietnam, it is also recognized by foreigners as the song that symbolizes the anti-communist nationalists. No other song can replace the National March or Call to the Citizens in this regard. Therefore, the respect for this national anthem and its continued widespread use and dissemination everywhere together with the yellow flag with three red stripes is a way of contributing to the liberation of Vietnam from the Communist yoke. If all Vietnamese expatriates are determined to unite and fight together then in a not too distant future, the National March or Call to the Citizens will be sung all over Vietnam from the southernmost tip of Cà Mau to the northernmost pass of Nam Quan. We truly believe that when that day comes, there will certainly not be a more triumphant song.

Professor Nguyễn Ngọc Huy

April 21, 2016

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