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Nguyễn Du (1765–1820,
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Nguyễn Du (1765–1820, pennames Tố Như and Thanh Hiên) is a celebrated Vietnamese poet who wrote in Chữ Nôm, the ancient writing script of Việt Nam. He is most known for writing the epic poem The Tale of Kieu.
2 The Tale of Kieu
3 Other works
5 See also
Nguyễn Du was born in 1765 in Tiên Điền village, Nghi Xuân district, Nghệ Tĩnh province (now Hà Tĩnh province), Vietnam. He was the seventh child of Nguyễn Nghiễm, a former prime minister under the Lê Dynasty. By the age of thirteen, Nguyen had lost both of his parents, so for most of his teen years he lived with his brother Nguyễn Khản or with his brother-in-law Đoàn Nguyễn Tuấn.
At the age of 19 (some sources say 17), Nguyen passed the provincial examination and received the title of "tú tài", which made him (very roughly) the equivalent of a high school graduate. However, in Nguyen Du's time this was a far more difficult credential to obtain, both because few people were affluent enough to devote themselves to study.
Nguyen’s mother was his father’s third wife and noted for her ability at singing and composing poetry. In fact, she made her living by singing, which at that time was considered a disreputable occupation. It is said that Nguyễn may have inherited a part of his talents from his mother. He loved listening to traditional songs; and there was a rumour that, when he was 18, he himself eloped with a songstress.
After passing the provincial exam, he was appointed to the position of a military advisor in the Royal (Trinh) army. After the Trinh Lords were defeated in 1786 by Nguyen Hue (the second youngest and most popular of the three Tay Son brothers, Nguyen Du refused to serve in the Tay Son administration. He was arrested and held for some time before he moved back to his native village in the north of the country.
When Nguyen Anh defeated the Tây Sơn and took control over all of Vietnam in 1802, Nguyen Du agreed to serve in his administration (many mandarins from the north refused to do this as it was widely felt that a mandarin should only serve one dynasty). At first he was given his old post of military advisor but after a decade he was promoted to ambassador to China (1813). While in China, he discovered and translated the Ming dynasty era tale that would become the basis for the Tale of Kieu. He was later appointed to two more diplomatic missions to Peking, but before he could depart for the last one, he died of a long illness for which he refused treatment.
Nguyen's father had been a minister under the Lê dynasty, and his family had benefited greatly under their rule. For most of his life, Nguyen Du was haunted by what he felt was his own betrayal of the rightful rulers of Vietnam, which occurred when he accepted a post under the Nguyễns.
 The Tale of Kieu
See Tale of Kieu
It is necessary to keep in mind this historical and social background in order to understand both Nguyen Du and his main work, The Tale of Kieu (Vietnamese Truyện Kiều), which was based on an earlier work known as Kim Vân Kiều and was originally titled Đoạn Trường Tân Thanh (lit. new accents of a heart-rending song).
The Tale of Kieu was written under the pen-name as the story was quite critical of basic tenants of Confucian morality. It is the tale of two lovers forced apart by the girl's loyalty to her family honor. Nguyen added his own pain and guilt over his betrayal of his own honor, and the result is one of the great masterpieces of Vietnamese literature.
In Vietnam, the poem is so popular and beloved, that (it is claimed) there are illiterate farmers who know the whole work by heart, and can recite it without a mistake.
 Other works
Bắc Hành Tạp Lục (Travels to the North)
Điêu la thành ca giả
Long thành cầm giả ca
Mộng đắc thái liên
Nam Trung Tạp Ngâm (Various Poems)
Ngẫu hứng V
Ngô gia Đệ cựu ca cơ
Thác lời trai phường nón
Thanh Hiên thi tập (Poems of Thanh Hiên)
Văn chiêu hồn
Besides Vietnamese poetry, Nguyen also wrote some poems in Chinese.
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