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Preserving folk poetry in Vietnam
Doctor Nguyen Xuan Kinh works to preserve ca dao, or folk poetry, which has been passed down orally from generation to generation.
Ca dao dates back hundreds of years but it was only in the 18th century that scholars began to write it down. Now, about 13,000 original lines of poetry have been recorded.
The term ca dao can be loosely translated as “unaccompanied songs”. Ca: to sing; dao: to sing without music. The oral tradition of passing on ca dao poems, sustained and nourished the Vietnamese language through its centuries of domination and influence by China. Up until the beginning of the 19th century, the literate class – a distinct minority – preferred to compose their poems, with few exceptions, in classical Chinese, which was inaccessible to the masses.