Manusya, Journal of Humanities


Montira Rato

Publication Date



he early 19th century Vietnamese masterpiece, The Tale of Kieu by Nguyen Du, is a story that famously highlights the conflict between the Confucian concepts of filial piety and female chastity, and between personal obligations and personal morality. This paper explores how issues of love and sexual relationships, as portrayed in the Tale of Kieu, influenced the thinking of Vietnamese intellectuals in the early 20th century. Drawing on parallels to Kieu???s plight, it is argued that the Vietnamese, who collaborated with the French, often made sense of their actions in terms of sexual submission and sacrifice as well as being compelled to prostitute themselves for the sake of a higher obligation - in their case to the nation. The portrayal of female sexuality and morality in Nguyen Du???s story continued to be discussed by Vietnamese intellectuals well into the 20th century. This paper charts the course of this debate and the wider discussions relating to sexuality and literature up until the 1945 August Revolution with the aim of showing how closely female chastity, Confucianism, and nationalism, came to be interlinked.

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