Society and Identity
As a colony of the Chinese empire during a thousand years (111 B.C. - 938 A.C.), Vietnam used Chinese characters, learned Chinese history and adopted Chinese model of biography. Sima Quan, in his Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) was the first biographer in Chinese world ; he wrote several biographies of kings and queens, and of philosophers such as Conficius or Laotsu. Until the French colonisation, the Vietnamese people wrote a lot of biographies what must to be, in the Confucian mind, a "miror" and an exemple for the generations.
When Vietnam became a French colony, the Vietnamese intellectuals reading Western books in French discovered, in the beginning of 20th century, new ways of biography writing. There was a real interest in the biography : about 150 biographies were published in Vietnamese until 1945. There are many biographies of Vietnamese, European, Chinese and Vietnamese historical personalities and writers or poets. Some of these biographies are analyzed by David Marr (Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945) focusing on the perceptions of the past and the building of the Vietnamese nation. The goal of my paper is to build a corpus of biographical texts published in Vietnamese in the first half of 20th century, then to analyze this corpus and to answer to some questions. Who are the characters of these biographies? Why? and How were their lives written? The analysis of this corpus should contribute to a better understanding of the modern Vietnam from the point of building a national community.