Culturist Huu Ngoc and his great passion for Hanoi culture

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Huu Ngoc was born in 1918 in Bac Ninh province and has a profound knowledge of French, English, German, and ancient Chinese. 

In his 70-year career, Huu Ngoc has written dozens of books on Vietnamese culture, many of which are about Hanoi. 

Ngoc’s book “A Sketch of Hanoi Culture” in French and English was presented to the heads of state at the 7th Francophone Meeting in Hanoi in 1997.  

That was Ngoc’s first research on Hanoi culture and the first cultural research on the capital city published in a foreign language since August, 1945. 

Huu Ngoc wrote the book “Hanoi, who are you?” in English on the occasion of the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi in 2010: “Most of books include chapters on Hanoi culture because Hanoi is the soul of the Vietnamese people”.

Huu Ngoc said he wrote the book “A Sketch of Hanoi Culture” in 3 months. The book, featuring cultural and historical sites, outlines Vietnamese history for 3,000 years. 

The establishment and growth of the imperial city and its outlying areas are described in the book “’Portrait of Traditional Hanoi”. Ngoc’s 500-page book tells anecdotes about his foreign friends during their time in Hanoi. 

Ngoc says so discussion of Hanoi culture can overlook Hanoi’s lakes: “Lakes are the soul of Hanoi. Since the 15th century, people have built cities based on the position of lakes. 

Lakes have a spiritual meaning to the capital. They are not only a source of water but are linked to many legends and historical events. 

Hoan Kiem Lake, or Sword Lake, is related to a legend about King Le returning a magic sword to a Tortoise Genie after using the sword to fight for peace in Vietnam. 

In the 18th century, Nguyen Huy Luong wrote a poem in praise of the beauty of West Lake, which is linked to King Quang Trung’s victory over 20,000 Qing invaders”.

Ngoc says green trees are another important part of Hanoi: “Many foreigners like Hanoi because it has a lot of green trees. Each street has a typical kind of tree. Tran Hung Dao street is lined with dracontomelon trees. In autumn, Nguyen Du street fills the air with the fragrance of milk flowers”.

Hanoi culture includes the flower markets of Nghi Tam, and Nhat Tan village. 

Tran Doan Lam is Director of the World Publishing House, where Huu Ngoc used to work: “Huu Ngoc has made a great contribution to promoting Vietnamese culture to the world as well as introducing world culture to Vietnam”.

Huu Ngoc has been awarded the “Independence” Order by the Vietnamese State, the “North Star” Order by the Swedish government, the “Academy Palm Leaf” Order by the French government, and many other honorary titles.



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