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Mar 13, 2024 / 16:21

French professor releases book on Vietnamese bronze drums

The book contains a series of interesting historical stories, photographs and archaeological research on ancient drums in Southeast Asia and Vietnam.

A Vietnamese version of French professor Jacques de Guerny's book on the history of bronze drums in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, was launched at an event steeped in Vietnamese culture last week.

The book launch and music function, hosted by the French scholar, featured the Dong Kinh Co Nhac troupe playing traditional percussion and other folk instruments.

Titled Les Tambours de Bronze de l'Asie du Sud-Est (Bronze Drums of Southeast Asia), the book was first published in French in 2017, then translated into English in 2018 and now Vietnamese.

De Guerny, who is also an economist and a former lecturer at HEC University in Paris and Harvard Business School in the US, has devoted his time and resources to collecting and studying these drums, some of which date back 2,500 years.

 French professor Jacques de Guerny (second from right) and Vietnamese instrumentalists. Photo courtesy of the Dong Kinh Co Nhac Troupe

He visited museums in Vietnam that have bronze drums on display and spoke to museum directors and researchers across the country, including those in Hanoi, Thanh Hoa Province and Ho Chi Minh City.

In his book, the author has shown an insatiable passion for collecting and tracing their evolution in Southeast Asia, particularly in Vietnam.

"Many bronze drums have been described by scholars or missionaries, but their mystery has persisted to the extent that various hypotheses, often antagonistic, have been put forward to explain the origin and evolution of these masterpieces whose metal has not yet been found," said De Guerny.

Be that as it may, the drums belonged to the final sophistication of the Bronze Age in Asia, avatar of one of the oldest musical instruments ever created and still popular in human life and beliefs, according to De Guerny, who added: "I was therefore intrigued and decided to investigate the "Bronze Drums Case", not only by studying the existing research, but also by visiting all the countries concerned, with the help of the best scholars and natives."

 The original French version of the book by Jacques de Guerny. Photo courtesy of the author 

In his book, he wrote: "The 'wealthy southern barbarian kingdoms' bordering the Red River, from what is now Yunnan (China) and Tonkin (Vietnam), invented bronze drums around 500 BC and developed them until the Han colonisation at the end of BC. The Dong Son culture cast perhaps the most elaborate drums of the period at the end of the 2nd century BC.

The French professor said he hadn't written a new thesis, but wanted to give the reader some keys to understand and hopefully join him in becoming a lover of bronze drums.

According to Jacques de Guerny, the Red River basin is the home of bronze drums. The first bronze drums were cast here and they were the most beautiful and influential bronze drums. There are not many objects in the world that have existed for more than 2,000 years and still retain their beauty like bronze drums.

In the three chapters (Foundations for understanding; Journey through countries with bronze drums; Synthesis: Reality and Interpretation), the author explains the origin, casting method, style and use of bronze drums. There is also an overview of bronze drums and comments from experts.

According to historian Trinh Sinh, the book is valuable because the author offers the perspective of a long-time archaeological researcher in Vietnam.

"There are views that need to be discussed, but still Jacques de Guerny loves Vietnam and Vietnam's beautiful bronze drum heritage. This is something worth appreciating," said Sinh.