The Citadel is a six-square-mile area containing hundreds of buildings in many sub complexes built from 1804-1834. The most famous part is the Forbidden Purple City, modeled after the Forbidden City in modern Beijing, China. The Citadel still bears scars of the battle with machine gun holes in the thick walls, and portions of other walls still bearing gaping holes. Many of the buildings were totally destroyed. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Wadian)
by Dr. Don McComb, professor of graphic design
Graphic design students have responded eagerly to the challenges of working with the research Professor Wadian and I did in Vietnam. This fall, students produced illustrated maps of Vietnam and used some of Professor Wadian's photos and newspaper articles to design travel magazines. In the spring, students will design websites about Vietnamese cultural heritage. We plan to exhibit some of their work in the Student Center.
Behind Vietnam's fragile beauty lies a history of social transformation that has accommodated multiple belief systems, cultural institutions and power structures while remaining committed to a nationalistic cultural. In ancient times, the Chinese came to dominate the north while the south was influenced by forces from as far away as India. Europeans colonized the area beginning in the late 1700s, and the country was reunified in 1976. As a result, Vietnam has experienced many struggles between competing religious, artistic and political systems.
The purpose of my trip was to capture the residue of this complex history in some well-preserved temples, citadels and natural areas recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage sites and to use the information I collected as teaching tools to help globalize the curriculum in several liberal arts disciplines.
In addition to the cultural significance of the World Heritage sites, I captured photographs and video that compare and contrast Western influences in both urban and rural settings, ranging from the colonial period to the present day.
Surprisingly, little has changed in the production of rice, vegetables and rubber, and in the methods of harvesting fish, shrimp and oysters. Indeed, ecotourism helps sustain traditional floating villages in Ha Long Bay and traditional production of silk and pearls in the Central Highlands.
The cultural diversity of Vietnam's more than 50 recognized ethnic groups is preserved in part by its indigenous Water Puppet Theater, Cham Museum and Museum of Ethnology. Photographs and video footage of these unique cultural spectacles in addition to interviews with guides and experts tell the story of how Vietnam has sustained its diversity in spite of thousands of years of invasion and oppression by outsiders.
The streets and sidewalks of the major cities bustle with positive energy. The traffic is relentless. People move with a strong sense of purpose, but they always are willing to stop and chat. The people I met were very cheerful, optimistic and passionate about their country. Vietnam's commitment to its cultural heritage, combined with its openness and adaptability make it a model for global citizenship.