In This Review

Sources of Vietnamese Tradition
Sources of Vietnamese Tradition
Edited by Jayne Werner, John K. Whitmore, and George Dutton
Columbia University Press, 2012, 664 pp

This addition to the venerable Introduction to Asian Civilizations series marks a major step in the maturation of Vietnam studies in the American academy. The book translates excerpts from more than 200 texts, many previously unavailable in Western languages, dating from the year 297 to 1991. Throughout their long history, people in the lowlands of Vietnam struggled to protect themselves against military incursions and cultural influences from minority peoples in the surrounding highlands and from Cambodia, China, Thailand, and, eventually, Europe. Many themes in this collection resemble those encountered in the Sources of Tradition volumes on China, Japan, and Korea. The imperial bureaucracy tried to control local society, Buddhism contended with Confucianism and eventually with Christianity and Marxism, women conformed to and resisted prescribed gender roles, nationalists debated how to resist Western incursions, and the South fought repeatedly with the North. The Vietnamese gradually forged a distinct civilization and a proud identity. The book lays a solid foundation for further teaching and research in many disciplines.