Parallel Sentences in Vietnamese New Year

Published:  09:25 Thursday - December 08, 2016 Parallelism played an important role in Vietnamese classical literary style. It marks every literary genre from prose to poetry, including a kind of rhymed prose. It entirely governs a particular genre, call parallel sentences.

A pair of parallel sentences comprises tow parts, the words of which must stand opposite to one another in the six tones of the Vietnamese language as well as in meaning.

In Vietnam in the old days, parallel sentences were composed during meetings between literati, in salons, on the occasion of festivals, weddings, and even funerals. According to the circumstances, their contents might be solemn, laudatory, or mocking.

On New Year’s Day, every home liked to have a pair of parallel sentences composed and written by a scholar on red paper and hung in the place of honor, usually on both sides of the entrance door or of the ancestors’ altar. In Hanoi, during the weeks preceding New Year, Hang Bo Street crew with people coming to buy parallel sentences from white-bearded calligraphers, whose stalls lined both sides of the street.

Here are two pairs of well-known, old New Year parallel sentences:

Fat meat, pickled onions, red parallel sentences
New Year pole, strings of firecrackers, green Chung cake.

On the New Years’ Eve, pay debts on all sides; bending your legs, kick out poverty.
On New Years’ day, rice wine makes your drunk; stretching your arms, carry in wealth

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