Long Bien bridge

Crossing the Red River

 
My friend french novelist Marie France Briselance was on her first trip to Vietnam. She had to leave Hanoi with regret after a stay of eleven days : to her who is of the “Vietnam generation,” the city has much to tell.

Marie missed in particular a bridge built in 1902 which was originally called Pont Doumer (doumer Bridge), and wich was renamed Long Bien Bridge by the end of the colonial period. She had wanted to cross it by foot but because of lack of time she had not been able to do that.

She had reason to regret the missed chance, my poor friend .a 3 – kilometre walk (going and coming)on that bridge between just the sky above and water below and on a wonderful morning in autumn would be a veritable cure that could have prepared her better for the hustle and bustle of Paris.

As for me each time I take a stroll on the bridge which since the construction of Two other more modern ones, has been reserved for pedestrians and cyclists only,I am filled with contradictory sentiments for the alluvium-laden river below that flows on a turbulent course of more than one thousand kilometres. On the one hand I am reminded of the flight of time and the vanity of this world by these melancholic lines by the Chinese poet Tou Fou:
“Seest Thou not the Yellow river coming from the sky,
Downward to the Ocean Flowing,never turning back?”
(Translation by W.B.Fletcher)

On the other hand when I look towards the swirling upper waters, my heart is filled with gratitude and tenderness for my distant ancestors who in the first millenary before the Christian era forged the Vietnamese national identity by creating the Red River civilisation.

My former professor of Mathematics ,Mr.Hoang Xuan Han, a polytechnician, Sinologist and vietnamologist now residing in Paris, has commented in an interview : “There is really a geographical space, distinct from that of China and on which was born an autonomous culture.It can be said that this space at first straddled the present Sino-Vietnamese border and extended from Yunnan to the delta of the Red River. That is what we call the ‘ Bronze Drum Civilisation, the first Vietnamese culture , the most authentic.”

We will return to this Vietnamese culture of the Red river, which was contemporary with Athens, before its encounter with the Chinese culture.

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