A History of SPRINGTIME MAGAZINE in COCHINCHINA – Part 1

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     Number of veteran newsmen in the 30’s and 40’s have assuredly believed that Mr. DIỆP VĂN KỶ himself was the man who first had taken the initiative in publishing the first springtime magazine, following his adherence to the Press circle – namely the “Đông Pháp” thời báo (French Indochina time magazine) of town-councillor NGUYỄN KIM ĐÍNH in 1927.

     Although that magazine was owned by NGUYỄN KIM ĐÍNH – Its editor was TRẦN HUY LIỆU – The Đông Pháp Time (Fig.1) was the unique magazine that clutched at the nationalist movement – that grew exceedingly agitated at that moment – so it had secured the masses’ attention who welcomed it and read it. For that reason, right toward the end of 1927, the Springtime time magazine, with a modest number of pages and a normal size, had made its appearance, printed in red and black colours, and had been sold out immediately.

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Fig.1: Đông Pháp Thời Báo (Đông Pháp Time daily magazine) Nr. 104, Fabruary 1, 1924.

     How were the contents to be so warmly welcomed by the readers? Was it because of the appearance of great names of politicians such as PHAN CHÂU TRINH, PHAN BỘI CHÂU, or BÙI QUANG CHIÊU? The truth is proving quite to the contrary – It was because of the “eccentricpoet NGUYỄN KHẮC HIẾU with his poem “Enjoying the Springtime(Chơi Xuân). Reading the poem “Chơi Xuân” written in the simple style of the 30’s and 40’s, we at first might believe, that he was relating to us the pleasure and  inspiration of a drunkard upon emptying his glass of wine with one gulp, but contrarily to our belief, he was actually making, a preliminary summingup of all different manners of enjoying Springtime throughout all historical periods, from China to our country. All this with humanistic, political and military senses…, aimed at arousing patriotism.

     At that period of time, though already liberated from the ties of Chinese and Chinese transcribed Vietnamse literatures, this poet who aspired to lead a French way of life and to learn to speak French, still could not break with his “paralleled constructions” came the appearance of the Thần Chung (Miraculous Bell) springtime issue in 1929 – It’s regrettable that the Thần Chung was short-lived; it made its appearance on January 7, 1929 and died very young on March 25, 1930.

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Fig.2:  Thần Chung (Miraculous Bell) magazine springtime issue Ất Mão 1915.

   The Thần Chung daily had a pair of distichs very appreciated by its readers at that time :

  “The morning bell resounds conveying to our compatriots the best wishes for the three happy Tết days. Being over anxious and filled with love for our old country, we do hope that we’ll have many good opportunities in these springdays.”

    A similar case was the one of TRẦN THIỆN QUÝ – when in charge of the Trung Lập (Impartial) daily,  he was greatly appreciated by the readers, but when joining the Công Luận, he lost little by little that appreciation.

 

 

     The springtime issue – published in that springtime – though elaborated and brightened up – still had to share the fate of the nation through each different historical period. The first one was the period of economical crisis – and in the spring issue published on February 14, 1931, author NGUYỄN VĂN BA, the editor, had complained about the miseries of the people in Cochin China in his article entitled: “Tết of the last year and Tết of this year”. Let’s re-read a paragraph, filled with pessimism, in his article to be able to compare it with a life-loving paragraph Tản Đà NGUYỄN KHẮC HIẾU had written in his article entitled: “Enjoying the springtime”, mentioned above.

   “… While we were enjoying the last Tet time, we all were certain that we’ll be able to enjoy this year’s Tết time, but we really didn’t expect it to be like this. Last year we didn’t have a Tết time like this year Tết time and to tell the truth, we have never had a similar Tết time in Cochin China’s history”.

             How sad this year Tết time is?  
            How sad is this Tân Vi Tết time?

     In the 30’s, there were not many newspapers written in “quốc ngữ(latinized national language), even though the literary public had made the acquaintance with the latinized words. Among those rare newspapers, the Thần Chung daily was the most outstanding one.

     Among the group of newsmen writing springtime newspapers and magazines, the Công Luận (Public Opinion) daily had a noticeable guiding principle: that of having a separate group of editors for each springtime issue – for example the special springtime issue of the year 1931 was written by editors NGUYỄN VĂN BA and PHÚ ĐỨC. With the following springtime special issues came the turn of VÕ KHẮC THIỆU, DIỆP VĂN KỶ, then TRẦN THIỆN QUÝ.

     Although appreciated by the readers while they were still with the Thần Chung daily – the group Kỷ, Ba’s prestige had been lessened when they went to work for the Công Luận daily.

    “… Don’t think of far-off days, since the last Tân Vi year (1871) up to now, after being under the French Protectorate, everybody in Cochin China had lived happily, and each time when Tết came, people drank to happily greet the springtime until the last year (1930), when the atmosphere and scenes weren’t as happy and bustling as in the past, but from seventy to eighty percent of the Tết atmosphere still could be seen.

    Anybody born on this land would recognize so. However, everything is changed in this Tân Vi Tết time, one can say that last year we’ve had a tenfold of activities while this year we don’t have even just one. Last year, a shop selling silks on Catinat street could sell each day four or five hundred piastres of silk, this year, it could sell only thirty or forty piastres per day. Everybody is complaining about meeting with a loss…”

     “… Another reason for this situation is constituted by the troubles that have occurred since the last year.”

     But we should know that not all the springtime newspapers and magazines had fallen into a “wearied and sorrowstricken” situation, as certain of them, with their far-reaching views, had forecasted a fine future. Let’s re-read a page of the Trung Lập (Impartial) springtime issue written by TRẦN THIỆN QUÝ and published on January 21, 1933. He had borrowed a French saying to tell of the changes of prosperity and decline, chances and misfortunes – as an everlasting philosophy.

 

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Fig.3:  Trung Lập daily magazine, Nr. 11, 1946

   “… The French have a saying that goes: “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good”. Here, the good is rather slow to come, but everybody recognizes that it really exists.   

   “If not how come our Annamese people now know how to manufacture soap, weave stockings,  make wooden shoes, and make leather shoes; so many crafts that were formerly reserved for the Chinese. And if not, how come our Annamese people now know how to open restaurant, coffeeshops, and to sell Chinese soup and Chinese noodles.” 

    A few years later, the Press was granted a lot of “freedom” so it became quite developed especially in the years 1938-1939. However, when the war burst out, many newspapers had been suspended with many newsmen arrested and imprisoned. The Press fell into a dramatic situation. At that time, people could see only certain newspapers such as Điện Tín (Daily Telegraph), Sài Gòn (Saigon), Truyền Tin (Communication) and Dân Báo (People’s newspaper).

     With regard to the Dân Báo (People’s Newspaper)Newsman BÙI THẾ MỸ had published 3 consecutive springtime issues: in 1940-1941-1942. Besides them, the magazines of ĐẶNG NGỌC ÁNH and MAI VĂN NINH had published 3 issues in the consecutive years 1943-1944 and 1945.

    If the low-spirited “tone” had been laid bare in a time of economical crisis, then, when came the wartime period, this same tone still served the masses with their resentful psychology. Let’s reread an article published on the Điện Tín in 1945.

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Fig.5: Điện Tín (Daily Telegraph) springtime Quý Sửu, 1973

  “… Only people who had sheltered themselves under a trench could know how deep the ground was; and only those who had gone to sea could know how immense the sea was. In these last 6 years, our country was similar to a ship standing out to sea, while inland there still is a small trench to shelter.”

   People’s imperfection consists of thinking that other people are being more blessed than themselves, while actually, each day, they are getting much more blessings than their fellowcreatures. However small the blessing might be, we ought to feel happy to have it, as it’s created all by ourselves just like the shelter, though narrow, still contends the pressure of the wind, as well as the sharp bomb fragments.

   That was the situation in CochinChina which HỒ BIỂU CHÁNH is one among the historical witness.

    Looking out toward Hanoi – the whole nation’s cradle – the newsmen had, through magazines such as Tri Tân (Knowledge of the New), Thanh Nghị (Public Opinion), Trung Bắc Chủ nhật (Central and Northern Sunday) left behind for our profit an abundant treasure of documents, used for the Press and Literary circles. Straightforwardly speaking the springtime issues of Trung Bắc Chủ nhật, Phong Hóa and Ngày Nay had conquered the mind of the Cochin Chinese readers.

… been updtaed …

 

 

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