George Mason University
This privately run site is dedicated to the promotion of Vietnamese history and culture. The site itself has a professional look and makes full use of stylish Web design in presenting information about Vietnam’s cultural and social traditions. Navigation of the site can be done via a side menu, which changes as one progresses deeper into the site, or via a general menu at the top of the screen. Despite this careful design, categories are not always intuitive, nor is it immediately clear what topics will be found under each heading. Because of this somewhat loose organization, it may be necessary to explore the site to find specific information. Fortunately, this exploration will allow you to view other portions of the site, all of which are filled with interesting bits of information and points of historical relevance.
The major categories are: “Art,” “Architecture,” “History,” “Literature,” “Music,” “Numismatics” (coins), “Philately” (stamps), and “Champa.” While most of the categories are self-explanatory, not everyone will know that Champa is the name of the nation that, until the 15th century, occupied the area which is now Southern Vietnam. Even today the Cham are an ethic minority within Vietnam. I can only assume that this category was separated out because site designers wished to treat the history and culture of Champa separately from the general focus on Vietnamese traditions.
Each category is subdivided into minor topics and under these subheadings is the bulk of the primary evidence. The site is highly decorated with images. Pertinent photographs, maps, and diagrams are frequently included next to relevant portions of text or can be accessed via hypertext links. This is certainly true in the Champa section where hypertext is used to provide high quality architectural diagrams of important Cham temples, including the Po Nagar and the Po Klong Garai.
Several hundred images are scattered throughout the text. The audio files, found in the “Music” section, are fewer in number but well chosen. The first 13 files are in the section on traditional musical instruments. Each classical instrument is pictured and an audio clip provides a sense of how the instrument sounds when played. The popular music section includes seven clips of contemporary composers and performers.
Portions of the “Architecture” section can be very useful in a classroom presentation on Vietnamese art. In particular, the four VMRL (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) files provide a three-dimensional tour of two temples, one pagoda, and a mausoleum. While these schematic views will need to be supplemented with actual photographs, this type of virtual tour can help students visualize the architectural space beyond two-dimensional photographs.
Some literary primary materials have been included in the Literature section. This material is mainly composed of translated poems, but only four appear here. Some of the sections under the “Literature” and “History” categories are largely written in Vietnamese and may, therefore, be inaccessible to students. However, the vast majority of the site is in English and well worth a careful read.