In the western world, our conceptions of Vietnam are often limited to the Vietnam War – that prolonged and devastating conflict in the mid-20th century that resulted in the deaths of anywhere up to 4.2 million people. As undeniably ruinous as that war was, it was ultimately just two decades in the history of a nation and a people that stretches back to the first millennium BC. Conquered and ruled by the first Chinese Empire, winning their freedom and taking their first steps as an independent nation, waging their own wars of expansion against the other kingdoms of Southeast Asia; the story of Vietnam is a long one often characterised by conflict and desire to carve out an identity of their own.
In this episode, we look at their story and the associated significance of Đấu Vật – a grappling style centred around the most sacred holiday on the Vietnamese calendar, and inextricably linked to legends of their fierce resistance to foreign invasion.
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