Prof. Thai Kim Lan – Home is Where the Heart is

After more than 50 years of living and working in Germany, Prof. Thai Kim Lan followed her heart and returned to her hometown of Hue. The decision was made not only because of the nostalgia and longing for the poetic Huong River but also the passion of an intellect who wanted to contribute to the preservation and promotion of Hue traditional cultural values.


Prof. Lan said that she had a burning desire to succeed academically, back when she was a young student studying abroad. That drive was not for the sake of fame, money or high authority but for the country’s development. Prof.Lanwent to study in Germany in 1965, then became a professor teaching East-West comparative philosophy at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich upon completing her doctoral thesis in philosophy. She held that position for more than 30 years.

Years of devoting herself to studying had propelled her to become a respected Vietnamese philosophy professor in the homeland of world-famous philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach. “Looking back now, my ambition and ideal at that time feel like a hotheaded dream of youth, but such a dream nourished my academic dedication and spirit,” Prof. Lan said.


Prof. Thai Kim Lan, owner of  "Lan Vien Fairy Tale" and  the Huong River Museum of

Ancient Ceramics. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP

She has a collection of 5,000 ancient ceramic artifacts recovered from the Huong River. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP
The launching ceremony of the Huong River Museum of Ancient Ceramics. Photo: Thai Kim Lan's Files
Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Kim Son visits the Huong River Museum of Ancient Ceramics of Prof. Lan. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s files
At an exhibition of Prof. Kim Lan during the Hue Festival Week 2022. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s Files
Dr Phan Thanh Hai, director of the provincial department of culture and tourism visits the Huong River Museum of Ancient Ceramics of Prof. Lan. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s files
Prof. Kim Lan and friends from USAID. Photo: Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s Files

Prof. Lan, was born into a noble family in Hue. In her childhood, she attended the prestigious schools of Hue such as Quoc Hoc and Dong Khanh, where the “Hue quality” was profoundly imprinted on her. Perhaps that is why Hue scholar Nguyen Dac Xuan once commented that, “Thai Kim Lan is a typical Hue woman.” Meanwhile, scholar Buu Y described her as, “a model of a modern woman who is capable of maintaining her traditional values”.

Dr. Lan is one of the first overseas Vietnamese intellectuals who returned to Vietnam soon after the American War. At home, she founded the German-Vietnamese friendship association and called for investment from Germany as soon as the embargo on Vietnam was lifted. Since then, she has returned to Vietnam many times, each time with different projects.

In 2001, Prof. Lan returned to help the Dao Tan Tuong Theater (Binh Dinh) restore the ancient play “Lo Dich” which had been lost since 1975. This is a classic Tuong (classical drama) opera, the first one in the history of Tuong inspired by French literature and is considered the model of adapting European theatrical work onto the Vietnamese Tuong stage. In 2002, also thanks to Prof. Lan, Dao Tan Tuong Theater brought this play to Germany to perform for 2 consecutive weeks and left a great resonance with the German public. In 2005, Prof. Lan was awarded the Dao Tan Award for her contribution to preserving and promoting the national culture.


Prof. Thai Kim Lan, a graceful Hue woman. Photo: Cong Dat/VNP
Planting Neu tree during Tet at “Lan Vien Fairy Tale”. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s Files
Prof. Thai Kim Lan and her friends at "Lan Vien Fairy Tale". Photo: Thai Kim Lan's Files

She is passionate about the research and preservation of Hue’s traditional cultural values.                                                                 Photo:Thai Kim Lan's File

Prof. Thai Kim Lan shares interesting stories of culture with foreign friends. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s files
Prof. Lan cooks Hue traditional dishes to treat her guests. Photo: Thai Kim Lan’s files

As a scientist with extensive knowledge of German philosophy and literature as well as being imbued with Vietnamese cultural thought, Prof. Lan has translated many valuable German literary and philosophical works into Vietnamese as well as classic Vietnamese literary works into German to enhance cultural exchanges between the two countries.

In recent years, Prof. Lan has returned to Hue more often and spent more time on jobs related to teaching, researching, preserving and promoting Hue traditional cultural values. Currently, she is teaching a master’s class in philosophy at the Hue Buddhist Academy.

Last April, after a long time of preparation, Prof. Lan launched the Huong River Museum of Ancient Ceramics at her own garden house “Lan Vien fairy tale” in Hue. This is a special museum that has collected and displays nearly 5,000 ancient ceramic artifacts recovered from the Huong River. Among them are valuable artifacts dating from the pre-Sa Huynh period, about 2,500 - 3,000 years ago. This is also the first and only private museum in Vietnam dedicated exclusively to ancient ceramic artifacts found in a river.

Talking about this aspiration, Prof. Lan that she once harbored a dream of establishing a private university but it could not come to fruition. This private museum could be considered a “primary school” about Vietnamese history and culture, passing on knowledge to the next generation.

Perhaps bearing that love for Hue of Thai Kim Lan, “Lan Vien Fairy Tale” has become more than a museum but a cultural rendezvous where its owner welcomes and shares interesting stories and ideas about traditional culture with friends who share the same affection for Hue.


Story : Thanh Hoa/VNP - Photos: Tran Cong Dat - Translated by Hong Hanh

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