Special Feature - Master Quyen, The Wise Leader


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Special Feature - Master Quyen, The Wise Leader

111 BC





This is the first image shown on this blog that is not from the Cinematic Series – it is the first of the Profile Series which breaks from the scenes in the poem to focus on a particular character in the story. This photo of Master Quyen shows him as a confident figure, yet not an overbearing one. The setting is in a town close to his rice field in northern Vietnam. Master Quyen was a determined leader with knowledge of some philosophy, as revealed in Scene VI of the poem when Master Quyen is remembered for quoting some of Confucius’ teachings. Master Quyen spoke of deep respect and admiration for women, not as figures above men but as equal partners who made vital contributions to the stability of families and societies. Master Quyen had no wife; he took his slave, Anh (later “Mother Anh”), under his arm and built a friendship and partnership with the young lady. It seems he may have anticipated his own early death, which came a few months after escaping Vietnam, as he expeditiously taught Mother Anh all he knew about relationships and the value of women. Much of this knowledge was passed on years later from Mother Anh to her daughter, Venus Anh, the Roman goddess of women’s rights. 



Regarding the general treatment of women in ancient Vietnam, according to literature, “a traditional Vietnamese woman was governed by three basic Confucian tenets: 1) She should submit to her father, 2) She should obey her husband, and 3) If widowed, she should obey her eldest son.... While this may have be the theory and outward affectation, the fact is that women played a vital role even though it was obscure. Man may have been the head of household, but the skilful and perceptive wife had great influence and her ideas were followed most of the time.”[1] This partly describes the complexities of gender roles in this ancient culture; in public the woman always submits to patriarchal power, but behind closed doors at home, the wise father figure listens to the women. 



The character Master Quyen is portrayed by Richard Loh, a doctor based in Malaysia and this was his first modelling / acting role! Richard himself is a leader and a strong family man, and he himself exhibits many of the admired qualities of his character Master Quyen!



Richard’s daughter Ysabel (who portrays “Mother Anh” in this series), posted a touching tribute to her father on Instagram in November 2017: “There are many things I can say about this man but if I utter a single thing, I'm afraid the tears will leak from the heart and never stop flowing. So I don't say anything. The blessing he is to others, the blessings he bestows on others, the blessing he is to me. Whether he is a professor, a doctor, a teacher, or a pastor- there's only one word that matters. Daddy.” – Ysabel Loh


[1] Hays, Jeffrey (2008), “Women in Vietnam: Traditional Views, Advances and Abuse”, http://factsanddetails.com/southeast-asia/Vietnam/sub5_9c/entry-3390.html


ML Sund