The Army Marching Song was not yet made the national anthem then. By the time President Ho Chi Minh approved the song as Democratic Republic of Vietnam’s national anthem on 13 August 1945, the piece had undergone several modifications in its lyrics. For example, the phrase
“Thề phanh thây uống máu quân thù”
(“We swear to flay the enemies and drink their blood”)
expressing the hatred towards the enemy who caused a severe famine at the time, was changed to
“Đường vinh quang xây xác quân thù”
(“The path to glory is built by the bodies of our foes”)
“Tiến lên! Cùng thét lên!
Chí trai là nơi đây ước nguyền!”
(“Onward! All together roar!
Here is where sworn man’s will.”)
“Tiến lên! Cùng tiến lên!
Nước non Việt Nam ta vững bền.”
(“Onward! All together advancing!
For one eternal Vietnam.”)
(Translator’s note: In the Vietnamese version, there is a slight nuance when the word “núi sông” was changed to “nước non”. In English, both words bear the same meaning of “mountains and rivers” in the literal sense – and “one eternal Vietnam” in the broader context).
The song was also almost replaced in 1981, when the 6th National Assembly decided to open a campaign to find a new national anthem that would better fit the new era. The competition attracted thousands of entries with 17 selected as the finalists, but following the people’s wish, the Army Marching Song remained as the national anthem. National Archives Centre III still kept many of those entries, as well as the original version of the Army Marching Song with the lyrical modifications penned by the late composer Van Cao himself.
The national emblem was the last to be created among the three elements, and also one with a tortuous history. In 1953, artist Bui Trang Chuoc, who was previously designing postage stamps and banknotes for the State Bank of Vietnam, was assigned to the Legal Department in the Prime Minister’s Office to create certificates and merit medals for the Government. Here, he entered the campaign to design Vietnam’s national emblem. He created 112 sketches, researches and dozens of detailed designs he wanted to include on the emblem. His daughter, Ms. Bui Minh Thuy shared with us: “To design the national emblem, my father looked for the images closest to Vietnamese people’s heart, the ones linked to Vietnam’s villages, the rice agriculture, or symbols rich in historical and cultural values of the Vietnamese. My father even went out into the rice fields and studied the ripe crops to accurately depict them.”
In October 1954, of more than 300 entries sent by various artists, only 15 designs of Bui Trang Chuoc were selected to present to the Government. At last, the design most similar to the current national emblem, with the circular shape, rice crops and anvil, was meticulously selected. In the text “I Draw the National Emblem” on display at National Archives Centre III, Bui Trang Chuoc wrote: “A copy was given to comrade Con to present to Uncle Ho, which received his suggestion as followed: the anvil represents individual crafts, thus it should be replaced with a symbol of the modern industry.” Since then, the emblem design has had the cogwheel like it does today, with the circular shape propped up, creating a strong, solid feel.
Later on, due to a confidential mission, artist Bui Trang Chuoc was sent abroad. The editing task was reassigned to artist Tran Van Can, who was mistaken as the original author for an extensive period of time. Artist Bui Trang Chuoc’s writing and design modifications through the years are currently being stored at the Centre, in the exhibition area.