Dr. Pham Van Tuan, who is the group’s administrator and Buddhist researcher, granted an interview with Thoi Nay (Present Times) publication of Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper, to share the group’s activities.

Q: Why did you decide to form the cultural forum “Vietnamese Pagoda”?

A: In 2017, I realised groups on traditional culture, religion and arts had very few members and the number of researchers was limited. As a researcher of Buddhist history, literature and philosophical thought, I decided to establish the group. At first, the group had only two administrators including Nguyen Dinh Hung (an expert on Buddhism) and myself, and then Pham Vu Luc and Vien Chi were added. They are all knowledgeable about history, traditional culture and Han – Nom documents.

In just a short time, the interaction of domestic and international people has increased within the forum. Among the groups on social networks, “Vietnamese Pagoda” gathered the most patriotic personalities in the scientific sector. The professors and PhDs throughout the country and abroad, especially in Japan and China, joined enthusiastically.

Q: How did you and other administrators operate the forum?

A: It is easy to form a group; however, it is difficult to develop it, requiring an effective team. The social need is to receive knowledge, update standard and accurate information via all forms. Therefore, if the administrators’ interaction with the group’s fields is limited, the efficiency will not be high.

During the first phase, the group held several talks on Buddhist culture, art, and scholarship. Accordingly, members and people can learn and visit the pagodas, temples and landscapes more. The group “Vietnamese Pagoda” has many monks and researchers, contributing to creating an environment that harmonises the life of the scholars and monks to spread cultural values to everyone. Sometimes there were silences due to the complicated situation of the pandemic; however, the forum has always had a good voice to contribute to social life.

The group has nearly 40,000 members, including many outstanding and enthusiastic names. Many issues received hundreds and thousands of comments. When these issues were published on social networks and received a great critical voice, they directly urged the agencies, departments and cultural sector to come up with solutions. In addition to constructive discussions and debates, extreme comments will not be accepted so that the members can feel that they are respected. The group must be a place for the civilised and polite exchange of knowledge.

Dr. Pham Van Tuan

Q: In your opinion, what qualities should an administrator have to help a group with a large number of members like “Vietnamese Pagoda” operate in an active and civilised manner and develop stronger?

A: Being the “administrator” of a group is not as easy as being a simple manager. If the problem is not in the scope of our knowledge, we have to seek help from the experts. Thanks to that, the group can operate for a long time because everyone is respected.

To help a group operate effectively, the three following factors are extremely important. Firstly, the administrator must be a good, conscientious and talented person. Secondly, all members must be respected equally and receive cultural knowledge within the group. Thirdly, the group must always be innovative to provide members with new cultural and academic values.

Q: In fact, several articles in the group “Vietnamese Pagoda” received a lot of likes and shares, but the number of comments for them was relatively limited. What do you think about that?

A: Many interesting contents such as Bai Dinh, Tam Chuc or Ba Vang pagodas received thousands of views and hundreds of comments. However, there are also many articles with only a few dozen views. Therefore, the values that need to be voiced, such as the restoration of monuments and damaged relic sites, often attracted immediate interaction because people thought that they should contribute their voices to the common issues for a better social and cultural life. However, whether the interaction is more or less, cultural values and religious symbols have a certain pervasiveness to the members. Moreover, social networks bring visual effects, so sometimes the public just absorbs the problems without necessarily leaving comments.

Thank you very much!

Dr. Pham Van Tuan used to major in Han Nom scripts in the Faculty of Literature under the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. He is working at the Institute of Han Nom Studies. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Pham Van Tuan has taught at many Buddhist institutes.