When browsing through the Web site of Asian A-Tsui International, an online bookstore and publisher that sells materials for the study of Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and Taiwanese literature, it may be hard to imagine that the founder of the bookstore is not Taiwanese, but a Vietnam-born man named Lu Viet Hung (呂越雄).
Born and raised in a farming family in the mountainous Son La Province, on the Vietnam-Laos border, the 31-year-old Lu never thought he would make his life in Taiwan.
“When I was little, my dream was to become the president of Vietnam, so I never imagined that I would live in Taiwan and be married to a Taiwanese woman,” he said
Lu’s life took a turn nine years ago when he graduated from Vietnam National University in Hanoi with a bachelor’s degree in Chinese.
At the time, he wanted to go to graduate school abroad, but his family was unable to support him financially.
“I was very lucky that I met professor Chiung Wi-vun (蔣為文), an associate professor at National Cheng Kung University’s Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, who encouraged me to apply to the school and helped me apply for a grant,” Lu said. “I was fortunate enough to get the grant and be accepted by the school, so I left for Taiwan in 2004.”
Lu said he met Chiung in his junior year at college when he got a part-time job at the Lok-an Taiwanese Grants for Vietnamese Students office in Hanoi.
Another surprise awaited him in Taiwan: his future wife, Chen Li-yang (陳理揚), who was also a student at the school he attended.
Fluent in Mandarin and Hoklo, and able to speak a bit of Hakka, Lu has devoted himself to enhancing cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as promoting the Vietnamese language in Taiwan.
“I teach Vietnamese at an elementary school and other locations in Greater Tainan, but I found it a bit difficult to get Vietnamese-language teaching materials, so I founded an online bookstore to import materials from Vietnam and sell them online,” Lu said.
Although Lu only started his business last year, it is already prospering, since many companies do business and invest in Vietnam and they need teaching materials for employee language training.
Lu also works with Cheng Kung University to promote cultural exchanges between Taiwan and Vietnam.
“I went back to Vietnam in 2008 for two years, but when I was there, I missed Taiwan very much, so I came back,” he said. “Had it not been for the part-time job that I got in my junior year, I may have ended up going to China for graduate school, I wouldn’t have met my wife and my life would be completely different.”