Around the time of Vietnamese independence from China in 939 CE, Vietnamese scholars invented chữ Nôm as an ideographic script to represent Vietnamese speech. From the 10th century and into the 20th, much of Vietnamese literature, philosophy, history, law, medicine, religion, and government policy was written in chữ Nôm script. During the 14 years of the Tây-Sơn emperors (1788-1802), most administrative documents were written in chữ Nôm. Approximately 1,000 years of Vietnamese cultural history is recorded in this unique system. This heritage is now nearly lost to the modern world. Most Vietnamese cannot read chữ Nôm. Most of its texts are in physical peril, destroyed by wars, fires, humidity, and bookworms.
The Hán-Nôm Special Collection Digitization Project at the National Library of Vietnam is an ongoing cooperative effort between the Vietnamese Nôm Preservation Foundation and The National Library of Vietnam. In April, 2006, the VNPF signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NLV, to create a digital library of the NLV’s Hán-Nôm Special Collection of over 4000 texts. The Project using the "Thư Mục Sách Hán Nôm " documentation of Prof. Ngô Đức Thọ 2002.
The Hán Nôm collection in the Special Collections Reading Room at the National Library covers works in woodblock print, handwritten print, and contemporary typesetting print of various scripts: Hán, Nôm, Hán-and-Nôm as well as occasional Hán or Nôm with quốc ngữ (the modern national script) transliteration. The subject disciplines of the digital library can be grouped under four classifications: classics, history, philosophy and literature which include anthologies, biography, children’s primers, civil service examinations, drama, education, gazetteers, genealogy, history, imperial law, inscriptions, legends, linguistics, literature, oriental medical science, Nôm stories, poetry, religions, Sinology, imperial law, village law, and family law.