Search

Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

A Musical.ly Review of “The People between the Rivers”

There is a wonderful book by Catherine Churchman coming out in a couple of weeks called The People between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of a Bronze Drum Culture, 200-750 CE.

I will post a detailed review of this important work when it is actually published, but in anticipation of that, here is a musical.ly review of the book.

Continue reading “A Musical.ly Review of “The People between the Rivers””

The Premodern Past that Haunts Modern Vietnamese

There at it again. For the past few days Vietnamese cyberspace has been filled with articles and discussions about whether Chinese characters (chữ Hán) should be taught in schools in Vietnam.

I think the article that got the current debate started was one that called for teaching Chinese characters in order to “preserve the clarity of Vietnamese” (Cần dạy chữ Hán để giữ sự trong sáng của tiếng Việt), and this provoked somewhat of a backlash from some people who see this idea as some kind of effort to make Vietnam more “Chinese.”

Continue reading “The Premodern Past that Haunts Modern Vietnamese”

Knowledge Production, Globalization and Vietnamese Studies

The video below aired on ThinkTech Hawaii and covers a range of topics that the Engaging With Vietnam conference series deals with, from knowledge production to globalization.

A big mahalo to Dr. Grace Cheng of Hawaii Pacific University for inviting us and facilitating a great conversation!!

Continue reading “Knowledge Production, Globalization and Vietnamese Studies”

Phan Bội Châu, the Later Trần and the Ngô

I love the early twentieth century, as that is when the Vietnamese worldview started to change dramatically, and the documents from that period make that perfectly clear.

I’ve been writing about a fifteenth-century document known as the “Great Pronouncement on Pacifying the Ngô” (Bình Ngô đại cáo), and of course the question of what the term “Ngô” refers to has come up.

The limited evidence from the fifteenth-century makes it difficult to determine what exactly that term meant at that time, but early twentieth century writings make it very clear what the term meant at that time.

A case in point is an historical novel that Vietnamese revolutionary Phan Bội Châu wrote in classical Chinese in the early twentieth century called The Lost History of the Later Trần (後陳逸史 Hậu Trần dật sử).

Continue reading “Phan Bội Châu, the Later Trần and the Ngô”

Streaming From Saigon: Hoàng Vân Nội’s Migration Theory

This is a video about a book that was published in South Vietnam in 1974 about the origins of the Vietnamese people.

12. The BNĐC Series: A Conclusion of Sorts

In the 1950s, students in America were taught that Thomas Jefferson was a great man because he wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”

Then in the 1960s, African-Americans fought for equal rights, there was a feminist movement, and an intellectual/academic movement known as post-modernism emerged.

Historians responded by looking for African-Americans and women in the American past, and by questioning written sources, rather than simply accepting as “truth” what was written in the past.

Today students in America are taught that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” but they are also taught that Jefferson owned slaves from Africa, and that women were not allowed to vote in America at that time. In other words, students are now taught to not accept what was written in the past as “the truth,” but instead are encouraged to understand the past in all of its complexity.

Continue reading “12. The BNĐC Series: A Conclusion of Sorts”

11. The BNĐC Series: Wang Tong, Ngô and Levels of Politeness

The term “Ngô” is one which scholars have long debated about. As we saw earlier, Ưng Quả explained the term “Ngô” as a general name for the Chinese, and said that in the context of the “Bình Ngô đại cáo” that it referred to the Ming.
This is what most people today think, but this is difficult to justify as the term appears extremely rarely in Vietnamese sources, and most of the times that it does it is in the writings of Nguyễn Trãi.

Continue reading “11. The BNĐC Series: Wang Tong, Ngô and Levels of Politeness”

10. The BNĐC Series: Lương Nhữ Hốt and Heaven’s Delineation of South and North

So Nguyễn Trãi wrote about “southern people” and “northern people” in a letter to the Ming officers who were occupying Bắc Giang citadel. He then brought up the topic of a territorial division between “the South” and “the North” in a letter that he wrote to a certain Đả Trung 打忠 and Lương Nhữ Hốt 梁如笏, a Vietnamese collaborator.

I’m not sure who Đả Trung was. There was a Ming officer by the name of Hà Trung/He Zhong 何忠 who served in the region, and I can imagine that it would be possible for someone to mistakenly write “đả” 打 instead of “hà” 何. So perhaps this refers to Hà Trung/He Zhong.

In any case, Lương Nhữ Hốt was a Vietnamese collaborator, and as we will see below, the letter makes it clear that there were Ming troops in the citadel where Lương Nhữ Hốt was stationed, so we can assume that this letter was written to both a Vietnamese collaborator and Ming officers. The purpose of the letter was to get these men to surrender.

Continue reading “10. The BNĐC Series: Lương Nhữ Hốt and Heaven’s Delineation of South and North”

9. The BNĐC Series: Cai Fu, the Fall of Bắc Giang Citadel and the Complexity of Southern-Northern Relations

In the previous post we saw that Nguyễn Trãi wrote to the Ming soldiers who were defending Bắc Giang citadel 北昌城 (also referred to as Xương Giang citadel 昌江城) and tried to get them to surrender by promising them that if they did so, they would be accepted as “brothers.”

What actually happened in the end? After months of fighting, Bắc Giang citadel eventually fell to Lê Lợi’s forces.

Continue reading “9. The BNĐC Series: Cai Fu, the Fall of Bắc Giang Citadel and the Complexity of Southern-Northern Relations”

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

Fifty Viss

a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma

Colonizing Animals

A blog about beasts, Burma and British imperialism

mini myna

on knowing the past in Singapore

thinkvietnam

Albert Einstein — 'What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right.'

leminhkhaiviet

About Vietnamese Cultural History and Scholarship

Digital Southeast Asia

Ideas for employing digital humanities approaches to the study of Southeast Asian history