An Important Text for Vietnamese History that Very Few People Read

In 1932, the École française d’Extrême-Orient published in Hanoi a text called the An Nam chí nguyên/Annan zhiyuan 安南志原. This publication contained an introductory study by Émile Gaspardone in which he attributed this work to a seventeenth century Chinese scholar-official by the name of Gao Xiongzheng 高熊徵, and tried to explain it’s incomprehensible title (The Source of the Treatise on Annan?).

anzy1

This book has been in libraries in Western countries since that time, but I’ve seen very few scholars cite it. I know that I have seen John Whitmore and Li Tana both cite it, but I can’t recall having seen any other scholars working in Western countries use this work (there probably have been one or two others, but not many).

The same applies to Vietnamese scholars. Although several manuscript editions of this text exist in Vietnam, I think the only scholar I’ve seen cite it is Tạ Chí Đại Trường, but I’m not sure if he came across it while he was in Vietnam or after he went overseas (and again, there must be other people who have cited it, but not many).

Also, as far as I know, this text has never been translated into modern Vietnamese, even though it is one of the earliest texts we have concerning Vietnamese history.

I once asked someone why that is the case, and that person’s response was that “It is because it’s Chinese. . .”

anzy2

In 1992, Zhang Xiumin 張秀民 published an essay on this text in which he argued that it is a combination of two texts: the Annan zhi jiyao 安南志既要 [Summary of the Treatise on Annan] by Gao Xiongzheng and the Jiaozhi zongzhi 交阯縂志 [Comprehensive Gazetteer of Jiaozhi].

According to Zhang Xiumin, the Jiaozhi zongzhi is a local gazetteer (difang zhi 地方誌) that was compiled in the early fifteenth century during the Ming occupation. As such, this is an extremely important text as it contains some of the earliest information recorded about that region.

Vietnamese scholars are skeptical of information about the region that was preserved in “China.” They suspect that this information was altered for political purposes.

Personally I find such suspicions to be very difficult to document, and also difficult to believe. Meanwhile, one of the most valuable texts for understanding Vietnamese history remains un-read, un-researched, and un-translated year after year after year.

For those who read Chinese, I’ve attached Zhang Xiumin’s essay below.

Zhang Xiumin

2 thoughts on “An Important Text for Vietnamese History that Very Few People Read

  1. LMK: “…I think the only scholar I’ve seen cite it is Tạ Chí Đại Trường, but I’m not sure if he came across it while he was in Vietnam or after he went overseas (and again, there must be other people who have cited it, but not many).”

    Trường consulted this text while he was still in VN, see the 1989 California edition of Thần, Người và Đất Việt…

    Another (South) Vietnamese scholar who has used it is Cuong Tu Nguyen [Nguyễn Tự Cường], assuming that the An Nam Chí Nguyên he mentions in his Zen in Medieval Vietnam: A Study and Translation of Thiền Uyển Tạp Anh is the same text as the one you discuss here… (By the way, Cường is actually Bắc 54).

    Click on the link below

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/546/7s0k.jpg/.

    1. Ah, that’s right! Yes, it’s the same text. Beyond the Thiền Uyển Tạp Anh, he translated a lot of passages from other texts in that work, and one text he translated some passages from was the An Nam Chí Nguyên.

      Thanks for pointing that out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s