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Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

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Rama VII Discovers Hawaiian History at the Coconut Hut

King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambhai Barni of Siam visited Honolulu in 1931 for only about 24 hours. That is not enough time to really gain an understanding of a new place, and we don’t know what the king and queen really learned during the course of their short visit.

However, in reading the newspaper accounts about their visit today, it is amazing to see how directly the king and queen were exposed to the realities of Hawaii under American rule. In fact, the first instance of this exposure occurred not long after they arrived.

Continue reading “Rama VII Discovers Hawaiian History at the Coconut Hut”

Crocodiles and the Sinking of Premodern Vietnamese History

I have been trying my hardest not to comment on Ben Kiernan’s recent book, Việt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present. However, a sense of morbid curiosity keeps leading me to open the covers of that book, and each time I look inside I can’t believe what I see (this is after all a book published by Oxford University Press in 2017).

For instance, I recently opened the book to the following passage (pg. 173):

“The first extant text written in Vietnamese was composed in 1282, in the nôm script. Its author, Nguyễn Thuyên, addressed this poem to crocodiles that had appeared in the Lô branch of the Red River, and Emperor Trần Nhân Tông ordered the text thrown in the river in the hope of driving the reptiles away.”

Continue reading “Crocodiles and the Sinking of Premodern Vietnamese History”

The Ming-Occupation-Period Origins of the Lĩnh Nam Chích Quái?

One of the earliest texts that contains information about Vietnamese history is a fifteenth-century work known as the Arrayed Tales of Selected Oddities from South of the Passes (Lĩnh Nam chích quái liệt truyện 嶺南摭怪列傳) [“Arrayed Tales” for short]. This text contains stories about various famous people from Vietnamese history.

However, there is something strange about its preface. The preface is written from what we could call a “Chinese perspective.” Here is how it begins:

“Although the Cassia Sea is in [the area of] South of the Passes, marvelous mountains and streams, potent land, outstanding people, and miraculous affairs perhaps can all be found there.”

Continue reading “The Ming-Occupation-Period Origins of the Lĩnh Nam Chích Quái?”

A Review of Jonathan Saha’s “Among the Beasts of Burma”

For several years now I have admired the work of a young UK scholar by the name of Jonathan Saha. Having started out conducting research on criminality in colonial Burma, Saha is now more or less pioneering an emerging field of “Southeast Asian animal history,” or more specifically, of the history of human-animal relations in Southeast Asia.

Beyond that, Saha maintains an impressive blog in which he shares his research-in-progress.

Continue reading “A Review of Jonathan Saha’s “Among the Beasts of Burma””

Happy Lunar New Year from Le Minh Khai’s SEAsian History Blog

It’s a new year, and we’re getting ready here at Le Minh Khai’s SEAsian History Blog to live life in this new year to its fullest.

After seven years, Le Minh Khai has finally revealed his true identity on the About page.

And after seven years, Le Minh Khai has decided that it’s finally time to take on the extremely important topic of the influence of the Nhân văn – Giai phẩm Affair on historical scholarship in North (and later, unified) Vietnam through text and video.

Continue reading “Happy Lunar New Year from Le Minh Khai’s SEAsian History Blog”

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: Everything’s Bigger in Texas

Michelle/Natasha and Lê Minh Khải went to a meeting with an American intelligence official named Hank (a friend of Papa François) where they talked about the Nhân Văn – Giai Phẩm Affair and historians in Saigon.

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: One Night in Tunis

Having rescued Lê Minh Khải from Dr. Wu, Natasha takes him to meet her Papa in Tunisia where they talk about the declining influence of French scholarship in North Vietnam. . .

Interrogating Đào Duy Anh: From Moscow With Love (Part 2)

This video contains some more discussion of some of the conclusions that Đào Duy Anh reaches in his 1938 work, An Historical Outline of Vietnamese Culture (Việt Nam văn hóa sử cương).

The Idea for a Mandarin Language in Early-20th-Century Vietnam

The civil service examination was of course an extremely important institution in Vietnamese history, but it is a topic that has yet to be researched in depth. Indeed, trying to understand how that institution worked is a daunting task, and it is understandable that not many scholars have tried to take on this difficult topic.

Recently I took a look at some documents that were produced in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that contain questions from the exams and “ideal answers.” Known as Selected Essays from the Palace Exam [Hội đình văn tuyển 會庭文選], these texts were meant to serve as study guides for future exam takers.

Continue reading “The Idea for a Mandarin Language in Early-20th-Century Vietnam”

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Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past

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a collection of thoughts and writings on Burma

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A blog about beasts, Burma and British imperialism

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