Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog

Always rethinking the Southeast Asian past



Vietnamese Schools in China in the 1950s-1970s

Earlier this year as part of the “Vietnam ‘67” series of essays that appeared in the New York Times, historian Olga Dror published a piece about schools for Vietnamese that were set up in southern China during the Vietnam War called “How China Used Schools to Win Over Hanoi.”

This article briefly discussed a group of schools collectively known in Chinese as the “Nine Two schools” “九二学校 (meaning “9/2” or “September 2nd,” the day in 1945 that Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnam to be independent from French colonial rule). In passing, Dror also states that “This was not the first time that China had hosted North Vietnamese schools. In the 1950s, during and after the war with France, Vietnamese schools had been set up in southern China, with Chinese permission and aid.”

I found this essay fascinating as I did not know anything about the topic. In looking around on the Internet, I saw that this is a topic that has appeared in the Chinese media and can be found on Baike, a Chinese equivalent to Wikipedia, however I could not find any scholarly studies of this issue.

I was therefore excited to recently find in looking through a database of Chinese PhD Dissertations and MA theses that there are two MA theses that have been written on this topic, one in 2006 and one in 2008.

Continue reading “Vietnamese Schools in China in the 1950s-1970s”

The Rise of (Historical Scholarship on Vietnam in) China

I recently gained access to a database of PhD dissertations and MA theses in China. Out of curiosity, I did a search for “越南” (Vietnam) and was amazed at what I found. . .

From what I have been able to determine, so far in this century there have been close to 100 PhD dissertations completed in China that deal with some aspect of Vietnamese history, with the majority having been completed in the last decade. The number of MA theses is also very large, and many of those have been completed in the past few years (indicating that this trend of scholarship on Vietnam getting produced in Vietnam is only going to increase).

As I browsed through the many dissertations – studies that covered everything from the ancient environment of Quảng Nam to, to institutional change in medieval Vietnam, to Chinese aid during the Vietnam War, to a comparative study of the writings of Lu Xun and Nam Cao – I wondered to myself: How many PhD dissertations on Vietnamese history have been produced in “the West” in the twenty first century? . . .

Continue reading “The Rise of (Historical Scholarship on Vietnam in) China”

“Women’s Rights” or “Men’s Rights to Women” in Premodern Vietnam

I was reading Phan Ngọc’s The Characteristics of Vietnamese Culture (Bản sắc văn hóa Việt Nam, 1998) and came across a passage where the author was talking about differences between Vietnam and China by referencing the supposed higher level of autonomy that Vietnamese women had in the past in comparison to their Chinese sisters.

In making this argument, Phan Ngọc claims that a Lê Dynasty-era legal code stated that “If a husband without children abandons his home for five months, or one year if he has children, then the wife has the right to marry another man.” (Người chồng bỏ nhà ra đi năm tháng nếu không có con, một năm nếu có con, thì người vợ có quyền lấy chồng khác.) [pg. 241]

pn 1

pn 2

I’ve heard arguments like this one many times. There have been numerous Vietnamese and Western scholars who have examined premodern Vietnamese law codes and have tried to argue that they demonstrate that there was greater autonomy for women in premodern Vietnam than in premodern China.

The legal code in question here is the Quốc triều hình luật, also known as the Lê triều hình luật, and colloquially referred to as the Luật Hồng Đức. I’m not sure if Phan Ngoc based his understanding on the original Han text or a translation, but if you read the original, it becomes very clear that this passage does not talk about any kind of “women’s rights.” To the contrary, it is about “men’s rights to women.”

Continue reading ““Women’s Rights” or “Men’s Rights to Women” in Premodern Vietnam”

A Conversation (in Vnese) with Nguyễn Sử about the History of Vietnamese Calligraphy

This video is of a conversation that we had in the summer of 2017 with Nguyễn Sử, the author of a recent book on the history of Vietnamese calligraphy (Lịch Sử Thư Pháp Việt Nam).

In addition to being an expert on the history of Vietnamese calligraphy, Nguyễn Sử is also a scholar of religion. In early January of 2018, Nguyễn Sử was a keynote speaker at the 9th Engaging With Vietnam conference where he gave a fascinating presentation on the commercialization of religion.

This conversation is in Vietnamese. I will write a post about the book in English soon, and will try to include some of the points covered in this video.

Vin(group) University, Melbourne U. and the Future of the Humanities (and Asian Studies)

[I posted this piece on the Content Asian Studies site. Given that it covers topics (the future of Humanities/area studies education in and outside of Southeast Asia) that overlap with issues that this blog deals with, I thought I would post it here as well for anyone who might be interested.]

Major Vietnamese property developer, Vingroup, just announced that it will build a world-class university in Vietnam with consultation from some of the world’s top universities, such as Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Vin University, or VinUni for short, “will be a private, non-profit university of Vietnam established on international standards and integrating the world’s elite models of higher education.”

What exactly are “the world’s elite models of higher education”? A recent job application for a historian of Vietnam at Melbourne University, one of the top-ranked universities in the world made me wonder about that, and what the implications of “the world’s elite models of higher education” are for the future of Humanities scholarship, the “home” of some of the key fields in Asian Studies.”

The trend in “the world’s elite models of higher education” indicates quite clearly that the future of the Humanities and Asian Studies is bleak as long as we persist on doing things the way we always have. But there is a potentially much brighter future awaiting for us if we change.

Reading Phan Bội Châu (LMK Vlog #01)

I think it’s time to start Vlogging. Here is my first Vlog, on Phan Bội Châu’s 1908 “Examination of Vietnamese History” (Việt Nam quốc sử kháo 越南國史考) and its Vietnamese translation.

The Trans-Contemporary Approach to Heritage at The Myst Dong Khoi

There is a new hotel in the heart of Saigon that is unique. It is called “The Myst Dong Khoi,” and what makes it unique is that it demonstrates that I would call a “trans-contemporary approach to heritage.”

Let me explain what I mean by that.


Continue reading “The Trans-Contemporary Approach to Heritage at The Myst Dong Khoi”

7. Going Backwards: (Mis)Citing Lê Thành Khôi

In the second chapter of Việt Nam: A History from Earliest Times to the Present author Ben Kiernan has a passage where he writes about Việt society in the third century AD.

His point in this passage is to argue that even after a long period of Chinese rule, indigenous social and religious practices persisted.

To quote, he states that,

“Even after three hundred years and fifty years [sic] of imperial rule in Jiaozhi and Jiuzhen, and even as Confucianism took root among the emerging elite, the Chinese were still able to rule much of the countryside only indirectly, if at all. Việt customs and gender relations persisted.” (92)

What were some of these customs and gender relations? One, Kiernan argues, concerned the involvement of women in the performance of certain religious rites.

Continue reading “7. Going Backwards: (Mis)Citing Lê Thành Khôi”

Snakes and Clothing in the Ancient Red River Delta

I was reading the Annotated Classic of Waterways (Shuijing zhu 水經注), a sixth century text that contains information about the Red River Delta region and came across a passage about snakes.

The text mentions a kind of snake called a “ranshe” 髯蛇 (literally, a “whiskered snake”) that was very large and could eat boars and deer.

The text then says that when people confront one, they throw women’s clothing on it (搏之以婦人衣投之).

Continue reading “Snakes and Clothing in the Ancient Red River Delta”

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