In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, “Vietnam” was under the rule of a single dynasty, the Lê Dynasty, but the land was actually divided in two, with each half ruled over by a separate family – the Trịnh in the … Continue reading How Nguyễn Phúc Khoát Declined to Become Emperor
According to the official chronicles of the Nguyễn Dynasty, the Đại Nam thực lục (hereafter ĐNTL), in 1744 Nguyễn Đăng Thịnh, an official in Đàng Trong, presented a petition to his ruler, Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, the “Nguyễn lord” of Đàng … Continue reading Nguyễn Đăng Thịnh’s 1744 Request that Nguyễn Phúc Khoát Become Emperor
In 1744 Nguyễn Đăng Thịnh, an official in Đàng Trong, presented a letter to his ruler, Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, the “Nguyễn lord” of Đàng Trong, encouraging him to take the title of “prince.” Only excerpts from that document remain, but … Continue reading Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, Liu Bang and the Grand Transversal
Following on the previous two posts, it is time to start looking at the documents relating to the 1744 event where Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, the “Nguyễn lord” of Đàng Trong, elevated his status from “commandery duke” to “prince.” The passage … Continue reading A Blossoming Udumbara Tree and the Rectification of Names in 1744 Đàng Trong
As I stated in the previous post, in 1744 Nguyễn Phúc Khoát, the “Nguyễn lord” of Đàng Trong (the southern half of the Lê Dynasty empire) elevated his status from that of a commandery duke (quận công 郡公) to that … Continue reading Premodern Vietnamese Historical Sources, And What Historians Don’t Tell You about Them
It is well known that Vietnamese emperors in the past saw themselves as the “Son of Heaven” (Thiên tử 天子), that is, as the main intermediary between the supreme power of Heaven and human affairs. Although this is common knowledge, … Continue reading LMK Vlog #08: The Son of Heaven (Thiên tử 天子)
In 1896, the Nguyễn Dynasty established a school at the royal capital in Huế for teaching French.
Known in Vietnamese as the Quốc học, its original name in classical Chinese was Quốc học trường 國學場, meaning the “national learning school,” and it was referred to in French as the “Collège national.” (And yes, it is significant that “national learning” at this time meant learning French. . .)
In English-language writings on Vietnamese history, the Nguyễn Dynasty has long been depicted as resistant to reform. In this depiction, people like Emperor Tự Đức are said to have been so absorbed in the world of Confucian tradition that they did not recognize the need to change.
My suspicion is that this view of the past was probably first developed by French authors during the colonial period as a way to justify their rule, and it later fit the needs of twentieth-century Vietnamese nationalists as well, and has become part of the nationalist narrative of Vietnamese history.
In terms of English-language scholarship, I think that this view has persisted simply because there has been so little work done in English on the Nguyễn Dynasty, because when one looks at the historical record, it is clear that the depiction of the Nguyễn Dynasty as resistant to reform definitely needs to be revisited.