Phạm Quang Sán was a fascinating individual. In 1908 he translated into classical Chinese reformist ideas that were originally written in Vietnamese so that people who only new classical Chinese could learn about them – the General Discussion of Elementary Learning (幼學普通說約 Ấu học phổ thông thuyết ước). In 1909 he wrote a reformist version of examination questions and answers so that students studying for the civil service exams could be exposed to Western learning – A New Selection of Policy Studies (Sách học tân tuyển 策學新選).
And in 1911 he published a bilingual (Chinese and Vietnamese) science textbook called the General Reader (普通讀本 Phổ thông độc bản).
In reading writings from the world of the Nguyễn Dynasty in early twentieth century Vietnam the one thing that becomes clear is that there was a lot of information available about the West at that time. So the traditional elite were not ignorant about other parts of the world.
However, there were members of the traditional elite who were reluctant to change, even though they knew about Europe and America and the developments that had taken place there in recent years.
In the previous post I introduced a book that Nguyễn Dynasty official and reformist scholar Phạm Quang Sán published in 1909 that sought to introduce students studying for the civil service exams to new ideas.
While many of the questions and answers in that book covered topics that were very new, there were also some questions and answers in that work that as least ostensibly sought to follow traditional ideas and patterns.
In 1909, a year after he had published a textbook that was aimed at modernizing elementary education, Nguyễn Dynasty official and reformist scholar Phạm Quang Sán published another small book that was targeted at more advanced students, namely students who were studying for the civil service exams (khoa cử).
Entitled A New Selection of Policy Studies (Sách học tân tuyển 策學新選), this book purported to present model examples of the types of questions that one could expect to be asked in the exams, as well as model examples of how one should answer those questions.