28 May 2012

Vietnamese Disciples of Fukuzawa Yukichi

From A Story of Vietnam, by Truong Buu Lam (Outskirts, 2010), Kindle Loc. 2512-2567:
Phan Chau (or Chu) Trinh (1872-1926), like Phan Boi Chau, had his eyes fixed on independence for his country. Unlike Phan Boi Chau, he was a doctorate (tien si [Ch. 進士 jinshi]) degree holder and had made a short stint of two years in the mandarinate before engaging in a life of a political activist. He went to Japan with Phan Boi Chau, but came back with a completely opposite program of action. He seriously opposed any use of violence in the struggle for independence, and vehemently rejected any interference or assistance, military or otherwise, from any foreign country. He advocated a republican regime in which the people can exert influence over the conduct of public affairs. He promoted a slow but secure march toward independence and civilization, even if need be, under the leadership and guidance of the protecting power that is France.

In 1906, he wrote an open letter to the Governor General of Indochina in which he vented out his frustration in a scathing accusation of the indigenous mandarins who took refuge under the wings of the colonial authorities to abuse with impunity the common people of Vietnam. (An English translation of this document can be found in Colonialism Experienced, Ann Arbor, 2000, p. 125-140.)

In 1907, with a group of Confucian scholars such as Luong Van Can, Nguyen Quyen, Dao Nguyen Pho, Duong Ba Trac, Le Dai and Hoang Tang Bi, he helped create a new type of school modeled after the Keio Gi[j]uku University which was established in Tokyo by a Japanese educator and reformist, Fukuzawa Yukichi. The Vietnamese school was called Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc [東京義塾] (Japanese: Tokyo Gi[j]uku; English: The Eastern Capital Free School). Its existence was sanctioned by a decree of the French colonial government dated March 1907 and its demise was imposed by another decree dated December of the same year.

The school’s life was indeed short, but its influence on the people reached beyond any calculation. It was the first experiment in mass education. Thousands of students of all ages flocked to the school in the evening hours to listen for free to scholars talking frequently about the humanities: morality, human rights; occasionally about the social sciences: economics, political regimes. They taught national history; resuscitated famous personalities of the world; they discussed about the relative advantage of modernization versus westernization; they tried to inculcate into the young minds the virtue of patriotism, loyalty, propriety. Some teachers even introduced to their students rudiments of science and technology. Within a couple of months, branch schools were established in many other cities.


In addition, the teachers adapted dozens of old proverbs and sayings to contemporary situations; they composed songs in verse encouraging their students to learn the quoc ngu, not to hesitate to go abroad to study, to read newspapers everyday, to have their hair cut short, not to smoke opium nor to drink alcohol, not to gamble, not to succumb to female charms.

Such was the success of the school that the French authorities felt threatened and so they decided to shut it down in December of the same year that it opened. The ideal of non violence that had been ardently promoted by Phan Chau Trinh was put to a serious test and it failed.

For this reason, he wanted to experiment with something else. In 1908, in the province of Quang Nam, the people complained that their taxes were too high and the days they had to work without pay for the government too numerous. They took their protest to the provincial capital city in a relatively orderly demonstration. Rapidly, the movement spread to neighboring provinces. The repression came swift, harsh and not too orderly. Many scholars were implicated in the movement. The French executed Tran Quy Cap (1870-1908) a tien si degree holder (1904) and a member of the mandarinate. The monarchical tribunal sent Huynh Thuc Khang (1876-1947), Phan Chau Trinh and Ngo Duc Ke (1878-1929), all three tien si as well, to the infamous penitentiary on the island of Poulo Condore (Con Non or Con Son). Fortunately for Phan Chau Trinh, his resourceful friends alerted the Society for Human Rights which persuaded the government to commute his sentence to exile in France to start in 1911.

While living in exile, Phan Chau Trinh became the patriotic icon around which the Vietnamese community in France rallied itself. During the first world war, he was incarcerated at the Sante Prison, suspected of contacting the Germans for help to liberate his country. He must be innocent of this charge given his revulsion toward violence and his distaste for foreign intervention.


During his stay in France, Phan Chau Trinh wrote several books, among which the best known was a collection of poems he composed during his incarceration at the Sante Prison. Two books of his have been published and confiscated several times right after they were put on the shelves; consequently, they were known only by their titles. One was a Song to Awake the Soul of the Nation (Tinh Quoc Hon Ca [醒国魂歌 Ch. Xingguohunge?]), and the other was a long “epic” poem of 3620 verses written in nom in the style of six and eight syllables. Entitled Giai Nhan Ky Ngo Dien Ca (The Marvelous Encounter of Wonderful People, In Verses) it relates the adventures of a group of friends, belonging to all nationalities, bound together by the virtues of loyalty and friendship, even tinted with some romance. This epic poem was, in fact, an adaptation in verses of a book entitled Jia Ren Qi Yu [佳人奇遇] (Giai Nhan Ky Ngo) that Liang Qichao himself translated from a Japanese work [佳人の奇遇 Kajin no Kigū Strange Encounters with Beautiful Women by Shiba Shirō].

Phan Chau Trinh’s many requests to the Ministry of Colonies for his repatriation were finally granted in 1925. Back in Saigon, he gave a number of public talks on the subjects of monarchy and democracy, virtue and morals in the East and the West.

Late Demise of Classical Chinese in Vietnam

From A Story of Vietnam, by Truong Buu Lam (Outskirts, 2010), Kindle Loc. 2744-2761:
The cultural changes of the period under study [1900-1925] are dominated by one phenomenon: the replacement of classical Chinese by quoc ngu [国語 national language] as the official national writing system of Vietnam. The French, already from the beginning of their administration of Vietnam, had encouraged the use of that script to replace the Chinese characters. In their view, that was the most effective way to wean the Vietnamese from China’s multi-millenary cultural influence. Little did they anticipate that the Vietnamese were going to use the quoc ngu to mobilize the country against them.

It was, however, only toward the beginning of the 1920s that the Vietnamese warmed up to it and used it readily in their every day activities. In the early years of the twentieth century, Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chau Trinh still wrote all their works in classical Chinese. Even in 1924, in Paris, Phan Chau Trinh composed his many letters asking the French minister of Colonies to allow him to go home in the purest style of classical Chinese. The Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc [東京義塾 Eastern Capital Free School, named for Fukuzawa Yukichi's Tokyo Gijuku (later Keio)] published their classic material in Chinese. The proclamation of the Thai Nguyen mutiny was written in Chinese. Classical Chinese survived at least to the middle of the century for two reasons. The last Confucian examinations were held only in 1918 in Hue, and the royal court of Annam will continue to use Chinese in its official documents until 1945, naturally with a great deal of translations into quoc ngu and French, for, to my knowledge, the last Vietnamese emperor had an exclusively French education.

Although sponsored by the French Security Services, the magazine Nam Phong [南風 South Wind] contributed in an important measure to the vernacularization and to the enrichment of the national script. To some extent, Nam Phong did almost exactly what the Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc dreamt of doing a decade earlier. It translated a vast variety of books or articles in philosophy, in natural and human sciences written mostly in French into quoc ngu. Thus, it introduced foreign cultures and sciences to the Vietnamese people while encouraging them to use a medium which is scientific and rich enough to express their ideas. From the 1920s, newspapers, publishing houses mushroomed and put out an impressive number of books in literature, poetry, sociology, political, social, and natural sciences, all written in the national script. A definite break with the Chinese or nom tradition has been imperceptibly effected and new generations will only deal with the alphabetical writing system.
Here are some examples of Vietnamese renditions of Classical Chinese.

Tien hoc le, hau hoc van
(先学理後学文 xian xue li, hou xue wen)
'First learn rites, then learn culture'

Thien Tu Van (千字文) 'Thousand Character Classic'
Tam Tu Kinh (三字经) 'Three Character Classic'

Four Books and Five Classics (of Confucius)
Đại Học (大學 Dà Xué) Great Learning
Trung Dung (中庸 Zhōng Yóng) Doctrine of the Mean
Luận Ngữ (論語 Lùn Yǔ) Analects
Mạnh Tử (孟子 Mèng Zǐ) Mencius

Kinh Thi (詩經 Shī Jīng) Classic of Poetry
Kinh Thư (書經 Shū Jīng) Classic of History
Kinh Lễ (禮記 Lǐ Jì) Book of Rites
Kinh Dịch (易經 Yì Jīng) Classic of Changes
Xuân Thu (春秋 Chūnqiū) Spring and Autumn

05 May 2012

Castile vs. Portugal in the Canaries

From Imperial Spain: 1469-1716, by J. H. Elliott (Penguin, 2002), 2nd ed., Kindle Loc. 981-1014:
The traditional hostility of Castile and Portugal, exacerbated by Portuguese intervention in the question of the Castilian succession, provided an added incentive to Castile to acquire its own possessions overseas. One of the major battlefields in the Castilian-Portuguese conflict of the fifteenth century was to be the Canary Islands, which seem to have been discovered by the Genoese in the early fourteenth century. During the course of the Castilian War of Succession Ferdinand and Isabella attempted to substantiate their rights to the Canaries by dispatching an expedition from Seville in 1478 to occupy the Grand Canary. The resistance of the islanders and dissensions among the Castilians frustrated the intentions of Ferdinand and Isabella, and it was only in 1482 that a new expedition under Alfonso Fernández de Lugo laid the foundations for eventual success, beginning with the subjugation of Grand Canary in the following year. Even now, Palma was not taken till 1492 and Tenerife till 1493. But, in the meantime, the treaty of 1479 ending the war between Castile and Portugal had settled the dispute over the Canaries to Castile's advantage. Portugal renounced its claim to the Canaries in return for a recognition of her exclusive right to Guinea, the kingdom of Fez, Madeira, and the Azores, and so Castile acquired its first overseas possessions.

Castile's occupation of the Canaries was an event of major importance in the history of its overseas expansion. Their geographical position was to make them of exceptional value as an indispensable staging-post on the route to America: all Columbus's four expeditions put in at the Canary archipelago. But they were also to provide the perfect laboratory for Castile's colonial experiments, serving as the natural link between the Reconquista in Spain and the conquest of America.

In the conquest and colonization of the Canaries can be seen at once the continuation and extension of techniques already well tried in the later Middle Ages, and the forging of new methods which would come into their own in the conquest of the New World. There were marked similarities between the methods of the Reconquista and those adopted for the conquest of the Canaries, which itself was regarded by Ferdinand and Isabella as part of Castile's holy war against the infidel. The occupation of the Canaries, like the Reconquista, was a blend of private and public enterprise. Much of the Reconquista, especially in its later stages, had been conducted under the control of the Crown. The State also participated in the Canary expeditions, which were partly financed by the Crown and public institutions. But private enterprise operated alongside the State. Fernández de Lugo made a private contract with a company of Sevillian merchants – one of the first contracts of the type later used to finance the expeditions of discovery in America. Even an expedition entirely organized and financed under private auspices, however, was still dependent on the Crown for its legal authority. Here again the Reconquista provided a useful precedent. It had been the practice for the Crown to make contracts with leaders of military expeditions against the Moors. It seems probable that these contracts inspired the document known as the capitulación, which later became the customary form of agreement between the Spanish Crown and the conquistadores of America.

The purpose of capitulaciones was to reserve certain rights to the Crown in newly conquered territories, while also guaranteeing to the leader of the expedition due mercedes or rewards for his services. These rewards might consist of an official position such as the post of adelantado of Las Palmas conferred upon Fernández de Lugo – adelantado being a hereditary title granted by medieval Castilian kings and conferring upon its holder special military powers and the rights of government over a frontier province. The leader of an expedition would also expect to enjoy the spoils of conquest, in the shape of movable property and captives, and to receive grants of land and a title of nobility, like his predecessors during the Reconquista. In making capitulaciones of this type, the Crown was clearly bargaining away many of its rights, but generally it had no alternative. When it provided financial assistance, as it did for Columbus and Magellan, it could hope to make rather more favourable conditions, but the work of conquest and colonization had to be left largely to private enterprise.

Medieval antecedents of Imperial Spain

From Imperial Spain: 1469-1716, by J. H. Elliott (Penguin, 2002), 2nd ed., Kindle Loc. 955-980:
Medieval Castile had built up a military, crusading tradition which was to win for it in the sixteenth century an overseas empire. But it had also developed another tradition too easily overlooked – a tradition of maritime experience which was the essential prelude to its acquisition of overseas territories. The discovery and conquest of the New World was, in reality, very far from being a lucky accident for Spain. In many respects the Iberian peninsula was the region of Europe best equipped for overseas expansion at the end of the fifteenth century. Although the opening up and settlement of the New World was to be a predominantly Castilian undertaking, the enterprise had a common Iberian foundation. Different parts of the peninsula each contributed their own skills to a common store on which the Castilians drew with such spectacular results. The medieval Catalans and Aragonese had acquired a long experience of commercial and colonial adventure in North Africa and the Levant. The Majorcans had established an important school of cartography, which had devised techniques of map-making invaluable for the charting of hitherto unknown lands. The Basques, with the experience of Atlantic deep-sea fishing behind them, were skilled pilots and ship-builders. The Portuguese had played a predominant part in the perfecting of the caravel, the stout, square-rigged vessel which was to be the essential instrument of European overseas expansion in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

But the Castilians also had acquired their own commercial and maritime experience, especially during the past two centuries. The growth of the Mesta and the expansion of the wool trade with northern Europe stimulated the development of the ports of north Spain – San Sebastian, Laredo, Santander, Corunna – which as early as 1296 banded together in a brotherhood, the so-called Hermandad de las Marismas, aimed at protecting their domestic and foreign commerical interests in the manner of the Hanseatic League. Similarly, the advance of the Reconquista in the late thirteenth century to Tarifa, on the straits of Gibraltar, had given Castile a second Atlantic seaboard, with its capital at Seville – itself recaptured by Ferdinand III in 1248. A vigorous commercial community established itself in Seville, including within its ranks influential members of the Andalusian aristocracy who were attracted by the new prospects of mercantile wealth. By the fifteenth century the city had become an intensely active commercial centre with thriving dockyards – a place where merchants from Spain and the Mediterranean lands would congregate to discuss new projects, form new associations and organize new ventures. It was Europe's observation post from which to survey North Africa and the broad expanses of the Atlantic Ocean.

These developments occurred at a time when western Europe as a whole was displaying a growing interest in the world overseas. Portugal in particular was active in voyages of discovery and exploration. With its long seaboard and its influential mercantile community it was well placed to embark on a quest for the gold, slaves, sugar, and spices, for all of which there was an expanding demand. Short of bread, it was also anxious for new cereal-growing lands, which it found in the Azores (rediscovered in 1427) and in Madeira. Like Castile it was inspired, too, by the crusading tradition, and the occupation of Ceuta in 1415 was itself conceived as part of a crusade which might one day encircle the earth and take Islam in the rear.