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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Life-Writing Projects in Modern Chinese and Vietnamese Cultural History
4: Phan Boi Chau and the Transformation of Vietnamese Intellectual Mindset in the Early Twentieth Century
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Van Thu Phan
Ho Chi Minh City University of Education, Vietnam
Phan Boi Chau was a well-known patriot, theorist, poet, writer, and pioneer of twentieth-century Vietnamese nationalism, who led the struggle towards national independence from 1900 to 1925.
Phan Boi Chau studied Chinese classics when he was a child and had gained a deep understanding of Confucianism. One of his most famous books is “Khong hoc dang” (The lamp of Confucianism), illustrating his views on Confucianism.
After arriving in Japan to lobby for military aid against France, Phan met Liang Qichao, a Chinese reformist and scholar who advised him to send Vietnamese youth to study in Japan. While Phan personally considered studying in Japan “the best period” of his life, Phan still embraced the idea of “violence” and doubted the role of education.
In fighting for an ideal state, Phan Boi Chau initially endorsed the traditional monarchy, later shifted to constitutional monarchy, then adhered to the democratic republic. He imitated “The Three People's Principles” of Sun Yat-sen for a while, and then came to sympathize with socialism. The change demonstrates a spirit of liberation, which stems from his desire to cure Vietnam’s national ills.
This study focuses on two important works: “Khong hoc dang”and Phan Boi Chau nien bieu (Phan's autobiography) to illuminate the process of his thinking and compare it with other contemporaneous intellectuals to reveal the transformation of the Vietnamese intellectual mindset in the early twentieth century.