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tran quy cap

Trần Quý Cáp (陳季恰, 1870-1908) was a Vietnamese scholar and reformer born during the reign of Nguyễn Dực Tông (阮翼宗, 1829-1883). His courtesy names (字, tự) were Dã Hàng (野航) and Thích Phu (適夫). He is also known by his pen-name (號, hiệu) Thai Xuyên (台川). Born in the village of Bất Nhị (不貳) in Quang Nam province  (廣南省, Quảng Nam tỉnh) of central Vietnam, his family was poor and lived off the land as peasants. His childhood name was Nghị (誼). His family too poor to buy books, he studied in private at the houses of retired scholars in the area. In his youth, his teachers already noted his exceptional intelligence. In 1899, his father became gravely ill. He stayed by his father’s side, taking care of him, until his father passed away. During the mourning period after his father’s death, he stayed home and  taught students in addition to working in the field to support and care for his mother. He went to to pass through several levels of the imperial civil-service examinations. In 1904, “old learning” (舊學, cựu học) was already becoming outdated and Trần Quý Cáp was among the first scholars to promote “new learning” (新學, tân học), particularly through the translation of Chinese books known as “new books” (新書, tân thư) written by revolutionary authors such as Khang Hữu Vi (康有為, 1858-1927) and Lương Khải Siêu (梁啟超, 1873-1929). He was later apprehended by the French and executed without a clear reason in the coastal city of Nha Trang (芽莊). His death was mourned by Vietnamese scholars around the nation.

 

士夫自治論

論曰:國之淪亡久矣,而一線之生機尚存者,何在乎,何在乎?

讀書明理,所謂士夫者,存也。 何乃一般古學埋頭於八股殘編,四家爛紙,以自誇淹博,而東京西貢不知為何處地方。多數新時醉心於五洲錦繡,三島神仙,徒競尚浮囂,於開智治生無補一毫實事。

噫!民氣消沉已非一日。風潮所及,大夢未醒。滄茫四顧,吾將籌倚。及今不奮。種類其危!

Sĩ phu tự trị luận

Luận viết: Quốc chi luân vong cửu hĩ, nhi nhất tuyến chi sinh cơ thượng tồn giả, hà tại hồ, hà tại hồ?

Độc thư minh lý, sở vị sĩ phu giả, tồn dã. Hà nãi nhất bàn cổ học mai đầu ư bát cổ tàn biên, tứ gia lạn chỉ, dĩ tự khoa yêm bác, nhi Đông Kinh, Tây Cống bất tri vi hà xứ địa phương. Đa số tân thì tuý tâm ư ngũ châu cẩm tú, Tam Đảo thần tiên, đồ cạnh thượng phù hiêu, ư khai trí trị sinh vô bổ nhất hào thực sự.

Y! Dân khí tiêu trầm dĩ phi nhất nhật. Phong trào sở cập, đại mộng vị tinh. Thương mang tứ cố, ngô tương trù ỷ. Cập kim bất phấn, chủng loại kỳ nguy!

 

On scholars and self-governance

The country has sunken in disaster for long now, but still a single thread of life remains. For what reason has it survived? For what reason?

Studying the books and understanding the principles of those called scholars is why our country remains. But what need is there to bury one’s head in the decayed chapters of eight-legged essays and the tattered manuscripts of the four schools in order to brag of one’s erudition, when one does not even know the location of Đông Kinh and Tây Cống! The minds and hearts of the majority are intoxicated with fine fabrics from the five continents and fanciful stories from Japan. Competing in useless endeavors, one feather of real substance cannot be shown for expanding understanding and governing the people.

Alas! The spirits of the people have not been dispelled and dissipated for just single day. Storms of wind and wave approach, but we have not awakened from this great dream. Looking to all four directions of the vast, blue sea, on whom can I depend? If we do not exert our strength now, what dangers await our people!

Notes:

– “eight-legged essays” (八股文, bát cổ văn) refers to an archaic style of essay writing used in the imperial civil-service examination

– I am not clear what “four schools” (四家, tứ gia) are being referenced.

– Đông Kinh (東京) and Tây Cống (西貢) are better known by the names of Hà Nội (河內) and Sài Gòn. Đông Kinh (東京) here does not refer to Tokyo which, coincidentally, is written using the same Chinese characters.

-This passage has been translated into Vietnamese by the poet Nguyễn Gia Trụ (阮嘉柱, 1906-1994), better known by his pen-name (號, hiệu) Đông Xuyên (東川). The famous scholar and author Nguyễn Hiến Lê (阮獻梨, 1912-1984) described him as the last product of Vietnamese Confucianism, after which no one could follow.

Nước ta chìm đắm đã lâu mà cái máy sống như một sợi chỉ mong manh vẫn còn, là nhờ ở đâu, nhờ ở đâu?

Ở nơi dốc chí đọc sách, hiểu rõ nghĩa lý của đám sĩ phu mới gọi là còn được.

Sao đến nỗi một ban học cũ, vùi đầu trong đám sách nát của văn chương bát cổ, giấy mực của bốn nhà để tự khoe học rộng nhớ nhiều mà khi hỏi đến Tây Cống, Đông Kinh thì không biết đó là nơi nào, xứ nào cả. Một số lớn người mới say lòng nơi gấm vóc năm châu, sự phồn thịnh của Ba Đảo (Nhật Bản) uổng công tranh đua với nhau về những cái hiểu biết phù hiêu mà đến việc mở trí cho quốc dân, xây dựng đời sống mới thì không được một mảy may thực dụng.

Ôi! Khí dân tiêu trầm nào phải một ngày, sóng gió dồn dập đến mà giấc mộng lớn vẫn chưa tỉnh. Bốn biển xanh biếc mênh mông, ta biết dựa vào đâu? Bây giờ mà không phấn chấn tự cường, ắt là giống nòi nguy mất!

– The illustration is a picture of a manuscript of a biography of Trần Quý Cáp written by fellow scholar and reformer Huỳnh Thúc Kháng (黃叔抗, 1876-1947) who has previously been featured on this blog.

nguyen_truong_to_500

Nguyễn Trường Tộ (阮長祚, 1830–1871) was Roman Catholic scholar, reformer, and architect active during the reign of emperor Nguyễn Dực Tông (阮翼宗, 1829-1883) of the Nguyễn dynasty. He was born in the province of Nghệ An (乂安) in central Vietnam. As a youth, he studied privately with retired scholars and gained a reputation as a well-learned scholar in the Confucian classics. As a Roman Catholic, he was forbidden to take part in the imperial examinations. He made a living through teaching classical Chinese in private and at a Roman Catholic seminary. Under the tutelage of bishop Jean-Denis Gauthier (1810-1877), also know by his Vietnamese name Ngô Gia Hậu (吳嘉厚), Nguyễn Trường Tộ also became one of the first Vietnamese scholars to become fluent in French and well versed in European culture and government. Although it is certain that Gauthier accompanied him to Hong Kong and various other places in the region, it is not certain whether or not Nguyễn Trường Tộ went to France prior to 1867 when he sent as part of an official delegation by emperor Nguyễn Dực Tông.

As a reformer, he placed great emphasis on “practical studies” (實學, thực học) such as that of Western sciences opposed to the “empty learning” (虛學, hư học), i.e., poetic and literary studies, and the rote memorization of histories and Confucian texts emphasized by the imperial civil-service examinations. Despite not holding any official position, his erudition in both Western and Eastern learning earned him the respect of the emperor, to whom he wrote many petitions regarding the necessity of modernization in order to survive the imminent threat of French colonization. Regardless, many court officials opposed his propositions for reform and even falsely accused him of collaborating with the French in order to have him executed. The emperor himself did not ever implement any of the reforms proposed in  the detailed and impassioned memorials and petitions submitted to the court. A devout Roman Catholic, Nguyễn Trường Tộ also played an essential role in drafting the architectural plans  and aiding in the construction of several seminaries, convents, and chapels. Towards the end of his life, he volunteered to lead a military strike on the French, taking advantage of their entanglement in the Franco-Prussian war, to regain lost territory. By the time the imperial court summoned him to discuss his petition, he was already in frail health. His talent unrecognized and his concern for the survival of the Nguyễn dynasty unappreciated, he died disappointed, his great ambitions unattained. In his last moments, he wrote the following couplet: 「一失足成千古恨 ,再回頭是百年基。」 (Nhất thất túc thành thiên cổ hận, tái hồi đầu thị bách niên cơ). “One misstep has turned into everlasting regret, looking once again the foundation for a lifetime has already been laid”. (An anonymous Vietnamese translation is: Một bước sa chân ngàn thủa hận, quay mặt nhìn đã hết trăm năm)

沱曩過泊

萬代天地此風景
西朝何事動兵刀
一朝殺氣空流水
千古冤聲尚怒濤
江自西南雙淚下
門開東北雨山高
如今已慶鯨波靜
破浪乘風氣自豪

Đà Nẵng quá bạc

Vạn đại thiên địa thử phong cảnh
Tây triều hà sự động binh đao
Nhất triêu sát khí không lưu thuỷ
Thiên cổ oan thanh thượng nộ đào
Giang tự tây nam song lệ há
Môn khai đông bắc vũ sơn cao
Như kim dĩ khánh kình ba tĩnh
Phá lãng thừa phong khí tự hào

Harboring in Đà Nẵng

For ten-thousand generations Heaven-and-earth have had this scenery
For what reason has the Western court raised its soldiers and arms
In one morning, the air of the death has passed with the flowing water
For countless ages, the sound of lament still roars in the crashing torrents
As the river flows from the southwest, two trails of tears fall
A passage opening from the northeast, the rainy mountain is tall
Now there can celebration that billowing waves have been stilled
Crashing through the waves and riding the wind, my spirits are high

Notes:

– Đà Nẵng (沱曩) is a coastal city that has the largest harbor in central Vietnam. It was a crucial port for trade and the site of a French naval invasion during the Nguyễn dynasty. The territory ended up being ceded to the French. It was to this area that Nguyễn Trường Tộ initially accompanied Bishop Gauthier to escape persecution of Roman Catholics in his home province.

-“Western court” (西朝, Tây triều) refers to the French

-“billowing waves” (鯨波, kình ba) literally means “leviathan waves”, but is used in literature to describe great naval battles, etc

-poet Khương Hữu Dụng (羌有用, 1907-2005) has translated this poem into Vietnamese:

Đậu thuyền ở Đà Nẵng

Trời đất muôn đời phong cảnh ấy
Giặc Tây sao dám nổi binh đao
Lửa binh một sớm dòng xuôi chảy
Tiếng súng ngàn thu sóng giận gào
Nhánh rẽ Tây Nam sông đổ xuống
Núi canh Đông Bắc cửa ra vào
Mừng nay đã lặn tăm kình ngạc
Cưỡi sóng buồm dong mấy tự hào

family picture

Hồ Huân Nghiệp (胡勳業, 1829-1864) was a scholar and among the first Vietnamese to give up his life fighting the French in southern Vietnam. He was born in the village of An Định (安定), which is located in modern day Saigon. His courtesy name (字, tự) was Thiệu Tiên (紹先). After his father’s death, he built a temporary house by the grave from which he maintained his father’s grave, took care of his mother, and gave private instruction to students. Following 1859, he assisted the martial officialTrương Định (張定, 1820-1864) in waging a guerrilla war against the French in defiance of the Treaty of Saigon, signed in 1862 by emperor Nguyễn Dực Tông (阮翼宗, 1829-1883), better known by his reign title (年號, niên hiệu) Tự Đức (嗣德). This treaty surrendered the city of Saigon, the Côn đảo (昆島) islands, and three southern provinces to the French. Before leaving to assist the rebellion, he married so that his mother would have someone who could take care of her. After Hồ Huân Nghiệp was captured and apprehended in 1864, he refused to submit and was beheaded. Before his execution, he washed his face, straightened his robes, and recited the following poem. He was 35 years old.

絕命詩

見義寧甘不勇為
全憑忠孝作男兒
此身生死何須論
惟戀高堂白髮垂

Tuyệt mệnh thi

Kiến nghĩa ninh cam bất dũng vi
Toàn bằng trung hiếu tác nam nhi
Thử thân sinh tử hà tu luận
Duy luyến cao đường bạch phát thùy

A death poem

Seeing what is right, how can one not do it with courage
Relying only on loyalty and filial piety, I have been a real man
What need is there to discuss my life and death
I only regret that my mother’s hair has turned white and thin

Notes:

-The first line of this poem is a reference to a quote from The Analects (論語, Luận ngữ): 「見義不為,無勇也。」 (Kiến nghĩa bất vi, vô dũng dã). James Legge translates: To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.

-Cao đường (高堂), literally ‘lofty hall’ is a term of respect used to refer to one’s parents.

-The illustration is a picture of a family from Hà Nội (河內) in northern Vietnam

-This poem has been translated into Vietnamese by Bảo Định Giang (寶定江):

Thấy nghĩa lòng đâu dám hững hờ
Làm trai ngay thảo, quyết tôn thờ
Thân này sống chết không màng nhắc
Thương bấy mẹ già tóc bạc phơ

Chan_dung_tam_nguyen_yen_do_nguyen_khuyen

Nguyễn Khuyến (阮勸, 1835-1909) was a native of the Nam Định (南定) province in northern Vietnam. His original given name was Thắng (勝) and his courtesy name (字, tụ) was Miễn Chi (免之). He was well-known for his wide knowledge and quick wit. An upright official, he resigned from his government post in the autumn of 1884 and returned to Yên Đổ (安堵) in his home province where he lived in retirement, teaching privately until his passing in 1909. His later poetry shows his lament for the times, as the French threat to the Nguyễn dynasty’s sovereignty became more apparent.  Today, he is well remembered for both his Chinese and Vietnamese poetry. He often translated his Chinese poetry into Vietnamese poetry and vice versa. In Vietnam there are many schools and streets named after him.

秋夜有感

山河寥落四無聲
獨坐書堂看月明
何處秋風吹一葉
引來無限故園情

Thu dạ hữu cảm

Sơn hà liêu lạc tứ vô thinh
Độc toạ thư đường khán nguyệt minh
Hà xứ thu phong xuy nhất diệp
Dẫn lai vô hạn cố viên tình

Feelings on an autumn night

The countryside is cool and still, surrounded by utter silence
I sit alone in the book study, gazing at the moon’s radiance
Somewhere the autumn wind stirs a single leaf
Bringing with it countless feelings from my old garden

nlvnpf-1007-001

The following passage is translated from the chapter “Examining the Heart” (省心, Tỉnh tâm) of the Precious Mirror of the Enlightened Heart-Mind (明心寶鑑, Minh Tâm Bảo Giám) which has been introduced in a previous post.

 

王良曰:欲知其君, 先視其臣。欲知其人, 先知其友。欲知其父, 先知其子。君聖臣忠, 父慈子孝。家貧顯孝子, 世亂識忠臣。

Vương Lương viết: Dục tri kỳ quân, tiên thị kỳ thần. Dục tri kỳ nhân, tiên thị kỳ hữu. Dục tri kỳ phụ, tiên thị kỳ tử. Quân thánh thần trung, phụ từ tử hiếu. Gia bần hiển hiếu tử, thế loạn thức trung thần.

Wang Liang said: Desiring to know a ruler, first examine his subjects. Desiring to know a man, first examine his friends. Desiring to know a father, first examine his son. A sagacious ruler produces loyal subjects, a benevolent father, filial sons. When a family is in poverty, the filial piety of the son is made clear. When the realm is in chaos, loyal subjects are made known.

 

Notes:

– The illustration is taken from a Nguyễn dynasty printing of the book The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars translated (二十四孝演音, Nhị thập tứ hiếu diễn âm). It is a translation and annotation of the popular Yuan dyansty (元朝, Nguyên triều, 1260–1368) work of disputed authorship. The contents include stories of twenty four paragons of filial piety and Confucian morality. It was a popular didactic text in Vietnam, especially under the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). Editions of this work can still be found today, many of which are printed with illustrations or in comic book form for children.

– A variation of this quote was used in one episode of the 2010 television series Three Kingdoms (三國, Tam Quốc). 

 

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