The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 9

Though a prolific pamphleteer, Ho never kept diaries, wrote mem¬oirs or related his experiences to a biographer, as Mao Zedong did to the American journalist Edgar Snow. His life is therefore filled with mysteries, among them his motives for going to Europe rather than to Japan, then a beacon for Asian nationalists. Perhaps he foresaw then that to count on ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 8

The emperors had forbidden rice exports so that surpluses could feed deficit areas or be stored for bad years. To the French, however, rice was a lucrative commodity, and by the eve of World War II they had made Indochina the world’s largest rice exporter after Burma and Thailand. But the commercial success paradoxically impoverished the peasantry. By expanding cultivated ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 7

Justly proud of their educational achievements at home, the French planned to revamp the Vietnamese system of schooling, which had been highly developed along Confucian lines. In fact, roughly 80 percent of Vietnam’s population was more or less literate in the Chinese ideographs used for written Vietnamese. Aiming to break Vietnam’s cultural continuity, the French banned the Chinese char¬acters and ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 6

Phan Chu Trinh, also from central Vietnam, was the son of a rich landowner who had rallied to the dissident emperor Ham Nghi. A senior mandarin, he rose to the rank of minister at the imperial court in Hue, but he resigned in 1905 to accompany Phan Boi Chau to Japan. There they parted company. Shrewdly foreseeing the danger of ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 5

Ham Nghi had issued an edict during his flight from Hue, urging “the rich to give their wealth, the mighty their strength and the poor their limbs so that the country might be rescued from the invader.” The proclamation, known as Can Vuong, or Loyalty to the Emperor, inspired resistance leaders long after his deportation. In late 1886, for example, ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 4

From the early sixteenth century on, Vietnam tumbled into turmoil as competing families waged arcane power struggles that make the rivalries of Renaissance Italy seem simple by comparison. One clan, the Mac, defied the reigning Le dynasty, thereby antagonizing the Trinh faction, which aspired to the throne. After subduing the Mac forces, the Trinh effectively governed the north through figurehead ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 3

The myth of Le Loi, like the Arthurian legend of Excalibur, depicts him as a simple fisherman who one day cast his net into a lake, only to bring up a magic sword that made him superhuman. In reality, he was a wealthy landowner from Thanh Hoa province who rebelled against the Chinese after having served them. “Every man on ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism 2

A titled lady, Trung Trac, avenging the murder of her dissident husband by a Chinese commander, led the first major Vietnamese insurrection against China. She and her sister, Trung Nhi, mustered other restive nobles and their vassals, including another woman, Phung Thi Chinh, who supposedly gave birth to a baby in the middle of the battle yet continued to fight ... Read More »

The Heritage of Vietnamese Nationalism

But for his Asian features, he might have been an impov¬erished young French intellectual, a familiar sight in the Paris of the early 1920s. Small and frail, with a shock of black hair and piercing black eyes, he occupied a shabby room in a hotel on a dead-end street behind Montmartre, eking out a livelihood by enlarging and retouching photographs—“a ... Read More »

Piety and Power 14

In August 1883, taking advantage of the confusion following Tu Due’s death, a French fleet appeared at the mouth of the Perfume river, not far from Hue. Francois Harmand, a “native affairs” official aboard one of the vessels, threatened the Vietnamese with the “worst evils” unless they surrendered within forty-eight hours. “Imagine all that is terrible and it will still ... Read More »

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