Phan Boi Chau – Phan Chu Trinh


Phan Boi Chau (1867-1940)

Leading figure in the anti-colonial movement in early twentieth-century Vietnam.Born in a scholargentry family in Nghe An Province, Phan Boi Chau showed a quick mind as a youth and earned a second class degree (Pho bang) in the metropolitan examinations in 1990.He appeared destined to pursue a career in officialdom, but Chau’s patriotic instincts led him in a different direction.In 1903 he formed a revolutionary organization called the Restoration Society (Duy Tan Hoi) under the titular leadership in Prince Cuong De, a member of the Nguyen ruling house.Two years later he established his headquarters in Japan, where he wrote patriotic tracts designed to stir anti-French sentiments among the general population and encourage young Vietnamese to flee abroad and join his exile organization.

In 1908, Phan Boi Chau was ordered to leave Japan, forcing him to turn to China, where Sun Yat-sen’s Revolutionary Alliance was attempting to overthrow the tottering Ch’ing Dynasty.In 1912 he transformed the Modernization Society into a new organization, the Vietnamese Restoration Society (Viet Nam Quang Phuc Hoi), modeled after Sun Yan-sen’s own republican party.The new organization had little more success than its predecessor, and several attempted uprisings in Vietnam failed.Phan Boi Chau himself was briefly imprisoned in China.On his release in 1917, he appeared temporarily discouraged at the prospects of victory, writing a pamphlet entitled “France-Vietnamese Harmony” (Phap Viet De Hue) which suggested the possibility of reconciliation with the colonial regime.

In 1925 Phan Boi Chau was seized by French agents while passing through the International Settlement in Shanghai.Brought under guard to Hanoi, he was tried and convicted of treason.He spent the remainder of his life in house arrest in Hue and diedin 1940.Phan Boi Chau is one of the most respected patriots in modern Vietnam.

Phan Chu Trinh

Phan Chu Trinh (1872-1926)

Leading reformist figure in early twentieth-century Vietnam.Phan Chu Trinh was born in Quang Nam Province in Central Vietnam, the son of a military officer.He received a traditional Confucian education and achieved the degree of Pho Bang in 1901.His father, a supporter of the Can Vuong movement, was assassinated by one of his colleagues on suspicion of treason.

Phan Chu Trinh accepted a minor job with the imperial Ministry of Rites, but was soon involved in political activities, sending a famous public letter to French Governor-general Paul Beau in 1906 in which he appealed to Beau to live up to the French civilizing mission in Vietnam by reforming Vietnamese Society along Western lines.He also became involved in the so-called Tonkin Free School (Dong Kinh Nghia Thuc), a private institution financed by patriotic elements to introduce Western ideas into Vietnamese society.It was Phan Chu Trinh’s conviction that Vietnam’s primary enemy was not the French, but its own antiquated feudal system.

In 1908, Phan Chu Trinh was imprisoned for his part in supporting a peasantdemonstration in Central Vietnam.After spending time on Poulo Condore, he was sent to live in exile in France, where he supported himself as a photo-retoucher and contributed occasionally to the patriotic cause with writings on contemporary issues.In 1925 he was permitted to return to Vietnam and he died in Saigon the following years.His funeral became the occasion of a fervent expression of a patriotic fervor in Vietnam.

Phan Chu Trinh is often contrasted with Phan Boi Chau as representing the non-violent reformist wing of the patriotic movement in early twentieth-century Vietnam, while Chau represented the path of revolutionary violence.


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