|Patriotic: Tuong studies Viet Nam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands. — VNS Photos Nguyen Huy
by Nguyen Huy and Ha Nguyen
Nguyen Phuoc Tuong, 90, has invested almost 20 years researching about Hoang Sa (Paracel) islands, despite facing many difficulties.
We visited his home in the central city of Da Nang's Tran Quy Cap Road on a pleasant day to gain more knowledge about his research and love for the islands.
He showed us a 400-page manuscript about Hoang Sa, which had been compiled, collected, and written by him.
When asked why he had spent time and energy doing research on the archipelago, Tuong proudly asserted that it is Viet Nam's sovereignty that cannot be deprived of.
He recalled that by the year 1997, Da Nang was being separated from the former province of Quang Nam-Da Nang. Hoang Sa is a district level administration belonging to Da Nang, but at that time, it was difficult to find official documents and newspapers about the islands.
"I travelled to the archive centres in Ha Noi and HCM City as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to search for the documents," said Tuong, adding that he also sought them in book shops on the streets and book stores in Da Nang and other provinces.
Tuong noted that the means of travel at that time were limited.
"I have often had to spent a month to stay at a location to seek the documents," he recalled.
His wife, Le Thi Thanh Toan, remarked that her husband often make four or five trips or more a year.
"My husband has a passion for his work. He often had to face hardships during such trips, such as buying tickets. In the past, I often visited him, but thereafter, due to ill health, I had to stay alone at home," Toan added.
Tuong recollected that during his search efforts he came across a list of the Journal de Voyage au Paracels (Itinerary Chronicle to Paracel Islands) by Jean Yves Claeys of France printed in Indochine Magazine in 1944, which is being archived in the National Archives Centre 1.
"When I went there, I only see its heading, not its archived document," Tuong reported, adding that while he had spent a month in the central city of Hue, he was extremely happy to come across an article about his sought item to be re-printed in the ancient capital of Hue magazine.
He acknowledged that he found it difficult trying to seek a witness because geographic names kept changing and many people changed locations.
"I was very moved when I met witness Tran Quoc Bao, whose family were the first residents of the islands during the 1930s," said Tuong.
While they were living on the islands, they saw no Chinese there until they left in the 1940s, he quoted Bao as saying.
We were very impressed to see Tuong's appendix, which includes 190 books and reference domestic and foreign documents.
Rarely, people of Tuong's age are fluent in French, and particularly have the knowledge of Han Chinese and Nom (Chinese-transcribed Vietnamese).
After 11 years of researching and compiling documents about Hoang Sa, in 2008, he registered with the Da Nang City Department of Science and Technology to write a book on the islands.
"I was very happy to be allowed by the city," Tuong noted.
|Decades of work: Tuong's studies on Hoang Sa Archipelago.
He has spent more than 8 months, working day and night, to edit and write the book.
Dang Cong Ngu, the chairman of Hoang Sa District and director of the district's Home Affairs Department, explained that Tuong's draft offers readers deep and comprehensive information about the islands, including its geography, natural resources, ancient documents collected from Western countries, China, and Viet Nam, as well as witnesses.
"They all confirmed the undeniable sovereignty of Viet Nam towards the sacred Hoang Sa Islands," remarked Ngu.
It was not until 2011-12, when ancient maps were found showing that China's southern end is at Hainan Island. Earlier in 2008, Tuong discovered and underlined convincing evidence of Viet Nam's sovereignty over Hoang Sa in his work, said Ngu.
He stated that Tuong's draft had been approved by the Party Central Committee's Commission of Education and Popularisation, the Hoang Sa department of Home Affairs, and the Association of History Science.
Tuong was born in Hoi An. Since 1946, his family moved to Hue and Thanh Hoa where he worked at the Central Institute of Research for Veterinary and then as a teacher in a secondary school.
In 1954, he graduated from the Ha Noi-based Agriculture University and moved to the central province of Nghe An to teach at the School of Agriculture and Forestry for 10 years.
Thereafter, he worked as the deputy director of the Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Company where he successfully conducted research on two weight gain supplements for pigs.
In addition, he had written more than 20 works, ranging from veterinary to culture, such as Hoi An, among many others.
But since he moved to work at the former Quang Nam-Da Nang Province's Science and Technology Department's Information and Archives Centre, he has written many articles and documents about Hoang Sa. He also supplied information to provincial leaders about the islands.
Tuong informed Viet Nam News that he wished that his drafts would be printed into a book.
Despite Tuong's efforts, his drafts are still not printed into a book, although several publishing houses had shown interest.
Ngu noted that Tuong's drafts were very good and being approved by the district.
"We must wait for approval from the Da Nang city authorities," he added.
He remarked that the district would propose the responsible agencies to edit Tuong's documents to be printed as a book.
"Tuong's work will contribute to the country's struggle to protect its territorial sovereignty of the nation's sea and islands," Ngu emphasised.
"Despite old age, you still spent time and efforts doing research and writing many books and documents, particularly documents about the history of Viet Nam's sovereignty towards Hoang Sa and Truong Sa (Spratly) islands. I respect your committment to carry out these significant activities," Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc wrote in a letter to Tuong last year. — VNS