Việt Nam's first historian proposed for world celebration

October 23, 2022 - 07:46
Lê Văn Hưu, who penned Đại Việt Sử Ký (Annals of Đại Việt), the first and most important work on Vietnamese history, has been honoured as an outstanding educator, a national cultural celebrity and a perfect personality.
VENERATED: Statue of historian Lê Văn Hưu at the National Historic Site of Lê Văn Hưu Temple in Thiệu Trung Commune, Thiệu Hóa District, Thanh Hóa Province. VNA/VNS Photo Hoa Mai

Lê Văn Hưu (1230-1322), the first historian of the country to lay the foundations for Việt Nam's national history, has been proposed to be celebrated worldwide as a cultural celebrity.

With his erudite knowledge, his solid historical method and rich emotional expression, he has been honoured as an outstanding educator, a national cultural celebrity and a perfect personality.

In gratitude for his great contribution to national history, the northern central province of Thanh Hóa recently set up a plan to complete the dossier of application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in celebrating Lê Văn Hưu as a cultural celebrity.

A scientific conference held recently by Thanh Hóa Province in co-ordination with the Việt Nam Association of Historical Sciences to celebrate the 700th anniversary of his death highlighted Lê Văn Hưu's life and career and particularly his Đại Việt Sử Ký (Annals of Đại Việt), the first and most important work on Vietnamese history.

Most participants, including leading experts, scientists and researchers, affirmed that Lê Văn Hưu, the author of Đại Việt Sử Ký had laid the foundation for the nation's history.

HISTORY IN PRINT: The cover of a historical comic book about Lê Văn Hưu. Stories about the historian's life and career have attracted attentions of many young people. Photo

They highlighted his great contributions to Vietnamese history and culture and his influence on national cultural development.

The conference agreed the People's Committee of Thanh Hoá Province and Việt Nam Association of Historical Sciences should cooperate with functional sectors in developing a project on proposing that UNESCO consider world celebration for Lê Văn Hưu.

The two agencies should also work with each other to prepare for the celebration of his 800th birthday in 2030.

Born in the Year of Tiger, 1230, in Phủ Lý Village, in Thanh Hóa Province's Thiệu Hóa District, Hưu showed his intelligence from a very young age and set the direction for his life to devote to and brighten his homeland and the whole country.

He attended the first exam to select talents in the reign of Trần Thái Tông and was awarded the title Bảng nhãn (second highest ranked laureate) at the age of 17. He was then assigned to many important mandarin positions in the Trần Dynasty in law, military, academia and historical works.

During his time as a mandarin, he was known for his profound education, great virtue, and always loving and caring for the people. He dedicated and served with a desire to contribute to building a harmonious, peaceful, prosperous country.

HOMELAND: The National Historical Site of Lê Văn Hưu Temple in Thanh Hóa Province. VNA/ VNS Photo Hoa Mai

After his death, inscriptions inscribed on Lê Văn Hưu's grave with his biography praising his talent and career remained in Thiệu Trung Commune. In 1990, the Ministry of Culture and Information recognised a temple worshipping him in the commune as a national historical relic.

Hoàng Bá Tường, deputy head of the Thanh Hóa Province's Party Committee's Publicity and Education sub-commission, said with his talent and virtue, Lê Văn Hưu was a pride of Thanh Hóa, honoured in historical and cultural traditions.

Tường, who has spent many years researching the historian, said: "His name is worth honouring on the 'golden board' of Vietnamese cultural celebrities."

Along with Thanh Hóa, the historian's homeland, many schools and streets in provinces and cities across the country have been named after him to honour his career, dedication, ideological values and ideals left to younger generations.

Thanh Hóa Province implemented a project between 2018-2022 on restoring and preserving the historical relic of Lê Văn Hưu Temple with a total investment of over VNĐ29 billion. The project was inaugurated in April this year.

First national historical work

The famous Đại Việt Sử Ký, a set of 30 books complied by Lê Văn Hưu and completed in 1272, presents the historical conditions of the country over nearly 15 centuries from 207 BC to 1244.

Right from the first days of publication, the work showed its great contributions to the country's feats of national building and defending, helping the Trần Dynasty reach its most glorious development. Experts have confirmed the precious work is an important foundation for historians to research and study Vietnamese history.

A new version of the work titled Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư (The Complete Annals of Đại Việt), in Hán or ancient Chinese characters, was released recently by the Văn Học Publishing House.

The text was written, carved and printed by different generations of historians under the Lê and Trần dynasties, such as Lê Văn Hưu, Phan Phu Tiên, Ngô Sĩ Liên, Phạm Công Trứ and Lê Hy. It was first translated into Vietnamese by sinologist Cao Huy Du and released in 1967.

Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư is the oldest official historical text that is so comprehensive. It is an invaluable treasure of Vietnamese culture, a rich source of information to research into the history and other social science branches," said Võ Thuỳ Trang, a researcher and final-year student at the literature faculty of the HCM City University of Education.

Chairman of the Việt Nam Association of Historical Sciences Trần Đức Cường said that Lê Văn Hưu was a bright example in studying and working, and his example should be more widely known in society, arousing pride and contributing to promoting more talents for his homeland of Thanh Hóa, and Việt Nam in general.

The official said issues about the historian's biography and his work Đại Việt Sử Ký still need to be studied more deeply so that "our posterity will continue to preserve and promote the value of his heritage."

Đỗ Trọng Hưng, secretary of Thanh Hoa Province's Party Committee, agreed and assigned the provincial Culture, Sports and Tourism Department in collaboration with Thiệu Hóa District and functional agencies to review the criteria for the cultural celebrity to be celebrated worldwide and build a dossier to report to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Government to submit to UNESCO.

Deputy Director of Thanh Hóa Cultural Heritage Conservation Centre Lê Trí Duẩn said the centre was urgently working with units and scientists at the central and local levels to carry out activities, including the holding of conferences and compiling books about the national historian to translate into different languages.

"The original information and documents related to the historian and his life are increasingly clarified thanks to the search, discovery and exploitation of sources and his imprints in the homeland of Thanh Hóa, but they are still not enough," he said.

However, officials were keen to point out that, despite the desire to venerate one of the nation's greatest scholars, scientific records should be carefully prepared with the consultation of domestic and foreign experts. VNS