Our generation was lucky to learn from four famous history
professors: Dinh Xuan Lam, Phan Huy Le, Ha Van Tan and Tran Quoc Vuong.
When I first stepped in the lecture hall of the Faculty of
History of Ha Noi National University, I heard students from previous courses
say, "Lam – Le – Tan – Vuong are the four pillars of the faculty".
Their reputation is well merited, as history has always been a
hard subject, though they helped it gain a lot of popularity during their school
sessions, with stories about Hong (Red) River civilisations and tales full of
strange sacraments from dynasties such as the Ly, Tran, Le and Nguyen.
Professor Dinh Xuan Lam was born in 1925 in Ha Tinh Province
into a poor family.
During his youth, Lam studied at Khai Dinh High School in Hue,
then became a teacher at Dao Duy Tu High School in the central province of Thanh
"During my first lesson, I taught the Declaration of
Independence and the Letter of Uncle Ho, which was sent to students to begin a
new academic year on September 5, 1945.
"Afterwards, I taught Vietnamese history following the textbooks
of scholar Ton Quang Phiet, and taught literature following the writings and
textbooks of Professor Duong Quang Ham," Lam recalls.
In 1954, he travelled to Ha Noi to study at the Teachers
Training University. Then he worked as a lecturer at the Faculty of History at
Ha Noi National University. Under the guidance of Professor Tran Van Giau, the
head of the history faculty, Professor Lam, along with professors Phan Huy Le,
Ha Van Tan and Tran Quoc Vuong, compiled a textbook on Vietnamese history for
They were called "the four pillars" because they were the core
staff of the faculty during the war times, when lecturers had to both study new,
a rising problems in national history and still maintain enough time to teach
students, supply them with the latest materials and continue to form a
contingent of young researchers for the country’s historical sciences.
Along this rough road, Lam chose to study some historical
characters of the 19th century such as national heroes Truong Dinh, Hoang Hoa
Tham and Phan Dinh Phung, as well as patriots such as the popular Phan Boi Chau
and controversial figures such as Phan Thanh Gian and Nguyen Truong To.
In particular, he focused on the national spirit and patriotism
of feudal intellectuals during the Nguyen Dynasty, when the French colonialists
began to invade the country in the 19th century.
I remember the library at the history faculty, with documents
that the professors took great pains to study and write to be special majors.
I still remember the day when he led us to visit the house of
patriot Nguyen Quang Bich in Thai Binh Province. Together we waded through mud
fields and passed over bridges made of tree trunks. We sampled bad noodle soup
together. These field trips gave us a lot of extra knowledge to add to what we
learned in class.
Lam gave many valuable speeches at domestic and international
seminars when the country began doi moi (renewal) in 1986, where many
controversial issues from the 1960s-1970s were studied from new points of view.
Along with Professor Le, Professor Lam has given important
contributions to the Viet Nam Historical Scientific Association over the last
I know that some French and American researchers, when studying
Indochina, and Ha Noi in particular, have visited Lam to discuss and study why
French colonialists and American imperialists failed in the two wars in Viet
Lam is like a living textbook. With his deep historical
knowledge, he has given foreign researchers many interesting perspectives on the
people and history of the nation, as well as on the implicit power of the
Vietnamese nation, all of which would be difficult to come by through any other
Scientific seminars held by the Viet Nam Historical Scientific
Association, of which Lam was an active member, have helped foreign researchers
see a new vision of the country and people of Viet Nam.
Students taught by Lam will never forget his efforts to hand
them the fires of passion, and start them on the way to find historical truths
hidden under the dusts of time.
In 1988, Lam was the history teacher granted by the State the
honourable title of The People’s Teacher.
Today, at over 80, he still travels and writes tirelessly.
He has made many careful contributions and new discoveries at
seminars, re-evaluating some historical characters such as General Le Van Duyet,
Phan Thanh Gian and journalist Truong Vinh Ky and given seminars on the Nguyen
We, the students who learned from Lam, were lucky to receive
from him his methods of study and his ways of approaching difficult issues.
On the rough road of science, each article and each new piece of
material that he made public after his field trips were the results of hard
labour and passion.
To date, he still tells us: "To be a researcher or a teacher, we
should have our own passions for our jobs. This is my secret for success."
In the past 50 years, Professor Lam has written more than 60
He is one of main authors of a series about the history of Thang
Long-Ha Noi from ancient times to date (Thang Long was the former name of Ha
Noi). Of these books, Lam was chief author of the book Ha Noi Thoi Can Dai
(Ha Noi in Modern Times).
We, the students of the faculty, can call at Lam’s house to ask
him to explain what we want to know at any time.
The professor is like an indulgent and scholarly father. Though
he is in his 80s, he still has a passion for history. Every time I visit him, I
feel that the precious things and books that he has left for society are the
results of his great personality. — VNS