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Professor's passion inspires students

Update: November, 22/2009 - 00:00

Professor’s passion inspires students

Old school: Professor Dinh Xuan Lam, one of the four famous historical professors at Ha Noi National University, has made important contributions to the country’s historical studies. — VNS Photo

(22-11-2009)

History professor Dinh Xuan Lam is a teacher bursting with knowledge and moral authority, says student Nguyen Pham Quang, who writes about him on the occasion of Vietnamese Teachers’ Day.

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 Hoa.

"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 students.

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 three decades.

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 Nam.

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 source.

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 Dynasty.

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 books.

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

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