A doctor with a unique pen collection

April 22, 2018 - 09:00

Born in poverty, Doctor Nguyễn Văn Xáng has worked his way up to become the director of a hospital. The doctor’s vast collection of pens is an enjoyable hobby and a way
to remember his search for knowledge.

Pen-tastic: The doctor owns 2,500 pens with different shapes and sizes. — Photo plo.vn
Viet Nam News

by An Vũ and Văn Giang

Some people collect luxury cars, scooters, expensive purses or limited-edition sneakers. For Dr Nguyễn Văn Xáng, the only thing worth collecting is something most of us take for granted in daily life: pens.

Born to a poor family with no opportunity to get a proper education, Xáng has made a fortune out of adversity. He studied for free with a village teacher, and was even donated with nib pens, ink and writing paper. This schooling opened the door to the rest of his life.

Xáng is now a medical doctor and director of Khánh Hòa Province Hospital. To remember the teacher who gave him access to education, he keeps a nib as a treasure, which sparked his passion for pen collection.

To him, every pen carries a nice memory, an aspect of human life and aesthetic style.  

Dr Xáng’s living room in Mỹ Gia town, Nha Trang City is an evidence of his great admiration for pens.

Thousands of pens with different colours, shapes, sizes are displayed throughout the home. Some even have the shape of vegetables, fruits and injection needles.

“All of them are pens. I have a dozen pens the size of my biceps and some as small as needles. They have different values,” Xáng said, taking out a nib pen from a cupboard. “This is the pen which led me to the treasure of knowledge. Each time I look at it, it’s like I can come back to my childhood.”

“Because of my family circumstances, I was not able to receive a full education. But I was lucky enough to meet my first teacher, who was willing to open his home for a free class to children in the village. I was one of his students. Seeing me coming to class without pens and notebooks, he gave me a nib pen and a pot of ink.

Each day, we went to class with our pens, practising every pen stroke. Day by day, I became more skillful, and the pen became my first friend who taught me how to grow up,” Xáng said.         

Pen-riffic: The pens come in many shapes and sizes. — Photo plo.vn
Pens are life: Doctor Xáng by his pen collection. — Photo plo.vn

In 1995, when Xáng went to Germany to study otorhinolaryngology—care of the ear, nose and throat—he was given a gift from his German teacher: a pen and a medical lamp. Ever since, the gifts have remained with him as reminders of his duty to seek strong professional knowledge.

After getting back to Việt Nam and going to Nha Trang City for work, he spent his free time looking at the pens as treasures to recall his childhood memories.

Wherever he travelled, he would buy one or two rare, unique pens to remember the visit. He has collected over 2,000 pens; they reflect the special experiences of his business trips, scientific seminars, or just strange encounters.

In 2009, when Barack Obama became the 44th president of the US and the first African American to hold that position, Xáng wanted to obtain a president-shaped pen for his own possession. Therefore, he contacted his friends in the US to tell them about his wishes.  

“The pen is a sign of linguistic culture, expressing the knowledge, inner feelings and affection when spoken words cannot. At the same time, the pen is an integral tool for our lives. It delivers the thoughts and mindset, acknowledging the creativity of people, and collecting bittersweet memories in life. Therefore, each time I pick up a pen, I remember the difficulty and events I have been through,” Xáng said.

Collecting pens is a refined, enjoyable hobby to fill spare time. People who are fond of collecting things find fun and thrills by obtaining the objects they like. To any collector, the joy of observing their favourite items is indescribable, especially the ones which are rare and unique.

Xáng can be found standing for hours, gazing at his pens. He enjoys their bright colours, the diverse shapes of their bodies and the memories they represent.

After stressful work hours, Xáng leisurely watches his collection. “Painstakingly cleaning every single pen makes me young again, and acts as a remedy for releasing stress,” he said.

Moreover, his pen collection is a tool to educate his children to treasure the small but important things in life.

Recently, he has been recognised by the Vietnamese Guinness book as the man who has collected the most pens in Việt Nam. “To me, collecting pens is not for reward, only for passion and memory keeping. I will never stop doing it,” he said. -- VNS