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Nguyễn Đình Chiểu

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Nguyễn Đình Chiểu

Nguyễn Đình Chiểu
Nguyễn Đình Chiểu
Born (1822-07-01)July 1, 1822
Gia Định
Died July 3, 1888(1888-07-03) (aged 66)
Ba Tri, Bến Tre
Pen name Trọng Phủ, Hối Trai
Occupation poet
Nationality Vietnamese
Notable works
Lục Vân Tiên
Dương Từ-Hà Mậu
Văn tế nghĩa sĩ Cần Giuộc
Ngư tiều y thuật vấn đáp
Children Nguyễn Ngọc Khuê (or Sương Nguyệt Anh)

Nguyễn Đình Chiểu (阮廷沼; July 1, 1822 – July 3, 1888) was a Vietnamese poet who was known for his nationalist and anti-colonial writings against the French colonization of Cochinchina, the European name for the southern part of Vietnam.[1][2]

He was the best known opponent of collaboration in the south of Vietnam and was regarded as the poet laureate of the southerners who continued to defy the Treaty of Saigon which ceded southern Vietnam to France, disobeying the royal orders of Emperor Tự Đức to continue harassing the French forces. His epic poem, Lục Vân Tiên, remains one of the most celebrated works in Vietnamese literature.


Chiểu was born in the southern province of Gia Định, the location of modern Saigon. He was of gentry parentage; his father was a native of Thừa Thiên–Huế, near Huế; but, during his service to the imperial government of Emperor Gia Long, he was posted south to serve under Lê Văn Duyệt, the governor of the south. There, he took a second wife, who bore him four sons, one of whom was Chiểu.[3]

In 1843, he passed the regional imperial examinations, and in 1846, he traveled to the capital, Huế, for the opening of the metropolitan examinations. However, while in Huế, he was informed of the death of his mother, so he withdrew from the examinations and returned to Gia Định. However, on the journey south, he contracted an eye infection and was soon completely blind. In spite of his disability, he opened a small school in Gia Định and was soon in high demand as both a teacher and a medical practitioner.[3]

Flight to Bến Tre

In 1859, the French started the conquest of Cochinchina and attacked Gia Định. As a result, Chiểu fled south to the Mekong Delta region of Bến Tre.[4] His blindness prevented Chiểu from making a physical contribution to the guerrilla efforts of the likes of Trương Định, the leading southern anticolonial. Chiểu was known for his vivid and highly proficient writing of poetry of chữ nôm, which was widely circulated in the south, mainly by word of mouth.[3]

In 1862, Emperor Tự Đức's court signed the Treaty of Saigon, which ceded three southern provinces to become the colony of Cochinchina. Đình and his colleagues refused to recognize the treaty and continued to fight on against the French, thereby disobeying Tự Đức and being in violation of the will of the Mandate of Heaven.[5]

Chiểu did not portray Đình as a rebel opposed to the Huế court. In an elegy to the fallen insurgents, Chiểu asserted that the resistance continued its struggle after the signing of the treaty by Huế "because their hearts would not heed the Son of Heaven's edict". Chiểu strongly supported the partisans’ efforts in continuing their attempt to expel the French from southern Vietnam, a cause he considered righteous, yet his reference to Tự Đức as the "Son of Heaven" indicate that the legitimacy of the Emperor was not called into question.[5]

The resistance petered away after Đình was surrounded and committed suicide in 1864 to avoid capture. In 1867, the French seized a further three provinces to complete their colonization of the south, using the pretext that the Nguyễn court was secretly assisting southern rebels and thereby disrespecting the Treaty of Saigon.[3][6]

Long after the collapse of the southern resistance, Chiểu remained with a small group of students in Bến Tre. He continued to write poetry despite his works having been banned by the French regime. He refused to cooperate with the colonial system and shunned it. When an official of the French authorities offered him the land that had been taken from his family plot in Gia Định, he was reported to have sardonically replied, "When our common land, our country has been lost, how it is possible to have individual land?"[3] Chiểu continued his writing, which was known for its praise of Đình and his resistance colleagues, his condemnations of Roman Catholicism and the Vietnamese Catholics who collaborated with the French in subjugating Vietnam and his advocacy of traditional Vietnamese language.[3]


Aside from various individual poems, pamphlets and essays, his three major works are:

  • Lục Vân Tiên - narrative poem, (truyện thơ) written in Nôm, begun in 1851, transmitted in writing and orally. First printing in China in 1864.
  • Dương Từ-Hà Mậu - narrative poem (truyện thơ) written in Nôm, begun in 1854. First printing Saigon 1964.
  • Ngư Tiều vấn đáp nho y diễn ca - Treatise on Chinese medicine, circa 1867


His influence on morale-building and patriotic sentiment was felt long after the military defeat of the popular resistance.[7] His poetry remained popular into the 20th century, particularly in the Mekong Delta where it continued to be circulated.[3] Most cities in Vietnam have named major streets after him.[8]


  1. ^ Bruce M. Lockhart, William J. Duiker Historical Dictionary of Vietnam 2006 "Nguyễn Đình Chiểu (1822-1888). Scholar and poet in 19th century Vietnam. Blind from childhood, Nguyễn Đình Chiểu taught school in his home province of Gia Dinh until the French conquest of Cochin China. He then resigned and moved to Bén Tre, where he began to write poetry; the primary theme of his writing ...."
  2. ^ Wynn Wilcox Vietnam and the West: New Approaches 2010 Page 110 "As the blind, anticolonialist, southern poet Nguyễn Đình Chiểu wrote in praise of common people who died committed to such resistance, "It was better to return to our ancestors in glory rather than survive in submission to the occidentals ..."
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Marr, p. 37.
  4. ^ David G. Marr Vietnamese Anticolonialism, 1885–1925 1971- Page 37 "Nevertheless, he opened a small school in Gia Dinh and soon was much in demand both as a teacher and as a medical practitioner.51 When the French attacked Gia Dinh in 1859, Nguyen Dinh Chieu fled to Bến Tre. While his blindness kept ."
  5. ^ a b McLeod, p. 104.
  6. ^ McLeod, p. 94.
  7. ^ Saigon des origines à 1945 - Page 96 1976 "Des le début, Nguyen Dinh Chieu participa au mouvemen insurrectionnel. Ses écrits, pleins d'un patriotism militant, exerçaient une influence bénéfique sur le moral des combattants. Après la défaite de la résistance populaire er Cochinchine, "
  8. ^


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