Phóng viên báo Việt Nam News phỏng vấn Phan Duy Kha

Tháng Mười Một 1, 2010 at 3:53 sáng Bạn nghĩ gì về bài viết này?

Map maker helps piece together history

 

Phan Duy Kha was trained as a cartographer, but his true passion is for history and he is now regarded as a popular historian. Kha talked with Trung Hieu about his life’s passion.

Historian Phan Duy Kha, born in 1946, graduated from the Mining-Geology Faculty of the Ha Noi University of Technology in 1968. He has written many history books and helped find solutions to many historical controversies that continue to puzzle researchers.

Inner Sanctum: What interests you about the study of history?

I have loved history since I was a little boy. Before retiring from the Design Institute of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, studying history was like a second job.

But when I retired in 1995, it became my official job. I write articles about history for many magazines, including Khoa hoc & Doi song (Science and Life), Xua & Nay (Then and Now), The Gioi Moi (New World) and The Gioi Trong Ta (The World inside Us).

I consider myself just an amateur historian because I did not graduate with a degree in history. All of my knowledge about history came from self-study and a lot of reading.

But as I look back on my life, I think that may be a good thing because if I had studied history in school, I would have been influenced by my professors and would not have the independent mind to study that I have now.

Inner Sanctum: Historical books often require readers to have background knowledge before reading them. Did you face any difficulties during your self-study?

Because I have loved history since my childhood, I have always had a passion for it and I never find it difficult.

During my working years, I often borrowed historical books from libraries. I brought books along with me on business trips and took advantage of every moment of free time I had to read.

I read historical books written by both Vietnamese authors and foreign authors who wrote about Viet Nam.

I came to the conclusion that: The more we read, the more our own knowledge develops, which gives us the foundation to judge others’ works.

Inner Sanctum: How effective is reading about historical issues?

History covers dynasties and the development of a country. By reading history, we can come to conclusions about many things. If a king employed talented people, his dynasty was prosperous, but if he based his decisions on bad people and those who told him what he wanted to hear, the dynasty was ruined. As we understand history, we will understand modern issues.

Inner Sanctum: On what period of history do you focus your studies?

My main focus is Vietnamese history from the time of the Hung Kings to the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945). My books include: Nhin lai lich su (Looking back on History); Lich su va su ngo nhan (History and Mistakes); Nhin ve thoi dai Hung Vuong (Looking back on the era of the Hung Kings); and Tu dien Kinh Thien trieu Le den Tong hanh dinh thoi dai Ho Chi Minh (From Kinh Thien Palace of the Le Dynasty to the General Headquarters of the Ho Chi Minh Era).

Inner Sanctum: Your book titles include words like “Looking back…” and “Mistake…”. It seems that you like to unmask and disclaim historic matters. Why?

I like to throw myself into “thorny issues” to express my point of view, and I am ready to debate anyone to protect my studies.

There are still many differing opinions about things that happened in the past. For example, some historians say that King Ho Quy Ly was a progressive reformer, while others say he was arbitrary and lost the belief of the people, which in turn made him lose the country to Chinese Ming invaders.

Another example is the case of Prime Minister Le Van Thinh (1038-?) of the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225). We recently cleared him of a claim that he had plotted to harm King Ly Nhan Tong on Dam Dam Lake (West Lake today).

I’ve read a lot and have some knowledge about history, so if I were to find any misunderstanding, I would write an article in an effort to fix the mistake.

Inner Sanctum: Many researchers still believe that Vietnamese people originated from China. But you have written that the Vietnamese originated locally. Can you explain further?

Many researchers still believe that the Vietnamese originated from China because they are under the influence of some famous historians [who said Vietnamese originated from China].

However, archaeological research in the 1960-70s proved that Vietnamese people were the founders of a civilisation that continued to develop from the region’s Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau, Go Mun and Dong Son cultures more than 4,000 years ago. The Hung Kings period was the last part of that development process.

From 1969 and 1970, four seminars were held on this issue. My work simply strengthens this supposition.

Inner Sanctum: Do you often have to travel for your studies, and does your work have an impact on your family life?

I often study at home or go to libraries and sometimes I travel to different provinces to find research materials. Sometimes I’m invited on research trips and all of my expenses are paid for, but I have also spent my own money on other trips.

I received a lot of sympathy and help from my wife, Don Thi Mai, who helps type my writings and proof my manuscripts. That’s why I occasionally use the pen-name Don Mai for my articles.

My only son studied biological technology and trade, and he now works for a joint-stock equipment supply company. I hope my grandson will love history. — VNS

                    (  Theo báo Việt Nam News số ra ngày Chủ nhật 24- 10- 2010, xem bài dịch ở phần sau )

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