Phan Boi Chau Biography, Summary of Life and Career

Nguyễn Minh Khánh
tháng 1 26, 2024
Last Updated

 Phan Boi Chau was both a prominent revolutionary figure during the French occupation of Vietnam and a famous scholar of that era. Let's explore this article to learn more about Phan Bội Châu and his significant contributions.

Family and Origin

Phan Boi Chau was born on December 26, 1867, in Đan Nhiễm village, later Xuan Hoa commune, Nam Đan district, Nghệ An province. He came from a Confucian family with a tradition of patriotism. His father, Phan Văn Phổ, was a teacher. His mother, Nguyễn Thị Nhàn, was from a noble family, elegant and virtuous.

Phan Bội Châu Biography

In his early years, he was named Phan Văn San, but since it was the same as the taboo name of Emperor Duy Tân (Vĩnh San), he had to change it to Phan Bội Châu. When he went to school, he took the pseudonym Hải Thụ, later changed to Sào Nam. He also had many other aliases and pen names such as: Thị Hán, Phan Giải San, Phan Sào Nam, Hiếu Hán,...

Talent Doesn't Wait for Age

Phan Boi Chau mastered the Three Character Classic in three days when he was only six years old, and read and understood the Analects when he was only seven. At the age of 13, he took the district examination and came in first. At the age of 17, upon hearing the news of the "Bắc kỳ Uprising," Phan Boi Chau enthusiastically responded and followed the example of Hưng Đạo Đại Vương to write the proclamation "Bình Tây thu Bắc" (Pacify the West and Recover the North).

In 1900, Phan Boi Chau participated and came in first, but he temporarily put down his brush and ink to embark on a great cause. He traveled extensively from North to South VietNam and to neighboring countries in search of ways to save the country.

Summary of Phan Boi Chau's biography

His career can be divided into three main periods as follows:

  • Early life from 1867 to 1900: Phan Bội Châu studied diligently and passed the Nguyên Examination. In 1897, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and barred from taking exams for bringing unauthorized documents into the examination hall. He then returned home to teach. However, Emperor Thành Thái, recognizing his talent, pardoned him and allowed him to take the exam in 1900.
  • In 1904, Phan Boi Chau founded the Duy Tân Association. The Duy Tân Association was the first organization Phan Bội Châu established during his revolutionary activities. From 1904 to 1912, the Duy Tân Association launched the Đông Du Movement, sending Vietnamese youth to study in Japan.
  • From 1912 to 1925: Phan Boi Chau worked in China and founded the Vietnam Restoration Association. On December 24, 1913, France successfully persuaded the Kuomintang government of China to arrest him. In 1917, Phan Boi Chau was released and continued his revolutionary activities. In 1925, he was kidnapped by the French, brought back to Vietnam, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • From 1925 to 1940, he was imprisoned in Huế until his death.

Phan Boi Chau's Revolutionary Career

After topping the Provincial Examination, Phan Boi Chau became famous among the Confucian scholars. He took this opportunity to seek out and befriend many patriotic heroes in the Thanh - Nghệ region and the Central region with the aim of building a movement to fight against the French and save the country. In early 1903, he used the pretext of entering the Quốc Tử Giám school to meet with Confucian scholars and read the "Manifesto" of Sun Yat-sen, Rousseau, Gandhi, and others.

There, Phan Bội Châu befriended like-minded patriots such as Phan Châu Trinh, Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, Trần Quý Cáp, Nguyễn Thượng Hiền,... Later in 1904, he went to Quảng Nam and made friends with more scholars there, such as Nguyen Tieu La, Huynh Thuc Khang, Trần Quy Cap. During this period, Phan Chu Trinh was launching the Duy Tân Movement to "Enlighten the people, invigorate the people's spirit, and improve the people's lives."

Founding the Duy Tan Association

Seizing the opportunity, on April 8, 1904, Phan Bội Châu, Cường Để, and more than 20 other comrades met at the private residence of Tiểu La Nguyễn Thành to establish a secret anti-French organization called the Duy Tan Association. On the one hand, Phan Bội Châu continued to support the Duy Tân Movement of Phan Chu Trinh and Huynh Thuc Khang, while on the other hand, he launched the Đong Du Movement, recruiting patriotic intellectuals to go to Japan for training, in preparation for fighting against the French.
The Duy Tan Association's policy was to use armed violence to expel the French. From that, the association set its ultimate goal as gaining independence for Vietnam.

Launching the Dong Du movement

In August 1905, Phan Boi Chau and the Duy Tan Association sent Cuong De and three other outstanding young men to Japan to study their Meiji Restoration policies. In October 1905, Phan Bội Châu personally took 45 Vietnamese youths to Japan to study. By early 1906, the Đông Du Movement in Vietnam continued to mobilize and send 200 more patriotic youths to Japan.

While the Dong Du Movement was gaining momentum both domestically and internationally, France planned to suppress the activities of the Duy Tân Association. France signed a treaty allowing Japan to trade in Vietnam while agreeing to expel all members of the Duy Tân Association from Japan. In September 1909, Phan Bội Châu, Cường Để, and the Vietnamese youths were deported back to Vietnam, and the Đông Du Movement officially disbanded.

Activities in China

After being expelled from Japan, Phan Bội Châu returned to Vietnam during the period when the Colonial government was actively pursuing members of the Duy Tan Association. Recognizing the many difficulties ahead, he tried to contact Nguyen Thuong Hien in Guangdong to send some key members to China.

In June 1912, Phan Boi Chau organized a National Conference held at Liu Yongfu's ancestral house in Guangdong to announce the dissolution of the Duy Tân Association and the establishment of the "Vietnam Restoration Association". He changed the new doctrine from Monarchy to Democratic Constitutionalism and declared the establishment of the "Republic of Vietnam" abroad.

However, the newly established "State" was still too young and had little influence in the country when a new political incident occurred. In early 1913, the French colonialists sent people to China to negotiate with the Governor-General Long Thế Quang to arrest Phan Bội Châu and escort him back to Vietnam. At this time, Nguyen Thuong Hien intervened and Phan Boi Chau was only imprisoned in Guangdong for 4 years without being extradited back to Vietnam.

In February 1917, Phan Boi Chau resumed his activities and connected with the remaining "remnants" in China. In 1922, he planned to follow Sun Yat-sen's reform to reorganize the Vietnam Restoration Association and changed its name to the "Vietnam Nationalist Party". But before this could be accomplished, Phan Bội Châu was secretly kidnapped and brought back to Vietnam by the French colonialists.

Arrest and death

At the trial of the French Criminal Council in May 1925, Phan Boi Chau was sentenced to "life imprisonment". At this time, people across the country rose up in demonstrations everywhere to put pressure on the protectorate government over the Phan Boi Chau case. Therefore, the French government had to issue an "amnesty" for Phan Bội Châu and forced him to return to Hue for "house arrest".

After being interned in Hue, Phan had no more opportunities to engage in revolutionary activities due to the strict surveillance of the French colonialists. However, he continued to cultivate his fighting spirit and had high hopes for the younger generation. Therefore, Phan Boi Chau asked to open a teaching class and composed prose and poetry, encouraging the people's patriotism. On October 28, 1940, Phan Bội Châu passed away in Hue.

Writing career

Besides his revolutionary career, Phan Boi Chau was also active in his literary career. All of his works contain content that encourages and awakens the patriotic spirit of the military and civilians.

Phan Boi Chau composed various genres such as: poetry, prose, sacrificial texts, novels, essays, short stories, memoirs, journalism,...

His artistic writing career is divided into three periods:

Early life

During this period, he composed many outstanding works such as: Hịch Bình Tây thu Bắc, Lưu Cầu Huyết Lệ Tân Thư.

Period of "success"

Phan Bội Châu composed poetry, prose, and short stories in both Quốc ngữ and Chinese during this time. He himself considered this the most brilliant period in his writing career because he was able to spread his great ambitions everywhere, especially the vibrant activities of the Đông Du movement. Some representative works include: Hải ngoại huyết thư, Việt Nam vong quốc sử, Tân Việt Nam, Khuyến quốc dân tu trợ du học văn.

The period of Old Man

This was the period when he was imprisoned in Hue, his works were written: novels, sacrificial texts, essays.... Although the number of works produced during this period was large, they were not highly regarded in terms of quality. During this period, Phan Bội Châu's works expressed sadness over the unfinished revolutionary cause. At the same time, he placed his hopes on the younger generation to continue the path of national liberation. "Phan Boi Chau Chronology" is the work most highly regarded during this period.

Phan Boi Chau's revolutionary path, although unsuccessful, brought hope to the Vietnamese people who were living under French domination. Please support us by continuing to follow other articles on the topic of history.

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