He was born in Yen Mo Thuong village, Yen Mac Commune, Yen Mo district, Ninh Binh province on November 11, 1825 and died on November 29, 1985.
A historian and cultural celebrity
Born in a Confucian family, Pham Than Duat was an intelligent student of famous scholars Vu Pham Khai and Pham Van Nghi.
He got his bachelor degree in 1850 and became a mandarin in Tuan Giao district. In such remote area, he composed a famous book called “Hung Hoa ky luoc” featuring the characteristics and valued of the north-western region including Son La, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, Phu Tho and Hoa Binh. His book not only is a historical book but also bear the national identities.
During his life, he authored various valuable book and epitaphs. He was also assigned by Emperor Tu Duc to check the Nguyen Dynasty’s biggest historical book written by Imperial Courts, called the “Khâm định Việt sử thông giám cương mục” The Imperially Ordered Annotated Text Completely Reflecting the History of Vietnam. The Court also requested him to edit a historical book featuring events happening under the rule of Emperor Tu Duc.
Pham Than Duat was also a great cultural celebrity who left a variety of cultural works. He also had a good knowledge in administration, military science, politics, diplomacy, law and economics.
In 1876-1877, the Court appointed him as a mandarin who is in charge of controlling floods in the six provinces on the left bank of the Red River. He sent various reports to the Court describing ways to control floods in the region. Accordingly, he opposed the plan to remove dykes and tried to persuade the court and mandarin to follow his ways to control floods. He also proposed tax exemption for people in flooded areas.
His proposals, which came from his heart, had not only scientific but also economic and humane values.
Pham Than Duan was also a Confucian scholar with wide knowledge; he was assigned to be in charge of the first-degree examination in Truong Nam in 1852 and 1858, second-degree examination and court examination.
He was also in charge of the Quoc Tu Giam in 1857 and then taught princes Duc and Chanh Mong in 1882.
A patriotic feudal intellectual
Pham Than Duan was an incorruptible mandarin and a patriotic intellectual in the late 19th century, he was among those who launched the Can Vuong campaign against the French colonialists.
Despite being a mandarin for a very long time in the Nguyen Dynasty, Pham Than Duat was an honest and incorruptible one who always remembered his mother’s teaching that a mandarin who makes people poor will be hated.
People in Doan Hung, Tuan Giao where he was a mandarin for the longest time in his life, considered him their god for helping them escape poverty.
As a high-ranking mandarin in the Nguyen Dynasty who is in charge of the Secret agency, he was aware of the danger facing the country when the French colonialist took over the three regions and Emperor Tu Duc feared for the French, he assisted Ton That Thuyet to put Ham Nghi on the throne.
Before that, Pham Than Duat recommended building a series of fortifications in the west of Quang Tri and recruiting 500 troops in Ninh Binh in order to be ready for the war.
On the evening of July 5, 1885, he and Ton That Thuyet commanded their troops to attack the Mang Ca bastion but they failed. They accompanied Emperor Ham Nghi to Quang Tri and was arrested by the French and died when being sent to Tahiti.
In commemoration of the historian, a Pham That Duat History Award was launched in 2000 to honour talented historians who contribute to the development of the history studies of the country.
Translated by Dic