Luong Van Can – The great patriot and the educator of Vietnam in the early twentieth century

Posted at: MONday - 28/04/2014 15:17 - post name: Nguyễn Thị Thùy


For contemporaries as well as posterities, the career and reputation of Luong Van Can can align with some pioneers of revolution in the twentieth century such as Phan Boi Chau, Phan Chu Trinh, NguyenThuong Hien. His name is also associated with Dong Kinh NghiaThuc movement (Tonkin Free School), a famous historical and cultural event happened 95 years ago.

The “Vietnamese History”,which was written By Prof. Nguyen Khanh Toan and published by Committee of Vietnam Social Science Institute in the early 1970s, appreciates the role of Tonkin Free School in the war against America in the early 20th century. In the book were it written: "In March 1970, Tonkin Free School was formed in Hang Dao Street and run by Luong Van Can and Nguyen Quyen and other scholars. Tonkin Free School received financial supports from some patriots and parents having their children attending school.  It sometimes attracted thousands of students of all ages, in both genders. Students did not have to pay tuition fees, but still got pens and papers and books. The school had four departments: Educational department, financial department, Promotional department and Prior-work department. The prior work department compiled a number of books provided to students, such as  “Vietnam’s brief national history”, “National geographic”, “National writing letter textbook”, …

“DKNT was a revolutionary organizations using education and cultural propaganda to train talented people, to rally patriots and became the center of a national democratic cultural. Influence of the movement spread from urban to rural areas, from the northern to the southern...”Although Tonkin Free School promoted cultural and social reform, censured the feudal habits of mind, it did not forget the real enemy of the nation – French colonials. Many articles praising traditional movement against aggressions and pointing out the unfair heavy-duty policy was published... Tonkin Free School’s activities associated with the operation of the Dong Du in both public and covert operation to reach an agreement on goals and actions and to coordinate in implementation" ...

"DKNT was a revolutionary organizations having great dedication to revolutionary propaganda, it also contributed to the development of national culture and language”... ”At first French colonials underestimated the effects of DKNT. However, they finally found out that this movement became high-risk activities. 12th May 1907, French colonialsclosed the school. In 1908, the founders including Luong Van Can , Nguyen Quyen Duong Ba Trac, Le Dai were arrested Dai... many materials of DKNT was confiscated and banned... "

The above excerpt has shown the very high evaluation of our Party to DKNT movement and its enormous influences. DKNT is aunique historic cultural phenomenal. Inspire of lasting for more than half a year, this school had left a profound mark with big impacts and long-term historical significance. Many more complete studies are expected to be conducted until the 100thanniversary of the establishment and operation of Tonkin Free School.

Luong Van Can was the soul and the brain of DKNT. The destruction of colonial government makes it difficult for us nowadays to find out about what happened in the past. However, through some documents left over, we can also reproduce something about the life and career of this venerable man.

Luong Van Can was born in 1854 in NhiKhe village, Thuong Tin government, Ha Dong province (now is Hanoi suburb). When he was a child, his family was so poor that he had to work hard to have money for attending school. He became a bachelor at the age of 21, but after that he declined all the suggestions to work for French government as well as feudal government.Luong Van Can was a patriot with independence lice, resistance concept and he also had specific performance of an exemplary educator, and highly sensitive with the new revolutionary spirit at that time. As a principal of Tonkin Free School, he contributed not only his intellection but also his property. His houses on Hang Dao Street and Hang Quat Street were used as places to teach, his business provide financial contribution to activities of the school, his children also involved in the work ofthe school and patriotic movement.

When the school was attacked, Luong Van Can and some important people of the movement were arrested and sentenced to prison in Con Dao.  In 1913, Luong Van Can was sent to Phnom Penh and he went back to Hanoi 10 years later. The patriotic intellectuals suffered physical exiles but their reputation were strengthened. Therefore, the government often tried to prevent their influence.Luong Van Can went back to Hanoi and continued his teaching career. All his activities and behaviors were carefully supervised by beagles. His wife passed away in 1926 and one year later, he was also six feet under on June 16th 1927. One year after Phan Chau Trinh’s funeral, the funeral of Luong Van Can was also a shocking event in our country.Learning from the past, colonial authorities used various measures to prevent the expression of patriotic feelings of the people on the occasion of Luong Van Can’s funeral.However, the information about his death was spread quickly in the city and throughout the country. Many people came to the funeral at 7 p.m. Despite all French authorities’ threats and prevention, Luong Van Can funeral in Hanoi following funeral of Phan Chu Trinh in Saigon was an occasion to praise patriotism, independence and freedom.

His funeral in 20 years after the establishment of DKNT movement proved that nothing could wear out the memory about Tonkin Free School and the true patriot who sacrificed all his life for the country.

96 years after DKNT movement and 75 years after Luong Van Can’s death, I understand more clearly about the young generation’s thoughts of traditional values when I think of that admirable man. Through these few words I want to emphasize the image of Luong Van Can as the image of a great educator of our country in the modern era.It should be noted that this man educated not only his students but also his children to become a patriotic revolutionaries, for example: Luong Ngoc Quyen. Luong Ngoc Quyen, whose real nam is Luong Lap Nham, was the leader of Thai Nguyen revolt in August 1917. He together with Trinh Van Can (also known as Doi Can) led the mutiny to overthrow the colonial government and to set up an independent government in a province of the country. The independent government lasted one week and the armed struggle lasted 6 months until it failed and Luong Ngoc Quyen died. However, it still caused a big buzz in Vietnam at that time.

Before Luong Van Can passed away, he taught his student to keep national elite and to wash the humiliation of the country. Today, at the eternal place, he and other patriots at the early 20th century can feel satisfied because their dream turned out to be real.

Many of his artworks was lost, but some poems remaining today show the spirit of a indomitable and cavalier patriotic teacher.

Author: The “Song Huong” magazine – issue number 163 Translated by Nga Nguyen
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