Nguyen Thi Due- First Female Doctor in Vietnamese Competition-Examinations History

Posted at: FRIday - 21/11/2014 16:19 - post name: Cộng tác viên

(Mao Dien Temple of Literature where has altars of NguyenThi Due and many national greats)

(Mao Dien Temple of Literature where has altars of NguyenThi Due and many national greats)

Under the feudal period in Vietnam, due to the effect of ‘male-dominated’ concept, woman did not have equal rights to man. They have no rights in studying and taking part in any exams. Though, there is a not only talented, beautiful but also virtuous woman named Nguyen Thi Due overcame all the strict regulations to get the Doctorate degree. She has been reminded as “Meteoric Queen” (Ba Chua Sao Sa) who was the first and the only female doctor in the feudal history.

 First Female Doctor in Vietnamese competition-examinations History

Legend has it that Nguyen Thi Due was born in 1574 in a Confucian family that had possessed of traditional fondness for learning in Kiet Dac, Chi Linh, Hai Duong. Thanks to her beauty, talent, she was asked to marry by many upper class families. She did not agree.

 In 1592, when the army of Trịnh Tung conquered Hanoi and executed king Mạc Mau hop. Survivors of the Mạc royal family fled to the northern mountains in the province of Cao Bang, Nguyen Thi Due with her family also come to Cao Bang to live here.

People in Hai Duong from generation to generation have still extoled Nguyen Thi Due with her talent. She was extremely adored by people because she knew how to write articles when she was just 10. She had to dress in disguise as a man to take part in exams because woman did not allow participating in any exams at that time.

She achieved the First laureate in the competition-examination held by Mac Dynasty while her teacher was just the Second laureate. She got the Doctorate degree when she was round 20 and become the first and the only female Doctor in the Vietnamese Feudal History.

In the banquet hold by the King to meet new laureates, King Mac Kinh Cung found a young Doctor with slender form and easy-looking face so that  a shadow of doubt appeared in his mind. He asked some questions and found that Nguyen Thi Due was actually a woman. Admired by her talent, the King Mac King Cong invited her to teach for royal concubines in imperial palace and was chosen as one of royal concubines named Tinh Phi (beauty and intelligent as shining star).

In 1625, the navy of Le-Trinh attacked the Mac, she had to lurk in a small temple in a forest and then was captured. At that time she hold a sword and asked the solider to bring her to their leader. If not, she would take her own life. Before her sense of purpose and uprightness, the soliders took her to the capital city to Nghi Vuong Lord. Known about her fame, Trinh Lord treated her as a favorite. She was favored as Cung Trung Giao Tap (teach for royal family) and then Le Nghi Hoc Si (look after and manage the studying of royal). She was respected by all the people and called as “Nghi Ai Quan” (a respected and loved official)

Forever Reputation

She was not only female doctor in feudal history but also contributed much for her contemporary education. She cared much about the country’s examinations and the selection of talented man. Most Huong or Hoi Examinations, she herself evaluated and selected the tests. She always quoted meaningful, clear history and classics. All the exams including Pre-Court competition-examination was reviewed by Nguyen Thi Due. Up to now, the ana about Nguyen Thi Due has been handed down. Under the reign of Le Than Tong, she was an examiner of Pre-Court competition-examination (1631) held in Mao Dien Village, Hai Duong. After finishing, examiners choose the passed candidates in which there was a man named Nguyen Minh Triet (later call as Nguyen Tho Xuan) It is strange that in the Nguyen Minh Triet’s writing, he just finished 4 out of 12 questions. The examiners marked his writing and found 4 questions replied extremely excellent. They submitted to the King Le and then he asked Nguyen Thi Due. She rechecked his test and found his talent. She said to the King “Just 4 finished questions more precious than 12 questions done. Our country need talented not toady man”. Admired by Nguyen Minh Triet’s talent , the King Le favored him as Doctor in that Examination (Year of Sheep)

She was considered as the founder for distance training of education. She compiled test and sent to the local to organize examinations. After that the test will be sent to her to evaluate and then sent the result back to local. She also encouraged study movement, helped poor students and give prominence the talents for country. That was the first encouragement form in the Vietnam education. As an honest official, Nguyen Thi Due considered people as her own children. Facing the natural calamities and enemy-inflicted destruction of country, she submitted to the King to share out free foods to people, provide many fertile acre of rice-field to gain good cultivation. She also had a large heart. Legend has it that when she was poor and humble, her brother was injured by people in her village but she did not revenge. People adored her talent and virtue so that they called her as “Nghieu, Thuan in the woman, and fairy on the earth” «

One day, when taking part in a banquet in Royal Palace, she talked with the empress Trinh Thi Ngoc Truc. From that, they had a lot in common and become 2 close friends. They always went to pagoda to meet monks who was erudite and feudal intellectual in Bac Ha who was genuine Confucian scholar as Giang Van Minh, Phuong The Hien…so that she knew and understand more about people’s life to correct the safeguarding and pacifying policies timely. In order to be loved and believed by population, she submitted to the King the policies as strictly punished bad officials, tyrants…

Nguyen Thi Due also created many poems but passing historical changes, all her works loosed.

For the rest of her life she went in to a monastery in a pagoda in Vu Nong, Gia Lam named Huyen Dieu. She passed away when she was over 80 years old. She was honored by the King and built statue to worship by people. The tower of Nguyen Thi Due was located in the top of a hill next to Phuong Hoang Mountain in Chi Linh, Hai Duong. At the end of Le dynasty, the ancient tower of Tinh Phi was ranked in the Top Eight Relics of Chi Linh

There is a statue in a communal house in the Kiet Doai Village named Vua Ba (Nguyen Thi Due) and a worshiped honor as “Chief of Royal Palace, Imperial Maid, and Teacher of Rites Nguyen Thi Ngoc respectful Goddess.” At Trung Ha Temple in Nam Tan, Nam Sach, Chi Linh, Hai Duong also have a statue of Nguyen Thi Due and  her worshiped honor. In the sanctuary in Mao Dien Temple of Literature, she was worshiped with Khong Tu (Confucius) and 7 National Greats as Nguyen Trai, Nguyen Binh Khiem, Pham Su Manh, Math Genius Vu Huu, Respected teacher Chu Van An,  Bi-National Poinsettia Mac Dinh  Chi,  and university physician Tue Tinh.

Translated by Nga Nguyen

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