Retiree goes to great lengths to search for ancient script

An amateur archaeologist goes in search of a pre-Chinese Vietnamese script.

18 December 2006 (Vietnam News) – An amateur archaeologist goes in search of a pre-Chinese Vietnamese script.

Retiree goes to great lengths to search for ancient script

For some casual observers, the idea that Viet Nam had its own script and education system thousands of years ago might be surprising. But not for Do Van Xuyen, a 71-year-old former teacher and amateur archaeologist who has devoted his life to uncovering the vestiges of Viet Nam’s past.

In AD207, Si Nhiep, an official of the period of Dong Han of China, introduced Chinese script to Viet Nam. This made Xuyen wonder: “Maybe the Vietnamese nation had its own script before this time”.

Xuyen read as much as he could and discovered the scholarly consensus was that Viet Nam had its own alphabet. That drove him to look deeper. He visited places rumoured to have ancient Vietnamese writing, but he was often disappointed. Once, hearing a tip, he climbed dangerous cliff in an ethnic minority region and sadly realised the writing was Chinese.

From documents Xuyen collected, he was able to establish that Viet Nam had its own script, separate from the Chinese. In the near future, he plans to make public his technique for reading the language.

“People often think that in the Hung King period Viet Nam did not have its own script. But I believe it did, although I have not been able to prove this,” Luong Nghi, a former lecturer of history at the Nguyen Ai Quoc Institute, said. “I met Xuyen and saw that he could prove this. I also have in my hand a list of teachers and schools from Hung King period. The State should create conditions for Xuyen to study more about ancient Vietnamese scripts. This is about the pride of the Viet Nam nation.”


Related Books:
Genetic Linguistic Archaeological Perspectives on Human Diversity in Southeast Asia by J. Li, M. Seielstad, C. Xiao (Eds)

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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