Hoang Van Chi
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Portrait of Hoang Van Chi (1913-1988)
Hoàng Văn Chí (1 October 1913, Thanh Hóa, central Vietnam — 6 July 1988, Bowie, Maryland, USA) was one of the first Vietnamese political writers, a prominent intellectual who was an opponent of colonialism and later of communism in Vietnam. He used the penname Mạc Định. His book, From Colonialism to Communism, was translated into more than 15 languages.
* 1 Life
o 1.1 Early life and education
o 1.2 Fighting French colonialism
o 1.3 Rejection of communism
o 1.4 Declined position in Ngô Đình Diệm’s government
o 1.5 Continued writing and activism
* 2 Views
o 2.1 Independent thinking
o 2.2 Humanism and heritage
o 2.3 Preserving a traditional Vietnamese lifestyle
* 3 Publications
o 3.1 From Colonialism to Communism
* 4 Select bibliography
* 5 References
* 6 Further reading
* 7 External links
 Early life and education
He was educated according to the French system, attending the Lycée Albert Sarraut in Hanoi from 1928 to 1935. Then he went on to the University of Indochina, where he graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Science in 1940.
Already in 1926, at the age of 13, the young Hoàng Văn Chí had joined a protest demanding the end of French occupation which took place at Phan Chu Trinh’s funeral.
In 1940, he married Lê Hằng Phấn, daughter of the Vietnamese scholar, Sở Cuồng Lê Dư. He was at this time preparing to enter medical school and had acquired enough knowledge to treat his wife’s tuberculosis with an advanced technique: letting the affected side of the lung rest by a controlled pneumothorax while treating it with antibiotics. The treatment was successful.
 Fighting French colonialism
In 1936, he joined the Le Travail Movement. From 1937-1939, he actively joined and worked for the SFIO (the “French Section of the Workers’ International”, a socialist party).
In 1946, he officially joined the Việt Minh to fight against the French colonists in Vietnam. With his background in science, he took responsibility for designing currency, making paper, and different kinds of chemicals for use in war, as well as setting up hydro-electric systems for the Việt Minh.
 Rejection of communism
During this time, Hoàng Văn Chí had many comrades who were idealistic, nationalist fighters who shared his goals of fighting for a Vietnam with freedom, democracy, with respect for human rights and civil rights. Most of them later became writers and poets for the Nhân Văn and Giai Phẩm papers which in 1956 were suppressed by the Vietnamese Communist Party. They were all either killed or imprisoned for criticizing communism, especially after Cải Cách Ruộng Đất (The Land Reform in Vietnam). Their cases later were made known to an international audience in his book The Nhân Văn Affair.
Hoàng Văn Chí came to the conclusion that communism was the wrong choice for Vietnam. He vowed to leave the Viet Minh immediately after the defeat of French colonialism. In 1954, after the Geneva Agreements, together with another almost 900,000 North Vietnamese, Hoàng Văn Chí left North Vietnam for the South.
In 1955, Hoàng Văn Chí joined the government of South Vietnam, under Ngô Đình Diệm. Until 1960, he headed the Mặt Trận Bảo Vệ Tự Do Văn Hóa (Congress of Cultural Freedom), speaking up for those he felt were silenced by Communism in the North. He researched and gathered information about life in the North, and published Phật Rơi Lệ (Buddha Cries) (1956) The New Class in North Vietnam, The Nhân Văn Affair, and Trăm Hoa Đua Nở Trên Đất Bắc (Hundreds of Flowers Competing to Bloom in the North) (1959). These books were all exposés of the oppression of writers in the North, and of violations of freedom of speech.
 Declined position in Ngô Đình Diệm’s government
Disappointed with the family-run dictatorship of Ngô Đình Diệm in the South, he tried to go abroad. Hoàng Văn Chí requested reassignment to India since he had known a student of Gandhi, Jaya Prakhash Narayan, who was the founder of Congress of Cultural Freedom in India. In 1959, he was appointed to work in the South Vietnamese Embassy in New Delhi.
Narayan also helped Hoàng Văn Chí to obtain a grant of US$2,000 from the Congress of Cultural Freedom in France to work on his studies about The Land Reform in Vietnam. In 1960, he left the post for France, where he lived until 1965, engaging in writing and cultural activities.
 Continued writing and activism
From 1960 to 1962, Hoàng Văn Chí wrote From Colonialism to Communism, an account of events in Vietnam from 1940s to 1955, especially The Land Reform in Vietnam. The book was published first in 1962, at the same time in New York,London, and New Delhi.
This book was well received and was translated into various languages, including Urdu, Spanish, Japanese, and Arabic. The book was translated by Mạc Định (penname of Hoàng Văn Chí) into Vietnamese under the title: Từ Thực Dân đến Cộng Sản. It is still cited as a reference for the history of Vietnam during that period. 
He also wrote for and contributed to North Vietnam Today and Vietnam Seen from East and West.
In 1965, the United States State Department invited Hoàng Văn Chí to resettle in America, where he continued working for an independent, free, democratic Vietnam.
From 1965 to 1969, he worked as news editor for the Voice of America, specializing in North Vietnam. From 1970 to 1979 he worked for USAID, teaching culture and philosophy to classes of diplomats, U.S. State Department staff, and in universities. He especially enjoyed holding seminars about many different topics related to culture and education for young students in America, Canada and Australia.
From 1975, with waves of boat people leaving Vietnam, Hoàng Văn Chí and his wife actively supported the Boat People SOS organization, organizing many fund-raising activities and helping newcomers to resettle.
In 1987, Hoàng Văn Chí was invited to Paris, France, to speak about Vietnam at the Paris Peace Accords conference.
In the 1980s, Hoàng Văn Chí started to work on his passion: formulating a direction to help Vietnam change from Communism to an independent, free, and democratic country. He had finished the last chapter of Duy Van Su Quan ("Humanism") in 1988 when he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
Hoàng Văn Chí represented a class of Vietnamese intellectuals caught between colonialism, nationalism, communism and capitalism, in a society traditionally run by Confucianism with totalitarianism.
Similar figures were Phan Khoi and Nguyễn Tường Tam (whose pen-name was Nhất Linh).
During the fight for independency from the French colonialism, these intellectuals had tried to find new directions for Vietnam. The ideals of democracy, equality, human rights and civil rights led them into conflict with the Vietnamese governments of both North and South. Phan Khoi and his Nhan-Van Giai Pham group were oppressed and imprisoned by the communists in North Vietnam. Nguyễn Tường Tam committed suicide the day before Ngô Đình Diệm summoned him to a court hearing due to his political writings. Hoàng Văn Chí was able to escape from both the North and South Vietnamese governments during this time to continue his search for a new direction.
 Independent thinking
Hoàng Văn Chí advocated independent thinking, and liberation from previously set rules to help free the Vietnamese from the “obedient” mentality resulting from 1,000 years of Chinese domination of Vietnam.
 Humanism and heritage
Hoàng Văn Chí’s answer to communism was Duy Văn Sử Quan or Humanism, defined as preservation of the beauty in humanity and heritage. He believed that harmony of mind and emotion, developed in the right environment (an appropriate mix of political-economic and cultural foundations) would produce the best results and benefit the people and the country, as well as taking their culture to another level of power.
Hoàng Văn Chí believed that this preservation of humanity and heritage in a free and democratic society was the way to counteract what he saw as the destruction caused by communism in Vietnam.
 Preserving a traditional Vietnamese lifestyle
While he spent most of his time devoting to writing, researching, and teaching, Hoàng Văn Chí and his wife maintained a simple traditional Vietnamese lifestyle. In the early 1970s, he built a greenhouse where he grew Vietnamese herbs and vegetables. Most remembered by his community are the white eggplants, a part of the traditional North Vietnamese daily meal.
In 1979, Mr. Hoàng and his wife founded the Vietnam Food and Drink Company in Bowie, Maryland, in order to promote Vietnamese food and drink. The first successful product was “Tương Cự Đà”, a sauce made by a fermentation process using soybeans and sweet rice. The second product was “Thính Quê Hương”, a Vietnamese spice made from roasted rice powder, used in Vietnamese cooking to add flavor to roast beef (bò tái) and shredded pork (bì). These two products enjoyed international sales at a time when Vietnam was still closed to the outside world. The Vietnam Food and Drink Company delivered products to Asian and Vietnamese supermarkets in the United States and worldwide, as well as by mail order.
 From Colonialism to Communism
From Colonialism to Communism: A Case Study of North Vietnam describes North Vietnam from 1940 to 1955, during the transition from the French colonial rule to communism. It also documents The Land Reform in Vietnam in 1954. The book was written in exile in India and France, between 1960-1962.
The first edition was published in 1962, in New York, London, and New Delhi. Between 1962 and 1964, foreign language editions were published in Japanese, Urdu, Spanish, Arabic and Vietnamese.
 Select bibliography
* 1956 - Phật Rơi Lệ (“Buddha Cries”)
* 1959 - Trăm Hoa Đua Nở Trên Đất Bắc (“A Hundred Flowers Bloom in the North”)
* 1959 - The New Class in North Vietnam
* 1959 - The Nhân Văn Affair
* 1964 - From Colonialism to Communism
* 1990 - Duy Văn Sử Quan (“Humanism”), published posthumously by his son, Dr.Hoàng Việt Dũng, in association with Cành Nam Publishers
1. ^ William J. Duiker, Ho Chi Minh, A Life, New York: Theia, 2000 ISBN 0-7868-8701-X p.490
2. ^ Hoang Van Chi. Duy Van Su Quan. USA: Cành Nam Publisher, 1990
3. ^ Hoang Van Chi. Duy Van Su Quan. USA: Cành Nam Publisher, 1990
4. ^ Hoang Van Chi From Colonialism to Communism: A Case History of North Vietnam New York: Praeger, (1964). Intro. by P. J. Honey. 8vo. Black cloth, stamped in gilt. xv, 252 p. 1st American ed.
5. ^ Hoang Van Chi, Duy Van Su Quan. USA: Cành Nam Publisher, 1990
6. ^ Từ Thực Dân đến Cộng Sản. Trans. by Hoang Van Chi, using the pen name, Mạc Định.
 Further reading
1. Hoang van Chi ed. and transl. The New Class in North Vietnam. Saigon Cong Dan 1958.
2. The Myth of the Bloodbath: North Vietnam's Land Reform Reconsidered D. Gareth Porter; Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, Vol. 5, 1973
3. San Antoli, Al; Hamilton-Merritt, Jane. To Bear Any Burden: The Vietnam War and Its Aftermath in the Words of Americans and Southeast Asians. Indiana: Indiana Univ Pr,1999. ISBN 0253213045 ISBN13 9780253213044
 External links
* Hoàng Văn Chí - Trăm Hoa Đua Nở Trên Đất Bắc
* Hoàng Văn Chí - Từ Thực Dân Đến Cộng Sản
* Hoàng Văn Chí - Duy Văn Sử Quan
* Vietnam Food and Drink website
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Categories: Vietnamese anti-communists Vietnamese writers