DONG - DU RYUGAKUSEI
1. Who were the
DongDu Students (DDS)?
DDS were a group of over 200 young
Vietnamese who, responding to Phan Bội Châu’s appeal, went
to Japan to "study" during the period 1906-1907.
Only some of them – Trần Đông Phong and Lương
Ngọc Quyến for instance
– came to join Phan Bội Châu (PBC)
at their own initiative. Many
others, mainly children of rich people in the Saigon Lu.c-Tỉnh
areas, just happened to be in Japan because their parents supported PBC
(and Prince Cường
Để), hence sent them “Đông-Du” (going
East). Most of them
were young, some were at young teen-ages, yet not too young to
understand Phan's noble
of these students (except some very young boys), however, remained
in Japan after 1907. The
Japanese government, due to a Franco-Japanese
agreement in 1907, deported all of them.
Consequently, those Vietnamese who happened to be in Japan
after 1908 but claimed themselves as DDS are merely
"counterfeit" ones (= ĐôngDu Dỏm).
1986, when I interviewed a politician-turned-priest Vietnamese in
Los Angeles, he claimed himself one of the DDS. The man could not
give any answer when I asked him when did he come to Japan.
In fact he came to Japan sometime after the W.W. II).
2. Why they were
French government allowed Japan to issue in Paris a very large
amount of Japanese bonds. In
return, Tokyo pledged to respect the French status
quo in East Asia.
only the students were deported.
PBC and Prince Cường Để were of no
better luck. Later on,
in his letter to Japanese Foreign Minister Kobayashi Jutaro, PBC
bitterly protested the Japanese government of having
(a) expelled Prince Cường Để and
(b) informed the French in advance so they could arrest the
Prince when his boat came through international waters.
This letter is currently held at the Gaimusho Archives in
3. Why PBC
brought them to Japan?
Cụ Phan did not want to bring anyone to Japan for study. He
came to Japan due to his organisation's decision of seeking Japanese
4. Then what
PBC first came to Japan, his aim was military weapon.
He and his group did not know that Japan was neither in a
position of competing with any major powers nor capable to change
the international order of the time.
Japan won the Russo-Japanese war but, from an international
relations viewpoint, was not strong.
England and America pushed Japan into that war.
They supported Japan with finance and technology (for the
heavy social toll Japan had to pay for that victory, please read the
book published by Tokyo University Press.
I cannot recall the correct title at the moment, but it is
something very close to “Nichiro
Senso no Shakaiteki Eikyo”.
This truth is verified by all good books on Japanese
politicians like Okuma Shigenobu and Inukai Tsuyoshi were not able
to tell Phan their circumstances.
They just told Phan to wait until “when
the right time would come”.
Later on they suggested Phan to bring young men to Japan to
study. Many DDS
arrived, only to find themselves as students of the Toa
Dobun Shoin (a sort of Takushoku School).
Finally there was the fateful Franco-Japanese agreement in
1907. All the
Vietnamese were expelled.
5. Why PBC did
not want the young men to become students?
PBC looked for was military weapon.
His mission to Japan was solely to ask Tokyo for military
assistance. When this failed, he could not help but bring young men
to Japan for study (hoping
that they would be given military training – not anything else).
The Đong-Du movement was indeed a reluctant
6. More details about
the DDS ?
were many types of students. The
first group was mainly children of famous families.
Among them there were Lương Ngọc Quyến
and Lương Nghị Khanh (sons of Lương Văn
Can, the head of the Đông
Kinh Nghĩa Thục),
Phan Bá Ngọc
(son of Dr. Phan Đ́nh Phùng, commander in chief of all the Cần
Vương armed forces), etc.
Hoàng Trọng Mậu,
Trần Đông Phong and Lương Ngọc
Quyến were elites
among the elites, two of them were among the best scholars known to
the whole group as the “three
tigers of Đông-Du ”
(3 cọp Đông Du). They were “văn vơ
toàn tài”. Later
on Hoàng Trọng Mậu became commander in chief of PBC's
Việt Nam Quang Phục Quân.
He attacked the French, held captured by them, and lost his
life as a warrior and a liberator.
Our commander Hoàng left an excellent "câu đối"
before the enemies shot him to death:
Ái quốc hà cô, duy hữu tinh thần
nhi bất tử
ư : Yêu nước
có tội ǵ, duy có tinh thần là bất tử
famous Chinese classical literature creatively was an art of
Vietnamese contemporary literature:
“Ái Quốc Hà Cô” derives from the saying of Nhạc Phi.
Vị Tiệp” are parts of Đỗ Phủ's
sympathy for Khổng Minh.
Commander Hoàng had another pair of verses, but I can only
recall part of them at the moment:
Non sông đă mất, ta đây nào có
tham sinh, . . .
nơi chín suối điều binh
anh hồn linh trợ thiếu sinh quân.
Trần Đông Phong
was the son of a very rich family.
He supported PBC's group
financially from the very beginning of the revolution.
Trần was a brave man.
He had once said:
“Chúng ta muốn làm cách mạng,
phải không sợ chết, không sợ đói, không
sợ khổ. Như
thế th́ mong
đại sự mới thành”.
on he committed suicide, reasons still unknown to honest historians. Prince Cường Để did respect
him. The Prince continued to visit Tran's tomb every year until
his death in 1951. The
tomb is currently located in Ichigaya cemetery, Tokyo.
PBC himself had also written a book on Tran, entitled “Trần Chí Sĩ Truyện”.
To this date, the book has not been found.
Ngọc Quyến -- later on led a small military group
attacking the French. The enemies had him captured but were so scared of
Apart from locking him in, they drilled a big hole in his
right shoulder, put a big chain through it so that Commander Lương
could not move or escape. He
suffered the pain for years, until PBC's Quang Phục Quân
organised another uprising and freed him.
Two soldiers had to carry him on a small bed (or stretcher?)
in order to enable him to take command of the fighting.
was a street named after commander Lương in Saigon.
His other name was Lương
Lập Nham. (Hopefully
the man from the National Institute of History (Viện Sử
Học) who came to Saigon for the re-naming of streets did not
senselessly take Commander Lương Ngọc Quyến's
away from the City, as he has done it to Dr Phan Đ́nh Phùng).
the DDS lived a respectable life during those fateful two years in
Japan: most of them living in extremely poor condition (one of them
even had to beg in the street before he could meet PBC).
They had no particular entertainment.
One student got the news of his father's death.
Unable to return for the mourning, he put his tears into
Buồn biết bao, căm tức
biết bao, nơ.
nam nhi chưa trả chút
Khóc cũng vậy,
tiếc thương cũng vậy, nghĩa
trung hiếu giữ sao cho trọn ,
7. What about the
other group ?
majority part of the DDS was mainly children of wealthy Nam Kỳ
Phụ Lăo. They came to Japan partly because their parents wanted
them to do so. Some of them were very young (13-14 years of age).
When the French started to arrest their parents at home, many
cried and asked PBC to let them going home.
on, a few of them became mandarins.
Because there were no material showing who was doing what,
attempting to find out the good and the bad among the group is
almost impossible. However, I do believe that among the unsung heroes of
Vietnam, there have been also the Đông-Du students who were
children of Nam Kỳ Phụ Lăo.
8. Any others ?
contrary to those who had sacrificed themselves for the just cause,
there were also many others who made good fortune from the movement.
Nguyễn Thượng Huyền (nephew of Cụ
Nguyễn Thượng Hiền) was one.
PBC himself, in his autobiography “Ngục
Trung Thư ” (Prison Note), tacitly referred to this man
as the one who sold him out to the
was too nice. He referred to the man very vaguely, mentioning that
the man was the nephew of a respectable scholar).
lived in Saigon during the Ngô Đ́nh Diệm period.
He had an article in the Bách Khoa magazine entitled “Cụ
PBC ở Hàng Châu”, claiming that he was innocent.
Phan Bá Ngọc (son of Dr. Phan Đ́nh Phùng) returned to
Vietnam and became a collaborator.
He was later on assassinated by Lê Tảng Anh (alias Lê
Hồng Sơn) by an order from Prince Cường Để.
The case of Nguyễn Bá Trác (alias Nguyễn Phong Di) was
typical: He simply returned to Vietnam, became a collaborator, and
helped the French to arrest many of his fellow Đông Du old
friends. It was said
that during one of his celebration parties, a brave scholar sweetly
offered him 4 verses from “The Tale of Kieu”:
lạc bước trở
9. Any more ?
the deportation, most of those students who refused to return home
headed for China. Helped
by various Chinese military persons, many of them were admitted to
Chinese military schools.
on, some of them, Hoàng Trọng Mậu and Lương
Ngọc Quyến for instance, came back to fight for freedom
for their motherland. They
died gloriously to make each page of our history beautiful.
They deserve to be our proud dai-sempai. Their names live eternally with us, in our heart, with our
love and our respect.
were others who led a relatively quiet life, yet always devoted
themselves wholeheartedly to the revolution.
Hồ Học Lăm was one example.
there were also people who, for one reason or another, became
Chinese citizens or Chinese military officers.
Nguyễn Hải Thần was one.
However, Nguyễn did not do anything significant other
than making a big fuss during the years around 1945.
10. To sum up
summary – as can be seen in any community – there were all sorts
of people among the Đông-Du students: the good, the bad, the
ugly, etc. All
of them were in Japan only during the period 1906-1907.
Those who happened to be in Japan after 1907 were not Đông-Du
students at all. They
were rather exchange-students
who came to Japan sometime from 1918-1919 onwards (Japan and French Indochina had a sort of exchange program,
by which selected students were sent periodically to Japan for study
- and vice
these students, several names are already known by some of us: Lê Văn
Quư, Đỗ Vạng Lư , etc.
Mr Nguyễn Rĩnh Nhiếp, however, was not an
exchange student. He was apparently recruited by the
Mitsui (or Mitsubishỉ)
group in 1940 for the Japanese Army for teaching Vietnamese
language. As Prince Cường Để had no actual
Vietnamese supporters at his side during the years after 1945, the
Prince had "volunteered" Mr Nhiếp as General
Secretary of his Japanese sponsored Phục
Quốc Đồng Minh Hội (actually
Mr Nhiếp was the Secretary on paper only).
Mr Nhiếp hence had nothing related to either PBC or the
of us know Mr Lương Đ́nh Của and Dr Đặng
Văn Ngữ. Both
were exchange students. They
returned to Vietnam after finishing their study and used their
skills to serve Vietnam until the end of their lives.
Văn-Lang Tôn-thất Phương, Canberra 1997-02.