Duong Quang Ham – The Teacher and the Researcher of Literary History
Duong Quang Ham was born on July 14th 1898 in Phu Thi village, Me So commune, Van Giang district, Hung Yen province. He died in 1946. He had another name called Hai Luong. He was born and grew up in a family of Confucian traditions. His paternal grandfather was Duong Duy Thanh (1804-1861), a provincial education officer in Hanoi. His father was Duong Trong Pho; his eldest brother was Duong Ba Trac, one of the founders of Dong Kinh nghia thuc (the first school founded by a group of Vietnamese revolutionaries in Hanoi). His younger brother was Duong Tu Quan, also a famous scholar of his time.
Duong Quang Ham showed his intelligence at his early age. Although he studied the western education very early, he had acquired Confucianist knowledge from his father and brother, which was a base that helped him become a scholar of sinology. In 1920, he achieved the first position in the graduation examination in a teachers’ college with his thesis titled “Confucius and Khong Manh theory in the old educational system.” After his graduation, he became a teacher at the famous Buoi high school (now Chu Van An High School) and remained there until the start of the resistance war by the whole country (1946). At that time, he taught history, geography, Vietnamese, French at primary school. Then, he moved to teach at secondary school. After the success of the August Revolution in 1945, he was appointed the High School Inspector, then he was appointed as the Principal of the Buoi School.
Together with other teachers and professors, Professor Duong Quang Ham devoted all his enthusiasm, talent and efforts to set up a new style of education. He was one of the first professors attending the systematic training and one of the first people approaching to French scientific education with new ways of teaching. Therefore, apart from the study time; he applied his knowledge of Confucianism and new education to research Vietnam literature treasure according to the scientific method. When collecting and studying the literature, he was interested in many related cultural, historical and scholarly matters.
When studying literature, he was interested in issues of culture, history and learning. He had worked tirelessly in both teaching and writing textbooks for schools from elementary to high school for more than 20 years (from 1920 to 1945). He also made a lot of writing works in both French and Vietnamese, including: Leccons d’ histoire d’ An Nam (1927), Elementary test book (1926 in conjunction with Duong Tu Quan), Selected excerpts of national literature (1927), Vietnamese literature textbook (1940), Essential history of Vietnamese literature (1941), Collection of Vietnamese prose and verse (1942) and other articles printed on journals such as Huu Thanh, Nam Phong, Tri Tan, Literature Journal under his pen names of Hai Luong and Uyen Toan. However, his Essential history of Vietnamese literature and Collection of Vietnamese prose and verse have the most value in terms of research.
Duong Quang Ham is one of the first people who divided the development stages of Vietnamese literature and mentioned quite adequately the basis and effect of development: literary language, examination and the influence of France and China. Many generations of students have come to understand the richness and diversity of the literature of the country. Researchers consider it a handbook in the study of literary history. Up to now, Vietnam's literary history has been reprinted over 10 times.
In recognition of the gratitude of the exemplary teacher, writer of literary textbooks, also a scholar of erudite literary history, on July 14th 1993, the Ministry of Education and Training, the National Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities, the School of Education and the Institute of Literature held the anniversary and scientific conference on Duong Quang Ham on the occasion of his 95th birthday.