Phan Boi Chau

Phan Boi Chau

Infobox revolution biography
name=Phan Bội Châu
dateofbirth=December 26, 1867
placeofbirth=Sa Nam, Nghe An, Vietnam
dateofdeath=October 29, 1940
alma mater=

alternate name=
movement=Ðông-Du Movement
organizations=Duy Tân Hội, Viet Nam Quang Phuc Hoi

Phan Bội Châu (December 26, 1867October 29, 1940) was a pioneer of Vietnamese twentieth century nationalism. In 1903, he formed a revolutionary organization called the "Reformation Society" (Duy Tân Hội).

From 1905 to 1908, he lived in Japan where he wrote political tracts calling for the liberation of Vietnam from the French colonial regime. After being forced to leave Japan, he moved to China where he was influenced by Sun Yat-Sen. He formed a new group called the Vietnamese Restoration League (Viet Nam Quang Phuc Hoi), modeled after Sun Yat-Sen's republican party. In 1925, French agents seized him in Shanghai. He was convicted of treason and spent the rest of his life under house arrest in Huế.


Phan was born as Phan Van Phan in the village of Sa Nam, in Nam Dan district of the northern central province of Nghe An.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1988|p=4.] His father Phan Van Pho descended from a poor family of scholars, who had always excelled academically. Phan spent his first three years living in his his mother Nguyen Thi Nhan's village of Sa Nam before the family moved to Dan Nhiem, the home village of his father, also in the Nam Dan district. Until Phan was five, his father was typically away from home, teaching in other villages,Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=83.] so his mother raised and taught him to recite passages from the "Classic of Poetry", from which he absorbed Confucian ethics and virtues.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1988|p=5.]

At age five, Phan's father returned home and he began to attend his father's classes, where he studied Chinese classic texts, such as the "Three Character Classic", which took him just three days to memorize.Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=84.] As a result of his ability to learn quickly, his father decided to move him onto further Confucian texts such as the "Analects", which he practiced on banana leaves. In his autobiography, Phan admitted that he did not understand the meaning of the text in great detail at the time, but by age six, he was skillful enough to write a variant of the "Analects" that parodied his classmates. This earned him a caning from his father. [Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1956|pp=19–20.]

At the time, the central region part of Vietnam where Phan lived was still under the sovereignty of Emperor Tu Duc, but the southern part of the country had gradually been colonised in the 1860s and turned into the colony of Cochinchina. In 1874, an attack on Hanoi forced Tu Duc to sign a treaty to open up the Red River for French trade.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1988|p=2.] In Nam Dan district, a "Binh Tay" ("Put Down the French") movement sprung among the local scholar-gentry, and Phan responded at the age of seven by playing "Binh Tay" with his classmates, using "guns" of bamboo tubes and lychee bullets. The unrest was enough to prompt the imperial court to bring in troops to quell the opposition to Hue's deal with the French. Phan's family was not affected by the crackdown, but the movement had a deep impact on him. Later in life, he noted that as a youth, "I was endowed with a fiery spirit. From the days when I was a small child...every time I read the stories of those in the past who were ready to die for the righteous cause, tears would come running from my eyes, soaking the books."Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1988|p=6.]

At the age of thirteen, Phan's father sent him to another teacher with a better reputation. Since the family lacked the money for Phan to travel far away, he studied with a local "cu nhan" graduate who was able to borrow a range of books from wealthier families in the area. In 1883, the French finished the colonization of Vietnam by conquering the northern part of Vietnam, and the country was incorporated into French Indochina. [Harvnb|Duiker|1989|pp=56–57.] Phan drafted an appeal for "putting down the French and retrieving the North" ("Binh Tay thu Bac"). He posted the anonymous appeal calling for the formation of local resistance units at intervals along the main road, but there were no responses and the proclamations were soon torn down. Phan realized that nobody would listen to a person who didn't have the social status ensured by passing mandarin examinations. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|pp=84–85.]

In 1884, his mother died and his aging father was growing weaker, forcing Phan to take on more responsibilities to help support the family.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1989|p=7.] In 1885, the Can Vuong movement began its uprising against French rule, hoping to install the boy Emperor Ham Nghi as the ruler of an independent Vietnam by expelling colonial forces. [Harvnb|Duiker|1989|p=26.] The imperial entourage fled the palace in Hue and attempted to start the uprising from a military base in Nghe An. The scholar gentry of the province rose up, and Phan attempted to rally approximately 60 classmates who were prospective examination candidates to join in the uprising. Phan called his new unit the "army of Loyalist Examination Candidates" ("Si tu Can Vuong Doi") and convinced an older "cu nhan" graduate to act as its commander. They had just began to collect money and raw materials to make "ad hoc" weapons when a French patrol attacked the village and scattered the students. Phan's father forced him to seek out the commander to have the membership list destroyed to avoid French retributions.

With his father growing weaker, Phan decided to keep a low profile to avoid trouble with the French colonials so that he could support his family. He did so by teaching and writing, while still continually preparing for examinations.Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=85.] During this time he quietly acquired books on military strategy by the likes of Sun Tzu and Dao Duy Tu, the military strategist of the Nguyễn Lords who stopped the Trinh lords with a defensive wall, and Trần Hưng Đạo, the military commander of the Trần Dynasty who repelled Mongol invasions of Vietnam in the 13th century.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1989|p=52.] Phan also cultivated a small number of his students who he identified as having abundant pro-independence sentiments. He enthusiastically received visits from Can Vuong visitors and passed on their tales to his students, particularly those concerning Phan Dinh Phung, who led the Can Vuong effort.

Phan failed the regional mandarin exams for a number of years in a row. By the time he was 30, he traveled to Hue to teach, "improve his contacts" and to obtain some special tutoring in preparation for his next exam attempt. In Hue, Phan quickly made friends with likeminded political values and beliefs. One friend, Nguyen Thuong Hien, introduced Phan to the unpublished writings of Nguyen Lo Trach, a Vietnamese reformer.Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=86.] This was Phan's first encounter with the Self-Strengthening Movement in China and other major political and military reforms made around the world. After returning back to Nghe An in 1900, Phan passed the regional mandarin exams with the highest possible honors.

Marriage and family

At the age of 22, Phan married to Thai' Thi. Huye^n, who was also from the same village. The union had long been arranged by their parents, who were acquaintances. Phan was the only son in the family, and his wife initially did not bear him any children, so she arranged for him to be married to a second wife so that the family line could be continued. This practice was not uncommon in Confucian families of the time. His second wife bore him a son and daughter, and his first wife later bore him another son. The two women were reported to be on good terms.

When Phan passed the regional examinations in 1900, he was eligible to become a public servant. However, Phan had no intention of pursuing such a career and only wanted the qualification to increase his gravitas in rallying anti-colonial action. With his father dying in the same year, Phan had no more family obligations and decided to travel abroad to pursue his revolutionary activities. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=86.] Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1957|p=33.] He served divorce papers on his wife so she would avoid retribution from colonial authorities for his activities.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1989|p=27.]

Phan only met his wife once after their nominal divorce, when he was pardoned and released from Hoa Lo prison more than two decades later. He was then sent to a loose form of house arrest in Hue and the train stopped at Vinh in Nghe An on the way. His wife said "I am very happy. From now on, my only wish is that you will hold to your initial aspiration. Do whatever you like, and do not worry about your wife and children." While Phan was living out his final years, his children and their families came to visit him, but never his wife. When she died, she instructed her children not to tell Phan so as to not distract him.Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1989|p=28.]

Activism in Vietnam

Phan spent the first five years of the 20th century living in Huế and traveling the country. Phan drew up a three-step plan to get the French out of Vietnam. First, he would need to organise remnants of the Can Vuong movement and other sympathizers of the cause. Second, he would need to attain support from the Vietnamese imperial family and the bureaucracy, many of whom had already come to grips with French colonial rule. Finally, he would need to obtain foreign aid, from Chinese or Japanese revolutionaries, to finance the revolution.Harvnb|Duiker|1971|p=78.] [Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1956|p=29.] Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=101.] However, it was only until later that Phan realized that obtaining independence for Vietnam would be much more difficult than expected. He became familiar with the works of famed European thinkers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Darwin. Phan was also heavily influenced by the writings of Chinese Confucianists Liang Qichao and Kang Youwei. The European and Chinese works, which had only entered Vietnamese circles a few years later, [Harvnb|Marr|1970|pp=98–99.] opened Phan's mind to more expansive thought regarding the struggle for freedom of his people. Liang's "Hsin-min ts'ung-pao" ("The Renovation of the People") had an impact on Phan's revolutionary ideas and beliefs, as it criticized the Chinese government and proclaimed that the Chinese people's consciousness needed to be awakened to further the country into the modern era. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=99.] Kang took the idea of Social Darwinism and discussed the survival of the fittest concept as it applied to nations and ethnic groups. He described the dire outcomes that would face China if the country did not embark on a series of reforms, similar to those faced by the Ottoman empire and colonial India. He believed that reforms made by Peter the Great and Emperor Meiji were excellent examples of the political restructuring that needed to take place to save China. From Kang's work, Phan realized why Emperor Tự Đức's decision to ignore Nguyễn Trường Tộ's proposed modernization reforms had led to the downfall of Vietnam and had allowed for French rule in Vietnam. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=100.]

Phan continued to seek support from the scholar-gentry and the bureaucracy serving the French, before shifting his focus to obtaining support from members of the imperial family. [Harvnb|Duiker|1971|pp=78–79.] Phan had moved to Huế, claiming that he was preparing for the metropolitan imperial examinations, but in actuality, he planned on drumming up support among the various factions of royal family. Phan traveled to Quang Nam to meet with Nguyen Thanh, a contemporary anti-colonial revolutionary activist who was involved in the Can Vuong movement. Thanh suggested that a royal associate of his, Ton That Toai, could help lead the revolution. Phan turned down the offer, but took Thanh's advice to seek support from direct descendants of Emperor Gia Long, the founder of the Nguyen Dynasty. These direct descendants were still highly respected by wealthy Mekong Delta landowners, whom Phan hoped would raise the bulk of the money needed to finance the revolution. [Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1957|p=37.] [Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1956|p=33.] By the spring of 1903, Phan had found a perfect candidate to lead the revolution: Prince Cường Để, a direct descendant of Gia Long's eldest son, Canh. Cuong De's descendants had long been dissociated from the emperor and his family since the early 1800s. Cuong De's father was personally sought by Phan Dinh Phung to take Ham Nghi's place and lead a popular revolt against the French in the 1880s, but he declined. By 1894, he suggested that his son, then 12 years old, could be the new face of the revolution. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=102.] However, this plan was never executed as Phung died in January 1896. Nevertheless, Cuong De changed the course of his life and began studying history, economics and geography and thought admiringly of the heroic achievements of Trần Hưng Đạo, Zhuge Liang, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Saigō Takamori, Cavour, Otto von Bismarck, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. [citation|author=Tung Lam|title=Cuoc Doi Cach Mang Cuong De|year=1957|publisher=Ton That Le|location=Saigon|pages=10–11.] After getting Cuong De to support the revolutionary cause, Phan wrote his first significant work, "Luu Cau Huyet Le Tan Thu" ("Letter from the Ryukyus Written in Tears of Blood"). He argued that independence in Vietnam could only be achieved "through a transformation and revitalization of national character". The book was moderately successful amongst the Vietnamese populaces and received attention from other nationalists like Phan Chu Trinh. However, many mandarins were reluctant to publicly support Phan's ideas, and as a result, he came to realize that he couldn't rely on the bureaucratic elite to support his cause.Harvnb|Duiker|1971|p=79.]

Phan created the Việt Nam Duy Tân Hội (Vietnam Modernization Association) in 1904; Cuong De led the association as its president, while Phan served as general secretary. [Harvnb|Chapuis|2000|p=97.] Despite its growing member base, Duy Tân Hội struggled financially. Phan hoped to obtain financial assistance from China, but the country was forced to abandon its suzerain relationship with Vietnam after the 1884–1885 Sino-French War. [Harvnb|Marr|1970|p=98.] Harvnb|Vinh Sinh|1989|p=55.] Phan and Cuong De decided to seek aid from Japan, which had recently won a war against Russia, had successfully imposed reforms and seemed more inclined to help out revolutionaries in a nearby Asian country. Phan was selected to visit Japan to secure the funds needed to sustain Duy Tân Hội. Phan did not speak Japanese and did not have any contacts in Japan, so he sought help from Liang Qichao, who was living in the country since being exiled years earlier. Liang introduced Phan to many prominent politicians, including Ōkuma Shigenobu, a well-liked statesman who had previously served as Prime Minister of Japan for a few months in 1898. Phan asked Shigenobu for financial assistance to fund the activities of Vietnamese revolutionaries. In his letter to Shigenobu, Phan stated that Japan should be obligated to help Vietnam since both countries were of the "same race, same culture, and same continent". Second, Japan could promote its interests in Vietnam and prevent French and Russian expansion into China. However, Phan was unsuccessful in procuring aid from the Japanese. The Japanese government did not want to harm its relationship with the French, while opposition party members promised financial aid to Vietnamese students wishing to study in Japan, but also advised Phan not to start a revolutionary movement until Japan was more willing to help the cause. [Harvnb|Phan Boi Chau|1957|p=57.]

Early writings

Frustrated by the Japanese response, Phan again turned to Liang. The Confucianist scholar explained to Phan that it was to expect financial assistance from the Japanese. The Vietnamese people would have to look only within Vietnam for support and financial backing. Liang told Phan that he could best serve the cause by writing and distributing pamphlets advocating for the revolution to rally support from the Vietnamese and others abroad. Phan took Liang's advice very seriously and immediately began to publish materials to obtain support for the revolutionary cause.Harvnb|Duiker|1971|p=80.] These writings, perhaps the most widely recognized of Phan's works, include: "Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su" ("History of the Loss of Vietnam"), "Tan Viet Nam" ("New Vietnam"), "Ai Viet Dieu Dien" ("A Lament for Vietnam and Yunnan"), "Hai Ngoai Huyet Thu" ("Letter from Abroad Written in Blood"), "Viet Nam Quoc Su Khao" ("An Outline History of Vietnam"), and "Ai Viet Dieu Dien" ("A Lament for Vietnam and Yunnan"). All were initially written in Chinese and then translated to Vietnamese, upon which they were smuggled into Vietnam. These works, most notably "Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su", were critical in intensifying the nationalist fervor in the country.

"Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su"

Liang published Phan's 1905 work "Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su" ( _en. History of the Loss of Vietnam) and intended to distribute it in China and abroad, but also to smuggle it into Vietnam. Phan wanted to rally people to support the cause for Vietnamese independence; the work is regarded as one of the most important books in the history of Vietnam's anticolonialism movement.Marr, p. 114.]

The book is noted for its negative assessment of the response of the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century to the colonial challenges facing Vietnam and the failure to modernize, with the Nguyen instead turning to ultra-orthodox conservative Confucianism. The book presents strident and emotive memorials to the key figures of the Can Vuong movement of the late 1880s and early 1890s, led by mandarins such as Ton That Thuyet and Phan Dinh Phung, who led guerrillas against the French. The Can Vuong attempted to overthrow the French rule and establish the boy emperor Ham Nghi as the ruler of an independent Vietnam. The book also analyzes the French social and economic policies in Vietnam, which it regards as oppression. In the book, Phan argues for the establishment of a nationwide pro-independence front with seven factions or interested groups with a specific motivation to fight the French colonial authorities.

The book is written in a style that differed from the prevailing writing technique and structure of the scholar gentry of the time. The scholar gentry under the Confucian education system fostered by the classical imperial examinations were molded by their study and memorization of classical Chinese poetry and literature. As such, the literary style tended to be poetic, indirect and metaphorical, relying on allusions and imagery to depict an idea. Phan eschewed this traditional style to write in a direct, ordinary prose style, especially in his analytical and argumentative sections. The book precipitated a new style of writing among scholar gentry revolutionaries, who later tended to use a more direct style.Marr, p. 115.]

The book created a reaction in China, sparking follow-up essays by Chinese writers who were taken aback by the Phan's description of the life that faced Vietnamese people under French rule. It generated gloomy pieces by Chinese writers who predicted that their nation would suffer a similar fate if they failed to modernize. One such Chinese response later became a teaching text at the Tonkin Free School in Hanoi, a school run by Phan's contemporaries to promote the independence movement. However, Phan did not receive much of a reaction in terms of aid towards his independence efforts, since the book made Chinese readers worry about their own future. The book had a much better reception among Vietnamese readers. Phan and his colleague Dang Tu Kinh left Japan for the first time in August 1905, carrying 50 copies of the book that were to distributed throughout Vietnam, of which further copies were made inside the country. Phan's direct writing style, without the use of allegories, upset traditionalists but made the book more accessible to literate people who had not been trained in classical literature.

Ðông-Du Movement

In 1905, the Vietnam Modernization Association agreed to send Phan Bội Châu to Japan to get Japanese military assistance or weapons.

He soon realised that Japanese military aid would not be possible, and turned his attention to using Japan as a base to train and educate young Vietnamese students, by starting the "Dong Du" (Visit the East) Society. The number of Vietnamese students sent to Japan for training peaked at 200 in 1908. However, after pressure by the French government, Japan declared Phan to be persona non grata and expelled him in 1909.

After Ðông-Du

In 1909, after being deported from Japan, Phan Bội Châu went to Hong Kong with Cường Để. There, he made plans to raise money and bring to Thailand the Vietnamese students who had studied in Japan, but had now been dispersed. He had previously had the foresight to establish a base in Thailand.

But instead he received news of an armed uprising in Vietnam, led by Hoang Ha Tam. So he assembled his comrades in Hong Kong, and sent two people to Japan to buy 500 of the Arisaka Type 30 Rifles. But after buying the weapons to support the uprising with, they could not afford to hire a ship to smuggle the rifles into Vietnam. So in July, Phan Bội Châu went to Thailand to ask their government to help with the smuggling. The foreign minister refused, since it would be a major diplomatic incident with France if it leaked out. So he had to return to Hong Kong and wait for the money needed for smuggling.

Money never arrived, and news arrived that his fundraising organiser was dead, and that the uprising was going badly. So Phan Bội Châu donated 480 of the rifles to the forces of Sun Yat-Sen. He then tried to smuggle the remaining 20 of the rifles via Thailand, disguised as first-class luggage. This attempt failed.

He spent the first half of 1910 begging on the street, selling his books, and spending all his money getting drunk at the pub. This went on until he met a kind old woman named Chau Po-Lin, who took the entire movement into her house. Funds arrived and he planned to move to Thailand.

He arrived in Thailand in November 1910, and all his students and followers who could, took up farming there.

Vietnam Restoration League

The Wuchang Uprising occurred in China on 10 October, 1911. It quickly spread and declared itself the Republic of China. This greatly inspired Phan Bội Châu, since he had many friends among the Chinese revolutionaries. He thought this new regime would fix all that was wrong with the old China, and would unite with Japan to defeat the Europeans and build a strong Asia.

Leaving the farm in the hands of more than 50 of his comrades, he went to China to visit his friends there.

The old Vietnam Modernization Association had become worthless, with all its members scattered. A new organization needed to be formed, with a new agenda inspired by the Chinese revolution. A large meeting was held in late March 1912. They agreed to form a new group, the Vietnam Restoration League. Cường Để was made president and chairman, Phan Bội Châu was made vice-president.

People voted to campaign for democracy instead of a monarchy, despite strong objections of people from southern Vietnam. The organization's sole purpose was to kick out the Westerners and establish a democratic republic. Unfortunately, they had no funds and had great difficulty getting revolutionary leaflets into Vietnam. Also, the new Chinese government was too busy and would not help the movement with anything other than allowing Vietnamese comrades into its education and training system.

The Vietnam Restoration League came up with a proposed flag design. Previously, Vietnam never had a flag, only banners to represent royalty. Their flag idea had 5 five-pointed stars, arranged in a square with a star in the middle. It symbolized the five regions of Vietnam. The national flag had red stars on a yellow background, and the military flag had a red background with white stars. The yellow represented their race, the red represented fire which represented their location to the south of China (see I Ching), and the white represented the metal of their weapons.

They also created a book on military strategy and regulations for their army. They even printed their own currency, which they agreed to honour when, or rather "if", they attained power. If they won they could easily pay people back, and if they lost it wouldn't cost them anything. The "money" was printed in a similar way to the Chinese paper notes.

They also formed an organisation called the "Association for the Revitalization of China". It was dedicated to getting support from China for independence movements in smaller Asian countries, starting with Vietnam of course. Using a medical centre as a front, and a fancy office they managed to create the false impression that they were a huge successful organisation. They got hundreds of people to join, and sold a huge amount of their made-up currency. They changed some of the leadership positions of the "Vietnam Restoration League" to allow the Chinese to take part.

However, they could not get enough money to buy more weapons until they had proved themselves with a military attack of some sort. Everyone said they needed something big and explosive because the people of Vietnam were short on patience. So Phan Bội Châu sent five people with a few grenades to the three regions of Vietnam. The grenades they sent to the North were unfortunately used on a minor target, the governor of Thái Bình province, two officers and a French restauranteur. They were meant to be used at the mandarin examinations when all the officials would be gathered. Those they sent to the centre via Thailand did not make it to Vietnam at the time, and they had to throw their grenades away. Those that they sent to the south were wasted on some Vietnamese traitors.

The attacks in the North enraged the French, and they demanded that Phan Bội Châu be arrested, but the Chinese government refused. But the value of Phan Bội Châu's special currency dropped dramatically after the failure.

They had no money, so they decided to trick a pharmaceutical company in Japan into providing lots of expensive drugs for them on credit. They then closed down their medical centre and didn't pay their debt. But their membership slowly dwindled, and the difficulty of getting into Vietnam increased. And changes in the government of their Chinese province made things difficult. And they had to close their office and send their comrades away.

Vietnam during World War I

By 1914, Phan Bội Châu was arrested by the Chinese authorities and thrown in jail on suspicion of helping rival Chinese authorities. Fortunately the intervention of the Chinese minister for the army, stopped them from killing him or handing him over to the French. But he was kept in prison for almost four years until 1917. In prison he wrote many biographies, including his own, and other books.

World War I began shortly thereafter. The country remained an enthusiastic member of the French Empire, and many Vietnamese fought in World War I (see Vietnamese Expeditionary Force). Some 50,000 Vietnamese troops and 50,000 Vietnamese workers were sent to Europe to fight for France in the war, and thousands lost their lives at Somme and Picardy, near the Belgian coast and many more in Middle East. Both Vietnamese victories and losses on World War I battlefields contribute significantly to Vietnam's national identity. At the time it was referred to Vietnam's 'Baptism of Fire'. Over 30,000 Vietnamese died during the conflict and 60,000 were wounded. The Vietnamese also endured additional heavy taxes to help pay for France's war efforts. Numerous anti-colonial revolts occurred in Vietnam during the war, all easily suppressed by the French. In May 1916, the sixteen-year-old king, Duy Tân, escaped from his palace in order to take part in an uprising of Vietnamese troops organized by Thái Phiên and Trần Cao Vân. The French were informed of the plan and the leaders arrested and executed. Duy Tân was deposed and exiled to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. One of the most effective uprisings during this period was in the northern Vietnamese province of Thái Nguyên. Some 300 Vietnamese soldiers revolted and released 200 political prisoners, whom, in addition to several hundred local people, they armed. The rebels held the town of Thái Nguyên for several days, hoping for help from Chinese nationalists. None arrived, however, and the French retook the town and hunted down most of the rebels.

While he was in prison, he organised some of his comrades to meet with the German government in Thailand. They donated a large amount of money and promised more if a spectacular action could be done in Vietnam against the French. The comrades attempted an action but failed completely, wasting all the money.

After his release, Phan Bội Châu travelled to Beijing and to Japan, and then to various parts of China trying to get back into Vietnam. When he eventually got to the border of Yunnan Province and Vietnam, he discovered that World War I was over and his plans of using it to help defeat the French were hopeless.

He wandered around China for years after this without accomplishing anything significant. He pondered collaborating with the French, who were now ruled by the Socialist Party (France), and he wrote a booklet about why collaboration with the French would be good. He later changed his mind and blamed this thinking on Phan Ba Ngoc, who was assassinated by one of Phan Bội Châu's supporters for being a collaborator with the French.

Relations with the Socialists

At the start of 1921, Phan Bội Châu studied Socialism and the Soviet Union in the hope of gaining assistance from the Soviet Union or socialist groups. He translated a book called "An Account of the Russian Revolution", by Fuse Katsuji into Chinese. He then went to Beijing to meet with Soviet representatives, G.N. Voitinskii and Mr Lap. Mr Lap said that the Soviet Union would educate, train and pay for, any Vietnamese students Phan Bội Châu wanted to send, provided they would engage in social revolution and teach socialism in Vietnam afterwards. Mr Lap was also keen to hear more about the political situation in Vietnam, since Phan Bội Châu was the first Vietnamese revolutionary to come into contact with them. Lap requested that Phan Bội Châu write a book in English about the situation. Unfortunately, Phan Bội Châu couldn't speak English and so was unable to do so.

Phan Bội Châu wrote of the Russians: "One thing I cannot forget is how dignified, courteous, and sincere the Russians appeared to me. Their language and their expression was at times calm, at times vigorous."

Correspondence with Hồ Chí Minh

On December 11 (or November 11?), 1924, Hồ Chí Minh returned from Moscow to Canton. Hồ Chí Minh and Phan Bội Châu corresponded several times about the program of a new organisation Phan Bội Châu was trying to start up and other such things. Phan Bội Châu had been a friend of Hồ's father and had known Hồ when he was a child. They were interested in meeting each other again, but never got a chance.

Final capture

In 1925, Phan Bội Châu arrived in Shanghai on what he thought was a short trip on behalf of his movement. But as soon as he arrived he was arrested by French agents and transported back to Hanoi. Phan Bội Châu wrote about this event:

:"I did not realize that every minute of my activities was being reported to the French by Nguyen Thuong Huyen, a man who lived with me and was supported by me. When this Nguyen Thuong Huyen first arrived in Hangchow, he was with Tran Duc Quy; I was quite dubious about him. But later I heard that he was a great-nephew of Main Son (Nguyen Thung Hien), well versed in literary Chinese, the holder of a cử nhân (舉人) degree and familiar with French and quốc ngữ. Owing to his capabilities, I kept him on as my secretary without suspecting that he was an informer for the French.

:"At 12 noon on the eleventh day of the Fifth Month, my train from Hangchow arrived at the North Station Shanghai. In order to go quickly to the bank to send the money, I left my luggage at the depository and carried only a small bag with me. As soon as I came out of the train station, I saw a rather luxurious automobile and four Westerners standing by it. I did not realize that they were French, because in Shanghai there was a great mixture of Westerners and there were swarms of foreign visitors. It was quite common for cars to be used to pick up hotel guests. Little did I know that this car was there to kidnap someone! When I had gone a few steps from the station, one of the Westerners came up to me and said in Mandarin: 'This car is very nice; please get in.' I politely refused, saying 'I do not need a car.' Suddenly, one of the Westerners behind the car with a great heave pushed me inside it, the engine accelerated and we were off like a shot. In no time we had already entered the French Concession. The car drew up to the waterfront, where a French warship was docked. I now became a prisoner on this warship."

When he was transported back to Hanoi, he was held in Hỏa Lò prison. At first, the French authorities did not release his real name, in order to avoid public disturbances. But it quickly leaked out who he was. A criminal trial followed, with all the charges going back to 1913 when he had been sentenced to death in absentia. The charges included incitement to murder and supplying an offensive weapon used to commit murder in two incidents, which had resulted in the death of a Vietnamese governor on April 12, 1913, and two French majors on April 28, 1913.

In the end the court sentenced Phan Bội Châu to penal servitude for life. He was released from prison on December 24, 1925 by Governor General Alexandre Varenne, in response to huge public protests. He was placed under house arrest in a house in Huế where Nguyen Ba Trac lived. Nguyen Ba Trac was a former member of the Ðông-Du movement who had become an active collaborator with the French. Guards kept the house under surveillance, so visits by his admirers were a bit inhibited. More public protests against his house arrest caused the authorities to allow him to move to a house which had been organised by his supporters. It was a thatched house divided into three sections and had a medium-sized garden. Here he was able to meet his supporters, his children and his grandchildren.

In 1926, when Phan Chu Trinh died, Phan Bội Châu presided over a memorial service for him in Huế.

Phan Bội Châu spent his last fifteen years living a quiet life in Huế. He would often relax by taking boat trips on the Sông Hương (Fragrance River). He died on October 29, 1940, about a month after Japan invaded northern Vietnam.


*Viet Nam Vong Quoc Su



*citation|title=Vietnamese anticolonialism, 1885-1925| first= David G. |last=Marr |year=1970 |publisher=University of California |location=Berkeley| isbn=0-520-01813-3.
*citation|title=Overturned Chariot: The Autobiography of Phan Bội Châu| author= Phan Boi Chau |others=trans. by Vinh Sinh and Nicholas Wickenden|year=1999 |publisher=University of Hawaii Press |location=Honolulu| isbn=0-8248-1875-X|url=.
*citation|title=Phan Boi Chau Nien Bieu| author=Phan Boi Chau |year=1957 |publisher=|location=Hanoi| isbn=|url=.
*citation|title=Tu Phe Phan| author=Phan Boi Chau |year=1956 |publisher=Anh Minh XB |location=Huế| isbn=|url=.
*citation|title=Phan Bội Châu and the Dông-Du Movement| editor=Vinh Sinh |year=1988 |publisher=Yale Center for International and Area Studies |location=New Haven| isbn=0-938692-36-4|url=

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