Books without Borders: Pham Than Duat (1825-1885) and the Culture of Knowledge in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Vietnam

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It is well-known that the educated elite of China, Vietnam, and other neighboring polities participated in a shared community of inquiry, but how did it work in practice? This article examines Pham Than Duat's 1856 Hung Hóa Gazetteer in order to discover the process by which knowledge was contested and produced within this broader culture of knowledge. Writing within the gazetteer genre, Pham Than Duat engaged with foundational classical Chinese texts, recent Vietnamese works, and the Qing-era kaozheng movement of evidentiary scholarship. That he took himself to be participating in a literary culture that transcended Vietnam is clear from an analysis of his textual citations, as is his confidence in rejecting, reconfiguring, or adding to a transregional culture of knowledge. Pham Than Duat and others like him were autonomous contributors to a community of inquiry that transgressed political boundaries. For Vietnamese scholars, this community was rooted in classical texts but centered in Vietnam.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-740
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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