Le Quy Don 1726-?

About us
Contact us


Slideshow  Timeline  Comments (0)

Le Quy Don was a particularly gifted scholar. At the age of 4 he was already studying the Classic of Poetry! Born in 1726, he passed the metropolitan examination in1752 at the age of 26. He traveled to Peking in 1760 and there impressed and made friends with many Chinese officials, and also Vietnamese officials who were visiting Peking at the same time.

"Le Quy Don was born in 1726 into the family of a high-ranking government official. Following the pattern of other great figures, his birth was preceded by various dreams and omens all auguring the arrival of a gifted individual. And gifted he certainly was. By the age of five he was already studying the Classic of Poetry. His biography notes that already by this time he would not fidget or look off from the text, and that difficult characters only had to be explained once to him for him to remember their meaning. By the age of seven he was reading the official dynastic histories, and at eight he could write essays in parallel prose. At the age of eleven he engaged in studying the histories of the Song and Yuan dynasties. Each day he would commit to memory 80 to 90 pages.

At the age of 17 Le Quy Don began climbing the ladder of examination success to an official position by passing the district examination. Roughly the next decade of his life would be devoted to passing one exam or another, until finally in 1752 he passed the metropolitan examination and then placed second in the pro forma palace exam that same year.

In 1754 Le Quy Don was assigned to assist in the compilation of an official history of the kingdom. It is clear though from Don’s own literary output over the course of his life that this was an activity that he relished. Before long he produced a volume in 12 fascicles of the kingdom’s history.

In 1757 Don was promoted to Expositor-in-Waiting of the Han Lam Academy. It was at this time that he began to engage in some of the policy making activities of the kingdom. He is known to have passed judgement during this period on many unsolved criminal cases, more often than not issuing pardons. The Le emperor clearly began to favor Don, so that before he departed on an embassy to the North in 1760, the Emperor said to him, “I do not want you to travel afar, but wish to send someone in your stead so that you can stay here and assist me, and so that we can often meet and discuss various matters.” To this statement Le Quy Don replied, “Your servant is still young. I am willing to journey to the Esteemed Kingdom [上國, Thuong quoc/Shangguo, China] to view the mountains and rivers and to make inquiries about the way of governing, so as to broaden my knowledge.”

While the Le emperor may have felt apprehensive about letting Le Quy Don travel afar, he was probably very pleased when he later learned of the impression that Don made on the scholar-officials in the North. During his stay in Beijing, Don visited such notables as the Minister of the Ministry of War, Liang Shizheng 梁詩正 (1697-1763), the Minister of the Ministry of Works, Gui Yiguang 歸宜光, as well as officials in the Hanlin Academy and the Censorate. These men all pressed Don with tough questions to test his mind, and marveled at his swift and eloquently argued answers. In the end they are all reported to have sighed in agreement and said “There are really talents in your Honorable Kingdom” (貴國有人矣, Quy quoc huu nhan hi/Guiguo you ren yi).

While at the capital, Le Quy Don also befriended some envoys from Choson and exchanged poetry with these envoys."

From Liam Kelley's book on Vietnamese envoy poetry, The Bronze Pillars.

Halting At Nanning Citadel 駐南寧城
Halting at South Holding Pass 駐鎮南關
Seven Star Crag 七星岩

Related Items:
Guǎngxī 廣西
Hénèi, Hanoi 河內
Nánníng 南寧
Vietnam (Yuènán) 越南