A Vietnamese Reading of the Master’s Classic: Pha .m Nguyê ˜n Du’s Humble Comments on the Analects as an Example of Transformative Learning

Nam NGUYEN

Abstract


Phạm Nguyễn Du’s influential text Humble Comments on the Analects (Luận Ngữ Ngu Án 論語愚按) is an outstanding example of a Vietnamese adaptation and reworking of an East Asian intellectual tradition. In organizing his work, Phạm departed from convention by rearranging the extant chapters of the Analects into four “books”: “Sage” (Thánh 聖), “Learning” (Học 學), “Official” (Sĩ 仕), and “Politics” (Chính 政). Moreover, Phạm placed particular emphasis on the “Learning” book, and thus underscored his contention that the classic text was especially relevant and meaningful to eighteenth-century Vietnam. This paper attempts to read Phạm’s work in the contexts of both Confucian tradition and contemporary education. First, it examines Phạm’s composition of the Humble Comments based on Jack Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning. Phạm’s writing process in this work presents a fascinating case of transformative learning, in which the author questions received assumptions about the world and himself, puts forward new propositions, and elaborates these via an original reading of a classic. Through the analysis of Phạm Nguyễn Du’s life and his preface to the Humble Comments, one can also gain a better view of the Vietnamese reception of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, and more particularly, of Zhu’s dictum of “learning for the sake of one’s self” (weiji zhi xue 為己 之學). Lastly, this dictum will be reappraised to show its validity in contemporary educational contexts.


Keywords


Sage, learning for the sake of one’s self, transformative learning, civil service examination, kunzhi (acquiring true knowledge from predicaments)

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4312/as.2017.5.2.167-199

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