The Last Confucians of Mid-20th Century Vietnam
A Cultural History of the Vietnam Association of Traditional Studies
Keywords:Confucianism, Vietnam Association of Traditional Studies (VATS), South Vietnam, tradition, cultural practice
The Vietnam Association of Traditional Studies (VATS) took the initiative in promoting Confucian cultural practices in South Vietnam from 1955–1975. The association strove towards collecting, researching, translating, interpreting and circulating classical Sinographic documents in order to preserve traditional East Asian culture in relation to up-to-date moral education and practical science. Unfortunately, there is a lack of research material related to the organization during the period after the two halves of Vietnam were reunited in 1975. Thus, the Association’s activities after 1975 cannot be discussed. To bridge the gap, this article is based on rare documents mostly collected by the author, describing the history and activities of this Confucian organization, including its establishment (1954), regulations, organizational structure, and membership. This article will also focus on the VATS’s Confucian cultural practices, such as (i) publishing as a way to promote Confucianism and traditional morality, (ii) Confucianism and Literary Sinitic education, (iii) public speeches, (iv) organizing the annual commemoration of Confucius’ birthday on September 28th, (v) and promoting international cooperation related to Confucianism. These activities demonstrate the organization’s attempt at popularizing Confucianism and making it compatible with ideas and practices introduced by modernization and Westernization in the middle of the twentieth century.
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