Korea-Vietnam 2022-2023 Speaker Series

How To Be Neighbors With China

The Changing Attitude of Vietnamese Scholars toward China in the Second Half of the 19th Century

September 28th, 2022. 6:00 PM Los Angeles Time
(Zoom Webinar)
Dr. Sean (Song Yeol) Han is a historian of modern Korea and China. His book project, Bond beyond Nation: Sinographic Network and Korean Nationhood, 1860-1932, examines the cultural history of China’s interactions with Korea in the age of modern imperialism. His recent publication, “ Informal Diplomacy in Chosŏn Korea and New Engagement with the West and Westernised Japan, 1873–1876” (
Modern Asian Studies, 2022), focuses on China, Japan, and Korea’s response to the changing world order in the late nineteenth century. Dr. Han earned his M. A. and Ph. D. from Princeton University and B. A. from Seoul National University (with honors). He is the associate director of the Choson History Society—a public learned society promoting the study, research, and teaching of Korea’s past. Dr. Han is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in Asian History at St. Lawrence University.
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Dr. Hoang-Yen Nguyen is a lecturer at the Faculty of Oriental Studies of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU-HCM in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. She teaches Chinese language and literature classes, such as Chinese literature, Introduction to Literary Chinese, Chinese Grammar, and Translation. She has been working on the perception of Western learning and culture in Vietnam and China, especially during the 18th and 19th century through travel writings of Vietnamese and Korean envoys to China. She is interested in the areas of comparative literature/culture in East Asia, Vietnamese literature written in Chinese (especially Vietnamese envoys’ travel writings to China 越南燕行作品) and Vietnamese Chinese.

Presented by Hoang Yen Nguyen

Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City

Joined by Sean S. Han

St. Lawrence University

Please register in advance:

China and Vietnam have had a long and close relationship over the years. Especially when it came to the 19th century, facing the invasion of Western countries, this relationship underwent tremendous changes and became more complicated than ever. In such circumstances, Vietnam’s attitude toward China – the Heavenly Kingdom had had a big difference from the previous period. However, this is not clearly presented in the literature because of the lack of relevant documents. To fill this gap, this paper makes use of Vietnamese envoys’ travel writings to China from 1868 (the first tributary trip of Vietnam to China after 16 years of interruption) to 1883 (the last tributary trip of Vietnam to China) for analyzing, to investigate the changing attitude of Vietnamese official-scholars and government toward China in the late 19th century; and to address the China’s influence on Vietnam in particular, and on East Asia area in general at the time, as well as to illustrate the changing thoughts of Vietnam in the pre-modern time. Finally, the result can suggest some lessons learned from those experiences for recent international relations between China, Vietnam and the other Asian or Western countries.