15 April 2008

Tran Sy Ich

Born in Gia-Dinh (Saigon) in 1743, Tran Sy was Tran Vy's fifth son. He was only four years old when he and his parents regained the village where his ancestral home was located.

Early Struggles

At nine, he began to attend school. In his youth he possessed a sickly nature which proved ruinous to the quality of his studies. He was given the name "Ich" by one of his uncles. One day, this same uncle took him aside to encourage him. He said:

"Everything that belongs to your father, belongs to you; ensure that it prospers such that it becomes as useful to you as possible."

Following this interview and after conscientious efforts in an exam, Sy Ich had to come to terms with the fact that as of yet, he had not completed a single action to honor his parents. This tormented him deeply.

As a result, Sy Ich further concentrated himself on his studies. He became especially attuned to the older generation from which he would acquire precious knowledge that he hoped to pass on to his children and he abandoned himself wholly to the study of literature.

Adult Life

When he reached working age, his efforts were rewarded. He found a job as an administrator for the imperial court and obtained the court title "Noi-Han".

Tran Sy Ich shared his life with three women and they gave him a total of 13 children:

Cao Chung Truong (1752 - 1785) was First wife. She had 6 children including 4 boys and 2 girls.

Tran Thai-Duat (1752 - 1823) was Second wife. She had 1 boy.

Tong Xuan-Qui (1758 - 1819) was his concubine. She gave birth to 6 children including 3 boys and 3 girls.

Consequences of the Tay Son Uprising

The Dai-Viet had since been ruled by the Nguyen lords in the South (based in Hue) and the Trinh lords in the North (based in Hanoi) who controlled the figure head emperor. But in 1770, the Tay Son brothers namely Nguyen Nhac, Nguyen Lu and Nguyen Hue, led a political rebellion against the Nguyen army. This was called the Tay Son rebellion.

During those times, my ancestors were from the mandarin class. As such they would probably have been known as corrupt and oppressive. To what degree they were corrupt, if at all, I will never know. But given the rife corruption in the imperial court, it was essentially for the peasant cause that the Tay Son brothers led their revolt.

In 1778 after having defeated the Nguyen army and murdered the entire Nguyen family except for Nguyen Anh, who escaped, the Tay Son brothers were then locked into battle against the Trinh lords in the North and then later, against the Manchu army from China who had come to restore the figure head Vietnamese emperor.

It was following the Manchu defeat, when the youngest of the Tay Son brothers, Nguyen Le, proclaimed himself emperor of unified Vietnam under the name Quang-Trung, that my ancestor, Sy Ich, refused to serve the usurper and promptly gave his resignation to the court. He was not the only intellectual who refused to serve Quang-Trung.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting changes to arise from Quang-Trung's reign.

The new Emperor distributed land to the poor peasants, encouraged the artisans that had been suppressed, allowed religious freedom, re-opened Vietnam to international trade and abolished Chinese as the official language of the nation. The new official language was Vietnamese written in the script called Chữ nôm.
- Wikipedia, Tay Son Dynasty

I wonder how my ancestors, who probably prided themselves in their Chinese literacy, would have taken the official language change.

When Quang-Trung died, his young successor was quickly toppled by the legitimate Nguyen heir, Nguyen Anh. He became the very Confucian orthodox emperor, Gia Long (1762 - 1820).

At this point, my ancestors, being the Confucians they were, would have breathed a sigh of deep relief. And so in 1802, when Gia Long ascended the throne, Tran Sy Ich proudly regained his post in service to the court.

Honor Your Parents

Sy Ich eventually did honor his parents.

To begin, the excellent quality of his court service, his honesty and his charitable manner were highly praised by all the Lords and souveraigns that he served in his lifetime.

In his spare time, Sy Ich pursued his father's Gia Pha and wrote several biographies.

When he died in 1814, he was given the cult name On-Muc Tran Sy-Ich.

And later, when emperor Tu Duc was in the 32 year of his reign, he conferred Sy Ich with the posthumous title of:

Gia-Nghi Dai-Phu Thiem-Su-Phu Thiem-Su

Similarly, his first wife, Cao Chung Truong, was accorded the posthumous title of:

Chanh Tam-Pham Thuc-Nhan

Back to Tran Genealogy Index

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