17 July 2008

Tran Tien-Thanh - Regent of Annam

When I introduced my Tran family genealogy, one of the things I promised you is foul murder. So now, I will deliver.

This is a long post. It took me a couple of days to put together. I could have spent those days writing my novel but I thought the time had come to do justice to a man scarcely mentioned by history. I have divided this post into sections so that you will hopefully take courage and not be too overwhelmed by this wordy account.

This post is special. It concerns Tran Tien-Thanh who during his long service to the 19th century Nguyen imperial court, ascended to the very highest Mandarin rank. To give you an appreciation of Tran Tien-Thanh's scholarly and political achievement, consider that my great grandfather, Tran Thien Thuoc , the imperial library's Chief Archivist was only a third rank mandarin which is itself quite an achievement.

Tran Tien-Thanh is a man I greatly admire. And this, regardless of his rank or his intellectual achievements. I admire him because he showed dignity and courage to stand up for what he thought was right even in the face of powerful and often ruthless opposition. As is often the case, Tran Tien-Thanh was murdered for his ideals.

A glimpse of Tran Tien-Thanh can be found in some history books. For example The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai by Oscar Chapuis, briefly mentions Tran Tien Thanh. During this post, I will often quote from Chapuis' book and then supplement with more details from the Tran Gia Pho. This will allow you to situate this story within the history of Vietnam, notably during the reign of emperor Tu Duc and the treacherous events immediately following his death.

Early Childhood

On the December 14 1813, Lam-Thi Phuc-Chau gave birth to the first of her six children. Her husband, Tran Trieu-Duc, upon learning that it was a boy, was indeed very happy. The little boy was the recipient of careful attention which recalls the popular expression "nang nhu nang truan, hung nhu hung hoa" meaning "to take as much precaution as though holding an egg in one's open hand; to handle with as much care as one handles a flower".
For example:
- The newborn's room was kept permanently closed to avoid chills
- strangers were not admitted to his room, so that the any evil spirits could not compromise his health.

Only 22 days after his birth, the baby became gravely ill. So that when this illness had subsided, his father attributed the recovery to the fervour that his grandfather, Tran Sy Ich, had shown in praying to the heavens.

To this date, the boy had no name. As in China, the parents were in no great hurry to name their child soon after birth. The custom, both in China and Vietnam was to use derogatory names for newborns. This apparent disdain for the baby was aimed at deceiving evil spirits hence keeping them away from the child. The name given for the boys was "masculine sex" (thang cu) while the girls were called "little prostitute" (cai-di). The children would only receive their true name after a period of time, at the discretion of their parents.

When the boy was in his eighth year, his father began to then call him Duong-don which funnily enough means "obtuse spirit". In fact, during his first years of study, the boy had distinguished himself by his slow, obtuse spirit.

During 1821, the boy's father had just embarked on his mandarin career and was transferred to Hanoi. He hired a tutor to visit his son at home and help his education. One day, this tutor became so exasperated by his pupil's slow acquisition of anything he was trying to teach that he hit him violently until Duong-don lost consciousness.

May I pause here and say that this is a form of child abuse and I do not condone it.
But psychological research has allowed for great progress in the way we now instruct our children (at least one should hope so). What was normal behavior in those days is not admissible today.
But I return to the tutor...

He was so frightened by the consequences of his actions and was about to flee from the house when Trieu-Duc assured him, saying "If you have hit your student, it is for his own good; if he were to die from it, be sure that you will not be troubled for it."

Meanwhile, Duong-Don regained consciousness. Hitherto everyone was amazed to discover that his intelligence had not only become much sharper but that he was now able to easily catch up and compensate for the educational delay that he had acquired during the previous years.

When he was eleven years old, Duong-Don's father was named "Tri-Phu" of Tan-Dinh in the province of Gia-Dinh. His mother and siblings came to live with Tran Trieu-Duc the following year. However Duong-Don remained in Hue under the supervision of his great auntie who was herself childless. Even when his father eventually died and his mother regained Hue in the Cho-dinh district, he continued to live with his great auntie and work assiduously.

During his early teens, he often took advantage of the scholarly lessons that his uncle, Minister of Rites Nguyen Koa-Minh organised at home for his children. As a testimony to Duong-Don's intelligence, this master decided to change his name to Thoi-Man which means "lively intelligence".

Studies and Early Career

In 1834, Thoi-Man was 21 years old. He entered the Royal College "Quoc-Tu-Giam".
This was the new name that emperor Minh-Mang had given to the national college created by his father, emperor Gia-Long. While studying, Thoi-Man was noticed for his ability to create "Phu" or poems consisting of rhythmic prose.

Two years later in 1836, Thoi-Man married Luong-Tien-Tuong who happened to be the daughter of Minister of Rites, Nguyen Koa-Minh. He however continued to live with his great auntie to pursue his studies while his wife lived with her mother in law.

In 1837, he obtained his License (cu-nhan) in literary studies in Hue. The following year, after participating in the Palace competition, he obtained his Doctorate (tien-si). This degree had been created in 1828 by emperor Minh-Mang after he establishing regional and central competitions in 1822. These contests, similar in nature to those held by the Chinese emperors since the Ming dynasty, occurred three times a year and were opened to all without class distinction.

In this same year, Thoi-Man began his career as a mandarin with the grade "Clerk in the Institute of Letters" (Han-Lam-vien bien-tu). Not long after, he was promoted as apprentice in the Emperor's Private Council (Co-Mat-vien).

I Want to Be a Mandarin...

During 1842, when emperor Thieu-Tri was in the first year of his reign, Thoi-Man became Mandarin, Section Leader in the Ministry of Administration while still conserving his functions in the Private Council.

Then in 1844, his great auntie, who he considered to be his adoptive mother, died. Thoi-Man solicited a period off work in order to personally take care of her funeral.

In 1845, at 31 he was promoted to Chief of Section in the Ministry of War and later named "Chief of Judicial Affairs" or An-Sat-Su of the Thanh-hoa province, a function he continued to exercise until 1853. It is while serving this post that he took a first concubine, Nguyen Thi-Trac.

Later, he was transferred to Hue to occupy the role of "Chief Officer of the Royal Stables", as part of the Minister of Finance. Thoi-Man was then designated to take part in an embassy leaving for China. He went to Hanoi in order to prepare for this journey but the embassy was cancelled and Thoi-Man had to regain Hue. When he arrived in Hue, he was accompanied by a young girl of 17, Huynh-Thi Gam who he designated to be his second wife.

In 1855, he works as an Assistant Governor in Gia-dinh (Saigon) for 6 months. This time as part of the Minister of Works, he is responsible for government affairs.

Change of Name to Tien-Thanh

Emperor Tu Duc was in the sixth year of his reign, when, admiring Thoi-Man's filial piety and high moral standards, he decided to change his name from Thoi-Man to "Tien-Thanh" (to walk in loyalty) so as to encourage him to follow the example of Tô Hiến Thành, a high dignitary of the LY dynasty. It is under the name Tien-Thanh that our ancestor becomes known and gains posterity.

Fighting off the French...or Trying to

At this time, Tien-Thanh was also appointed to direct military operations in the Quang-Ngai province, aimed at repressing dissidant rebels. Due to the excellent results of this operation, emperor Tu-Duc confered him with the title "Vice Minister of War" (Huu tham-tri). It was in this role that Tien-Thanh was charged with organising the defence of Danang (Tourane under the French) and Thuan-an against a large fleet attack led by Admiral Rigault de Grenouilly (this was the bombardment of Tourane in October 1856 by the "Catinat").

Tran Tien-Thanh's Achievements

In 1859, Tien-Thanh becomes Minister of Works while still preserving his responsibility as defender of the capital.

Three years later he becomes Minister of Finance and also acquires full membership in the Emperor's Private Council.

Then in 1963, he heads the Ministry of War.

At 50 years of age, Tran Tien-Thanh has reached the highest mandarin rank and is named Grand Chancellor 2nd Class (Hiep-bien dai-hoc-si). This effectively makes him the Prime Minister of the Court.

But for all his achievements, Tran Tien-Thanh does not depart from his self-imposed rules and lives simply. He eats frugally, abstaining himself from the rich meals offered to him by the emperor and his subordinates.
This penitence was his manner of expressing his regrets about not having been present or capable (due to remoteness and young age) of taking care of his father during his last moments and at his funeral.

Tran Tien-Thanh's Troubles as Diplomat

In 1868, Tien-Thanh is sent to Saigon to negotiate with French Admiral Ohier, a representative of Napoleon III. Tran Tien-Thanh tries to obtain certain concessions regarding a treaty which had formely ceded the three provinces of Cochinchina to France. Unfortunately Tran Tien-Thanh's mission is not successful. Upon his return to Hue, he loses a rank as punishment. However he quickly reassumes his functions as Prime Minister and Minister of War.

In 1870, Tran Tien-Thanh is engaged in discussion with a Spanish representative. The envoy has been sent by Queen Isabelle II who is very keen to obtain the authorisation to open a Spanish Consulate. The negotiations led by Tran Tien-Thanh result in total failure. This provokes the emperor who immediately signs an edict pronouncing Tran Tien-Thanh's dismissal from the role of Prime Minister.
Funnily enough, this edict is immediately followed by another edict, this time confirming Tran Tien-Thanh's function as Prime Minister...
I suppose that even emperors throw tantrums every now and then!!

Emperor Tu Duc Distinguishes the Tran Family

In 1874, to thank him for all his services, Tu Duc raises Tran Tien-Thanh to the rank of Palace Grand Chancellor.

In this particular period, Cochinchina was entirely and definitively occupied by France. The situation became particularly intense when France began an expedition under Francis Garnier to take over multiple towns in the delta.
Given the political climate, the functions of Prime Minister and Minister of War were extremely difficult to carry out. Tran Tien Thanh was trying everything that he could politically and humanely do to put an end to conflicts. Emperor Tu Duc understood this and in general was very satisfied with Tien Thanh's work. In particular, Tu Duc wanted to congratulate him for the excellent organisation he had put in for the defence of the Thuan-an port.

Actually, it was not until 1879 that Tran Tien-Thanh was officially titled as "Palace Grand Chancellor". He was 66 years old.

The following mention was made of him:

Even though it is inevitable, due to his great age and his deficient health, that his activity has slowed down recently, and even though he can not sufficiently answer to all our requests, nevertheless his unflinching loyalty has strengthened while the greatness of his soul and farsightedness have rendered him highly capable as a decision maker in the gravest of situations.
- my translation, Tran Family sources

I quote, "the greatness of his soul". Note that well. How many political or organisational leaders, today, are rewarded for the greatness of their soul? Worth pondering over...

In this same year, emperor Tu-Duc awarded posthumous titles to all of Tran Tien-Thanh's parents and grandparents.

Finally, emperor Tu Duc gave him the title "2em Colonne de L'empire" which I have no idea how to translate from French! The original title was apparently created by Lord Chua Thuong (1635 - 1648).

The Death of Emperor Tu Duc

In 1881, Tien-Thanh is 68 years old and believes himself incapable of efficiently fulfilling his functions as "Minister of War". He sollicits from his emperor, the authorisation to discharge himself of these duties and to pass these on to the Vice Minister Le-Huu-Ta. Emperor Tu Duc agrees with this suggestion under the condition that Tran Tien-Thanh continues the general direction of the Ministry's affairs.

A couple of months later and following Tien-Thanh's proposition (BAD MOVE!!!), Ton-That-Thuyet is designated to assist him as "Interim Minister of War" and is admitted to the Private Council.

Tran Tien-Thanh's health was much weakened. He coughed frequently and often had to request periods of leave to manage his chronic dysentery. These leave periods were rarely accorded.

On the other hand, he was authorised to make use of the physicians who were attached to the emperor's private medical cabinet (Thai-y-vien).

But even though he was well treated, Tran Tien-Thanh was obliged to continue participating in state affairs. These were approaching a difficult phase. In particular, a French military detachment under the authority of Henri Riviere had just taken Hanoi and the worse was expected.

It was at this unfortunate moment that emperor Tu Duc died on 17 July 1883. (Strangely enough, I have submitted this post on 17 July...)

Tu Duc's Testament

On 15 July, two days before his death, the emperor had convened the Dignitaries of his Private Council and communicated his testament through which he designated:

Ung-Chan, his first adoptive son, as his successor (Emperor Duc Duc)
Tran Tien-Thanh, as First Regent of Annam
Nguyen-Van Tuon and Ton-That-Tuyet as Co-Regents.

Parts of his will included negative mentions about Ung-Chan. When the three regents read it, they asked the emperor to have these removed as such remarks shed doubt on the honour and prestige of the future emperor. But emperor Tu Duc refused under the pretext that the aim of these remarks was to encourage Ung-Chan to change his ways.

It seems that the Regents later took matters into their own hands:

Duc Duc asked the three regents to delete from Tu Duc's will the incriminating part and they agreed. But instead of reforming himself, Duc Duc ingored court etiquette and neglected mourning rules inviting to the palace the dubious acquaintances he had recruited among professional gamblers, cabaret singers and popular magicians.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.

The Co-Regents Plot

No sooner had the emperor's death been announced that prince Ung-Chan (later called emperor Duc Duc) entered the Imperial Palace. The two Co-Regents, without having referred to the First Regent, addressed themselves to the Empress Dowager Tu-Du asking that prince Ung-Chan be replaced, with as arguments, the following three points:
1. the successor aimed to modify the testament, removing the warning statements regarding his poor character
2. the successor continued to wear colorful garments during the period of mourning
3. the successor was debauched and only seeked pleasure

The Empress Dowager agreed with the Co-Regents, indeed, the defunct emperor was well aware of his successor's defects. However due to the difficulties marring the Affairs of State, a royal successor seemed to him indispensible to lead the country. Having said this, since the prince refused to amend his evil ways it was important to direct him away from the throne.

Ong-Chan was immediately locked up inside one of the palace pavillions where, deprived of food and drink, he died after an atrocious agony.

Chapuis mentions two stories regarding Ong-Chan's death:

Duc Duc was sentenced to death for failing to observe mourning rites and having had intimate relations with his father's concubines. He was forced to take poison. He was not even provided with a grave but was simply tossed naked into a cavity. [..] According to Professor Trinh Van Thanh, Duc Duc was not forced to take poison but was left to die of hunger in confinement.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

Chapuis also alludes to a possible underlying motivation behind one of the Co-Regents' behavior:

In retrospect, the manner in which Duc Duc was treated might rather stem from personal vengeance, for he had interfered in the intimate liaison between Regent Tuong and Lady Hoc Phi [an imperial concubine].
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The two Co-Regents took the initiative to organise a reunion between Princes and Mandarins so as to impose to the court the justifications for deposing of Prince Ung-Chan. A this reunion, the First Regent, Tran Tien-Thanh wanted to intervene on the prince's behalf but Ton-That-Tuyet, with a bitter tone, ordered him to keep quiet. The entire court followed suit.

Tu-Duc's younger brother, prince Huong-Dat was therefore chosen to ascend to the throne. He was crowned under the reign name of Hiep-Hoa. Following his crowning ceremony, he promoted First Regent, Tran Tien-Thanh, to Grand Dignitary of the Palace and gave him a plaque of jade as reward.

The First Regent was still frequently ill and was now suffering from rheumatism. He therefore asked to be dispensed from being present in the palace. This request was granted.

The Persecution of Tran Tien-Thanh

Now that the First Regent was no longer present in the Palace, the two censors Hoang-Con and Dang-Tran-Hanh presented to the emperor their report, in which they accused Tran Tien-Thanh of having voluntarily modified certain passages in the imperial testament while carrying out the formal reading. The court, under the order of Hiep-Hoa examined the affair.

In response to this accusation, Tran Tien-Thanh addressed himself to the throne, exposing his actions in details and in conclusion, asking humbly that he be allowed to bare the consequences of his act if it avered that he had indeed committed certain reprehensible actions.

The court proposed that he be beaten with a stick and made destitute. This was the punishment which the law prescribed for all those mandarins who committed errors in the transcription of imperial edicts. However the emperor, having taken into account the eminent services that Tran Tien-Thanh had delivered to the country during four imperial reigns (i.e. Thieu-Tri, Minh-Mang, Tu-Duc and Hiep-Hoa) decided to show clemency.

Tran Tien-Thanh was therefore retrograded by two ranks as a warning. He was dispensed from punishment and was to be reintegrated to his previous rank only by imperial grace.

At this stage, Tran Tien-Thanh asked that he be discharged from pursuing Affairs of the State and left to get medical treatment in his natal village.

Tran Tien-Thanh and The French

We are in August 1883. Tran Tien-Thanh is 70 years old.
Admiral Courbet's troups are disembarking at the mouth of River Thuan-an.

Tran Tien-Thanh is immediately recalled to the Palace.

Tran Tien-Thanh is asked to approach the religious man, Montseigneur Gaspar, to ask that he intervene with the French Authorities regarding an armistice.
He is also responsible for discussing the conditions required for a truce.

This peace seeking intervention eventually led to the signature of the Harmand Treaty on 25 August 1883.

Unfortunately this treaty was only the beginning of a number of concessions to France.

Article one read: "Nam recognises and accepts the protection of France. France controls all Nam's relations with foreign nations including China." Article two read: "The province of Binh Thuan is attached to Cochinchina." There were the two main clauses aiming to subject Vietnam to French control [..] The Nguyen Dynasty had just lost its Mandate of Heaven.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

Tran Tien-Thanh's Illness and Discharge

The First Regent then sollicited another period of rest to nurse his dysentery.

After multiple requests for leave, he was finally discharged from the Private Council and from the Ministry of War.

However the emperor asked him to preserve his existing functions as Director of the Annals and Director of the Calendar.

He was also authorised to leave the official residence attached to the Ministry of War and to regain his own home.

Tran Tien-Thanh therefore moved to the house which he had had built in Cho-dinh. It was a one storey house built on the land where his own mother had established her business decades ago.

Hiep-Hoa's Political Manoeuvres

With the Harmand treaty signed, emperor Hiep-Hoa became a pathetic public figure.

It is obvious that the treaty had destroyed whatever prestige Hiep Hoa could have at the court and among the population. It was also a good pretext for the regents to openly oppose his authority. In the presence of the entire court, Ton That-Thuyet refused to kowtow and verbally abused the emperor.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

Regent Ton-That-Tuyet of fierce patriotism, stubborn and brutal had at his disposition the entire army which he organised with method and discipline. Meanwhile Nguyen-Van-Tuong possessed both sharp intelligence and cunning. The Co-Regents enjoyed such power, that no one, neither at court nor in the provinces, dared contest.

But emperor Hiep-Hoa was no longer a child and he was not resigned to be a puppet in the hands of those who had placed him on the throne. He was waiting for an occasion to rid himself of his irksome tutors.

When accused of dictatorship, Ton-That-Tuyet, to diminish the hostility held in his opinion, proposed that his suvereign discharge him from his military position. This was the occasion that Hiep-Hoa had been waiting for.
He seized it and appointed Ton-That-Tuyet to the Ministry of Rites and later to the Ministry of Administrative Affairs as a remplacement for Nguyen Trong-Hop. Ton-That-Tuyet continued to direct the Ministry of War until a successor was designated.
He was now very wary of his emperor.

But now remained Nguyen-Van-Tuong.

One day, the emperor's two close advisors, Huong-Sam and Huong-Phi who had just been elevated, the first to the rank of Secretary General of Noi-cac and the second to Vice Minister of Administrative Affairs, dared to publically criticise the politics of the Co-Regents during a court gathering.

In a secret vote addressed to the throne, they asked that Regent Nguyen-Van-Tuong be condemned to death. To give more weight to their proposition, they added a clause in the document indicating that they had the agreement of First Regent, Tran Tien-Thanh.

During this political exchange which involved several messages, the eunuch who had been asked to deliver a message for the emperor made an error of delivery. The emperor, furious about this error, condemned the eunuch to thirty blows. The eunuch decided to get revenge for this punishment which he found unjustified. He therefore informed the Co-Regents of the secret correspondence.

Chapuis also indicates that the emperor sought help from the French:

His increasing hostility [that of Ton That Tuyet] led Hiep Hoa to fear for his life and to seek protection from the French Resident Champeaux with whom he discussed plans to dismiss the Regents. Unfortunately, Thuyet got wind of the conversation and Hiep Hoa's fate was sealed.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Revenge of the Co-Regents

At this juncture, Co-Regents Nguyen-Van-Tuong and Ton-That-Thuyet decided to immediately hold a court reunion with the aim of legalising their conjoined decision: to eliminate emperor Hiep-Hoa and his First Regent, Tran Tien-Thanh.

"On November 28, 1883, taking advantage of Champeaux's absence from Hue, Ton That Thuyet had Hiep Hoa arrested. In a closed session of the court, Thuyet accused the emperor of having squandered the national treasury, ignored the regents' advice and secretly plotted with the French by signing the Harmand treaty. Hiep Hoa was forced to abdicate. He was sentenced to death for which he had to choose between a sword, a three-meter-long scarf or a mixture of opium and vinegar. He chose the last one and died at dusk on November 29, 1883. All his supporters were murdered."
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Noble First Regent

What old Tran Tien-Thanh wanted most is to live tranquilly in his retreat; he remained well away from the intrigues and the factions in the palace. But the discovery of the plot against the Co-Regents had suggested an alliance between the two advisors, Huong-Sam and Huong-Phi, and the First Regent.

Proof of the First Regent's complicity would be difficult to obtain. Therefore, the Co-Regents considered his refusal to sign a document in favor of the emperor being dethroned, as a moral confirmation of their suspicions.

Effectively when Tran Tien-Thanh was handed this document and asked to sign, he merely appended a few lines in his own hand:

"Deposition and enthroning are two very important affairs.
How can such things renew themselves so frequently?
Being already retired, I dare not take part in them."
- translated from Tran family sources

By expressing so crudely his protestation against the Co-Regents' decision (and cynically alluding to their previous deposition of Ung-Chan), the First Regent knew that he had just signed his own death warrant. Because to refuse to bend to their desires would be interpreted as siding with their adversaries, notably the emperor and his advisors. This would not be tolerated by the Co-Regents.

Oscar Chapuis makes a note of this:

Because third regent Tran Tien Thanh protested against the treatment inflicted on Hiep Hoa's followers, he was killed by Thuyet's assassination squad.
- Chapuis, Oscar. The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Assassination of Tran Tien Thanh

On the night of 28 November 1883, Ton That-Thuyet ordered a detachment from his personal guards to go kill Tran Tien-Thanh.

This group was composed of guards and armed with lances and sabres. It was headed by Huong-Hang, Huong-Chuc and Huong-Te. All three men were from the royal family, and were grand children of the defunct emperor, Minh-Mang.

It was past midnight when the detachment arrived to the private home. The house comprised a main building on the ground floor facing the border of Gia-hoi street. In the middle section of this building was a sealed door with two large pivotting panels which permitted access to a corridor on the left side of the inner courtyard. It was this corridor which led to a simple building where Tran Tien-Thanh was resting.

The cacophony produced by the guards as they began to violently hit the double doors with their weapons, awakened the neighbours in the district, who believing the intruders to be brigands, shouted out that "this was the house of the First Regent and it was not prudent for them to touch it."

During this time, Tran Tien-Thanh was in the building upstairs together with his favourite concubine Le-Thi-Nhu and a couple of servants which he had kept with him. Under his orders, all the other family members, had been sent to their home in the village of Minh-huong. He clearly knew the guards would be coming for him.

The attack is sudden. The guards break through the front doors and penetrate inside the house. They are preceded by a man who holds in his hands a red box, normally used to carry court documents for their transmission.

The three detachment leaders shout out in unison:

"His Excellency is invited, in the name of the Regent Council, to come down for an urgent affair!"
- translated from Tran family sources

The old man obeys. He dons the black robe that his favourite concubine presents to him. With the help of her left arm supporting him, he begins to descend the staircase.

He is only halfway through the staircase and has barely buttoned up his black robe that he is assailed by the guards who transperce him with their lances.

In an admirable demonstration of love, Le-Thi-Nhu projects herself forward to protect him with her right arm and is thus wounded.

Tran Tien-Thanh, collapses and expires, held in the arms of the woman who among all his concubines, was the one he loved most and whom he had wanted to keep near him to witness his last moments.

Aftermath of Tran Tien-Thanh's Death

The next morning, the servants took the news of Tran Tien-Thanh's tragic end to the rest of his family who came in haste. They brought back his body to the village. The scandal of his death was suppressed by terror. The Thua-Thien province governor actually knew who the authors of this crime were but he declared that it was an act of piracy or brigands and he failed to open an enquiry.

Tran Tien-Thanh's death had no disarming effect on his adversaries who promptly sought his posthumous degradation, relegating him to the mere title of "Minister of War".

An allocation of 700 bundles of sapeques was attributed to the family for the funeral. The Court did not take part.

The Court did, however, send a few hundred soldiers and marines under the commandment of two brigadiers and three squadron leaders. A large roofed
boat and four other small boats serving as escorts were also lent out.

The body was buried on mountainous terrain in the hamlet of Nguyet-bieu in Huong-thuy. It was a location that the deceased had himself chosen when he was alive.

His cult name is Van-Nghi Tran Tien-Thanh.

The Gia-hoi Home Curse

Following this gruelsome assassination, the family neglected the building on Gia-hoi street and rejoined their family residence in the village of Minh-huong.

Their old home, site of the murder, was rented out. Being highly supersitious, the Vietnamese refused to live there. The building saw a succession of tenants, mostly Chinese businessmen who did not remain for long. Ill luck, notably in the form of bad deals, illnesses, reversal of fortunes and brutal deaths seemed to plague anyone who lived there...

Tran Tien-Thanh's Children

First Regent Tran Tien-Thanh had two wives and four concubines who together gave him 23 children.

Luong Thi-Thuy (1817 - 1887) was First wife.
She was the daughter of Luong-Tien-Tuong who was Minister of Finance under the reign of emperor Thieu-Tri.
She produced 10 children.

One boy:
Tran Tien-Dan (1850 - 1881) - who is my great great great grandfather!!

Nine daughters including:
Thi-Dieu (1848 - 1905)

Huynh Thi-Gam (1833 - 1904) was Second wife. She was like him, descendant of a Chinese migrant family who had set up residence in Hanoi. He married her during his short stay there.
She produced 7 children.

Three boys including:
Tran-Tien-Hoi (1869 - 1929) - who became governor of Nghe-an
Four daughters including:
Thi-Nhu-Tien (1866 - 1900) who was chosen to be part of emperor Tu Duc's harem and was renamed Qui Nhan.
Thi-Co (1868 - 1927)

Nguyen Thi-Trac (1830 - 1913) was the first concubine he took.
She produced 4 children.

Three boys including:
Tran Tien-Huan (1857 - 1898)
One girl:
Thi-Nhan (1855 - 1929) who married the scholar Nguyen-Lo-Trach

The other concubines were:

Tran Van-Thi-The
Le Thi-Nhu
Ton Nu-Thi-Dieu

Back to Tran Genealogy Index

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