Outstanding Project of Russian Vietnamese Studies. Review of the book “The Complete Annals of Daiviet”, Vol. 7

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The review focuses on the seventh volume of the Complete Annals of Daiviet (Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư), published in 2020. This central monument of Vietnamese traditional historical thought has not been translated into European languages. Volume seven presents a translation of chapters XVI–XVII, covering the period of Vietnamese history from 1533 to 1599. The book consists of several parts: a study on “Vietnam – China relations and political history of North Vietnam in the 16th century”, the translation itself, and a detailed commentary. The Appendices section contains translations of Chinese and Vietnamese works. The translation from hanviet was done by the leading Russian expert on Vietnamese history A.L. Fedorin, Doctor of Historical Sciences, who also wrote the research part and comments. The publication of the seventh volume of the “Complete Annals of Daiviet” can be attributed to the outstanding achievements of the Russian scholar.

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The Complete Annals of Daiviet.


In 2020, the seventh volume of the Complete Annals of Daiviet (Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư) [Complete Annals 2020] was released. The translation of the main Vietnamese chronicle is nearing completion. Due to the vast amount of information, the monument can be considered an encyclopedia of traditional Vietnam. By studying the Complete Annals of Daiviet, one can better understand the spiritual culture of Vietnam, which has deep civilizational roots and realize its value to world culture.

The Complete Annals of Daiviet contains a variety of information about traditional Vietnam. For example, those interested in literature can read academic translations of such famous works as “Decree on the Relocation of the Capital” [Complete Annals 2012: 116–117], “The Great Appeasement on the Occasion of the Pacification of U” [Complete Annals 2014: 136–142].

A significant difficulty in working with traditional texts is the translation of terminology related to titles, positions, names of institutions, etc. In the first volume of the Complete Annals of Dai Viet, in the chapter “Rules for Transmission of Names, Titles, and Terms Used in Translation” the principles of recording of geographical names, Vietnamese names, temple names of emperors, names of eras of government, titles, offices, names of institutions, cyclic designations of years, etc. in Russian are explained in detail. [Complete Annals 2002: 53­56]. In my opinion, when translating other traditional texts, it seems appropriate to use these rules.

The leading Russian vietnamologist A.L. Fedorin, a specialist in source studies and history of ancient and medieval Vietnam, took part in the work on the first volume, which came out in 2002 [Complete Annals 2002]. In the second volume the authors of the translation from hanviet, of comments and appendix are K.Yu. Leonov, A.V. Nikitin, A.L. Fedorin, the introductory article is written by A.L. Fedorin [Complete Annals 2010]. In the third volume, the translation from Hanviet and the commentary are made by K.Yu. Leonov and A.L. Fedorin with the participation of M.Yu. Ulyanov, the preface, the introductory article, and appendices are written by A.L. Fedorin [Complete Annals 2012].

In the fifth, sixth, and seventh volumes the translation from hanviet of the Complete Complete Annals of Daiviet and the works included in the Appendiсes was made by A.L. Fedorin, he also wrote comments, introductory articles [Complete Complete Annals 2014; Complete Complete Annals 2018; Complete Complete Annals 2020]. When these volumes came out and I took the book in my hands, my first thought was how one man could accomplish this titanic work in such a short time.

The seventh volume, which presents the translation of chapters XVI-XVII, covers the period of Vietnamese history from 1533 to 1599. In the early sixteenth century, conflicts between feudal clans intensified in Vietnam. In 1527 the reign of the Mac dynasty began. Opposition feudal groups rose to fight for the restoration of the Le dynasty. Vietnam found itself divided into two parts. The Mac dynasty was named the Northern dynasty. The power of the Southern Le dynasty was only nominal; representatives of the Nguyen clan, and then the Trinh clan ruled on its behalf. At the end of the 16th century, the Northern Mac dynasty ceased to exist, but until 1677 the descendants of the Mac dynasty controlled some areas of Caobang. The Trinh and Nguyen feudal clans opposed each other, causing a new division in the country.

The seventh volume consists of several parts. The translation itself is preceded by a study on “Vietnam-China relations and political history of North Vietnam in the 16th century”. As noted by A.L. Fedorin, “the author of this article could not find a more or less complete and consistent description of the political history of the Mac dynasty in any of the Vietnamese, Chinese or Western studies, so during the translation of chapters XVI and XVII of the Main Annals of the Complete Annals of Daiviet, dedicated to this period of the history of Vietnam, he tried to draw on Chinese sources as much as possible to compile it himself” [Complete Annals 2020: 15] (translations of some works are given in the Appendices). The scholar coped with this task brilliantly.

Next comes the translation of chapters XVI-XVII, this part of Complete Annals of Daiviet is characterized by an interest in internal wars, in military history. The translations are done at a high academic level.

The detailed commentary is equal in volume to the translation. A.L. Fedorin attracted a wide range of materials for writing the research part and the commentary. In addition to the monuments listed in the Appendices, such works were used as Summary History of Daiviet (Đại Việt thông sử) by Le Quy Don, The Rule of the Dynasties Copied by Classification (Lịch triều hiện chương loại chí) by Phan Huy Chu, The Comprehensive Mirror of Vietnamese History, Basis and Specifics Approved by the Highest Command, the works of contemporary Vietnamese scholars.

The Appendices section contains translations of Chinese and Vietnamese works. First of all, these are the History of Ming [dynasty] (Ming shi) [p. 291–294], the official history (zheng shi) of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), and the Ming “veritable records” (Ming shi lu) [p. 295–360]. The “veritable records” (shi lu), a type of official works of the annalistic form, in which the events of the emperor's reign were recorded day by day. The main purpose was to preserve the history of a given reign for posterity, and in this capacity the “veritable records” were considered the main source for future compilers of the dynasty's history. The Ming’s “veritable records” are the first works of this genre, a relatively complete set of which has reached our days [Doronin 2002: 56, 62].

Note that extensive parts of the Ming shi lu and Ming shi translated into Russian are included by A.L. Fedorin in the Appendices to the fifth and sixth volumes of the Complete Annals of Dai Viet [Complete Annals 2014: 444–883; Complete Annals 2018: 541–628].

The Appendices include the following Chinese works: Wang Shizhen. A Narrative of Annam; Li Wenfeng. A Narrative of the Yue Mountains (fragment of chapter VI); Xu Yan-hsu. The Most Important about Vietnam. Sequence of Generations [of Rulers] in Vietnam (excerpts); Qiu Jun. The tale of pacification of Ziaonam; Zhang Xie. Study [about Countries] to the East and West of the Ocean. A Study on Selected Countries to the West of the Ocean. Giaochi < Thanhhoa, Thuanhoa. Quangnam, Tanchau, Dezi>; Zhang Jing-sin. Notes on the Curbing of Jiao. Chapters IX-XII (excerpts); Zheng Xiao. Study on Barbarians of Four [Sides of the World] under [Ming] Emperors” (excerpt); Shen Maoshang. Extensive Records on All Barbarians. Extensive Records of the Sea States. Annam.

Of significant interest is the Vietnamese Chronicle of the Main Lineage of the Trinh Family by Trinh Nhu Tau [p. 606–699], also placed in the Appendices. “This is a family chronicle of the chua Trinh, describing all the deeds of the 12 generations of the chuas from their heyday to their decline, including politics, literature, diplomacy, internal wars, polity, figures, etc. during the Emperors [Later] Le and chuas Trinh periods” [p. 606].

In addition, the Appendices provide a biography of the commander Dang Huan, son-in-law of Le Ba Ly, one of the commanders who led troops in the south of the Mac domains [p. 700–754]. He fought both on the Mac and Trinh sides. After the final victory over the Mac, he was among the four most revered commanders- victors [p. 218]. The work includes not only a description of military actions, but the report also presented to the great mentor-thaisu Trinh Kiem, demonstrating the commander’s education and containing references to the Chinese culture, is interesting [p. 712–714].

The reference section includes indexes of names and titles; institutions, offices, and titles; geographical and topographical names; ethnic names; and works titles.

The translation of Complete Annals of Daiviet is one of the most important scientific achievements of Russian Vietnamese studies. This central monument of Vietnamese traditional historical thought has not been translated into European languages. The published volumes will become desk books for many vietnamologists, have an important place in university libraries, and will be used in educational process.

I would like to thank Andrey Lvovich for his selfless work and wish him further creative success.


About the authors

Ekaterina Y. Knorozova

St.Petersburg State University; Library of the Academy of Sciences

Author for correspondence.
Email: knorozova@yandex.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2142-3945

Ph.D. (Philology), Associate Professor, Faculty of Oriental Studies, Researcher, Department of Asian and African Literatures

Russian Federation, St. Petersburg


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