It’s fitting that the Hanoi office of Capstone, one of Viet Nam’s premier educational consulting companies, is located at 2 Lê Quý Đôn Street in the Hai Bà Trưng District of Hanoi. There are many streets, schools, and even a university named after him in Viet Nam. Here’s why.
Lê Quý Đôn (黎貴惇/Li Guidong), who lived from 1726-1784, was a Vietnamese poet, encyclopedist, and government official. A native of Duyen Ha village in present-day Thái Bình Province, he is considered one of the nation’s most outstanding and prolific savants of the early modern period.
Lê Quý Đôn was responsible for a large number of encyclopedic, historical, bibliographical, and philosophical works. He is said to have the largest volume of works among Vietnamese literature using Chinese characters.
In 1760, Lê Quý Đôn served as an ambassador to China and later in the government as an official in the ministries of war, finance, and public works. He also served as the rector of the National University situated in Văn Miếu (Temple of Literature) in Hanoi and as director of the bureau of annals.
Lê Quý Đôn died in 1784 at the age of 57 or 58 in Hà Nam in northern Viet Nam.
Streets Named After Foreigners
While most streets are named about notable Vietnamese, some bear the names of foreigners who made seminal contributions to Viet Nam and the world, including Alexandre de Rhodes, a Jesuit missionary who transcribed the original Vietnamese (Chữ Nôm) into the Latin alphabet, Louis Pasteur, and Alexandre Yersin.
There’s a street in Danang named in honor of Norman Morrison (No-man Mo-Ri-Xơn in Vietnamese), a Quaker who is best known for his act of self-immolation at the age of 31 on 2 November 1965 in front of US defense secretary Robert McNamara’s office to protest the US war in Viet Nam. Anne Morrison, Norman’s widow, received condolences from President Ho Chi Minh, and an invitation to visit. (She later traveled to Viet Nam in 1999 accompanied by her daughter, Christina and Emily.) In a letter Morrison mailed to Anne, he reassured her of the faith in his act and wrote, For weeks even months I have been praying only that I be shown what I must do. This morning with no warning I was Shown as clearly as I was shown that Friday night in August, 1955, that you would be my wife. … And like Abraham, I dare not go without my child. Know that I love thee but must act.
The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam (“North Viet Nam”) also issued a postage stamp in his honor as a symbol of US resistance against the war. School children learned a poem dedicated to him entitled Emily, My Child (Emily, con…) written five days after Morrison’s death by Tố Hữu, Viet Nam’s most famous revolutionary poet. His self-sacrifice deeply touched the Vietnamese people, at least those who were fighting a war of national liberation against the US.
Postscript: On a personal note, Morrison is a paternal 9th cousin twice removed.
Shalom (שלום), MAA