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Vietnamese Calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy were used in Vietnam for a thousand-year period until the begining of 20th century. 
 
Jesuit missionary Alexandre De Rhodes (1591 - 1660), who worked in Vietnam between 1624 and 1644, was the
most notable missionary of this period. Among other achievements, he made a significant and lasting contribution to Vietnamese culture by developing a written system of Vietnamese language in concert with Vietnamese scholars. The use of this system, which largely used the Roman alphabet with added diacritic markings, was originally intended to help reinforce teaching and evangelization efforts. Father Alexander de Rhodes wrote that daily conversation in Vietnam "resembles the singing of birds".  This system, which was based on the work of earlier Portuguese missionaries.  Father Alexandre de Rhodes spent six years in Vietnam (1624 - 1630) for his Catholic missions, had done a lot to introduce a system of Roman writing into Vietnamese language. Continuing the efforts of Portuguese Jesuit missionaries like Francisco de Pina, Gaspar d'Amaral, Antonio Barbosa, etc. in romanizing the Vienamese language, Alexandre de Rhodes published the first Vietnamese Catechist and the first Vietnamese - Latin - Portuguese dictionary (Rome, 1651). 
 
Father Alexander de Rhodes was born in Avignon, France. He entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome on 24 April 1612 to dedicate his life to missionary work. He arrived in Indochina about 1619. A Jesuit mission had been established in Hanoi in 1615; Rhodes arrived there in 1620. He spent ten years in and around the Court at Hanoi during the rule of Trinh Tung and Trinh Trang. While he was in Vietnam, he wrote the first Vietnamese Catechism and he published the first Portuguese-Latin-Vietnamese dictionary. This dictionary was later used widely by many Vietnamese scholars to create the new Vietnamese writing system, largely using the Roman alphabet - still used today and now called Quốc Ngữ (national language). 
 
Father Rhodes converted a daughter of Gia Long and more than 1,200 Vietnamese out of an overall total 6,000 converts by the Society of Foreign Mission.  In 1624 he was sent to the East Indies starting in Cochin-China.
 
In 1627 he travelled to Tongking, Vietnam where he worked until 1630, when he was forced to leave. He was expelled from Vietnam in 1630 as Trinh Trang became concerned about the dangers of the Catholic religion.  From Vietnam, Father Rhodes went to Macau, where he spent ten years. He then returned to Vietnam, this time to the lands of the Nguyen Lords, mainly around Huế. He spent six years in this part until he aroused the displeasure of lord Nguyen Phuc Lan and was condemned to death.
 
As his sentence was reduced to exile, Father Rhodes returned to Rome by 1649 and pleaded for increased funding for Catholic missions to Vietnam, telling stories about the natural riches to be found in Vietnam. This plea by Alexandre
de Rhodes is at the origin of the creation of the Paris Foreign Missions Society in 1659. As neither the Portuguese nor the Pope showed interest in the project, Father Alexander de Rhodes, with Pope Alexander III's agreement, found secular volunteers in Paris in the persons of François Pallu and Pierre Lambert de la Motte, the first members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, who were sent to the Far-East as Apostolic vicariate.

Father Alexander de Rhodes himself was sent to Persia instead of back to Vietnam. Father Rhodes died in Isfahan, Persia in 1660.

He wrote several books about Vietnam including:

  • Histoire du royaume de Tunquin, (History of the Kingdom of Tonkin) published in Rome in 1650.
  • Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum (Vietnamese - Latin - Portuguese dictionary), published in 1651.
  • Tunchinensis historiæ libri duo, published in 1652.
  • La glorieuse mort d'André, Catéchiste, published in 1653, 
  • Catechismus, published 1658.
  • Rhodes of Viet Nam: The Travels and Missions of Father Alexander de Rhodes in China and Other Kingdoms of the Orient, published in 1966.

In 1943, the French colony of Indochina issued a 30c postage stamp honoring him.