From Europe to Đại Việt:

The 2009 UNESCO International Year of Astronomy

Đông Phong Nguyễn Tấn Hưng

English translation by Hien V. Ho,

(From an original Vietnamese paper published

on Chim Việt Cành Nam, N°34 /02-01-2009,

The author is a biologist and a citizen of Brittany, France, of Vietnamese origin and naturalized forty years ago. As a graduate of L' École Pratique des Hautes Études (La Sorbonne), he also holds degrees in the sciences of History and Philology. He has authored, under his birth name Nguyn Tn Hưng, several books and articles, products of his research in 17th century Vietnam's culture and history. Under the pen name Đông Phong (East Wind), he is also the author of three bilingual poetry antholologies and the blog

Figure 1   Galileo Galilei  (1564-1642)

On 01-15-2009 , UNESCO inaugurated The International  Year of Astronomy in Paris to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the day Italian scientist Galileo Galilei  [1](1564-1642) used a telescope[2] to study the universe for the first time (in 1609). On this occasion, we will relate some interesting stories about astronomy in the 17th century, from Europe to Đại Việt (“Greater Vietnam”).

It was the time when the scientific revolution, in mathematics, physics, astronomy, anatomy and botany, etc took shape and developed rapidly in Europe.

In astronomy, until then  it was accepted that the sun was moving around the earth which stayed still, according to Aristotle’s (634-322 BC) and Ptolemy’s  (90-160) theories, and in accordance with teachings of the Bible (for example, Joshua[3] blew his ram horn [shofar] to stop the movement of the sun when he destroyed  the city of Jericho.) This is geocentrism holding that the Earth is the center of the universe.

Figure 2    Mikolaj Kopernik (Nicolas Copernicus, 1473-1543)

But in the 16th century, a monk, Mikolaj Kopernick (Nicolas Copernicus, 1473-1543) [4] proposed another theory to the effect that the earth was moving around the sun in his De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (1543, shortly before his death, but the work was completed approximately 30 years earlier). This is heliocentrism, or Copernican theory, later confirmed by German mathematician Johannes Kepler [5](1571-1630) who announced what is known now as Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion. In the meantime, Galileo used a telescope, secretly applying the Kepler’s laws and discovered many celestial events: “the sub-lunar and super-lunar worlds” (les mondes sublunaires et supra lunaires), three small planets next to Jupiter, the spots on the Sun, Venus, etc...

However, it was the time of ferocious Inquisition[6]. Many Roman Catholic Church leaders accused Galileo, with his Copernican theory, of heresy and eventually on 6-22-1633 he was given a life sentence (but immediately commuted  to house arrest by Pope Urban VIII). When on trial, he had to read a statement to “abjure, curse and detest ‘this new theory of heliocentrism, but according to “la petite histoire” (urban legend), he was overheard murmuring to himself “Eppur si muove” (And yet it does move).  He was under house arrest in Arceti (near Florence), but until his death on 01-08-1642, he was still active in his research and made important discoveries in astronomy and physics.

European sciences continued their rapid development and the attitude of religious leaders also changed with them. In 1741 Pope Benedict XIV gave the imprimatur to the complete work of Galileo, but with a footnote saying that the movement of the earth is “supposed” (assumed). Then in 1757, works related to heliocentrism were removed from the Index. However, the Church waited until 1992 to admit its error in condemning Galileo and rehabilitate him[7].

At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, there were many scientists, mathematicians and astronomers among the Jesuits, in particular in the Faculty of the Jesuit Seminary on Quirinal Hill[8] in Rome: Christopher Clau (Christophorus Clavius)[9] , Paul Guldin (Habakuk Guldin)[10] , Christoph Scheiner[11], etc. Although there was intense controversy among these Jesuits regarding geocentrism vs. heliocentrism, many missionaries had received significant training in mathematics and astronomy during their student days at the novitiate. Alexandre de Rhodes was an example: “The principal occupation that I had during those six months was the study of mathematics, which since has been very useful to me” (“La principale occupation que j’eus pendant ces six mois, fust l’estude des Mathématiques, qui depuis m’ont beaucoup servy”)[12].

In his memoir written after his return to Europe, Alexandre de Rhodes correctly stated that sciences, mathematics and astronomy were very useful in [their] evangelizing efforts in China and Vietnam.

In China, missionary Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) gained a lot of respect when he redrew the world map with Chinese inscriptions, using what he had learned from his teacher Father Clavius in Rome[13]. Later, in 1668, Father Ferdinand Verbiest (1623-1688)[14] was assigned by the Chinese Emperor Kangxi to the post of Director of Astronomy.

The missionaries were certainly very clever: events in the sky as well as below like droughts, tornadoes, floods were considered as omens-good or bad- for the King and his dynasty regarding their Mandate from Heaven. Talking to the natives, they did not or only rarely referred to theology or metaphysics, but only used rational logics, with concrete, easily understandable examples which were more convincing to the Confucian royalty and intelligentsia. Their religion and their faith were represented in logical accordance with nature, and their Supreme Being of course was Thiên Chúa or Thiên Chủ (天主 , The Lord in Heaven, or  in Vietnamese vernacular Nôm “Đức Chúa Blời [Trời]”/ Lord of the Sky or in a broader sense  Đức Chúa Blời [Trời] Đất / Lord of the Sky and  the Earth[15]) because He had created heaven, Earth and everything else: “I bow low  before the Heavenly Lord  because he is the Lord above everything”( “Tôi lạy đức Chúa Blời là Chúa cả trên hết mọi sự”.[16])

These Nôm words bring us to Đại Việt  (as Vietnam was called during this period). In Vietnam, events in the sky as well as on earth were as important as they were in China. Đại Việt Sữ Ký Toàn Thư  (Complete History of Dai Viet) quotes King Lê Thánh Tông (1460-1497) as saying in 1469: ”then the King talks about astronomy, points out that the Group of  Twenty Eight Stars and the Five Stars interact with each  other. If a star intrudes into another star, then that will correlate with a certain event.”[17] That’s why in this history book were recorded events in the sky (lunar and solar eclipses, comets, rainbows, etc) as well as on earth (droughts, tempests, floods...)

When the missionaries came to evangelize Đại Việt  (both in Đàng Trong /South Vietnam and Đàng Ngoài /North Vietnam), they paid much attention to astronomy and astronomy institutions of the country.

For example, in Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum [18] we can find the following terms :

Column 763: thiên văn, tư thiên: matematica (Portuguese) ; mathematica (Latin) [mathematics] quan tư thiên: o mandarim matematica; magistratus qui mathemacæ præcit [mandarin responsible of mathematics].(The missionaries who wrote this dictionary did not differentiate mathematics and astronomy).

In the following paragraphs, we will examine observations quoted from these missionaries’ works. First of all, a quote from Father Cristoforo Borri (1583-1632), the first European[19] to relate in details about Vietnamese history and culture after his missionary works in Dang Trong (South Vietnam) (1618-1622):[20]

"And to come to the way by which God convinced, through the eclipses, the learned and wise Cochinchinese, considered to be excellent mathematicians, and to understand what we have to say, it is first necessary to understand a custom which exists in this realm, regarding  the science of Astrology[21], in particular eclipses, as they give so much importance to this science that they have in their universities large and spacious rooms for its teaching, and they grant their astrologers particular allowances, lands, for example, which provide them with salaries or tributes.. The king[22] has his own astrologer; his princes and his first son have theirs, who use all their diligence to warn them with certainty, in particular, of eclipses. But as they have not yet reformed their calendar[23], and other minutiae regarding the movements of the sun, such as we have, they come to make some errors in the calculation of moon stages and eclipses. These errors are usually of two or three hours, and sometimes, though rarely, a whole day. They attribute these [mistakes] to the substance of the eclipse. Every time they are correct they receive from the king as a reward, a piece of land, but on the contrary, when they are wrong, one of those they had previously earned is removed from them.

"The reason why they put so much importance to the prediction of the eclipse comes from the many superstitious ceremonies performed at this time about the sun and the moon, and they prepare them with great solemnity. It follows that a month before the eclipse, the king asked  astrologers about the date, time of day, and then sends orders to all provinces of the kingdom asking literate men as well as the common people to be ready for that day. In due course, in each province, all the lords, with the governors, captains, horsemen, and people with their officers, meet in each city, or territory. The main meeting is at the Court, where they are the first in all the kingdom, who with their badges and weapons, emerge out of homes; the King, dressed in mourning, walks in front, followed by his court. All raise their eyes toward the sun or the moon about to be eclipsed, make one or more bows of adoration, addressing these planets some words of complaint about the hardships and labors that they are enduring. They imagine that the eclipse is nothing more than the sun or the moon being gobbled up by a dragon[24]. As we say: The moon is half, or entirely overshadowed, they say: Đã ăn na, đã ăn hết, meaning the dragon has already eaten half of it, or he had already eaten it whole.

"And although this is irrelevant, however, it shows that they believe the cause of the eclipses proceeds from the same principle that we ourselves state, which is the interception of the ecliptic path of the sun[25], with the trajectory of the moon, on two points that we call the head and tail of the dragon, like astronomers do. We can conclude that the doctrine expressed in the same terms and words of the dragon is common to them as it is to us. Moreover, to the signs of the Zodiac they also give names similar to ours: Aries, Taurus, the Gemini, etc…[26]But over time, ignorant people invented fabulous reasons to replace the true ones, saying that the sun and the moon, when they are in eclipse, are eaten by the dragon, while they are actually falling into the head or tail of the Astronomical Dragon[27].

"But to return to the compassion they feel for those suffering planets, as soon as the worship is over, they begin, first in the royal palace and then throughout the city, to discharge arquebuses, muskets, artillery; they ring bells, they sound trumpets, beat drums and other instruments, even pots and utensils in every home. And this is so that the dragon, terrified by the loud noise, does not continue to eat the sun or the moon, and vomits what it has eaten.

"I knew that custom, and the first time we had to look after this feature was the lunar eclipse of December 9, 1620[28] at 11 pm. At that time I was in the city of Nuoecman[29], Province of Pulocambi[30], in which resided a master of the road, a rione[31], and where we had our house. The rione’s son had converted to Christianity, although his proud father, a [literary] scholar, despised our science as well as our Holy Faith. We fervently wanted his conversion, in the hope that if he embraced our faith everyone in the county would be induced to do the same. He came once to visit us before the lunar eclipse occurred, and we had the opportunity to discuss the topic during our conversation. He argued that this eclipse should not happen, and although we made its demonstration with our calculations and showed him a similar picture in our books of prints, we were unable to make him believe our cause. Among other reasons given for his obstinacy, he said that if the eclipse had to occur, the king would have undoubtedly sent a customary notice; there were only eight days left until the date of the predicted eclipse, as a notice about an eclipse has not arrived to this date, therefore there would be no eclipse. As he held on absolutely to his opinion, he wanted to put on a bet: the losing side should pay for a cabaia[32], ie a garment of silk. We happily accepted it with the agreement that if we lost, we would give him a beautiful outfit, but if he lost, instead of giving us the outfit, he would have to come to our place for eight days to hear catechism and things about our Holy Faith. He replied that not only he would do so, but right at the moment when he should see the eclipse, he would convert to Christianity. He said, in effect, that if, regarding such hidden and celestial things as eclipses our doctrine proved to be so certain and so sure and theirs so deceptive, our Law[33], our knowledge of true God, should be without a doubt no less certain and sure, and theirs wrong. The time of the eclipse was coming; the above captain came to us with many students and scholars to witness the event. As the eclipse was not to begin until 11 pm, I went to say the mass in the mean time, at the same time setting the hourglass at one hour before target moment. These men often came to call and invite me, as in mockery, to see the eclipse, believing that I had not excused myself to say mass, but in reality out of sheer shame because I knew the eclipse would not happen. They could not help, however, marveling at the degree of confidence with which I replied that the time had not come, until the moment, with the hourglass finally emptied while being watched as a thing from another world, I got out on time and showed that, because the eclipse was starting, the circle of the moon was not so perfect as it should have been, and as the moon completely darkened, they were convinced of the truth that I had predicted. The master and the scholars, astonished by my success, ordered warnings to the households in the rione  and the news to be spread to the whole city, so that everyone got out and made the banging noises to rescue the moon. News spread everywhere that one could not find other men besides the Fathers whose teachings and books could only be true, as they had predicted with great accuracy an eclipse which their own scholars could not anticipate. And to fulfill the promises of his bet, not only the master became a Christian without delay along with all his household, but also many others in the region, among them the most learned and most literate of the city, and other notables.

"A similar case, but that occurred at the same time to more prominent people and at a more important place: although the king's astrologers had not anticipated that eclipse, those of Prince Cacciam [Cham Province or Qung Nam][34], for their care and utmost diligence, foresaw it, however with an error not just of two or three hours as usual, but a whole day. They said, in effect, that the eclipse would occur on the day of the full moon[35], a day before the correct date. Fr Francesco de Pisi (sic)[36], who was present at the Court, had warned a courtier of the Prince’s intimate circle, who used to help  him in his activities as a sort of master of ceremonies and thence was known  as Omgne [Ông Nghè][37]. He had told the courtier that the eclipse would not occur at the time specified by the astrologers, but, as stated by our P. Cristoforo Borri, the following night, and that he should share that information with his master the Prince. But Omgne, not fully believing the Father, did not want to assume that kind of duty. In short, at the time specified by the astrologers, the Prince was warned and walked out with the whole Court, as prescribed by customs, to give aid to the moon which, they said, would be eclipsed soon. But as experience had shown to the Prince that he had been deceived, he was irritated against his mathematicians guilty of error and ordered that they were deprived of a village and the revenues it brought, following the custom mentioned earlier. The Omgne took this opportunity to warn the Prince that the Father, before the occurrence, had warned that the eclipse was to occur the following night. The Prince was very pleased to know that the Fathers were correct in something that his own mathematicians were unable to figure out.

"The Omgne then appealed to the Father to learn with certainty the exact time of the eclipse. The latter showed him, with his watches and other instruments, that it should happen, on time, at 11 pm sharp the following night. But as the Omgne still had some doubts, he would not wake up the Prince in time before having seen himself the beginning of the eclipse. At this time, he went immediately wake up the Prince who came out with some of his courtiers to show customary reverence and adoration to the moon. He [the Prince] did not, however, want the public to know what had happened, for fear of destroying any trust in their books and their mathematicians, although the opinion was unanimous in favor of our doctrine, particularly in regard to Omgne who, from that moment came for a whole month to listen to catechism and to learn assiduously everything that belongs to our Holy Faith. And yet he failed to get baptized because he did not have the strength to overcome the difficulty of many wives[38], as Ambassador Ignatius had done previously[39]. He did however preach tirelessly in public and with great fervor that only our doctrine and our law were true and all the others were false. Finally he said he did not want to die without becoming a Christian, and, following his words, many appeared to ask for the Holy Baptism.

"Having thus discussed eclipses of the moon, we will conclude with a solar eclipse which occurred on May 22th, 1621[40]. The king's astrologers had predicted it, and said it would take two hours, but after the opinion that they had made of us in this matter, they came, to be sure, to ask for our view. I answered immediately that it was very true, there must be an eclipse of the sun, of which I showed them pictures printed in our astronomical almanac (ephemeris), but I took care not to warn them that because of the parallaxes of the moon with the sun, this eclipse could not be seen in  Cochinchina (they do not know what a parallax[41] is, and that was where their error often arises because they cannot retrace, point by point, the time, based on what their books and their calculations). This way, after their mistake was published, our doctrine would stand out even more fully. Accordingly I asked for more time to consider the point, saying in a general way it was first necessary to measure heaven and earth to consider whether the eclipse would be seen in their kingdom, and this way I delayed my answer until the publication the eclipse. In the end, the astrologers, happy to see that our book was consistent with their opinion, and without pondering any longer, decided that the eclipse was absolutely certain and advised the king to issue the customary orders. The astrologers’ error thus spread throughout the kingdom, it was my turn to publish that the eclipse would not be seen in any way in Cochinchina. Our doctrine came to the ear of the king who, being undecided, sent his mathematicians to ask for my opinion, and discuss the matter. This dispute only redoubled their doubts, and made the Prince[42] hesitate between sending out to his kingdom the same orders that his father already did, or publish an order to the contrary. On the one hand, not only their books but also ours agreed to acknowledge the existence of the eclipse, and he thought it would not be honorable, in this case, not to give the required notice; on the other hand, he was held back by the great opinion he had of us after what happened with the last lunar eclipse. It followed that when he went back to me for consultation, he got from me this answer: with my calculations done with great care, I felt that in no way could this eclipse be seen in his kingdom, therefore he could not think of giving notice about it. I took upon me the responsibility of his victory, and that of his astrologers, on his father the king and royal astrologers. He relied completely on my words, and did not issue any order concerning the eclipse in his district, to the astonishment of the Court and the royal astrologers, who seeking the reason for the neglect of the Prince, were told  that he had in his court astrologers better than those of the king his father. They understood, as a few of our Fathers being present there, that he would follow their opinion rather than the one prevailing in the country. But anyway, the king [Sai Vương][43] could not revoke the publications that had already been made, people kept working on customary preparations for the day of the eclipse, so that when the time came, the error was obvious. That day was very clear, no cloud, although it was in May, while in those countries the sun travels over people’s heads. When it was about three hours in the afternoon, when the world is burning with heat, the king still got out with his courtiers, to wait a long time for the sufferings [of the sun]. Then being mocked, in part by the sun heat that was burning him, and even more by the little amount of science of the mathematicians who had, without any result, forced him to bear all this, the king reprimanded them severely. They presented, in terms of excuse that the eclipse would inevitably occur, that they had erred with regard to the conjunctions of the moon, but that it would appear the next day at the same time. The king obeyed his astrologers, and going outside the next day at the same time he suffered the heat mishap, not without great shame for mathematicians. This did not happen without punishment for them, because not only the king took away rents of their lands, he condemned them to stay kneeling for a day, in the middle of the Court, uncovered, exposed to the sun and mockeries of the whole Court. Our Prince Ky[44], still feeling victorious afterward, wrote mockingly to his father that although he was his son, he was right against him, and had at his court people who were more learned than his.

"You can tell how much it gives us credit and authority among scientists and literary scholars. Moreover these mathematicians, both the king’s and the Prince’s, came to find us and urged us to accept them as our disciples. And the reputation of the Fathers was so widespread that they not only put our science of astronomy ahead of theirs, but also our law, comparing things in the sky to things beyond the sky, as I said earlier. " [45]

Similarly, other missionaries liked to brag about their successes in using astronomy to convince the native population whenever there was a solar or lunar eclipse.[46] But they also paid much attention to the works of Vietnamese “quan tư thiên”. “Huis officium est calendarium singulis annis typis mandare, eclipses prædicere, fluviorum inundationes & similia multa”[47] (Their duty is to print the calendar every year, predict eclipses, river floods and many other things).

Indeed, yearly calendars were very important for keeping track of days, months and seasons for agricultural as well as ceremonial activities. Besides, dynastic titles (niên hiệu) were very important matters linked with the King’s heavenly mandate (thiên mệnh). Natural disasters were considered bad omens, and in those times the king had to change his dynastic title[48] because the King was considered to be the intermediary between Heaven and the people[49].

Alexandre de Rhodes did not fail to notice this important point when he did his missionary works in Đàng Ngoài (North Vietnam) (1627-1630).”If during the course of the year, there occurs any public distress, like a drought, a famine, a plague, or something similar, at the following New Year, the King dynastic title is changed, so that misfortune ceases with the old Name that he carried and, as soon as his Name changes, they start to count anew the years of his reign, as if another King had been created.”(Que si dans le cours de l’année il arrive quelque désolation publique dans le Royaume, comme de stérilité, de famine, de peste, ou autre semblable, au renouveau de l’année qui suit, le Nom est changé au Bua[50] , afin que le malheur avenu cesse avec le vieux Nom qu’il portait & on commence, dès le jour qu’il a changé de Nom, à compter les années de son Règne, comme si un nouveau Bua avait esté créé.”[51] ) This was the reason why on the fourth month , in the summer of year Kỷ Tỵ (1629), after a drought that destroyed all the crops, King Lê Thần Tông[52] changed his dynastic title (niên hiệu) Vĩnh Tộ (永祚, Eternal Happiness) to Đức Long[53]  (德隆, Vertuous Prosperity)[54] . Later on, the King had to make changes five more times: Dương Hòa (1635-1643), Khánh Đức (1649-1652), Thịnh Đức (1653-1657), Vĩnh Thọ (1658-1661) and Vạn Khánh (1662)[55] .


There are still so many things we can say about astronomy. But the storm just calmed down, the East wind is chasing away the clouds and the sky is clear. Allow me to leave it at this point and go outside to contemplate the Ursa Major.





Nguyễn Tấn Hưng

Saint Avé, France

New Year Day, Year Kỷ Sửu

(January 26, 2009)

Translated and adapted into English by Hien V. Ho

Great Falls, Virginia

February 16, 2009


[2] “lunette” de Galilee in French


[7] On 10-31-1992, Pope John Paul II had recognized the Catholic Church’s error and rehabilitated Galileo Galilei at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. But no official “act” of rehabilitation was published afterward. We had to wait until the end of December 2008 when Pope Benedict officially confirmed Galileo’s rehabilitation.

[8] Later called Pontifica Università Gregoriana, Université pontificale grégorienne, La Grégorienne (Re :




[12] Alexandre de Rhodes, Voyages et missions du P. Alexandre de Rhodes, En la Chine et autres royaumes de l’Orient…, Paris, 1653, p. 7).

[13] , Matteo Ricci, Serviteur du Maître du Ciel,  Éd. Desclée de Brouwer, Paris, 2003, pp. 54-57.


[15] Alexandre de Rhodes, Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, Roma, 1651, column 117, 240, 762

[16] Alexandre de Rhodes, Cathechismus in octo divisus / Phép giảng tám ngày, Roma, 1651, p. 16

[17] Đi Vit s ký toàn thư (“ Toàn thư”), quc ng version of NXB Khoa Hc Xã Hi, Hà Ni, 1998, Vol. II, p, 446.

[18] Alexandre de Rhodes, Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, sđd.

[19] Before Father Borri, missionary Gaspar Luis had written in 1621 a “letter” about Dang Trong, but this letter was published only in 1658 (Léopold Cadière,  ‘‘Lettre du Père Gaspar Luis sur la ‘‘Concincina’’, Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Huê, Nos 3-4, p. XVIII, 1931, pp. 406-432).

[20]Cristoforo Borri, Relatione della nuova missione delli PP. della Compagnia di Giesu, al Regno della Cocincina, Scritta dal Padre Christoforo Borri Milanese della medesima Compagnia, Che su uno de primi ch’entrorono in detto Regno, Rome, Francesco Corbelletti, 1631, 231 p. For his article we used the French  version ‘‘Relation de la nouvelle mission des Pères de la Compagnie de Jésus au royaume de la Cochinchine’’, Traduction de l’italien et annotation par le lieutenant-colonel A. Bonifacy, Bulletin des Amis du Vieux Huê, Nos  3-4, t. XVIII, 1931, pp. 277-402.(In the original Vietnamese article, the following quotes from Borri are left in French, English translation by Hien V. Ho made from the French version. HVH)  

[21] In 17th Century Europe, there was no distinction between astronomy and astrology.

[22] chúa Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên (Chúa Sãi, 1613-1635).  

[23] In 1582 Pope Gregory VIII promulgated the reformed calendar (Gregorian calendar) which replaced the Julian calendar.

[24] See footnote 26 about the story of the dragon

[25] Father Borri still adhered to geocentrism and though that the sun was moving around the earth

[26]  Borri’s error. The dictionary Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum (column 286-288) mentions the 12  “chi” named after 12 animals of Vietnamese astrology.

[27] According to A. Bonifacy who translated Borri into French, tête du dragon (caput Draconis, ‘‘nœud ascendant’’), queue du dragon (cauda Draconis, ‘‘nœud descendant’’) are terms frequently used in European astrology of that period. Although Vietnamese used to say “the bear eats the sun”(“gấu ăn mặt trời”), or the bear eats the moon (« gấu ăn trăng »), missionaries still used the dragon of the European  hypothesis.

For example in Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum (cột 782) : « Bởi vì người ta tưởng cách ngây thơ là, trong khi bị che khuất, thì có một con rồng họ gọi là gấu [tiếng Việt trong phần La tinh] nuốt mặt trời hay mặt trăng, và người ta tưởng rằng có thể cứu được mặt trời hay mặt trăng đang bị hành khổ bằng việc dùng tiếng mõ, tiếng chuông, lẫn tiếng súng đại bác để đuổi con rồng đi » (do Thanh Lãng et al. dịch trong Từ điển Việt-Bồ-La, NXB Khoa Học Xã Hội, TP Hồ Chí Minh, 1991). Thật lạ, vì trong Dictionarium, cột 262, có thấy : gấu, con gấu : urso ; ursus [Pháp ngữ : ours].  

[28] 12/9/1620 corresponds to 16thday of the 11th year Canh Thân (calculated based on  According to translator  A. Bonifacy on that day lunar eclipse occurred at 6;30pm. This event is not mentioned in Toàn thư  and  Khâm định Việt sử thông giám cương mục (viêt tắt : Cương mục), NXB Giáo Dục, Hà Nội, 1998.  

[29]  nưc mn , a town in the province of Qui Nhơn.( Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, ct 151 : nưc mn : agoa salgada ; salsa aqua ; est etiam nomen cuisdam opidi in Provincia Quinhin, seu Pulocambi Cocincinæ [nưc mn ; cũng là tên ca mt thành trong Tnh Quinhin (Qui Nhơn), hay Pulocambi ca x Cô-sinh].)

[30] Đàng Trong (Royaume de la Cochinchine or South Vietnam)  had six provinces from North to South: Qung Bình, Thun Hóa, Qung Nam, Qung Ngãi, Qui Nhơn, Ranran (Phú Yên), as shown on the map of the Kingdom of An Nam (Đi Vit) in  Alexandre de Rhodes’ book, Histoire du Royaume de Tunquin, et des grands progrez que la Predication de l’Evangile y a faits en la conversion des infidelles, Depuis l’Année 1627 jusques à l’Année 1646, Composée en latin par le R.P. Alexandre de Rhodes, de la Compagnie de Iesus, et traduite en français par le R.P. Henry Albi, de la mesme Compagnie,  Lyon, Jean Baptiste Devenet, 1651, 326 p.

[31] rione (Italian) means block or ward ( phưng in Vietnamese,  French: quartier). Therefore  rione in this context indicates the head of a ward.

[32] Cabaya (16th century Portuguese word of Arabic origin ,introduced in India and Malay countries): a surcoat or long tunic of muslin (Hobson-Jobson: The Anglo-Indian Dictionary, p.137)

[33]Law: đạo (French: loi) ( in  Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, column 204 : đạo : ley ; lex).

[34] Note between parentheses by A. Bonifacy, the translator.

[35] Full moon day: the 15th of 11th month of year Canh Than (year of the monkey 1620)

[36] In fact it was: Francisco de Pina (1588-1625) of the Society of Jesus, who taught Alexandre de Rhodes Vietnamese when the latter first came to Vietnam. Pina died of drowning off the coast of Dang Trong during a tempest.

[37] Note by A. Bonifacy

[38] A man must forgo polygamy before baptism could be performed and renounce his secondary wives or concubines (HVH). (Trưc khi ra ti cho ngưi bn x, các giáo sĩ bt h phi t b tt c v l và nàng hu, theo quy tc « nhít phu nhít ph, mt chào mt (b » [nht phu nht ph, mt chng mt v] (Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, ct 606 ; ch (b phi đc nhưbv, gia bv) (NTH).

[39] In missionaries’ publications, only Christian names of people were used, therefore we do not know their Vietnamese names. (Trong sách ca các giáo sĩ, nhng ngưi đã đưc ra ti vào Công giáo ch đưc ghi bng tên thánh, nên chúng ta không biết tên Vit ca h là gì).

[40] A. Bonifacy noted that Father  Borri made an error here: actually the solar eclipse occurred on May 21, 1621. In Paris it took place at 9am. It was the 1st day of the 4th month, year Tan Dau (Year of the Coq) of the Lunar calendar. It is not mentioned in Toàn thư or Cương mc.

[41] Parallax: the difference between the real position and the virtual image of a celestial body (Note by A. Bonifacy, the translator).

[42] Nguyn Phúc Kỳ, son of Sãi Vương, in Qung Nam, mentioned above (see note 44)

[43] Note by A. Bonifacy

[44] Nguyn Phúc Kỳ was the second son of Chúa Sãi Nguyn Phúc Nguyên.Chúa Sãi had seven sons: Tun, Kỳ , Lan, Ánh, Trung, T, Diu but only Nguyn Phúc Lan would succeed his father and would be  known under the popular name of Chúa Thưng (1635-1648) (Trn Trng Kim, Vit s lưc, B Giáo Dc, Trung Tâm Hc Liu Xut Bn, Sài Gòn, 1971, Tome II, p. 7 and  bng Nguyn Th Thế Ph)..

[45] Cristoforo Borri, ‘‘ Relatione… ‘’, op.cit., pp. 373-381

[46] Gaspar Luis, Letter (“ Lá thư” ) op.cit. ; Alexandre de Rhodes, Histoire du royaume de Tunquin, op.cit., pp. 195-196 ; Giovanni Filipo de Marini, Relation nouvelle et curieuse des royaumes de Tunquin et de Lao, Traduite de l’italien du P. Mariny Romain par L.P.L.C.C., Paris, Gervais Clouzier, 1666, tr. 182-183 ; Joseph Tissanier, Relation du P. Joseph Tissanier, de la Compagnie de Iesus, Depuis la France, jusqu’au Royaume de Tunquin, Avec ce qui s’est passé de plus memorable dans cette Mission, durant les années 1658. 1659. & 1660, Paris, Edme Martin, 1663, tr. 155.

[47] Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, op.cit., column 763.

[48] Ibid, column 79

[49] Ibid. col 77 có ghi cổ ngữ Nôm cả và thiên hạ : todo o mundo ; omnes qui sub cælo sunt [everybody under the sky/tất cả mọi người dưới bầu trời].  

[50] (bua : Rey; Rex [vua] (Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, cột 72)) ; still found in modern Vietnamese : e.g.  phân bua.  

[51] Alexandre de Rhodes, Histoire du royaume de Tunquin, op.cit., p. 14.

[52] Lê Thn Tông’s reign was divided in two periods, separated by an interval between 1643-1649 when abdicated in favor of his son (Lê Thần Tông  làm vua hai ln : 1619-1643, tr vì ln th nht ; 1649-1662, tr vì ln th 2 sau khi nhường ngôi cho con, Lê Chân Tông, trong nhng năm 1643-1649.)

[53]Toàn thư, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 228 ; Cương mc, op. cit., Vol II, p. 247.  

[54]In Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, column 400, de Rhodes misplaced Đức Long in the entry for laõ, ròũ [long, rồng], Long [隆]in Đức Long is different from Long meaning dragon[龍].    [Trong Dictionarium Annamiticum, Lusitanum, et Latinum, ct 400, Cha Alexandre de Rhodes đt nhm Đc Long vào mc t  laõ, ròũ [long, rng] : dragão, draco. Long (rng) vi ch Hán là ch không phi là như trong Đc Long. Đây cũng là mt t d v nhược đim ca quc ng so vi Hán Nôm.]

[55] Trần Trọng Kim, Việt sử lược, sđd, Quyển II, pp. 6-8.