Professor Phan Huy Le is one of Vietnam's leading historians. He is well known for his outstanding roles and noteworthy contributions to various scientific activities, including lecturing at the National University of Hanoi, participating in international conferences and meetings, and taking part in international exchange programs. He is respected particularly for his efforts in initiating Doi Moi--or innovation--in the field of humane sciences, examining the situation of Vietnam from the viewpoint of socioeconomic history, and establishing his own theories. He is subsequently known to have opened up a new field of study to the point of redrawing the history of Vietnam.
Professor Le was born in Hatinh, a province in Central Vietnam, in 1934. His clan is distinguished for having produced a number of Van Than--Confucian scholars. He graduated from the University of Pedagogy of Hanoi in 1956, and was appointed Assistant at the Faculty of History, Hanoi University, same year. From then through until 1975, Vietnam's academics went through extreme difficulties. Despite the hardship, however, Professor Le continued to devote himself for as long as 32 years to scrutinizing an enormous amount of documents on Vietnam's socioeconomic history up until 1988, in that process steadily producing good results. In addition, he has offered guidance and training to young scholars who have now become distinguished scholars of Vietnamese history. He has also been in charge of supervising overseas graduate students since 1975. So far, over ten Japanese scholars have received firsthand advise from Professor Le.
His gentle personality, along with a steadfast refusal to allow ideology to sway his research is highly evaluated in many countries including those throughout Southeast Asia, Japan, and France. He has been invited to give lectures at Paris VII University and Amsterdam University. Professor Le is also well known for having shed light upon the socioeconomic history of Vietnam, a field which had been long neglected in studies of Vietnamese history. After many years of extensive labor, he published a book entitled, "History of the Feudal System in Vietnam", which has provided the impetus for other scholars to re-examine Vietnamese history with a new outlook. He has exerted every effort in discovering important historical records, including land registers, genealogies, and so-called red books, materials corrected in red ink by emperors--of Nguyen Dynasty, thus bringing a log of new knowledge to light. These pioneering works are widely known and respected throughout the world. Most of these works are put together in his 14 books and over 200 research papers on the feudal system, the socioeconomic structure of rural villages, and the traditional culture of Vietnam. Moreover, Professor Le spends his time writing textbooks, which is work that requires steady and painstaking effort.
In March 1990, he chaired an international scientific symposium entitled The Seventeenth Century's Japan Town--Hoi An, in Da Nang, Central Vietnam. The symposium was held in cooperation mainly between Japan and Vietnam, and Professor Le became well-known as the first Vietnamese professor who propelled his country towards opening to the rest of the world. Ever since, he has been one of the Vietnamese responsible for initiating studies of the Hoi An Japan Town, and street preservation projects. These programs were made possible due to bilateral scientific cooperation between Japan and Vietnam. He has also filled various important posts, including the presidency at the Association of Vietnamese Historians, which he assumed in 1988. Today's internationalization of Vietnamese studies can not be discussed without referring to the name of Professor Le, and the role he plays in this sphere seems to be becoming increasingly important.
Professor Phan Huy Le's achievements have not only contributed to the development of the studies of socioeconomic history of Vietnam, but also played an essential role in exhibiting the significance of studying traditional rural villages in Asia to the world. These accomplishments make Professor Phan Huy Le particularly worthy of receiving the International Academic Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prizes.