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The man who saved the past

(No.3, Vol.6,Apr-May 2016 Vietnam Heritage Magazine)




In the middle of February, the research community in the country bemoaned the lost of the notable researcher Ho Tan Phan, who left the world at 77 because of continuous asthenia and left behind his valuable collection of underwater artefacts.
Months before his death, Phan remained strong in his dedication and enthusiasm to collecting more artefacts and doing deeper research studies on terracotta items.
Many people did not believe the restless researcher went to rest in peace early this year, as Phan’s determination on his job was so strong. It is truly a pity, as Phan has not completed his research studies on abundant items that he spent years to collect, gather, categorize, and mirror with book of records about ancient patterns of terracotta.
His loss also endangers the collection of more than 10,000 rare and precious books that he owned. At the same time, the prestigious yearly Nghien cuu Hue (Research on Hue) magazine loses a key writer forever.

From artefacts to evidence
of sovereignty, Ho Tan
Phan was a champion



Media in Hue mourned the lost as well, as they could not find a trustable researcher like Phan to consult on issues related to Hue culture and history. Broad knowledge and the strong, argumentative mind of Phan had helped local journalists in developing stories with historical facts and Vietnamese customs.
On the national level, the battle against the foreign abuse of Vietnamese sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes lost a soldier. For years, Phan had raised his concerns over the country’s marine sovereignty, long before the Chinese HD981 oil rig was placed on Vietnamese waters last year. This proved Phan’s patriotism and vision.
He then sold his books in auction and called for fund-raising for more equipment that could help strengthen the surveillance of the Vietnamese marine force in order to protect needy fishermen on the local sea.
Later, in June, he presented copies of rare Vietnamese royal chronicles to the National Boundary Committee under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help attain more evidence of the country's sovereignty over the archipelagoes.
However, the fact is that no one will ever find such a devoted researcher who cared about the job more than his health and property like Phan. To save money for purchasing the riverbed artefacts from sand diggers, Phan eliminated his breakfasts and reserved all the money that he got from his pension and his children’s donation to spend in artefact purchase.
He did it not for recognition, but for local social science. Phan had a plan, before he died, to sell half of his land plot in Hue City to get money for building a museum in the remaining half plot, which he expected would ease the difficulties other researchers face when they utilise his collection. The plan has yet to be carried out, but it represents the next step in the devotion of Phan to history and science.

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