Nguyen Binh Khiem
1491 – 1585
Who was Nguyen Binh Khiem?
Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm was a Vietnamese administrator, educator, poet, sage and later a saint of the Cao Dai religion. He is referred to by several names: tên huý Nguyễn Văn Đạt, Hanh Phủ, Bạch Vân cư sĩ and Trạng Trình.
Born on the coast in Cổ Am village. As an adult, he studied knowledge from the second-rank doctor Lương Đắc Bằng and passed the official government examination at the fairly late age of 44 in the exams of 1535. However, he passed the exam, ranking number one in the country. This was a period of great instability in Vietnam which may explain why he took the exam at such a late age. He served in the Mạc Dynasty court for just seven years until 1542 when he resigned after his official complaints of government corruptions were ignored. He then returned to his native village and opened a school. Among his students were Phùng Khắc Khoan, Lương Hữu Khánh, Nguyễn Dữ.
Khiêm became a person much sought after by many leaders during that time of upheaval, civil war, the Mạc collapse, and the rise of the Trịnh Lords and Nguyễn Lords. Both Trịnh Kiểm and Nguyễn Hoàng purportedly sought his advice in their pursuit of power. To the former, he gave the advice of being the real power behind the Lê Dynasty. To the latter, he advised building a base of power in the undeveloped south. Both men followed these suggestions, resulting in a political and military division of Vietnam that would last for 200 years. As a result of this sage advice, Khiêm gained a reputation as someone who could foretell the future. Some of his prophecies were of a Delphic nature as they were ambiguous and could be read in several ways.
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