During Vietnam’s feudal period, any village that had 10 or more people holding a doctorate title was recognized as a doctoral village.
Nguyet Ang had 11 doctors. One of them was Trang Nguyen, a top doctor. It also had 30 people who passed the provincial level examination called “Huong Cong” to gain a Bachelor’s Degree.
The provincial level examination was held every three years in several provinces. The Nguyen dynasty from 1802 to 1945 renamed the Huong Cong exam the bachelor exam.
Most Nguyet Ang villagers who earned a doctorate title lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. Top doctor Nguyen Quoc Trinh was one of them.
Nguyen Dinh Kiem, a descendant of top doctor Nguyen Quoc Trinh, said, “Nguyen Quoc Trinh was said to be clever and studied well. But he was born into a poor family and his parents died early. Until he was 17 years old, his sister raised Trinh and sent him to school. He attained a doctorate degree in 1659 under the Le dynasty and was appointed to a position equivalent to deputy prime minister. When he died, he was posthumously bestowed a title acknowledging his great contributions to the royal court and country.”
The greatest merit of top doctor Nguyen Quoc Trinh was his accomplishment of mission as the King’s envoy to China. His profound knowledge and talent surprised the Chinese court and helped him gain the distinction of being a renowned mandarin of two nations.
Elder Kiem recalled, “One day to test Trinh’s talent, Trinh’s teacher composed the first sentence of a pair of parallel sentences and asked him to respond. The first sentence meant that if a student only plays and doesn’t learn anything, he will forget what the teacher taught. Trinh responded that he would gain a high ranking in the exam to make his teacher proud of him.”
Nguyet Ang is in a low-lying area not suited for agricultural production. Poverty has made the locals willing to study hard in order to change their fates. The Nguyen clan stands out above all the other clans in the village.
Village elder Nguyen Danh Truy said, “Nguyen Danh Tho became the village’s first doctor in 1631. He held a position equivalent to Deputy Prime Minister. Five others who earned a doctorate degree were Nguyen Dinh Tru, Nguyen Quoc Trinh, Nguyen Dinh Bach, Nguyen Nhu Y, and Nguyen Dinh Quy. Elder Nguyen Dinh Tru topped the list of successful exam candidates in 1656, but in that year King Le didn’t confer the title of Trang Nguyen or top doctor.”
Nguyet Ang villagers today continue to uphold their predecessors’ learning tradition. With just 300 households, less than 1,000 people, Nguyet Ang has 1 associate professor, 5 doctors, 20 master’s degree holders, and about 100 bachelors’ degree holders.