Vietnam: Petrus Ky, professor in the College des interpretes of Saigon

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Monsieur Petruski [spelling: Petrus Ky / Trương Vĩnh Ký (1837-1898)], a Cochin Chinese Christian, occupying the post of professor of his own language in the College des interpretes of Saigon. He had been educated in a Roman Catholic college at Penang, and I shall never forget my surprise when first introduced to him.

He addressed me in perfect English, with just a slight French accent, while in French he could converse with the same purity and ease. He was equally at home, I believe, when he spoke, or wrote in Spanish, Portuguese, or Italian ; and it was to his scholarly knowledge of Oriental tongues that he owed the distinguished position which he filled.

On one occasion I visited his study, and I found him engaged on a work which had cost him years of labour – ‘A Comparative Analysis of the Languages of the World.’ He was surrounded by a collection of rare and valuable books, some of which he had gathered when travelling in Europe; others — Sanscrit, Pali, Siamese, and Chinese — he had obtained in various parts of the East.

During the evening one of the Cholon missionaries joined us, and when I left he had engaged Petruski in a theological discussion in Latin. He is the author of a number of works; among others, an Annamite Grammar, which opens by tracing the affinity between the most ancient symbolical characters and those of the modern written language of Annam.

Text: John Thomson
From the book: The straits of Malacca, Indo-China and China; or, Ten years’ travels, adventures and residence abroad
by Thomson, John (1837-1921)
Publication date: 1875
Publisher: London, S. Low
Photo: old photo from internet

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