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
ASIA: 100 YEARS AGO
Vietnam 100 years ago: Dr. Yersin and Pasteur Institute of Nha Trang
Vietnam 100 years ago: table manners
Vietnam 100 years ago: worshiping ancestors
Vietnam 100 years ago: practice of polygamy
Vietnam 100 years ago: chief wives of the mandarins
Vietnam 100 years ago: numerous wives of the Emperor
Vietnam 100 years ago: emperor and aristocracy
Vietnam 100 years ago: Halong impressions of Prince Henri d’Orléans
Vietnam 100 years ago: Hoan Kiem legend as it was told in 1890s
Thailand 19 century: His Lordship white elephant Chang Phoouk
Thailand 100 years ago: history of old quarters of Bangkok
Thailand 100 years ago: monks in the yellow robe
Thailand: traditional arts – Lakhon drama performance