The Burning Monk: A Study of Thich Quang Duc’s Self-Immolation, His Life, and His Impact on the Modern History of Vietnam


ACLS Fellowship Program


Art and Visual Culture and Asian Studies


In 1963 a monk burned himself to death in a busy intersection in Saigon during the Vietnam War. His political and spiritual act horrified and inspired millions of people. This study reconstructs the historic event and analyzes his underlying motivations and the impact of his sacrifice, through primary sources of previously unexplored temple archives, published and unpublished memories, Western accounts, and religious texts. Combining history and ethnology, this study also investigates his early training, his religious practice, his life and work, and the sociopolitical situations of the time to shed light on how and why Thich Quang Duc undertook the extraordinary act. The study contributes to understanding an influential piece of Vietnam’s past that has been neglected.