Nguyễn Sinh Cung (阮生恭) was born in 1890 in Hoàng Trù Village, Vietnam, his mother’s hometown. From 1895, he grew up in his paternal hometown of Kim Liên Village, Nam Đàn District, Nghệ An Province, Vietnam. He had three siblings: his sister Bạch Liên (or Nguyễn Thị Thanh), a clerk in the French Army; his brother Nguyễn Sinh Khiêm (or Nguyễn Tất Đạt), a geomancer and traditional herbalist; and another brother (Nguyễn Sinh Nhuận) who died in his infancy. As a young child, Minh studied with his father before more formal classes with a scholar named Vuong Thuc Do. Cung quickly mastered Chinese writing, a requisite for any serious study of Confucianism, while honing his colloquial Vietnamese writing. In addition to his studious endeavors, he was fond of adventure, loved to fly kites and go fishing. Following Confucian tradition, at the age of 10, his father gave him a new name: Nguyễn Tất Thành (阮必成) “Nguyễn the Accomplished”. Cung’s father, Nguyễn Sinh Sắc, was a Confucian scholar, a teacher on a small scale, and later an imperial magistrate in the small remote district of Binh Khe (Qui Nhơn). He was demoted for abuse of power after an influential local figure died several days after receiving 100 strokes of the cane as punishment. In deference to his father, Cung received a French education, attended lycée in Huế, the alma mater of his later disciples, Phạm Văn Đồng and Võ Nguyên Giáp. He later left his studies and chose to teach at Dục Thanh school in Phan Thiết.
In the USA
In 1912, working as the cook’s helper on a ship, Cung traveled to the United States. From 1912 to 1913, he lived in New York (Harlem) and Boston, where he worked as a baker at the Parker House Hotel. Among a series of menial jobs, he also has claimed to have worked for a wealthy family in Brooklyn between 1917 and 1918; during this time, he was influenced by Marcus Garvey in Harlem. It is believed that, while in the United States, he made contact with Korean nationalists, an experience that developed his political outlook
At various points between 1913 and 1919, Cung lived in West Ealing, west London, and later in Crouch End, Hornsey, north London. He is reported to have worked as a chef at the Drayton Court Hotel, on The Avenue, West Ealing. It is claimed that Ho trained as a pastry chef under the legendary French master, Escoffier, at the Carlton Hotel in the Haymarket, Westminster, but there is no evidence to support this. However, the wall of New Zealand House, home of the New Zealand High Commission, which now stands on the site of the Carlton Hotel, displays a blue plaque, stating that Cung worked there in 1913 as a waiter.
Political education in France
From 1919–1923, while living in France, Nguyễn Sinh Cung embraced communism, through his friend Marcel Cachin (SFIO). Cung claimed to have arrived in Paris from London in 1917, but French police only have documents of his arrival in June 1919. Following World War I, under the...