Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
COCHIN CHINA. The empire of Anam forms part of the peninsula beyond the Ganges. It extends from 9° to 22° north latitude, and from 100° to 107° cast longitude. It is bounded on the north by China, on the east and south by the sea, and on the west by the kingdom of Siam. It is composed of three grand political divisions: Tong King in the north, Cambodia in the centre, and Cochin China proper. Between Tong-King and Cambodia is a vast stretch of territory called the kingdom of Laos, which is tributary both to Cochin China and to the kingdom of Siam. A chain of mountains, beginning in the lofty peaks of Thibet, runs north and south parallel with the sea. Several rivers water the different parts of the country. The most important of these is Mekong, which, rising in the Chinese province of Yun-nan, runs through Laos, Cambodia and lower Cochin China, and empties into the sea by several different mouths. It was opposite one of these mouths that Camoëns was shipwrecked about the year 1561, returning from Macao to Goa, and saved the manuscript of his poem. The Lusiad, by holding it above the water with one hand, while with the other he swam toward the banks of the Mekong.
—We have no exact information as to the number of inhabitants in the Anamite empire; we only know that the country, especially in the interior, is relatively much more thinly settled than China. The people of Cochin China very closely resemble the Chinese: they possess almost the same characteristic traits, the same manners, the same customs, the same written language, though with a different pronunciation. The greater part of them profess Buddhism.
—The country is fertile, especially in the provinces of lower Cochin China Rice, sugar-cane and the mulberry grow there in abundance; still the population is generally poor and miserable. There is scarcely any foreign commerce, and very little progress has been made in industry.
—At the beginning of each reign the new emperor sends an embassy to Peking; this is rather the rendering of a traditional homage than the solicitation of official investiture. Although, in the proud language of the court of Peking, the empire of Anam is still numbered among the states tributary to the Celestial empire, the bond of vassalage has been gradually weakened, and to day the destiny of Cochin China is independent of that of China. Nevertheless, the similarity of their institutions and manners, and their repugnance for all contact with Europeans, have served to maintain between the two countries a sort of political solidarity, Cochin China experiencing the consequence of the conflicts which disturb its old suzerain. In Cochin China, as in China, the government, founded on despotism and served by a powerful hierarchical organization, has witnessed the gradual exhaustion of its principal resources, and seems to be hurrying with mighty strides toward dissolution. If we may judge of the condition of the country from the accounts left us by the Catholic missionaries who penetrated into Cochin China in the seventeenth century, it then showed signs of prosperity and almost a certain air of grandeur. Even allowing for the pleasing illusions of these first apostles, we may believe that such was the case. All these oriental countries have had their days of splendor and civilization. Judging them such as they appear to us to day, stripped of the prestige of remoteness, and so easily penetrated by European conquest, we can discover in them nothing but symptoms of decrepitude.
—The annals of Cochin China date back to a period anterior to the Christian era. But we may say that this is a fact of scarcely any importance. Notwithstanding the care with which some learned men have endeavored to compile a chronological list of the different dynasties, no great reliance can be placed on the discoveries of such oriental erudition. Cochin China has sometimes been directly subject to the Chinese empire, sometimes separated from it; it has been frequently at war with the kingdom of Siam, with Cambodia and Tong-King; it has had its periods of revolution and insurrection: this is, in brief, what we can glean from the historical recitals relating to this country. In the second half of the thirteenth century, Marco Polo directed his steps toward some provinces of Cochin China, especially Tsiampa; but his very incomplete account throws only an uncertain light on the political state of the empire of Anam. We do not receive any more exact notions of the country until the period when the Catholic missionaries, first those from Portugal, then from France, penetrated into Cochin China. These first communications date from the end of the sixteenth century. Europe had no direct relations with the empire of Anam except in the second half of the eighteenth century, which was owing to the influence that the bishop of Adran had acquired at the court of the emperor Gya-long, an influence which he endeavored to use for the advancement of the political interests of France.
—Gya-long had had to contend, from the very commencement of his reign, against a formidable insurrection, which had for a time deprived him of his crown. Following the counsels of the bishop of Adran (Monseigneur Pigneaux), he resolved to invoke the support and protection of France, and for this purpose he sent an embassy to Louis XVI. This embassy, which was accompanied by the bishop of Adran, was favorably received at the court of Versailles. Independently of the Catholic religious interest it was greatly to the political interest also of France to cultivate relations with the countries of the extreme east, in which she was outstripped by England, Spain and the Low Countries. A treaty was therefore signed at Versailles Nov. 28, 1787, by de Montmorin, then minister of foreign affairs, and by the bishop of Adran as the representative of Gya-long, in virtue of which the emperor of Cochin China ceded absolutely to France the port of Tourane, and the island of Poulo-Condor, on condition that the French king would send without delay a squadron and a body of troops to assist Gya-long in reconquering his states. Orders were immediately issued to the governor of the French establishments in India for the carrying out of this agreement; but the revolutionary disturbances which broke out soon after in France and throughout Europe interrupted the preparations for the projected expedition. Some officers, and a small number of volunteers, recruited by the bishop of Adran, went to Cochin China, where they disciplined the small army of Gya-long after the manner of European armies, and enabled that monarch to subdue the rebels. The emperor ever remembered the service they had rendered him; and the bishop of Adran and the French officers, raised to the dignity of mandarins, enjoyed the highest favor at his court. To the end of his reign (1820) Gya-long protected Europeans, and favored the propagation of the Catholic religion.
—His example was not followed in this by his successors, Ming-Mang (1820-41), Thieu-tri (1841-7) and Tu-duc. The Europeans were driven from the country, and the Christians were subjected to the most cruel persecution, inspired not by religious fanaticism, but, as in China, by political feeling. Ming-Mang feared that Catholicism might lead to European conquest, and he meant to absolutely forbid all entrance of strangers into his kingdom. At different intervals, from 1820 to 1855, France and England sent ships of war into the bay of Tourane, either to open commercial negotiations in an amicable manner, or to protest against the ill-treatment inflicted on missionaries and on the Christians. These attempts, sustained at times by the voice of cannon, were of no avail. Shut up in his capital of Hué-fou, the emperor felt that he was beyond the reach of European vengeance, and did not trouble himself about the destruction of the miserable town of Tourane.
—Nevertheless this state of things could not continue. The number of martyrs increased; several French priests, and a Spanish bishop, Mgr. Diaz, having been put to death, the French and Spanish governments combined to send an army corps into Cochin China. This expedition, under the command of vice-admiral Rigault de Genouilly, took possession of Tourane in 1858, and of Saïgon in 1859. Tourane, a very unhealthy seaport, and of no commercial importance, was soon evacuated, and all the efforts of the allies were directed against Saïgon, the situation of which, at the mouth of the river Mekon, seemed to have great natural resources. The Cochin Chinese were successively driven out of the provinces adjoining Saïgon, and, in June, 1859, the emperor Tu-duc consented to sign a treaty of peace, which ceded to France the provinces of Bién-hoa, Saïgon and My-tho. The French colonies now seem firmly established in this part of Cochin China. The commercial situation between India and China is a favorable one; the soil is fertile; the native population, to whom are added a great number of Chinese immigrants, furnish the labor for its cultivation; finally, the revenues of the new colony are increasing. The government of Cochin China, after having endeavored to disturb the new French establishment by insurrections, seems to have become resigned to the loss of its southern provinces.
—Thus has the empire of Anam been forced to bow before Europe, and been drawn, like China, into a political movement entirely new to it. Will its contact with strangers and the contiguity of a French colony instill new life into it, or will they deal it its death blow? This is a question we may ask today of all the old nations of the extreme east, into which European civilization has at last determined to enter and to extend its rule.
—BIBLIOGRAPHY: Veuillot, La Cochinchine et la Torquin, Paris, 1859; Pallu, Histoire de l'expédition de Cochinchine en 1864, Paris, 1864; Aubaret, Histoire de la Basse Cochinchine: Paris, 1867; Taillefer, La Cochinchine, ce qu 'elle est. ce qu 'elle sera, Deux ans de séjour dans ce pays, de 1853 à 1855, Perigueux, 1865; Bouilleoaun, L'Annam et le Cambodge, Paris, 1875.
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