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Annam / Anam / Onam

The Anamitic language included the language of Tonquin (or Tonkin) as well as that of Cochin-China. It is not only the language of the two last-mentioned kingdoms, but is also spoken by many, and understood by more, in the neighbouring countries of Cambodia (Camboja) Laos, Siam, and Ciampa (Champa), into which regions it extended itself by the common means of wars and conquests.

The Annamese character, as seen at Hue, was hospitable, sympathetic and careless. The people are not lacking in deceit and cunning, and have plenty of other vices, such as the love of gaming, laziness, unusual laxity of morals, &c. Yet instances of fidelity are not uncommon. Their character differs from that of all other nations in the Far East, though it possesses some characteristics common to other peoples.

Pressure from China pushed Annam southwards, and in turn Annam pushed Champa south to roughly modern central South Vietnam. Around the 12th century the Khmers emerged as a great empire controlling all the lower Mekong, leaving Sukhothai as a small version of modern Siam and Laos. The Khmer Empire collapsed after Siam seized Angkor in 1431. The Khmers (Cambodia) thereafter found themselves pinched between their more powerful neighbours Siam and Annam.

That great peninsula lying to the east of Hindostan, and known to the British by the name of Further India, to the French by that of Indo-Chine, was, up to the commencement of the fifteenth century, an integral portion of the Celestial Empire. One by one the various tribes threw off the Chinese yoke, and grouped themselves in the three separate kingdoms of Burmah, Siam, and Annam, but though the bonds between China and its distant provinces were loosened, they were by no means cast off; it was to their mutual benefit that connection between them should still continue, and though the sovereigns of the new kingdoms are virtually independent, they forward from time to time tribute to Pekin, and monarchs on ascending the throne demand recognition of their rights.

Annam expanded further southward into Champa in the 16th-17th centuries, and into the Mekong Delta in the 18th century. Annam (with capital at Hue) seized Saigon in 1776. North Annam and the Mekong delta region became separate entities as Tongking and Cochinchina respectively. Annam reunited the whole region (equivalent to modern Vietnam) with the creation of the Vietnamese Empire in 1802, but Cochin, Annam, and Tongking remained separate administrative regions.

The Kingdom of Annam formed the eastern fringe of this great peninsula, and Tonkin, as its name implies, is the northern portion of the realm. Prior to the campaign of 1862, when the lower provinces were conquered and annexed by the French, the Kingdom of Annam consisted of thirty-one provinces, these forming three distinct groups.

  1. The Northern Division is known as Tonkin; it consists of the thirteen provinces of Cao Ban, Langson, Thai Nguyen, Tuyen Quang7 Quangyen, Hung Hoa, Bac Niuh, Son Tay, Hanoi, Haid Zuong, Hung Yen, Nam Dinh, and Ninh Binh ; in other words, Tonkin comprises all those provinces which are watered by the Red River and its tributaries. Not only was its protectorate claimed by the French, but they intended to occupy it as permanently as they had done the southern group of Annamite provinces.

  2. The Central Division, known as Annam, comprised the twelve narrow coastline provinces of Binh Thuan, Khan Hoa, Phu Yen, Bin Dinh, Quang Ngai, Quang Nam, Quang Due, QuangTai, Quang Binh, Ha-Tinh, Ngean and Tan Hoa. Until 1883, these remained in undisputed possession of the king; but in August of that year, the bombardment and occupation of Hu as a means of opening the Red River to trade jeopardised even their claim to independence, the Government of the French Republic assuming a protectorate over the whole kingdom by virtue of a paragraph in the Treaty of 1874.

  3. The Southern Division, sometimes styled Lower Cochin-China, consisted of the provinces of Saigon, Bien Hoa, Mytho, Kulong, Chandoc, and Ha-tien. Of these, the three first were annexed by France under the terms of the Treaty of 1862, which the king was compelled to sign after the bombardment and capture of Saigon. The three latter provinces were occupied and annexed some years later, but main force only sanctioned their appropriation until the very loosely-worded Treaty of 1874 confirmed them to France.

Including Lower Cochin-China, which was a French possession, in the 19th Century the Kingdom of Annam embraced in round numbers about 115,000 square miles. It comprised a narrow band of territory running parallel to the sea, some twenty-five or thirty miles in depth, until the mouth of the Red River is reached, where the province of Tonkin assumed the shape of a V. The coast-line commences from the French frontier, runs to the north-east for a distance of about 200 miles to Cape Padaran, it then tends due north to the fifteenth parallel of latitude, when it bears north-west as far as the town of Vinh; it now tends off to the north-east and keeps this direction until the Chinese frontier is reached, the total sea-board being a little more than a thousand miles. A chain of mountains runs parallel to the coast at a distance seldom exceeding forty miles, bearing away to the north-west after passing the province of Tan Hoa, thus forming the water-shed of the southern tributaries of the Red River.

The Empire of Annam was under French protection since 1886. The Indochinese Union was made of 5 entities: 1 colony (Cochinchina) and 4 protectorates (Tonkin, Annam and Paracel Islands, Cambodia, Laos). Tonkin was a vice-kingdom of Annam. By the middle of the 19th Century Anam, or Annam, was a large country in the south-eastern part of Asia. It was all comprised in one empire ; but it was made up of three distinct territories, and part of a fourth, all formerly separate independent states, namely, Tonquin, Cochin-china, Champa, or Tsiamta, and the eastern part of Cambodia, or Camboja.

Between China and the Gulf of Siam, Annam was 965 miles in length from north to south, with a breadth varying from about 85 miles to 400. It had a long, winding, and much indented sea-coast, affording many safe and commodious harbors. The view which the country presented from the sea was that of a varied landscape, composed of bold headlands, picturesque valleys, well-cultivated slopes, extensive down and low plains, frequently terminating in sandhills, with a distant background of lofty mountains. Along the coast are numerous groups of islands.

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Page last modified: 03-04-2012 19:28:51 ZULU