“Excursion to Hue: Court, Palace and Tombs,” published for the Hanoï Exposition, 1902

Marred by the usual colonial condescension and obvious ignorance of Vietnamese art and architecture, this French article of 1902 is published here in translation only for its interesting historic references and intriguing images

Indo-China has experienced a definitive rise under the impetus of a very talented governor, Paul Doumer.

The visitor to the Exposition in Hanoï will find him there in person, revealing in striking form the path which has been travelled since the conquest in the fields of arts, commerce and industry. Listening to his words will surely awaken in the visitor more extensive curiosity.

In particular, this visitor will not want to stick with his first plan of travel, cautiously limited to the immediate attractions directly dependent on the Exposition itself. He or she will have an ardent desire, before returning to France, to go and see some old things of this empire of Annam which have yet to sink beneath the civilising tide. An excursion to Hue should at the top of any redesigned and expanded travel itinerary.

In November 1901, a special meeting of the Conseil supérieur de l’Indo-Chine was convened in the palace of the Council of Ministers of His Majesty Emperor Thanh-Thai in Hue. No doubt Governor Doumer wished to close his five years of government with a significant ceremony at the very heart of his vast colonial domain, now definitely conquered and pacified, and ready to receive the fruitful seeds of his labours.

Already on the road from Tourane to Hue, which passes through the picturesque Pass of Clouds, one meets large teams of diggers and road workers. Their main “points of attack” are the new tunnels located on the flanks of granite rocks clothed with wild vegetation. The local tram (chair carrier) agonises about the future of his job; he will be replaced, before two years are out, by new rails and locomotives.

Whether coming from Hanoï or Saïgon, you must land in Tourane. One joyfully embarks from the little steamer of the Messageries maritimes after what can be a rough passage through the Tonkinese gulf. One rides by chair for a full day, viewing picturesque sights which are a joy to the eyes. Lunch is served in the village of Lang-Co. In the evening, after a few last kilometres travelled by night in the light of torches in order to scare off marauding tigers, one reaches Cao-Haï, where dinner is served. Then one settles in comfortable sampans to pass a restorative night, rocked very softly on the waters of the great lagoon. The next morning, one arrives in Hue, eager for excursions and strolls, ready to hunt for the trinkets which very well-informed merchants hold in reserve for the tourists of distinction.

A stay between two journeys by courier vessel leaves five or six days to be spent in Hue and its environs. This is sufficient.

The “places to see” are spread out at various distances, permitting visitors to undertake small, medium and large days of tourism. One returns at the end of each day satisfied and not weary, finding again with pleasure those pacifying sampans on the great lagoon.

Properly speaking, Hue is not yet a city. Situated on the left bank of the pretty and gracefully named Perfume River, one will find here a vast Citadel, built about a century ago by a mission of French officers in the most exact Vauban style. Within its enclosure there are some basic elements: first, the vast Palace compound, dotted with pagodas, outbuildings, gardens and mandarin dwellings. Then the Co-Mat or Council of Ministers, the School of Agriculture, and the barracks of the Naval Infantry Battalion which holds garrison here. Against the brown walls of the fortress lies a swarming and fragrant Asiatic agglomeration, where, as everywhere in Indo-China, the Chinese control the bulk of traffic and wealth.

Upstream from the Citadel on the Perfume River, a short distance from the ramparts, a tall, octagonal tower in the Chinese style attracts attention. It functions like a “bell tower” of the great Confucius Pagoda, which serves as the Buddhist cathedral of the capital of the Empire of Annam. It’s in this temple, placed under the invocation of the great philosopher, that all ceremonies of high significance are performed. And in particular, examinations and competitions determining admission to the higher grades of the literary mandarinate.

Not far from the Confucius Pagoda, and still on the left bank, are the Landing Stage and the Baths of the Emperor, in direct and private communication with the Palace by lanes lined with high walls. The young sovereign is passionately fond of steam navigation, and two boats belonging to the Résidence supérieure currently ensure his favourite entertainment. However, it is sometimes necessary to supervise Thanh-Thai’s nautical audacity: one day recently, after commandeering a poor Chinese vessel with a breathless engine, he ventured to cross the sand bar of Lang-Co in an attempt to reach Tourane by sea. This prompted great commotion at the Résidence supérieure, which hurriedly dispatched some qualified officials to bring back the young monarch who had escaped from his capital.

Let’s pass along the right bank of the river.

Here, visitors will find a series of modern buildings, mostly official in function, including customs, public works, gendarmerie, treasury and indigenous guard, together with a comfortable and well-kept hostelry. Also located here is the Cercle, where tourists are guaranteed a most cordial welcome. After an exhausting day trip, they will find pleasant pre-dinner relaxation here on the terraces of the club, which overlook the river.

Finally, rising above all these new and constantly rebuilt structures, visitors will see the roofs of the Résidence supérieure emerging from the beautiful gardens which surround it. It is still called, by habit, the Legation, on account of its primitive affectation. It was occupied by our diplomatic agent before the organisation of the Protectorate.

This European quarter, fresh and pleasant in appearance, is surrounded by greenery and forms a strong contrast with the dull, brown half of this composite and imprecise city.

A large iron bridge with its narrow frames, an obvious vanguard of the future railway, connects the two banks and seems to extend a destructive arm towards the old things destined for inevitable disappearance.

Will Emperor Thanh-Thai be the last monarch of Annam? Let us beware of prophesying in these delicate matters. He is only 23 years old and can therefore live and reign for a long time. But it is to be supposed that this century may see the tricolour flag float over the old ramparts, where the imperial standard, with its sumptuous embroideries and serrations, is now still tolerated. In any case, this absorption will take place without violence: our Indo-China government has too much interest in using to its own end the administrative mechanisms of the old empire. Supervised and framed, the mandarinate forms a valuable tool in the hands of our eclectic and wisely opportunistic administrators.

Indeed, in the skilful evolution towards progress and justice, it is surely better to let the old edifice fall slowly, rather than seeking ingenious ways to effect immediate adaptation. Thus, the evidence of old consecrated skills is still clearly understood and demonstrated here.

A visit to the Citadel, not including the Palace which must be visited separately, occupies a morning.

Here first is the Co-Mat or Council of Ministers, a new construction of modernised Annamite architecture which seems vaguely … seaside-like? Some say that it resembles a casino pavilion on some second-class beach, flamboyantly decorated with dragon motifs. For want of taste, should we think?

The same criticism might well be addressed to the so-called “à la française” décor favoured by His Majesty, which evokes fairly accurately your average “tapestries and furnishings” display in the Maison du Petit Saint-Thomas department store. On the whole, these errors may have their energetic sense: an active policy does not always have time to embarrass itself with aesthetics. In short, this style of decoration is one which befits silky and gilded puppets, all the strings of which are attached to the expert fingers of Monsieur le Résident Supérieur of Annam. Let’s regard it as a brand new “guignol” of a particular kind.

The School of Agriculture, where a fantastic host of orchids prospers and multiplies, forms a group of low and divided buildings, a whole city of greenhouses constructed from light bamboo, with fine lattices replacing windows. And here are the pupils of the course, led by a native professor and duly endorsed by our Agricultural Institute. They go out to the countryside to recognise some species, to analyse some soil. What pain we endured to convince them to cut their long nails curled up into horn clippings! They were much attached to these signs of idleness and patricianism, so incompatible with the handling of the pick and the plough. However, they have obstinately retained their silk robes, their parasols, their fans, their varnished slippers. Thus enrobed, these mandarinal youths file along the narrow paths of the rice field, a hint of disdain on their lips, proud and distant, united, refusing to incline their heads towards the robust soil.

To enjoy the wide-open spaces of the Hue countryside, one leaves the Citadel by the “Bridge of the Assault.” It was amidst great danger, on the night of the 5-6 July 1885, that officers of our garrison of occupation were forced to take this passage after their party at the Legation had been interrupted by an Annamite attack.

Out in the countryside, one sees His Majesty’s War Elephants returning from their morning walk. Oblivious to the wishes of their mahouts, these heavy intelligent beasts display the malice of a schoolboy, determined to prolong the pleasures of the open air. They tear out clumps of grass, shaking the roots to make the earth fall, blowing on them to chase away the last specks of dust, and finally, swallowing the tasty bites. Their mahouts insist on returning, using their heels and sticks; but the mischievous animals, continuing their meals, shake their big ears and utter fierce cries.

Let’s leave to the tourist-explorer of the native districts the pleasure of discovering the bargains of the trinket: Lots of bric-a-brac stalls where the adventurer may find pieces of beautiful jade, old porcelain or old enamelled copper, all vestiges of rapidly disappearing art industries.

And let’s reserve for the beautiful warm nights of November the experience of attending the Annamite or Chinese theatre, listening to dancers and singers, to orchestras where the tap-luk (zither) and the one-stringed violin draw precious motives, well synthesised by the effeminate suppleness of the Annamite race, with its inconsistent hieraticism, interspersed with playfulness and laughter.

The Palace and Royal Court

From the top of the “grand cavalier du roi,” a heavy protuberance in the fortified walls, one may obtain an overview of the palace and its gardens. However, curious tourists may see in detail only a very limited portion of this palace and its gardens. The mystery of the royal apartments, the harem and the sacred pagodas is not accessible to anyone.

It was in those hidden places that court intrigues, crimes and revolutions were germinated and played out. And today this is where a young emperor seeks mysterious distractions from the boredom of his idle reign. Sometimes, the echoes of singularly cruel fantasies reach our surprised ears. The sages affirm that it is necessary for us to close our eyes, to leave barbarism in this, its last refuge, which, like the rest, will eventually disappear.

You will then see the throne room, the ceremonial hall, the dining room and the “salon à la française.” You will see the pagoda of the ancestors, the pond with the crocodiles where, until very recently, thousands of young saurians were given as annual symbolic presents to queen mothers. You will see the Ministry of Finance, the bell workshop and the store for theatre accessories and costumes, singularly reminiscent of the rags used by our provincial theatres. It seems that the unique misery and perfume of the chariot of Thespis are the same in whatever latitude! Finally, you will see the “Nine Sisters,” the nine sacred bronze cannon of His Majesty, which now lie silent forever.

One enters the Palace by the great Ngo-Mon gate, which looks out over the “Esplanade du cavalier.” This door is a mass of granite, perforated by vaults, surmounted by tribunes, and crowned with a heavy horned roof. Dragons, clouds, bats, sacred books, brushes, tap-luks (zithers) and fans, motifs of architectural ornamentation, are reproduced and multiply on columns, on carved beams, on coffered ceilings, at the corners of roof ridges. With an intelligent guide, an interpreter or a scholar from the Résidence, it’s possible quickly to enumerate these few symbols which reappear everywhere in Hue, representing the sum total of the artistic imagination contained in sculptures, enamels, woodwork, balustrades and terraces, as well as in a more delicate range of knick-knacks, incense burners, teapots, cups, trays and boxes.

However you view it, Annamite art has comparatively few strings to its bow, just like Annamite music and dance, which revolves around the repetition of a few monotonous and restricted motifs. It is by its assembly and the association of the monument with nature that the Annamite people take interesting revenge. It certainly has a sense of “décor,” but we must not look too closely. The artifice is often coarse and fragile, of a kind analogous to that abundance of votive offerings in gilded and coloured cardboard which one finds in Taoist worship.

At the corners of the pagoda roofs you’ll see figures of monsters, with gaping mouths and menacing tongues. From a distance, the subjects seem to be treated in mosaic, or at least in vigorous ceramic work. They stand out strongly against the dark foliage of the great pines.

Yet as one approaches, one discerns a frightful polychromic conglomerate made from the debris of old cups and plates, glued onto poor mortar that’s softened by the tiniest drop of rain. In this way the monster, an ephemeral architectural motif, loses, one by one, its claws and its scales.

After passing through the vaults of the Ngo-Mon gate, you come to gardens with water features. Here one enters a wide stone passageway, framed by two arches with bronze columns engraved with the legendary dragon, which support enamel panels inscribed with mottos in Chinese characters, similar to those found everywhere in the Palace, as well as in the Tombs scattered throughout the graceful countryside of Hue.

These characters mean, in turn:

Righteousness, integrity, justice.
Greatness, eternity, longevity.
Direct path to radiant virtue

Let’s continue to the terrace of honour, which provides access to the Throne Room. When the monarch received the Conseil Supérieur last year, this terrace was animated with a display of banners, a flickering of sumptuous gilded silk robes, while, on the right and left, on large grassy areas, the War Elephants, then in high formal dress, swung their trunks solemnly, like monstrances.

The official reception in the throne room was a remarkable spectacle: the hieraticism of the little emperor, encamped very high, as if on the summit of some dazzling rockery, enveloped in his regalia of gold, silk and precious stones; the marble immobility of the mandarins, bearers of insignia, eunuchs and guards distributed all around the throne, their eyes fixed obstinately on their jade horns, that indispensable accessory of the great outfit, in order to ensure the dignity of the eye by preserving it from uncertainties.

This strange and grandiose spectacle, descended from the depths of the ages and faithfully perpetuated, left the average western viewer adrift on a vast sea of enigmas.

The speech of the governor, the reply of the king, translated by the great interpreter, offered nothing unexpected. After individual presentations, a glass of champagne brought this ceremony to a close after less than one hour.

Longer, and much more entertaining, was the gala evening at the Palace. Here, it was not impossible even for a secondary personage to make contact with the young princes, brothers of the king. These elegant adonises sported chignons and were dressed in marvellous silks, from which emerged only the finest extremities. These young princes have renounced betel and may add an ivory smile to the natural charm of their figures. The emperor himself, in contrast, remains reactionary on this point, revealing at moments of friendliness a tooth of ebony. All of them are quickly conquered with talk of the bicycle, their dominant passion. And they are particularly moved and ardently attentive when engaged in conversation about the possibilities of modern steam power – “Horseless carriages can now travel as fast as steamboats…. That’s very fast!”

During these elementary insights into technological progress and sports, classical singers unfolded their monotonous and melancholic poems, developing their reptilian gestures, parallel, slow and supple, in the attenuated light, which gave their tawny arms the shade of brownish gold.

A young and very obliging clerk of our Résidence, very initiated to the rites, has been assigned to the Ministry of Finance. It would be imprudent, perhaps, to leave the vault with its piastres and bars of gold without control and without a European guard. This ministry is in fact more of a depository, a store for precious goods. In its halls there reigns an absolute peace, quite a contrast to the rumours and intrigues found in other royal bureaucratic hives. Preserved here are precious things used for the making of royal costumes, collections of earthenware for the current needs of the palace, large bolts of saffron-coloured paper and gold spangles. This is where the official records of scholars and royal delegations are written. The ministry also preserves the insignia of the mandarinate of the various classes, which are distributed gratuitously during promotions; And, lastly, a real oddity… abundant supplies of cinnamon, of very superior and very expensive quality, a condiment of constant use in the imperial kitchen!

And here, set apart, is the emperor’s special casket, which contains over 60,000 piastres in old money. This hoard was constituted following excavations carried out beneath the old mandarin dwellings of the Citadel, destroyed following the proscription of their once powerful mandarin owners who had unwisely become the focus of ambition and intrigue.

We should add a little about royal finances. Visitors may be curious to know what the part is represented in the great budget of Indo-China by the court of Annam, its high dignitaries and the many royal officials of all kinds. Here are exact figures from the last budget agreed by the Conseil supérieur of the colony.

The government general of Indo-China grants the Annamite government an annual sum of 960,000 piastres, or 2,400,000 francs. Of this sum, the court receives 280,000 piastres, or 700,000 francs. Of this endowment, until recent years 25,000 piastres or 62,500 francs were spent on the three queen mothers, surviving wives of deceased emperors. Lastly, the expenses of the king’s pleasures and his table are ensured by a monthly payment of 4,000 piastres or 10,000 francs…. That’s 120,000 francs a year spent on the young emperor!

It is difficult to explain this last sum, in a residence entirely lacking in night-time restaurants, betting shops and opera houses; And since the constitution encloses the Emperor in his palace and tolerates only short walks by him outside its walls, one understands still less the size of the subsidy. On the other hand, if the purse of the royal pleasures seems overly provided, the total budget which ensures the salaries of the numerous indigenous officials of all classes, spread over the whole territory of Annam, seems very modest: just 680,000 piastres, or 1,700,000 francs!

It is customary to repeat that, if mandarins and the mandarinate apparatus are paid little, they know how to make complementary resources; and that there would be no advantage in paying them more, since they are able to conceal the misappropriation of public funds very easily. However, this singular reasoning, adapted specially to the ancient customs of Asia, loses its value every day. These days, the indigenous official, caught between close French administrative supervision and the easy slander of his citizens, can no longer realise the fat prebends of former times.

The Tombs

The main interest of an excursion to Hue focuses on the tombs of the emperors. The oldest of these tombs date back less than a century. For the older dynasties prior to that of the last six emperors, one searches vainly to find necrological traces, even ruins, left on the ground. There is a mystery here. It seems that this architectural piety, symbolic and decorative, emerged spontaneously from a sort of renaissance in which we may have played, perhaps in a small way, the role of the Italians. The age of the Citadel was also marked by the creation of grand necropolises built amidst ornamental lakes, all built to a royal design based on that of the Gia-Long Tomb, the oldest and wildest of the classical tomb quartet which the tourist should not omit to visit: Gia-Long, Minh-Mang, Thieu-Tri and Tu-Duc. When one considers the elegance of their avenues, the Versailles-like width of the stone steps which give access to their terraces, the layout of the balustrades, one wonders if the same French officers who built the dark ramparts of the fortress did not also give indications of aesthetics for the mausoleums?

In any case, a real harmony emerges from these constructions, situated in the grandiose settings of hills planted with maritime pines and giant ficus.

The Buddhism of Annam, strongly influenced by Taoism, accords a formidable appearance to the tombs of the great. These are subdivided into various different areas, each with a monument of profound significance, and it is their ensemble that forms the tomb. Every man must be considered according to his physical person, his private soul and his public life, so each emperor’s tomb presents three distinct elements – The Tomb, the Pagoda of the Soul and the Stele which traces the highlights of his reign.

The Tomb is ritually inaccessible. It is concealed beneath a large mound planted with trees, shrubs and flowers, crowned with a strong enclosure of stone closed off by a barricaded and padlocked gateway.

The Pagoda of the Soul houses an accumulation of rare and precious objects. In front of the veiled altar, where a symbolic tablet rests on a carved ancestral altar, lie all the items which give a complete and precise account of the deceased’s intimate habits – his favourite books, his own literary works, his betel chests, his tea sets, etc. Old royal favourites or former ladies in waiting from the court stand silently on watch in the soft shadows. They are charged with scrupulously observing the rites, of maintaining with one thousand attentions all the signs of his survival, of continuing to assure to the eternal soul of the departed a residence of luxury and repose, populated by graceful symbols, favourable to noble reveries.

The three essential elements of an imperial tomb are always complemented by an annex called the Pavilion of the Throne. This lightweight and in no way obituary construction commands a view of the entire site. During his lifetime, the emperor would have come here to take relaxation by reading works of high philosophy and following the progress of construction of his palace of eternity.

We can guess that royal funerals at the court of Annam display a splendour corresponding to the sumptuousness of the tombs.

The last ceremony of this kind dates from the month of July 1901. That was when the old Queen Tu-Du, wife of Thieu-Tri and mother of Tu-Duc, passed away. Her funeral lasted a whole day. At the outset, an endless procession wound its way at length through the broad avenues of the Citadel. The coffin was then taken to the Landing Stage and placed on a vast raft which served as a catafalque, crossing the Perfume River under the escort of a flotilla of sampans of honour, each carrying members of the great mandarin families. On the right bank, the procession was reconstituted and continued its journey to the tomb of Thieu-Tri, where the old queen was laid to rest near her husband. The two souls, symbolised in two precious tablets engraved with sacred characters, were placed side by side on two altars of twin ancestors sheltered in the same temple.

The Nam-Giao Festival

In the graceful countryside of Hue, where the melancholic sighs of the maritime pine bring to mind the sobbing of inconsolable lovers, two other manifestations of royal architecture still call our attention:

One is the Arena, or, more exactly, the fighting pit for elephants, panthers, tigers and buffaloes. The walls of this pit are now crumbling and abandoned. Since the court no longer supports the great barbarous pomp which these evocative games of Rome and Byzantium once contained, the Arena has already become a distant memory.

Of greater significance is the Nam Giao Esplanade or Esplanade of Sacrifices, a large terrace of square stone, bordered with balustrades, containing another circular raised enclosure. The whole is framed by a beautiful forest of regular, distinct and symmetrical pines. Each of these trees represents an important mandarin personality of the court, and Asiatic superstition is pleased to draw omens from the height of their trunks and their proud verticality, or, on the contrary, their cheeriness and the indolent inclination of their branches, smothered by vigorous neighbours who forbid the access of light from the sun….

On this Esplanade is celebrated, every three years, the nocturnal Nam Giao Festival, solemnly presided over by the emperor in the guise of great priest. On the night in question, the monarch emerges at sunset from the great neighbouring pagoda after completing a holy retreat of 11 days. Large buffaloes, slaughtered and skinned, are arranged symmetrically across the flagstones along with a bloody garland of slaughtered pigs, calves and poultry. Countless altars carry offerings of fruits, choum-choum (rice alcohol) and precious objects. The night passes in prayers, which, from the first murmur, swells and grows to become clamours and vociferations. Flesh and bones are burned in pits, more beasts are slaughtered and spirits are invoked on the broad esplanade, now awash with blood and bathed in moonlight. At first light, the ceremony ceases and delegated notables of the villages carry away quarters of meat for more intimate rejoicings.

How much more graceful and idyllic is the Spring Ploughing Festival, which puts in the patrician hands of the young emperor the handle of a gilded and sculptured plough, with which he traces a hesitating furrow before his prostrate people, who thank the Buddha for his benevolence.

*****

Tourists, hurry! Because Hue, that delicate and fragile watercolour, is already pale and faded, and will soon surely disappear in the civilising whirlwind. Hasten there now, while there are still some vestiges of the vanishing Annamite empire to be seen.

The ruling classes of Annam are delicate, refined and cruel. They love pleasure, and are happy to expend minimal effort in all things. The Annamites will not be remembered as a civilisation which defied the centuries and commanded respect as conquerors. The history of this people will be heralded not by great stone monuments but through literary works on silk which enunciate philosophical truths and sacred maxims. A subtle intellectuality reigns amidst the silence of the tombs and in the soft shade of the pagodas. When the old literati with their fine silver beards, mummified in their robes of silk and gold, proclaim in their ghostly voices the winners of the triennial mandarin examination, we are gripped with sadness and regret by the thought that conquest and progress on one side and conservation on the other are difficult to reconcile.

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

Massenet Première in Saïgon, 1900

From Le Ménestrel, journal de musique, 30 December 1900.

A first in Saigon!  The new Saigon Theatre, a marvel of architecture inaugurated earlier this year, recently presented the première of La Navarraise, the poignant lyrical drama by Jules Massenet. Great success! Our brave soldiers, just returned from the campaign in China, were thus able to experience a little of France and applauded with enthusiasm the master’s work. We join with all those in Saïgon in congratulating the directors of the new theatre, Messrs Aristide Boyer et Baroche, who have transformed the capital of Cochinchine into a great cultural centre…. 4,000 leagues from Paris!

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

The Emperor of Annam – The Investiture Ceremony at the Court of Hue, from Saïgon Républicain, 6 March 1889

It was in the prison where he had been confined since the death of Phan-Dinh-Binh that they found the new king, designated as heir by the Grand Dowager Empress, the Court and the Co-Mat, and conducted him to the palace.

The induction ceremony took place on 31 January. It was a marvellous spectacle; more than 300 mandarins, all dressed in their great costumes of brocaded silk of different colours, all entirely new, were arrayed in front of the throne room; 300 men of our naval infantry formed the royal guard of honour.

Bursts of artillery exploded upon the ramparts, and bugles rang in the fields, as our Résident-Supérieur, M. Rheinart, followed the civil and military officials by standing in attendance before the throne.

Suddenly, great shouts were heard from the interior of the palace, and a few moments later the new king appeared.

He is a nice little boy of just 10 years, slightly little crushed by the weight of his brocaded royal costume and hindered in his movement by his great mandarin boots.

After having offered his tiny hand to M. Rheinart and two or three other persons, he climbed, supported by a servant, onto the gilded throne, which was just too high for him.

He responded to M. Rheinart’s speech in a crystal clear voice. The French officials then retired to let the mandarins do their laïs. At the front of the throne room were the princes; beside them were the ministers and great dignitaries, and finally all the other mandarins.

At the command of a voice singing a kind of chant, the laïs began, so numerous and so frequent that they could almost be considered as some form of exercise.

At the end of the ceremony, the new king was led in procession into his private apartments.

(Avenir de Tonkin)

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“Saigon Life,” from Société de géographie de Lille, January 1883

Chinese shops on the rue Catinat

Life in Saigon changes little from day to day. Indeed, it will be much the same tomorrow as it was today and yesterday.

The days when the Messageries Maritimes courrier vessel arrives from France are without doubt the most interesting days for everyone in this town.

The arrival of the courrier vessel within sight of Saigon (which, because of the many meanderings of the river takes place long before its actual arrival) is announced by the hoisting of a black ball on the Signal Mast, and accompanied by a shot from the cannon of the good ship Duperré. Its docking at the port in front of the Messageries is signalled by a second shot. The courrier vessel must wait for the tide in Cap Saint-Jacques before sailing up the Saigon River, so in order to save some time, a small steam ship is usually dispatched to Saigon ahead of it, carrying the most urgent mail from France. It is expensive to take advantage of this service, but some find it useful.

Saigon harbour in the late 19th century

The courrier vessel stays for 24 hours in Saigon before leaving for Hong Kong.

Soon after the arrival of the courrier, colonial residents go to the post office to collect their letters and parcels; this is a most enjoyable time for everyone,

A few hours after the arrival of the courrier from France, a second courrier vessel coming from Japan and China also arrives in Saigon. It too remains here for just 24 hours, then leaves for Europe carrying letters and packages from Saigon. At this time, traders are very busy; they have just 24 hours to process a voluminous quantity of correspondence, take important decisions and draft replies. Only after both steamers have left does calm return to Saigon.

The greatest public distraction in Saigon is “la musique,” held at 8.30 every Friday evening and often thwarted by rain, a problem which affects almost all concerts held on fixed days and at fixed hours. A number of military officers, sailors and colonial officials pace up and down in front of the musicians; ladies are very rarely present.

There is now also an important official distraction in Saigon, a bimonthly soirée hosted by the Governor, who issues a circular to a selected few every 15 days, announcing that he will open his salons to them. So let it be known!

The barn which serves as a reception room for this event is equipped at each end with two small raised platforms. One serves as the ladies salon, while the other accommodates the musicians, and dancing takes place in the space between them. The evening often begins with a theatrical performance presented by local amateurs, for which the musicians’ platform serves as a stage. After the performance, the seats are removed from the dance area, the ladies go and sit on their platform, and the dance commences.

French military officers on parade in Saigon

This is when the vigorous lieutenant-commander or the energetic marine clerk get to work. The ladies… Ah! The ladies! But shh, let’s talk softly. All colours of skin are represented here, from the pale hues of Europeans exhausted by the climate to the darker shades of the so-called “créoles.” Later, the Governor gives a little speech. He has been hosting a dinner in a room adjoining the barn, with Mrs X on his right side, Ms Y to his left, and in front of him the General of our troops. After this meal, while the gaiety fuelled by champagne wine is at its height, the Governor rises, and, with a voice moved by the circumstances, delivers his small address. He offers a toast to the ladies of Saigon who have the grace of the Virgin Mary (and probably all the qualities, too).

At the end of the evening, everyone withdraws, dripping with sweat and emotion. Such are the official pleasures of colonial Saigon.

After dinner, the men take a little promenade, spending the rest of their evening at the Cercle des officiers. As I have said, life on one day in Saigon is much the same as it was the day before and will be the day after.

The promenade on horseback or by horse-drawn carriage from 5.30 to 6.00 in the evening is a popular distraction, but it’s always the same. The same large man carrying a baton and putting on the airs of a Marshal of France; the same aide de camp, as thin as a cuckoo, shrivelled with resentment after being repeatedly overlooked for promotion to captain of frigate; the same young Bourbonnien, swerving from left to right on his tiny nag which he launches at a gallop until it’s ready to drop….. The normal route of the promenade by carriage is the road which leads to the Chinese town of Cholon, 5 kilometres from Saigon; half way along is an army barracks known as les Mares.

The rue Catinat in 1890

Saigon at night

For an evening walk through the city, start by descending the rue Catinat, principal thoroughfare of Saigon, to the quayside. Then, passing the Maison Wang-Taï, take the rue Rigault de Genouilly as far as the rue de l’Eglise, take the rue d’Adran to the market and finally return to rue de l’Eglise along rue Chaigneau. This will permit you to visit the entire Chinese district of the city.

As you descend the rue Catinat, you’ll pass Chinese shops and a few French houses to your left and right. This is the main street of cobblers, tailors, purveyors of canned food, etc. The Chinese businessmen Apan and Atho, well known in Saigon, do business here.

Within a single shop, one may find tailors and cobblers working together. All of the shops are located on the same level as the street and you can enter at will, since everything opens directly onto the street.

When we walked down this street, we saw inside one shop five or six coarse lamps with paper lampshades; these lamps were placed on the ground or on low tables, and around them were gathered eight to ten Chinese, shirtless, legs crossed, each working on one garment. The light projected onto their bare shoulders shone in a strange way. Behind them on the wall was a large image of the Buddha on yellow paper, with red and blue decoration. There was also a mirror with facets which sparkled in the light. Beyond the shop area we saw a back room. It was a resting place which we could not penetrate – the shop dog, seeing me stop and look, barked. He clearly doesn’t like the French!

Chinese shops on the rue Catinat

In this part of the street there are five or six stores, located side by side. If you have seen one you have seen them all.

Leaving the shop, I passed a lantern which illuminated an itinerant food vendor carrying over his shoulder two heavy baskets supported at opposite ends of a long pole. He sounded his usual cry, one which is well known to his customers. One of the Chinese inside the store called to him: the food vendor stopped, lowered his baskets to the floor, removed the carrier rod from his shoulder, breathed a little, then started to prepare the pittance requested, the ingredients of which he took from five or six different pots – two peppers here, three species of beans there…. He blew on his little fire to prevent his dish from getting cold. In such situations, the customer, standing or sitting according to the time he can devote to feeding, eats somberly and pays little. The food vendor left, and his cry was soon heard a little further along the road. Sometimes, mischievous Annamite boys working in the service of French colons will deliberately call two of these food vendors at the same time, forcing the poor devils to compete for their customers.

Suddenly, close by, we heard in the dark the sound of a silvery voice, sweet, plaintive, melancholic. It was the cry of a little boy aged just 7 or 8 years, who ran through the streets carrying on his head a basket containing small pieces of sugar cane. Just 20 centimetres long, they are sold cheaply. They are then peeled, or given two or three knife incisions to liberate the sweet juice; all the Oriental peoples – Annamites, Chinese, Malays and Indians – find this juice delicious.

On the left side of the street, you will see the shop of the Chinese merchant Apan, sparkling with tin boxes of canned food and glass bottles of various liquids.

Cafes on the Saigon River quayside in the late 19th century

Further along in the shadows, standing on the corner of the street, who is this mysterious character wearing a blue garment and a cap of cylindrical blue cloth, carrying a sword at his side? It’s a night watchman, who each night is supposed to prevent the store of his boss from being robbed. Thieves are bold in Saigon, as I can vouch from personal experience.

Opposite, you’ll see the famous Salle des ventes (Auction room). At this time of night it’s closed, of course.

Further down are the garage and stables of the Malabars, who rent out horse-drawn carriages. Several dark shadowy forms, wearing little by way of clothing, rub down and harness sad horses to sad carriages. Their companions, bodies glistening with coconut oil, bask in a sweet sleep awaiting customers.

Near the bottom of the street is the shop of the Chinese merchant Atho, a branch of the shop belonging to Apan. Arriving finally at the quayside, you’ll see a few French cafes, whose customers drift in and out loudly.

From the quayside, we forked right onto the rue Rigault de Genouilly, but then left it almost immediately, turning into a very short, tiny street located immediately behind the Maison Wang-Taï. This street is made up of two parts, each at a right angle to the other; to the right and left are the busiest gambling houses in Saigon, along with several other more seedy establishments. In front of the shop openings, as with the Chinese shops, hang large spherical or cylindrical lanterns made from coloured paper of various types, with inscriptions in huge Chinese characters. Considerable animation reigns in this street, which is home to at least four or five gambling dens.

The players are so engrossed that you can stand and watch them without fear of being disturbed. As I said, there is no door to these gambling establishments. The walls of the houses facing the street do not exist at ground floor level; you may go straight into a small room where you will find three or four Chinese sitting around a mat on which the game is played. The game can continue for several hours; sweat trickles down every face and a croupier sings a monotonous chant, a chant of death or triumph, until a winner emerges.

An itinerant food vendor in Saigon

When important players arrive, in order to show them respect, the mat is spread on a table at about waist height rather than on the ground, as is the practice in more vulgar gambling establishments.

Here one often sees French soldiers or sailors playing and fraternising with the children of the Middle Kingdom – the soldier with his blue jacket and white salaco, the naval deckhand out on a binge… Sometimes you’ll even see a boy gambling with his master’s money – if he loses, he’ll run. If he wins, he’ll also run! The number of gambling dens in Saigon is frightening, there are now around 40, not to mention those of Cau-Ong-Lanh and Cholon.

Almost all day long, and especially at night, you’ll hear the monotonous song of the Chinese croupier, or the metallic sound of his copper chips which, in between games, he places in a large canvas bag, holding the ends in each hand and shaking them strongly in order to attract customers. Everyone plays!

But let’s leave this small alley, where we have stayed too long already. As we leave, we can see through wooden window bars of adjacent houses groups of women dressed in the Chinese style, like ferocious beasts behind their gates, making all the propositions they believe customers will find the most engaging.

Soon you will arrive in a muddy square steeped in the stench of the market. This is the rue d’Adran, where you’ll find many more gambling dens, and also some fruit and sugar cane sellers, who set up their mobile stalls in the street. They sell their products to the Chinese and to wheelwrights, carriage repairers and joiners who live in this area.

The rue Rigault de Genouilly was on the west side of the Grand Canal (now Nguyễn Huệ boulevard)

We continued to the rue de l’Église, having visited almost all the Chinese quarter. At 9.00 we heard the distant melancholic sounds of a bell marking the extinguishing of the fires at the Camp des lettrés and the tam tam of the Inspection de Saïgon.

We stayed in Saigon for several weeks, meeting the inhabitants of this city, both European and Asian. We paid our price to the climate of the country by spending a few days afflicted with the most common ailment. In our carriage rides, we went to the Chinese town of Cholon. We visited the pagodas, which are quite remarkable, especially the exteriors, which feature monstrous dragons in blue, green and red, with flaming tongues, terrible eyes bursting from their sockets, and long tails with bristly spines down their backs.

Cholon is a very populous city. It is in the hands of the Chinese, who make a great trade from the rice of Cochinchina. It is also the residence of our Inspector of Indigenous Affairs.

We also went across to the other side of Saigon, taking the route de Govap and visiting the tomb of the Bishop of Adran. Located around 3 or 4 kilometres from the town, it sits in a grove of trees on the edge of a vast plain of rice fields which stretches out from the plain of tombs. Entering the enclosure, we found ourselves in front of a vertically-placed flat granite stone, on which was carved an inscription in local characters, reproducing the titles of the Bishop of Adran given by the sovereign and his people for services the Bishop had rendered to the country. Behind this stone was one of the entrances to the tomb itself, a kind of pagoda built through the munificence of the king.

The Chinese caretaker, attentive to visitors, opened the doors of the tomb. Inside, we saw a rectangular masonry structure around 1 metre in height, beneath which lay the remains of the Bishop of Adran. Behind the tomb was a small altar where one can say mass.

The tomb of the Bishop of Adran

I need not reiterate here the services rendered by the Bishop of Adran to the rulers of Cochinchina nearly a century ago. He was one of these brave Frenchmen who, at the end of the last century, knew how to make our name loved throughout Cochinchina. In particular, he was one of those energetic missionaries who have carried, and continue to carry, the flag of the Catholic faith high and firm into the most far-flung regions. It was not without emotion that we visited the tomb of the Bishop of Adran. At the entrance to the grove where the tomb is located, we also saw the grave of one of our missionaries, who died a few years ago in the dungeons of the last ruler of Annam. An inscription on another vertically-placed flat granite stone gives the name of the martyr whose remains rest in this place.

I remember visiting this tomb as the last rays of the setting sun made the characters of the inscription sparkle. Nature was peaceful, a few buffalo grazed in front of me, under the watchful eye of a small Annamite boy, happy to tread this ground of rice paddies on which stood two or three miserable cai-nhas. We returned at night along the Govap road, bringing us a few minutes later back into Saigon.

During our stay we also crossed the arroyo-Chinois and visited the Fort du sud, passing more cai-nhas located at the edge of the Saigon river, downstream from the town.

Then we retraced our steps back across the arroyo-Chinois and took the street which runs through Cau-Ong-Lanh, following another row of Annamite cai-nhas built at the edge of the water. This area has a small Catholic church that I was not able to visit, its doors being constantly closed. The rectory is next door, and it struck me that perhaps the priest is not often in his parish. There are two brickyards along the Arroyo, they both belong to Wang-Taï. Finally, we returned to Saigon and crossed the river, where another Catholic village and the workshops of a boat builder may be visited.

While these little excursions give us only a superficial idea of Cochinchina, they also encourage us to make a real excursion into the Interior of the country.

Chinese shops on the rue Catinat

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

Emperor Khai Dinh in France: A Victory for French Cuisine, Le Monde illustré 8 July 1922

Emperor Khải Định (ruled 1916-1925)

Our host, His Majesty Khaï-Dinh, Emperor of Annam, has on several occasions shown himself to be an Asian sovereign who knows how to appreciate European customs.

At the time of his reception at the Hôtel de Ville, when he was obliged to sign the registers of honour, the Emperor, before taking his calligraphy brush as is customary in his own country, wanted first to sign in European style, with a pen. What an amiable tribute to our traditions! Even before landing in Europe, His Majesty Khaï-Dinh had informed the Ministry of Colonies that during his stay in France he “would be delighted to get to know the true French cuisine, and that there was no need to prepare Annamite dishes for him.”

Pierre Pasquier, one of the organisers of Khải Định’s visit to France

To avoid any hindrance, the emperor left his own chef de cuisine in Hue. It is known that Annamite menus are generally composed of fish prepared in various ways, with rice and sweet dishes.

Until they reached Marseilles, His Majesty and his suite relied on the care of a voluntary cook in his entourage to prepare only Annamite dishes.

But that experiment seems to have been conclusive enough for the Emperor to decide that, once he had arrived in France, only French cuisine would be eaten.

Would this complete change of regime please or displease His Majesty and his followers? It was curious to know, for one does not change one’s culinary habits overnight without being somewhat confused.

Let us say immediately that French cuisine has won, yet again, a brilliant victory. At the Ministry of Colonies, the good offices of a retired cordon bleu chef were called in: Mme Angèle, who made it her duty to let the Annamite sovereign taste her cuisine, both homely and refined, a quality which has assured the supremacy of our chefs throughout the world.

“Renouncing the dishes of his country, His Majesty Khaï-Dinh, during his stay in Paris, honoured our national cuisine. Here we see the Emperor in the dining room of the Ministry of Colonies, savouring a menu prepared in the French style”

We have before us the first two menus which were served to His Majesty, and we transcribe them faithfully:

First menu:
Smoked salmon
Buttered radish
Niochi
Leg of lamb with asparagus tips
York ham
Salad
Green beans
Savarins, candied fruits
Cherries, peaches, pastries

Second menu:
Soup
American lobster
Duck with peas
Gigot salad
Strawberry ice cream
Peaches, bananas.

We can confirm that His Majesty Khaï-Dinh highly appreciated the flavour of the dishes served to him, even the duck with peas. The sovereign declared himself delighted with the menu and the excellence of the wines, and he did not feel the desire to change his regime.

Cordon bleu chef Mme Angèle “made Emperor Khải Định appreciate the science of Brillat-Savarin”

The upshot of this story is that the boxes of rice which His Majesty had brought with him, as a measure of foresight, are still intact, and that no one is thinking of opening them for the moment.

In the monarch’s entourage, this French-style diet did not seem displeasing, and if there is some old servant who secretly misses his national fish and rice, he would not turn his nose up at the cuisine of Mme Angèle.

The chef of the Ministry of the Colonies has every reason to be satisfied with this victory over the palates of our guests.

Let us also congratulate the Minister of Colonies, M. Sarraut, and the eminent Résident Supérieur of Annam, M. Pasquier, who have regulated with so much genuine elegance and pertinence all the arrangements for the Emperor’s stay amongst us. In this way, His Majesty Khaï-Dinh will be able to see that our country is not only the cradle of civilisation and progress, a country of affable diplomats and luminous festivals, but also the last refuge of gourmets, since our cuisine has the symbolic privilege of disconcerting no palate and quickly conquering all those who taste it.

Raoul Viterbo

“The lady who makes our Imperial guest appreciate the science of Brillat-Savarin: Mme Angèle, the great cordon bleu chef of the Ministry of Colonies”

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“Assassination of a King: Details of the Latest Annamite Intrigues” from Le Matin, 4 August 1883

The Cần Chánh Palace

Kien-Phuc, nephew of Tu-Duc – The assassination of his predecessor – A palace revolution – Causes of our Expedition – The role of M. de Champeaux – The poisoning of Hiep-Hoa

We know by dispatch of the death of the king of Annam, Kien-Phuc, who was aged just seventeen. Who was this sovereign? How had he ascended the throne? In the hands of which party, which mandarins, did he meet his fate? Specific information allows us to give precise details on these various important points.

The Succession of Tu-Duc

Kien-Phuc was the nephew of King Tu-Duc and his fourth adopted son. It is known that Tu-Duc had no children; he had successively adopted four of his nephews: 1. Duc-Duc; 2. Hiep-Hoa; 3. Me-Trui; and 4. Me-Men. The latter, according to Annamite law, had regularly been called to serve the old sovereign, and at length succeeded him under the name of Kien-Phuc.

Tôn Thất Thuyết (1839-1913)

But before he ascended the throne, events occurred which are interesting to relate, and which perhaps throw significant light on his premature death.

Intrigues of the Court

On the death of Tu-Duc, several parties disputed the royal inheritance, in spite of the rules of the Annamite monarchy. That of the first adopted son was at first the strongest, and Duc-Duc was proclaimed sovereign. But his reign was ephemeral; an intrigue by the Minister of War, Ton-That-Thuyet, deposed him within two months. The powerful controller of the royal palace then raised to the throne his creature, Hiep-Hoa, the second adopted son of Tu-Duc.

Ton-That-Thuyet was a relentless but not very intelligent opponent of French influence. His hostility was so open that M. Harmand, then our Commissaire-général in Tonkin, obtained from the French government authorisation to direct an expedition against Hue. The forts at Thuan-An were bombarded and occupied. M. Harmand then imposed on Hiep-Hoa and his ministers a treaty, the clauses of which were unfortunately insufficient, but which stipulated that a garrison of 600 men should occupy the forts on the river some fifteen miles from the capital, and that a guard of 200 men would be attached to our Legation in Hue itself.

The Overthrow of Hiep-Hoa

Unhappy with this adventure, the king resolved to be rid of his protector, Ton-That-Thuyet. But this was a wrong move, since the dismissed minister immediately forged an alliance with the mandarin Nguyen-Van-Tuong, one of our principal opponents who had been well known to us since our first expedition to Tonkin, where he had given much trouble to M. Philastre, the successor to Francis Garnier.

Minister Nguyen-Van-Tuong

Nguyễn Văn Tường (1824–1886)

This person, a former intimate and favourite advisor to Tu-Duc, had married his daughter to a brother of Prince Memen, the last of the four adoptive sons of the former sovereign. He was Minister of Finance, and through his perpetual intrigues had contributed in no small way to provoking our second expedition to Tonkin. Also, he knew very well that, in case our influence should triumph at Hue, all power was at stake for him. This circumstance united the two ministers, who had hitherto been rivals. Ton-That-Tuyet consented to favour the candidature of Prince Memen, dear to Nguyen-Van-Tuong. The two ministers said that it was a matter of life or death for them to have in their devotion a sovereign of their choice, under whose protection they would reign. Prince Memen was their creation; He was only sixteen. But how would they substitute him for Hiep-Hoa in the presence of his protector, the Resident of France?

The Conspiracy of the Two Ministers

Our resident, M. de Champeaux, an old “Cochinchinois” who was well informed about all these intrigues, informed the authorities in Tonkin and asked them for instructions. But they were seemingly so completely absorbed by the events at Song-Koï that they failed to reply to M. de Champeaux’s letters and gave him no order. He could not act on his own initiative because the ministry had ordered him to do nothing without having first referred matters to the Commissaire général of Tonkin, a very long process which usually required about a month. In this way, our Resident was completely paralysed.

In the circumstances, the two mandarins, our enemies, understood that they had the upper hand. They initially planned a coup towards the middle of December, but the king felt so threatened that he moved to be rid of the conspirators, announcing his first public audience to our Resident and forcing them to bring their plans forward. The news of this unusual event, a complete departure from established practice, caused great annoyance in the mandarinate.

Emperor Hiệp Hòa (30 July-29 November 1883)

Yet the two chiefs of the conspiracy realised that this was the opportunity they had been waiting for. They had the audience postponed until the following day, when they knew that M. de Champeaux would be leaving for Thuan-An to ask the commanding officer of our troops to send reinforcements to Hue.

The Poisoning of Hiep-Hoa

The conspirators made Hiep-Hoa swallow poison. The coup d’etat took place very quickly and without any great deployment of forces; only a few soldiers were sent to stand guard around the Missions, in order to prevent them from informing the Residence. As a result, M. de Champeaux did not hear what had happened at Thuan-An until about noon. He then hastened to return to Hue together with fifty soldiers, whom he had obtained with some difficulty. By the time he arrived, at ten o’clock in the evening, everything had calmed down.

The next day the mandarin-interpreter, Father Tho (a former banned Annamite priest) carried to the resident an apocryphal letter of abdication by Hiep-Hoa, saying that the sovereign had committed suicide.

This did not fool M. de Champeaux; without order, he refused to recognise the new king and broke off official relations with the court.

Nguyen-Van-Tuong and Ton-That-Thuyet, who had proclaimed themselves Regents, were thrown into disarray and thought themselves lost when 50 Annamite riflemen from Cochinchina and the gunboat Javeline arrived in Hue. They expected an imminent attack from us and hastily massed five or six thousand men around the residence, pointing all available cannon on their ramparts toward us.

A barracks building in the French Legation

The Legation had a garrison of 150 soldiers. While it had little to fear from the Annamese bands, armed for the most part with pointed bamboos, it was quite exposed, being situated only 700 meters from the Citadel. It could still be bombarded by the cannon on the ramparts. The situation continued to be critical for several days.

Meanwhile, Nguyen-Van-Tuong and Ton-That-Thuyet repeatedly disavowed the bands which they themselves had excited. They protested their friendly intentions and promised to recognise the Harmand Treaty. In reality, Hiep-Hoa was not a great loss for us; we would not have got far with a king lacking partisans, indeed we ourselves would have had to support him by force of arms. So it was that Memen remained as king under the name of Kien-Phuc, with Nguyen-Van-Tuong and Ton-That-Thuyet as Regents. An edict of pacification was issued, and the bands were dismissed, although this did not prevent them from running amok in the countryside under the orders of hostile mandarins, and massacring a hundred Christians.

The Taking of Son-Tay

The two Regents just let this happen, but after the capture of Son-Tay they realised that it would be prudent to capture and execute the perpetrators of the massacres. These executions enabled them to make a fine show when M. Tricou arrived to revise the Harmand Treaty. They lavished him with assurances of dedication, and thanks to this diplomatic pantomime they were able to secure rather good conditions, and in particular to avoid an essential clause, the occupation of the Citadel of Hue.

M. Tricou and M. Patenôtre

The signing of the Giáp Thân or Patenôtre Treaty on 6 June 1884

M. Tricou having left, the two Regents recommenced their intrigues, but this time the game was known. M. Patenôtre arrived and imposed, as a precondition, that we should have a serious garrison installed at Hue. They had no choice but to submit. But it is evident that this last treaty of Hue was a mortal blow to the influence of Nguyen-Van-Tuong and Ton-That-Thuyet.

This very accurate account of events, we repeat, permits us to ascertain as a probability that, following the Patenôtre Treaty, the two Regents – at the instigation of China and against a background of the conflict which had broken out over the terms of the Lang-Son Convention – launched against the young Kien-Phuc the very same kind of coup d’etat which they had already perpetrated in 1883 against Hiep-Hoa, following the Harmand Treaty.

 

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014) and the forthcoming guidebook Exploring Huế.

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“King Dong-Khanh,” from Saïgon Républicain, 5 February 1889

Đồng Khánh, 1885-1888

Since the start of the Tet holidays, news of the death of the King of Annam, Dong-Khanh, has circulated in our city. This sad news was confirmed by the telegram which we publish above.

The king was just 26 years old. He was the son of a Prince named Kien-Thai-Vuong, (brother of King Tu Duc), elder brother of Kien-Phuc whom he succeeded, and half-brother of Ham-Nghi, currently detained in Algeria.

Hàm Nghi, 1884-1885

Let’s recall under what conditions he ascended the throne.

After the attack against General de Courcy in Hue (5 July 1885), the Regent Ton-That-Thuyet fled with the young King Ham-Nghi and raised the mandarins and scholars against us.

A month later, Dong-Khanh, elder brother of the fugitive, to whom the crown should have gone first, was proclaimed king.

Unfortunately, after the events of 5 July 1885, his position was very precarious.

At the time he ascended to the throne, Dong-Khanh was indeed a very slender figure, without authority over his subjects or over foreigners. He could rely neither on the people who had been terrorised by the mandarins, nor on the ruling class of the literati, who had made common cause with Regent Thuyet.

M. Joseph Chailley-Bert, in his book Paul Bert au Tonkin, retraced for us the spectacle of the court at that time:

“His court resembled a desert. The city, the citadel and the suburbs had once held more than 100,000 people, yet now there hardly remained 30,000. All around the palace rose great buildings constructed to accommodate countless servants or relatives, but now they were empty. In the street of the Ministries, where there once thronged a crowd of mandarins, there was little movement other than a few isolated palanquins. Meanwhile, the few advisers or servants who were retained by the new king had neither notoriety nor serious influence.”

Finally, Paul Bert arrived. King Dong-Khanh gave him a welcome reception and there explained the disrespect which was being shown to his person, and the little authority he had in the eyes of his subjects.

Paul Bert understood that the time had come to raise the prestige of royal authority, and at the same time to assert the influence of France. He transferred to the monarch half the treasure of Annam; the other half was sent to Paris to be converted into piastres bearing Dong-Khanh’s image.

The compound of the Viện Cơ Mật or Privy Council

The meetings of Co-Mat were no longer to be attended by foreign witnesses. Now, only the Résident supérieur M. Bihourd retained the right to attend. Finally, the doors of the palace were no longer to be guarded by French soldiers.

M. Constans and M. Richaud also continued to ensure that in Algeria, the detained former king was still the liberty and honours compatible with our security requirements.

A dispatch from the Governor General registered the fidelity with which His Majesty Dong-Khanh had fulfilled its obligations to us, and the sympathy of pledges which our country had constantly received from him. This was not banal praise, but recognition of a truth understood long ago.

On 24 April 1887, in an interesting note published on King Dong-Khanh, M. Petrus Ky said the following:

The tomb of Kiên Thái Vương Nguyễn Phúc Hồng Cai (1845-1876), 26th son of Emperor Thiệu Trị and father of three emperors – Đồng Khánh, Kiến Phúc and Hàm Nghi (BAVH)

“The present king was loved and respected by his brother Kien-Phuc, in a manner which was unusual in Asian royal families. When he was out walking, the late king affectionately carried with him a portrait of his elder brother. During his youth, Dong-Khanh lived in a special residence called the Chang-Mong-Duong, where he devoted himself passionately to study. Enthralled day and night by the love of reading, he hardly ever drew himself away from his office. He was therefore well versed in the philosophy, history and literature of the Far East, much more so even than an average member of the literati.

The only distraction he permitted himself was the exercise of horse riding. Tu-Duc, seeing how he studied so hard, permitted him to go three times a month to the palace of the Noi-Cac (royal office) to expound on the classics, and there to write literary compositions and assist in the development of the edicts and administrative acts of the kingdom.

He was distinguished at these sessions by the quickness of his mind in estimating the value of both men and things.

The French Concession in the Citadel

This young prince did not have, it seems, the ambition to ascend the throne. Also, when disagreements arose between the mandarins of the court, or abuse of authority needed to be suppressed, he took sides fairly, with no regard for self-interest.

Living among the people, he was also able, by personal observation, to come to appreciate the miserable state of the population.

As for his personal conduct, he observed between his brothers and his parents the perfect harmony prescribed by Confucius. This young prince was very intelligent and affable; he readily adopted foreign customs, in a manner which surpassed that of many of his countrymen.

I speak as a personal witness, from what I have seen and heard.

From the particular point of view of French interest, it is very fortunate that Dong-Khanh occupied the throne.”

Đồng Khánh, 1885-1888

We have before us a photograph of the King of Annam published in the weekly French newspaper L’Illustration. His face expresses sweetness rather than firmness.

He sits on a richly carved throne, hands resting on his knees. He wears the Annamite costume: a robe embroidered with silk and gold, wide silk trousers, and bare feet in slippers supported on a pedestal. His head is covered with a traditional turban.

France will stage for this young prince a funeral worthy of him and of the people who observe to such a great extent the worship of the dead.

And now we can all exclaim: “Dong-Khanh is dead! Long live Thành-Thái!”

Đồng Khánh, 1885-1888

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014).

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“La Compagnie française des Tramways de l’Indochine,” from Le Courrier colonial illustré, December 1928

The French Indochina Tramway Company (Compagnie Française de Tramways de l’Indochine) was founded on 14 February 1890. At the outset, and for several years, it had to bear many difficulties.

A CFTI steam-hauled tram on boulevard Charner (now Nguyễn Huệ boulevard)

From 1892 to 1913, the company successively constructed the Saigon-Govap, Dakao-Tandinh, Govap-Hocmon, Giadinh-Can-Bong and Govap-Laithieu lines, and electrified the line from Govap to Binthay.

The electrification works were completed in 1923, and the company commissioned new rolling stock with railcars of the highest quality, bringing a remarkable improvement to the transportation of passengers on that part of the network which passed through Saigon.

A CFTI electric tram in Chợ Lớn

At the same time, the company participated fully in the creation of the Indochinese Electric Power Company (Société l’Energie Electrique Indochinoise), which supplied it with the power needed to operate its trains, while at the same time rendering other important services to the colony.

In 1925, the Company completed another extension to Thudaumot, in order to service the large plantation area there.

If we recall that the initial concession was provided only for horse-drawn trams, we can understand how the company has always taken the initiative to encourage the development of its network and to facilitate transportation by consistently improving its services.

A CFTI electric tram in Chợ Lớn

Currently, the network extends over 52 kilometres running on electricity. Independently of its official concessions, the company has also launched a bus service between Saigon and Cholon, in order to provide for the increase in the number of travellers.

The company has in Govap a tramway depot and a very well-equipped workshop for the maintenance of tramway lines, locomotives and driving trailers, with neighbouring land allocated for future enlargement.

The directors of the firm in Saigon have been, successively – Messrs. André LECADRE, Jacques LECADRE, BARRY and BOYER, and in Paris – M. TRIOULEYRE, Director General. The Board of Directors now comprises: President – Mr. Maurice ALLAIN; Vice-President – Mr G. HERMENIER; Managing Director – Mr. Paul DERVIEU; Directors – Messrs. Roger BARON, Jean DOLLFUS, Fernand DUBOSC, André MAGGlAR, Albert GARNIER and René THION DE LA CHAUME.

Gò Vấp CFTI Tramway Depot

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014).

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“The Renovation of Annam” by Frédéric Brévili, Revue du Pacifique, 15 January 1933

The main gate of the Viện cơ mật or “Secret Institute,” which functioned as the Privy Council and key mandarin agency of the royal court

Those interested in the development of our colonial policy in Indochina will have read with real appreciation about the significant reforms which have been promulgated in recent days by Emperor Bao-Dai.

Less than a year, in fact, has elapsed since the return of the young prince from France. We still remember the cordial words of farewell addressed to him before he boarded his ship in Marseille by the Colonial Secretary, M. Albert Sarraut, promising all the support of the French government to the sovereign called to deal with a situation which his long absence had made difficult. For what was already being called in Indochina the “Bao-Dai experiment” posed a number of questions.

Emperor Bảo Đại pictured in 1935 (Fonds Sogny-Marien)

How could the actions of a monarch whose reason now seemed so perfectly formed to Western conceptions be accommodated to that of certain circles of “old Annam,” with their strong attachments to the political and moral traditions of Confucianism?

We know now how events have taken shape so far. Welcomed by eager people in Tourane and Hue, and then through all the provinces of the kingdom, the young emperor has quickly gained sympathy and confidence through a series of happy gestures, abandoning obsolete protocol and demonstrating his desire to live in close contact with the Annamite people.

Moreover, by his regnal ordinance of 12 September, he announced his intention to undertake many reforms in the administrative, judicial and educational fields. Soon after, finally, he called to the leadership of his own cabinet, with the rank and prerogatives of a minister, an entirely new personality from Tonkin, M. Pham-Quynh, whose influence amongst young intellectuals has always been considerable.

Against this background, around two months ago, the Nam-Giao Festival was held. The accomplishment of the rites of this ceremony was to Bao-Dai a new and definitive consecration of the imperial power with which he was now fully clothed in the eyes of his subjects.

Phạm Quỳnh (1892-1945)

The time of the reforms approached. By an order of 3 May last, in full agreement with Governor General Pasquier, the young ruler of Annam came to initiate them. Whatever his good intentions, Bao-Dai was not slow to realise that his initiatives could, to some extent, be paralysed by the “atmosphere” of the court of Hue. For, undoubtedly, a gulf already begun to appear between the desires of the sovereign and those of his respectable mandarins, all of whom had been in his entourage for a good many years. These were people for whom policy was always blended perhaps a little too much with the games of small intrigue so often forged in the ancient courts of the Far East. No-one would doubt that a figure like H E Nguyen-Huu-Bai, a scholar of senior years and Prime Minister of the Court of Annam for the past quarter century, remains worthy of the highest honours. Yet is it desirable that in future the gatekeepers between the emperor and his people should continue to be tied by invisible bonds to the forms and traditions of a bygone era?

Absolutely not, declared the wish of the Emperor, which on this occasion was consistent with that of the administration of the protectorate.

In fact, it was less a problem for Bao-Dai to address the final implementation of the reforms promised by last September’s regnal order than to tackle the issue of the “atmosphere” in which these reforms could and should be realised.

Emperor Bảo Đại’s new ministers, from left to right: Hồ Đắc Khải, Phạm Quỳnh, Thái Văn Toản, Ngô Đình Diệm (later RVN President), Bùi Bằng Đoàn

Basically, it was a question of ensuring the quality of his entourage – finding men who were ready to co-operate loyally with the emperor, to bring him the support of their enlightened wills. After all, how could the sovereign initiate reforms if he were unsure whether his closest collaborators would apply them with the loyalty and perseverance necessary, in a period of transition, for their efficiency?

So here, briefly summarised, is what was eventually determined by Bao-Dai immediately after the Nam-Giao Festival. The resignations of the six ministers already in office were accepted by the sovereign, who then took responsibility for changing the composition of the government. With the exception of H E Thai-Van-Toan, who was moved from Finance to Public Works (with the addition of Rites and Fine Arts), the Cabinet today consists of four entirely or mostly new personalities – Pham-Quynh (who also occupies the post of Director of the Emperor’s Cabinet) in charge of Education, Ngo-Dinh-Diem in charge of the Interior, Bui-Bang-Doan in charge of Justice and Ho-Dac-Kai in charge of Finance – with the former Minister of War having not been replaced. An important indication is that all these new ministers, who between them have an average age of just forty years, have only been invested for a period of three years, the Emperor having also taken care to clarify in his ordinance that he had chosen them only by consideration “of their personal value, of their intellectual and moral qualities, and of the good reputation they enjoy in the eyes of the people, regardless of their seniority or rank in the mandarin hierarchy.”

The original main building of the Viện cơ mật or “Secret Institute,” which functioned as the Privy Council and key mandarin agency of the royal court

Of course, in Annam, and even in the whole of Indochina, these decisions by Bao-Dai were not without a considerable impact: we must go very far back to find any trace in the political actions of an Annamite sovereign of such radical changes to the state of affairs in the kingdom. Of particular note is the fact that the emperor also announced his will always to chair personally the meeting of the Council of Ministers, or Co-mat, “taking himself the direction of the country’s affairs,” that is to say actually governing, in contrast to his predecessors, slaves to the rites and traditions of the court, who were content not to.

If the consequences for Annam of the new order established in Hue have already appeared, it is not superfluous to attempt now to take a look at the future: for, to have been approved by Governor-General Pasquier, Bao-Dai’s decisions must interest the protectorate in a special way.

In this respect, it seems that our representatives in Indochina have nothing to fear from this small “palace revolution,” to call it by its name, which the emperor has just completed with such flexibility. Not that the Resident-Superior in Annam has always met systematic opposition to his wishes at the court of Hue. Although in the early years of the protectorate, obstruction was common, it has over time become more and more rare. However, the archaic organisation of the court, the multitude of client relationships connected to the various personalities, and the games of intrigue, still created frequent difficulties. Happily, the road to the royal residence Kien Trung Palace is now more level than it was before.

Emperor Bảo Đại pictured in 1932 (press image)

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014).

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.

“Forgotten Statues of Cochinchina,” from Le Monde colonial illustré, 1937

Monsignor PIGNEAU DE BEHAINE — place de la Cathédrale, Saïgon

On that admirable fresco of the French project in Indochina, a living and harmonious multi-racial synthesis of activities and hopes, a few figures clearly stand out in the light of history.

Francis GARNIER – place Francis-Garnier, Saïgon

Whether French or Annamite, these public figures are entitled to recognition. Each of them, in pursuit of their respective ideals, have met on the same path leading to common action.

Pigneau de Béhaine, protector of a prince of Annam, fugitive and unhappy, laid the first foundations of Franco-Annamite relations. Indeed, one may wonder what would have become of Indochina if this prelate had not devoted his intelligence to the service of the last Nguyen prince.

Did this permit French influence to take root in the land of Annam? Without a doubt! But it also prevented the installation of the Dutch or the English, on whom Nguyen-Anh’s protégé was about to call for aid. And it enabled Nguyen-Anh, as Emperor Gia-Long, to carry out a constructive work of great significance in the annals of this country.

DOUDART DE LAGRÉE – place Rigault de Genouilly, Saïgon

Later, circumstances required that, in order to command respect for our flag, Admiral Rigault-de-Genouilly came to anchor at Tourane. The French peace has since been extended to areas long disturbed by dynastic rivalries and struggles between neighbours. The statues of Rigault-de-Genouilly, Francis Garnier, and Doudart-de-Lagrée in Saigon attest to the heroism of our sailors and soldiers, the genius of their commanders, the sacrifice, in a word, of all those who, far from their native land, fell during the gestation of our colonisation of Indochina.

But our officers were not just fighters. We had some who were explorers and scholars. Such was Général de Beylié, archaeologist and ethnographer, who, during his investigations to extract the secrets of this Asian land, died in the rapids of Tha-Dua (Laos) on 17 July 1910. His works greatly enriched our museum in Saigon and paved the way for other scholars.

Général de BEYLIÉ – rue Blancsubé, Saïgon

Similarly, in the long chain forged by all of us to unite the destinies of Indochina with those of France, the link added by the botanist Jean-Baptiste-Louis Pierre is certainly not the least solid. This world-renowned scientist has inventoried the flora of the colony and thus prepared the field on which farmers and botanists can work more easily.

Besides our great colonialists, impartial history has retained the names of many Annamites — generals, scholars, diplomats, pacifiers — who have all done great service to their country.

Thus, in the dark days of Annam, there were some soldiers who permitted Gia-Long to restore order and security in the kingdom: Le-Van-Duyet, Marshal of the Emperor and Viceroy of Cochinchina; Vo-Tanh, General; Vo-Di-Nguy, Admiral; Le-Van-Phong, General; and many others.

Maréchal LE-VAN-DUYET — Gia-Dinh

Among them, Le-Van-Duyet occupies a special place. His courage, his devotion to the king and public affairs, his loyalty and his disinterest have made him one of the most seductive figures of old Annam and justify the quasi-religious veneration of which his memory is still the object in Cochinchina. It was he who, at the risk of displeasing his sovereign, did not hesitate to tell him the truth. It was again he who refused to read to the French an edict of expulsion which reached him from the court. For he declared that he could not forget the services rendered by them to his country.

Similarly, one cannot forget Vo-Tanh, that other valiant and stoic soldier, who remains engraved in the memory of his compatriots.

Général VO-THANH — village de Phu-Nhuan (Gia-Dinh)

Enclosed for two years in the citadel of Qui-Nhon, obliged at the end of the resistance to repulse the furious and repeated assaults of an opponent superior in number, he nonetheless discouraged Nguyen-Anh from coming to his rescue, persuading him instead to go and take Phu-Xuan (Hue), whose capture was more important. By the time the Emperor’s victory had been achieved and a rescue mission was launched, Vo-Tanh and his soldiers were dead.

The history book of Annam contains some other beautiful pages of the same kind. To ensure order, there have always been both leaders and humble auxiliaries ready to devote their lives to the cause. Pham-Van-Khanh, for example, victor of the attack on My-Tra by the plunderers of the plaine des Joncs on 22 July 1865; Le-Van-Phong, younger brother of Le-Van-Duyet; Phan-Thanh-Giang; and many others.

Capitaine Félix SALICÉTI — village de Trung-Ngai (Vinhlong)

In the work of pacification which followed the conquest, French and Annamites mixed their blood for the same cause. The Saliceti monument in the village of Trung-Ngai is proof of this. Captain Saliceti, who entered the service of France on 17 February 1872 at the age of 29, had his head cut off. At his side, also succumbing to the attack, were canton chief Tran-Cong-An, interpreter Vien, and militiamen Chon, Tao, Nay and Van.

The stele in Baria to the modest notable Bui-Thanh-Lièm is also worthy of the admiration of his fellows for his 40 years of community service.

When we move from the plan of collaboration for the maintenance of public order and security in the country to that of intellectual co-operation, we find another great Annamite, Pétrus Truong-Vinh-Ky, whose centenary will be celebrated in Saigon at the end of this year.

PETRUS KY — boulevard Norodom, Saïgon

Petrus Ky put his knowledge in the service of France and Annam, believing that true brotherhood lies in the heights of human intelligence.

This initiative of the Monde Colonial Illustré, bringing many forgotten faces out from the shadows, is one of the happiest. For it allows us to see, through the successive stages of colonisation, men who, each according to his own temperament, endeavoured to work for the greatness of their country.

It shows, above all, how their spirits and hearts merged to escape from daily pettiness and collaborate in the realisation of a unique, solid and eternal work.

Édouard MARQUIS

List of Monuments and Locations
Monument d’Odera – Xuan-Lôc (province de Bienhoa)
Monument de l’Enseigne de vaisseau Lareynière – Tan-Son-Nhi (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Monument de Morère – Nui-Bara (province de Bienhoa)
Monument du Capitaine Paulus – Tan-Thoi-Nhi (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Monument du Capitaine Saliceti – Trung-Ngai (prov. de Vinhlong)
Pagode et Tombeau du General Vo Tanh – Phu-Nhuan (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Pierres tombales du Maréchal Nguyen-Ngoc-Thoai – au pied du Nui-Sam (province de Chaudoc)
Statue à la mémoire de Doudart de Lagrée – place Rigault-de-Genouilly, Saigon
Statue à la mémoire de Jean-Baptiste-Louis Pierre – jardin Botanique, Saigon
Statue à la mémoire de Lamaille – place Rigault-de-Genouilly, Saigon
Statue de Francis Garnier – place Francis Garnier, Saigon
Statue de Gambetta – parc Maurice Long, Saigon
Statue de George Washington – place George Washington, Saigon
Statue de l’Amiral Rigault-de-Genouilly Saïgon – place Rigault-de-Genouilly, Saigon
Statue de Monsignor Pigneau de Béhaine – place de la Cathédrale, Saigon
Statue de Pétrus Ky – boulevard Norodom, Saigon
Statue de Quach-Dam – Marché central, Cholon (Gia-Dinh)
Statue du Général Léon de Beylié – rue Blancsubé, Saigon
Statues de P. Doan-Cong-Qui et E Le-Van-Phong – devant l’église de Chau-Doc
Stèle à la mémoire de Bui-Thanh-Liem – près du marché de Long-Dien (province de Baria)
Stèle à la mémoire de l’Administrateur Hugon – Soc-Trang, cimetière de la ville
Stèle à la mémoire de l’Administrateur-adjoint Luciani – Hoa-An (province de Bienhoa)
Stèle à la mémoire de Nguyen-Duc-Ung – Long-An (province de Bienhoa)
Stèle à la mémoire de Pham-Van-Kanh – My-Tra, Cao-Lanh (province de Sadec)
Stèle à la mémoire de S. E. Phan-Thanh-Giang – Bao-Thanh (province de Ben-Tre)
Stèle à la mémoire de Thoai-Ngoc-Hau – Thoai-Son (province de Long-Xuyen)
Tombeau de l’Amiral Vo-Di-Nguy – Phu-Nhuan (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Tombeau de Le-Van-Phong – Tan-Son-Nhut (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Tombeau de Monsignor Pigneau de Béhaine – Tan-Son-Nhut (Province de Gia-Dinh)
Tombeau du Général Mac-Cuu – sur une colline à 200m. de Hatien
Tombeau du Maréchal Le-Van-Duyet – Gia-Dinh
Tombeau du Pere Jacob Liot – Tan-Son-Nhut (Province de Gia-Dinh)

Amiral RIGAULT DE GENOUILLY — place Rigault-de-Genouilly, Saïgon

LE-VAN-PHONG — village de Tan-Son-Nhut (Gia-Dinh)

Enseigne de vaisseau LAREYNIÈRE – village de Tan-Son-Nhi (Gia-Dinh)

QUACH-DÀM — Marché central, Cholon

BUI-THANH-LIEM — près du marché de Long-Dien, Baria

Jean-Baptiste-Louis PIERRE —jardin Botanique, Saïgon

Tim Doling is the author of the walking tour guidebook Exploring Hồ Chí Minh City (Nhà Xuất Bản Thế Giới, Hà Nội, 2014).

A full index of all Tim’s blog articles since November 2013 is now available here.

Join the Facebook group pages Saigon-Chợ Lớn Then & Now and Huế Then & Now to see historic photographs juxtaposed with new ones taken in the same locations, and Đài Quan sát Di sản Sài Gòn – Saigon Heritage Observatory for up-to-date information on conservation issues in Saigon and Chợ Lớn.