The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai

The Last Emperors of Vietnam: From Tu Duc to Bao Dai


This book tells the story of French interaction with Vietnam and the neighboring region, which began with the French seizure of Cochin-China and Tonking in the 19th century under Emperor Tu Duc and ended with their humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. After the conclusion of treaties with China in the nineteenth century, Western nations sought access to the resource rich region of Yunnan. After attempts at exploring the Mekong River, the French turned their sights to the Red River. Only after Jean Dupuis successfully linked Hanoi with Yunnan was Admiral Dupre able to begin the conquest of Tonking. This volume begins where Chapuis's History of Vietnam left off, completing the colonial history of Vietnam.


If Emperor Gia Long had brought in the French to help him secure the throne of Annam, he probably believed he had paid them back with ranks, titles, and wealth. Indeed, when Pigneau died, he was honored with a national funeral, and Gia Long delivered a heart-rending eulogy. Chaigneau was made marquis and the other French volunteers were raised to peerage.

Yet, at the end of his life, Gia Long advised his successors to treat the French well but to refrain from giving them any influential posts in their government. For his descendants, who felt no moral obligation toward the French, Gia Long's will was quite welcome. As time passed, courtesy became indifference that ended in confrontation when Minh Mang ordered the execution of Father Marchand, who was involved in Le Van Khoi's revolt.

EMPEROR TU DUC (1829-1883)

The rule of Tu Duc was the turning point in the destiny of Vietnam. After Thieu Tri, the court did away with the principle of primogeniture and instead of his eldest son, Hong Bao, chose the youngest, Tu Duc, for succession.

Tu Duc was born on September 22, 1829. His mother was Pham Thi Hang, a native of Gia Dinh (Cochinchina), who was to become the famous Dowager Tu Du. Tu Duc was reputed to be the best-educated monarch of the Nguyen Dynasty. Through his written or verbal injunctions, he revealed himself as an outstanding scholar, but his literary endowment lost its significance in the context of westernization. He would be a perfect monarch in time of peace and prosperity in which Confucian filial piety would be seen as the foundation of social happiness, but against Western culture Confucianism was only a backward philosophy. Thus, the Vietnam of Tu Duc could only follow the steps of its role model, the decadent China of the Ch'ing. Worse, Vietnam kept going on where China had stopped: When in 1905 the Ch'ing put an end to the traditional examination system, Vietnam still carried it on for a few more years.

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