Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
TONQUIN (TONG-KING or TUN-KIN). This northern province of the empire of Annam, in the Indo-Chinese peninsula, occupying the lower basin of the Hong-kiang (Red river) derives its geographical and commercial importance from its easy access into the rich Chinese province of Yunnan. The Hong-kiang is practically a navigable stream, and the three southern provinces of China, Kwang-tung, Kwang-si and Yunnan border on Tonquin, which has a coast sufficiently accessible. Added to these advantages, its salubrity, and its resources of grain, timber and the precious metals, make it a most desirable acquisition for a European power anxious to extend its possessions in the east, or to magnify abroad prestige lost at home. The most valuable part of Tonquin is the delta near the sea formed by the four months of the Red river, near or in which are situated the chief towns of the province. These are Ha-noi, the capital, Nin-hai, Elai-phong, Bac-nin, Nam-bin and Min-bin. The climate is much healthier than in the two lower provinces of Annam, Cochin China or Saigon, the thermometer in December falling to 41°. The season from April to August is intensely hot, and the heavy rains are accompanied by storms and typhoons, when the Red river overflows its banks, and spreads a fertilizing flood over the country, which afterward produces heavy crops of rice and other cereals. The delta is intersected by a multitude of watercourses both natural and artificial. The chief exports are rice, sugar, cotton, spices and varied tropical products, but the manufactures are restricted mainly to gongs and articles inlaid with mother-of-pearl. In religion, the mass of the natives are devotees to a form of Buddhism much corrupted by local superstitions; the literati are Confucianists. Their language, reduced to writing by the French missionaries, is a dialect of archaic Chinese, purely monosyllabic, and with a very limited range of articulation, depending for its variety upon tones, which modify and multiply the meanings of each vocable. In ethnology, the Tonquinese are descendants of tribes of southern China, that are mentioned in the ancient chronicles as people with the big toe noticeably large. They have a well-marked physiognomy and anatomical structure, in which personal beauty or grace of movement is not conspicuous. Until about the tenth century of our era, Tonquin (Chinese, tong, east, and king, capital, eastern capital; the name of the chief city, in distinction from Si-king, or western capital of Cochin China) was ruled by princes or governors of Chinese origin, but since 960 A. D. the country has been practically independent, though ever acknowledging China as suzerain, and regularly paying tribute. Tonquin, until near the close of the eighteenth century, was the dominant state of the Annamese empire, but since that time, it has formed one of its three great political divisions, and the dynasty founded in 1803 A. D. by Gya-long by French assistance reigns still at Hué, in Cochin China, the central state.
—Christianity was first introduced by refugees from Japan as early as 1615, and in 1624 the French Jesuit priests began proselyting labors, which, with assistance later from Spanish Dominicans and French Lazarists, have, in spite of numerous bloody persecutions resulted in a roll of converts numbering, in 1854, 500,000. Severe persecutions since that time have greatly reduced these figures. The murder of several French priests and a Spanish bishop led to the Franco-Spanish intervention of 1858. During the century of intercourse with France, these various "revolts" of the Annamese and subsequent negotiations have usually resulted in the gain of fresh slices of land and new commercial privileges. France sends her Jesuits, or secular priests, first, and the brandy and "civilization" follow at the cannon's mouth. The treaty of 1874 gained her the six southern provinces of Cochin China, opened the port of Ha-noi, in Tonquin, to foreign trade, and guaranteed free transit from the sea to Yunnan. As usual with European powers in dealing with Asiatic nations, the French compelled the acceptance of their tariff; and custom house officers were duly installed at Haiphong and Ha-noi (called also Ke-cho, or the market). Owing to the unsettled state of the interior, caused by the ravages of the "Black Flags"—whether allies, invaders, or paid mercenaries of Annam, does not clearly appear—the Red river was not opened even in 1882, seven years after the treaty, and even the French settlement at Ha-noi was in danger. As a precautionary measure, the Saigon authorities dispatched re-enforcements to their nationals at the capital of Tonquin. The local mandarins, interpreting this as a menace, closed the Ha-noi citadel, and concentrated their forces. The French, taking alarm, resolved to precipitate the crisis, and on April 23, 1882, began to bombard the citadel (which, nearly a hundred years before, had been laid out by French engineers), and carried it on the 26th by assault. They then proceeded to administer the custom house for the benefit of the French treasury. Meanwhile China had not been an indifferent spectator of French aggression carried on under cover of protecting her citizens. When the treaty of 1874 was communicated to China and the other powers, the government of Peking protested against its provisions as an invasion of her suzerain rights, and formally gave notice that Annam was still her vassal, and whatever affected her international relations was of deep concern to the Chinese government. Since her reconquest of Ili, or Chinese Turkestan, which secured its formal retrocession from Russia, China has reaffirmed and in some cases enforced her ancient claim of suzerainty upon her vassals. That over Corea and Riu Kiu as against Japan, and perhaps the United States, in the case of Corea, is still unsettled. But her interest in Annam, both as neighbor and tributary, as manifested by military preparations, was so great, that the French evacuated the citadel at Ha-noi, though they fortified their settlement. In making a sortie May 24, 1883, the French commander, Riviere, and a number of his men were killed. The government at Paris at once resolved that France would "revenge her glorious children," and on May 26 declared war against China's vassal. (See also
—LITERATURE. Crawfurd's Embassy to the Courts of Siam and Cochin China, 1828; Garnier's Voyage d'Exploration en Indo-Chine, etc., Paris, 1873; Luro's Pays d'Annam, Paris, 1878; Deveria's Histoire des Relations de la Chine avec Annam - Vietnam, Paris, 1880; The French in Tong-king, The Contemporary Review, Nov., 1882; England and France in Indo-China, The National Review, June, 1883; Colquhoun's Across Chrysé, London and New York, 1883, etc.
WM. ELLIOT GRIFFIS.
Return to top