The Ancient Civilization of Vietnam

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English Pages 304 [308] Year 1995

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The Ancient Civilization of Vietnam

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- 1995











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Publishers’ note



The Vietnamese race. Physical features


I: The family: Nha




1. The clan and the family


2. The paternal power


3. The marriage


4. Effects of marriage. Role of the wife


5. The children and the huong hoa


6. The cult of ancestors



II: The commune:



1. Foundation of the commune


2. Organization of the commune


3. The communal cult


II: The state: Nudéc



1. The emperor


2. The impertal palace





3. The imperial cult


4. The mandarinate


5. The Vietnamese central administration


6. The Vietnamese provincial administration



IV: The house


1. Historical conditions


2. Social conditions


3. Religious conditions


4. Natural and economic conditions


5. Furniture in the house



V: The village



1. The concentration of population


2. the population of the villages


3. Types of rural settlement


4. The plan of the village



VI: Maintenance of the body : clothes, food, medicine


bt. Clothes...


2. Foodstuffs


3. Medicine



VII: Economic production


Agriculture, Fishing, Animal husbandry, Hunting

|. Agricuiture and spontaneous vegetation


2. Fishing, animal husbandry and hunting




VIII: Religious life

I- Aspects of the religious life _ 1. The natural order and the human order

. The soul . The spirits . The gods nN WN Ww & .

Religious consciousness

II- The religions of the Vietnamese 1. Taoism 2. Buddhism


IX: Intellectual and artistical life

I- The language

1. The formation of the Vietnamese language 2. The systems of Vietnamese writing. The popular language

3. The scholarly language: Chinese II- Culture and education Ilt- Literature, Art

r Literature 2. Art


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organisation from among those who have land or simply live in the village, but are well-known for their respectability and cleverness, they keep their title, their rank, their prerogatives and remain subjected to the obligations that customs confer on them. The members of the Council of notables are chosen from among the land owners of the commune, the most well-off inhabitants, retired agents of the superior and middle cadres of the State, former military men with at least the rank of sergent and registered on the village list of personal tax payers.

In principle, no one can hold a position in the hierarchy without passing through the lower grades. To be appointed huong hao, one must be at least 24 years old and able to read and write. However, former functionaries can directly accede to the higher grades. The title dai huong cd can be conferred on functionaries of the grade of phui at least, on holders of a grade in the order of legion of honnour and on notables, retired or working, who have given


| 92



particularly remarkable and exceptional service to their village in the capacity of huong ca. The minimum duration of service of each grade is two years. No one can accede to the grade of thi b6é without assuming for two years at least the position of huong than, or xd truong, or huong hao, or chanh luc bé, no one can accede to the grade of huwong su without holding, for five years at least, the position of thu b6, or huong quan, or huong gido, or huong chanh, or huong trudng. All



in addition

to the


of the

commune, are collectively responsible for the collection oftaxes, for recruitment, for any damages caused to communications, roads and public works created and maintained by the State and for offences committed in the public domain, including fraudulent dealings in alcohol and opium. We can see, that, in the administrative organization of the communes, the control by the central government is more thorough than in the past. In fact, in Cochinchina, from the beginning of the French administration the government has often intervened in the management of communal affairs. The 1927 Decision has only confirmed what had long been done, step by step, such as the regulation of August 27, 1904. Each



its budget

for the


of the

communal cult, the maintenance of roads, bridges, education, for

the payment of allowances to the administrative agents of the village and for the salary of the police agents of the commune. Thanks to this budget, the villages have been able to achieve


important public works.


is possible



communes in Cochinchina have been regrouped to form rather strong economic units. For instance, MY Tho province which, at the end ofthe 19th century had no less than 1000 villages, today has only 90, each village having 1000-1500 hectares of rice fields and at least 700 inhabitants. Thanks to this system, the communes have today a budget amounting to 20,000 piastres




each. This fact has enabled these agglomerations to achieve important and useful public works, the construction of roads and bridges; creation of schools and maternity hospitals, ete. We should add that in Cochinchina, some progress has been made in giving up many customs regarding feasting and, thereby significantly reducing the great expenses on the occasions of public recognition of titles. Nowadays, it seems that little attention is paid to the hierarchy of classes in the villages. 5. Subdivisions of the commune

and the village societies

The commune is subdivided in either administrative or mutualist groupings. These subdivisions have names _ the definition of which is often difficult because they indicate, according to the localities, organisms different in their formation and their objective. We must distinguish two kinds of village groupings, firstly the subdivisions which have ties recognized by the administration, in the official general organization of the commune; secondly the village societies which are formed by individuals for common purposes. But we must say at once that both groupings are very important in the management of communal affairs. They are closely related to each other. Today, as a matter of fact behind the hedge of bamboos, in spite of the communal reforms, they still remain very powerful. The subdivisions thon, x6m, gidp, ngo are territories grouped each around a common core, they sometimes reflect a geographical reality and bear names corresponding to their location in such and such a part of the commune. Besides, there -are cases in which a geographic name designates a subdivision which occupies an area by convention.

The thén is an agglomeration that is often translated as "hamlet". It is separated from the others by land which has no inhabitants. But an inhabitant may leave a thon and live in






another and have properties there without ceasing to belong to his thén of origin where his name is registered. A certain rivalry may exist between the thdn which form different villages and often each possess a particular dinh, a pagoda chia, a literary hillock or vdn chi and its‘own special customs, different from the common customs.

The different thon which form separate villages tend always to set up separate administrations, because they have different, sometimes, contradictory interests from the point of view of sharing lands, in attributing local obligations, or religion, since the introduction of Catholicism, or in allotting public functions. The thén to which the functionaries of the commune belong to naturally have advantages over the others in various respects. Since the most powerful thon generally assumes the principal functions of the commune, the other thén are always trying to obtain a separate stamp (biét trién) or at least to have the right of delivering the taxes directly to the treasury (biét thu biét nap, separate collection, separate delivery), including an independent internal organization and the appointment ofa pho ly. But there are also villages which have only one thén, in which the thén is confounded with the xd or the lang. * *


The xém, a small agglomeration, can also be translated as hamlet. It is sometimes a small thdn, but it is in most cases a group of houses in the village from which it is separated only by a path, a ditch or a hedge. Sometimes, it is two rows of houses that border a path, either a street or an alley, to which are sometimes attached

isolated houses. In official writtings, it is often called thén. The x6m participates in the cult of ancestors by making a separate offering or a predetermined contribution generally equal to all the xom without taking into account each individuals respective importance. It is represented at communal ceremonies and meetings




by a linh or by a trudng xém,

in charge of the collection


individual contributions, of the management of land, rice fields, or

pond, and of the supply of collective offerings to be brought to the dinh on the occasion of communal feasts. When the word xém designates a separate hamlet, it is a hamlet of little importance participating in communal life and not tending to be separated from it. In the official language, thon and x6m are synonyms, thén being a Sino-Vietnamese character and x6m a popular term. The giap is sometimes confused with the xdém as it is ‘organized in exactly the same way with regard to the participation in the communal cult. It should be noted that the number of thén is limited to two or three, exceptionally, five to eight. While in a thén there may be several x6m or several gidp. Each village necessarily comprises many gidp the number of which may reach twenty. At first the gidp was certainly a geographic division, because the name of the gidp is written at the entrance of the agglomeration bearing this name. However, all the members of the gidp do not necessarily live in the agglomeration that bears the name. There are the gidp which have their members scattered to all corners of the village and members


nevertheless, bound by participation in the communal by the celebration of the particular feast of the gidp.


as residence

to none

of them.


cult and

The ngé designates a lane or an alley in But each lane is generally the site or, more of the name of the gidp or the xém. The Chinese characters while the ngd often "vulgar" Vietnamese.

its physical meaning. precisely, the support gidap has a name in only has a name in

The provincial administration admits only the subdivision thon when these hamlets are clearly separated from one another. On

the other














subdivisions to the administrative divisions for the convenience of the sharing of communal obligations and prerogatives. *



There are in the village a series of other more or less official organisations which are joined by individuals who have the same rights. From the administrative point of view, they usually have no role, but in reality they are all elements of the leading body of the commune. Firstly there is the tw vdn, or the group of scholars (literally, preservation ofthe literary traditions) composed of all those who can call themselves scholars by a certain rights, either as literary graduates, or as actual honorary mandarins of the civilian order. In villages where studies are no longer an honour, to keep this body alive, those who have exercised or are exercising communal functions, chiefs and deputy chiefs of the canton and the village are also admitted. The title of member of thie van can even be bought, as a result, sometimes illiterate but rich inhabitants can become members of this group. Then there is the van pha, the members of which are only university graduates and those who have given proof of being a scholar, i.e. who have presented themselves at least once to a literary competition or who have been admitted to the provincial eliminatory examination. These members of the van pha, on the register and at meetings, observe an order carefully determined by their university grades. Equal grades are classified by seniority, and in case of equal seniority, by age. The holder of the highest grade, who presides over this body is called van truong (chief of the scholars). He is generally the first notable who presides over the communal ceremonies.

In the village, the legion of military men is also found, the vo pha, the members of which are military graduates. Formerly, the Court conferred university grades after an examination of



military theory and practice. When military grades awarded by military competitions are net available, the members of the vd pha are classified according to the importance obtained in the military mandarinate.

of the grades

Further to these, we still have the b6 or ldo nhiéu or hoi ldo which is composed of men of over 60 years of age who have solemnly confirmed their entry into the class of venerables, as we have seen, by an offering or by the payment of fees to the village or by celebrating the anniversary of their 60th year by a banquet to which all the villagers are invited.


Finally, mention must be made of the ky muc composed of all those who have assumed a public function in the commune. These five organisations, tu van, vdn pha, v6 pha, ldo nhiéu,

ky muc designated under the generic name of cdc tich, are all parts, as we have seen above, of the communal hierarchy. Each of them may have a common fund, a cash-box to keep the admission fees of its members, the interest of the loans granted by the group and the annual fruits of the ricefields which are used to prepare the offerings fo the feast at the dinh or to be eaten together after the rituals. cd


In the village, there are also cooperative societies for mutual assistance. The village owns in common a vast system to facilitate


product of which



goes to unfortunate







orphans, wounded watchers or to their family in the case of their death, etc. Some villages also establish reserve granaries, the x@

nghia thuong, supplied by the incomes of a communal field or through deductions from the annual harvest. These granaries are controlled by the notables. In a case of food shortages, the village gives or lends, without interests, to the inhabitants the

rice taken from this reserve.

98 :




Other groupings remain more detached from the communal organization. Thus the gidp, which is not defined as a subdivision of the commune and which plays almost the same administrative role as the thon, is in many villages, a fraternity of men united by the objective of ensuring maintaining certain customary rites or carrying out actions of mutual assistance. These people are generally attracted to the same grouping because they live close to one another, because of their descendants

or even

because of their moral affinity and personal preference. The giadp keeps a household register, listing the male children of its members. The date of registration determines the rank of precedence. No social situation, however important it may be, can interfere with the prerogatives of each member of the group. The gidp possesses its own properties in cash or in land; these assets have been originally constituted by contributions, legacies and voluntary donations. The social funds are used for cash-loans or for renting fields for the members of the gidp. The incomes cover the expenses incurred by public festivities, anniversary banquets, sacrificial or votive ceremonies. One of the principal functions of the giap is to look after the funerals of its members without charge. When one of its members dies, his comrades, except for the first four venerables, must dig the grave, carry the coffin, the tables of offerings, the banners and all the accessories of the funeral procession. If the gidp is not numerous


it must

recruit, and pay, the complement


carrier elsewhere. Other societies called phudng or hdi can exist in the village

with more limited objectives. The phudng tu cdp or phudng cap asscmbles its members to help one another in private affairs, in the funerals (not only of its members but also of persons of their family}, marriages, feasts (khao and khdnh ha) or even in ‘the construction of houses. Each member must, on the request of



another member of the group and according to rules, furnish money, rice or prepared meals. Usually, each month, only one member is helped, in consequence all the gidp can make preparation without having to hurry. Sometimes assistance is given only once every four or five months. The phuong thdc, (society of paddy) formed by the fields _ Owners, who put in a common store some quantity of paddy to be loaned to its members so as to avoid exorbitant interest. When there is a surplus of paddy, the phuong also lends it to other inhabitants. Each year, at harvest time, the phwong recovers capital and interest and gathers all its members for a feast. The interest is divided among all the members. The héi ky hao is composed of one or more villages that have some common interest or aim. Each member must make a contribution to raise capital to be lent with interest. From time to time, the members gather to drink cups of alcohol or to sing songs. When there is an election in the region, the members of the association meet to consult together as to how to oppose such or such a candidate. The hdi ddng mén assembles all the disciples of a same master. Contributions in cash or in kind are made and fields are acquired. Offerings are prepared on the day of the anniversary of the master and a banquet is held for the members of the group.


Mention can be made of the associations of wrestlers (hdi

vat), of singers (phudng hat), of musicians (hdi dm nhac), of boat men (Adi chai), of rearers of singing and fighting birds (hdi chim hoa my), of people born in the same year (hdi dong nién)

of lady-worshippers (hdi chu ba), of mediums who adore the "three worlds" the tam phu, (hdi déng quan) and of groups to organize cock fight matches (Adi choi ga). *



So, the Vietnamese commune comprises, besides the official administrative organization, innumerable groupings that have

their specific interests. By their spirit of mutual assistance, they play a beneficial role in this country where money is scarce. But somtimes,



by the number

of their

members or the influence of certain persons, manage to play a preponderant role in the village. They cause reforms to fail and make the task of the ly trudng or the communal administrative Council, hdéi dong téc biéu, difficult. These are the multiple parties of public opinion in the commune: they feed discussions on communal affairs to ensure respect for ancient customs; they interfere in the private life of families to redress wrongdoings and failures of morality or even to aggravate the quarrels within the families. Anyhow, the village community really exists. In the presence of the administration and of any stranger in the village, communal solidarity is not a meaningless word, in spite of the internal disputes and the intrigues of the various parties. Internally, the inhabitants know that through these organizations which are strengthened by personal preferences and ties of interests,



to the


of mutual



solidarity. Externally, they unite to oppose the mandarinal authority or that of such or such person who desires to take some profits to the detriment of their community. However, the villages themselves are not absolutely closed to one another. Their independence is moderated in most cases by understandings between neighbouring villages and sometimes between remote ones. This custom, called giao hiéu or dao hdo, tcads to intercommunal associations of mutual assistance. The communes thus tied are called Jang giao hiéu. These understandings originated through the process of land reclamation. The newly created villages remain closely united to the original village. They may also stem from security considerations in a country where local roads and national police



are lacking, the villages organize themselves to ensure, together, their security from and resistance to brigands. So, they spontaneously organize themselves to give mutual aid and assistance on all occasions, to organize security and to settle their conflicts without resorting to the authorfties. In case epidemics, fire, typhoons, etc., strike one of the associated villages, the other communes


to its assistance, offering it

money, grain, cattle, materials etc. Some villages have pooled their money to build schools or religious establishments.

Allied villages help one another in particular, nor do they institute proceedings against one another. When there is a ‘festival in one of the associated villages, the others send their notables as representatives with offerings of money, betel chews, votive papers, etc. The representatives, after giving their presents to the titular genie ofthe friendly village, are invited to the ritual feast. In return they are handed some betel chews for them to offer to the other notables who have not come to the festival. This custom is practised in the four villages of Chinh Kinh, Cu Léc, Quan Nhan and Gidp Nhat which form the agglomeration of Moc or Nhaén Muc (Ha Dong) because their titular genii were brothers. Periodically, they organize a festival in common, where by in turn, each village receives the others. And on such occasions, large processions are organized to gather all the tablets of the genii in one dinh where the sacrifices are offered together. In ordinary times, at the annual feast, a date is fixed for the invitation of the notables of other villages to come and take part in the feast. The festivals held in common by several associated villages exist in many places in Tonkin. They can last several days and are very expensive. To meet the requirements, contributions have to be made and gambling-houses are created, as part of the entertainment during the festival. Consequently, these large gatherings take place only once every five years and sometimes ten years or more.



Officially, the communes


are grouped in variable numbers,

six, ten, fifteen or more to form a canton or téng. Each canton

is governed by a chief, cai tong or chanh téng assisted by a deputy-chief phd tong and sometimes, in Cochinchina, second deputy chief or ban bién or sung bién phé téng.

3- The communal

The most immutable solidarity is the dinh. home of the collective the protecting genie of meetings of the notables and internal justice are

by a


and also the most lively place of village Each village has one dinh which is the life of the community, where the altar of the village is found. "It is there that the take place, that questions of administration dealt with, that religious ceremonies are

performed and that, in brief, all activities of Vietnamese


life are carried out. The protecting genie represents, in a sensible way, the sum total of the common souvenirs, the common aspirations; he embodies

the rule, the custom, the morality and

at the same time, the sanction: it is he who punishes or rewards, depending on whether his laws are violated or respected. All things considered, he is the personification of this supreme authority that takes its source and draws its force from. the society itself. Moreover, he is the tie binding all the members of the community, he makes, it a block, a kind of moral personality, the essential objectives of which are found again in each individual. The study of the village cult of the titular genie thanh hoang, therefore cannot be separated from the framework of the Vietnamese commune. *


The titular genie of the village is a historical or legendary person that the first settlers creating the commune, chose, either





in an arbitrary manner or through the personal preference of a notable who proposed him to the group, or in the wake of mystical revelations (dreams, apparitions, oracles, statements, of

fortune-tellers sorcerers or geomancers), or after deliberations on the basis of the historical role of the place, the circumstances that lead to the creation of the village, sacred places of the neighbourhood, famous rivers or mountains, or simply by copying from the tablets of the original village of the first inhabitants. Ile is sometimes a divinity of popular belief, a beheaded genie (than cut dau), a child (than tre con), a thief . (than an cap), etc. who revealed themselves by a miracle after their death which was violent arid happened at a sacred hour. He is sometimes an animal deified by credulous people.

On the other hand, many villages worship celestial genie like the genie Tan Vién, the genie Pha Dong. Others consider famous men having made eminent contributions to Vietnam like Ly Ong Trong, Pham Negi Lao, Tran Hung Dao, etc as their Thanh Hoang. Living personages are rarely adopted: a high-ranking mandarin, an influential personality who made an important contribution to the village and whom the inhabitants grossly substitute for the ancient titular genie who could not protect them. There are villages which change their titular genie for the same reason or following mystical revelations

that inform them of the absences, desertions and

betrayals of the reigning genie. They solemnly away and put another genie in their place.



Thus like an association which is founded, a commune which

is created is immediately placed under the moral patronage of a divinity or of a deified personage, who is a symbol for the scholars and a menace for simple spirits, so as to impose on everybody a discipline, a collective line of conduct, a respect of the rules that have been laid down with common agreement







before the altar of that divinity in charge of seeing to their implementation. To defend the interests of the community, people placed themselves under the aegis ofa divinity who has done outstanding and virtuous things or who may be capricious or wicked in its legend, but who, in this sacred and special role required by the group, symbolizes the arbitral and penal power. *



Once the cult has been adopted, all the village must take part in it, and in its ritual performance, the village is represented by persons designated on the basis of a concept of merits and qualities which are representative of and stipulated

for all. With

the first officiate, chu té, at the head

all the villagers attend the cult, in an order determined by their time-honoured merit, according to a hierarchy which varies in its details with each village, but which remains, in its immutable essence, determined by the knowledge ofthe rites. The rites form the basis of Confucian education. So it is the literary merits that determine the classification of the inhabitants in the communal ceremonies.

"The dinh is built preferably a little distance from the houses. It always comprises an ensemble of buildings vast enough to contain the altar of the genie, the objects of cult and to have room for the inhabitants to gather there on the days of festivity. "Generally, it is composed, first of all of a building in the shape of a reversed T. The vertical line forms the sanctuary and the horizontal line the feast room. The sanctuary, called hau cung (posterior palace) or dinh trong (interior dinh) or thuong dinh (superior dinh), is preceded by another one, always almost of the same

length (3, 5, 7, inter-column

on the wealth of the village).

intervals, depending




"It is in the latter building, called rién té (anterior building for the sacrifices) or dinh ngodi (exterior dinh) or ha dinh (inferior dinh) that the notables in blue dress perform the official ceremony for the genie on the days of festivity.

"This exterior dinh can be widened, making it more spacious than the posterior palace, hau cung. The cults’ edifice has the shape of the Chinese character T , céng, instead of the reversed T. In any case, a small court separates the ha dinh from the hau cung.

"Then the lateral buildings on the right and on the left of a _court in front of the tién té, and opposite to each other, these are the hanh lang (lateral galleriés): they are 3-7 intercolumn intervals long, sometimes more. In these buildings all the preparations for the feast are made: animals are killed and glutinous rice cooked for the cult, the meals to be served at the dinh are also prepared there. In some villages there are separate kitchens, the hanh lang are provided with platforms and serve as a meeting place for the notables. The court can be closed by . a very large triple door. Most often the door is open and the entrance is constituted only by two or four masonry pillars connected, sometimes, by sections of wall. *



"In the sanctuary, the altar of the genie is found. The genie is represented by a statue or most often by a ngai or a y (altar throne) which are both covered with red or yellow silk, and crowned with a mandarins hat and provided with a pair of boots. The spirit of the genie is embodied by the royal warrants which have been conferred on him and preserved in a laquered and gilt box. The sanctuary, on ordinary days remains closed. It is connected with the room preceding it by panelled doors, solid or perforated, which are opened only on days of festivity. For that reason, it is called cung cam (forbidden palace). Only the



notable assuming the function


of principal officiant and the

guardian of the temple (thu ti) have the right to enter.

"In the central inter-collumn interval of the building preceding the sanctuary and just in front of the latter, altar tables huong an (incense tables) made of carved and gilt wood are found full with objects of the cult (incense burners, candle sticks, standard lamps, joss-stick vases, flower vases, alcohol sets, etc.),

and flanked on both sides by parasols, dais, flags, the 16 bé (objects of pomp) and the bat buu (eight precious objects). "In the other inter-column intervals, the ground is raised by platforms of boards or masonry, which are covered with mats where old men and notables are seated on days of festivity or of meetings. The tién té has the same arrangement, the central inter column interval serves as a place of ceremony; on the platforms the inhabitants, other than the old men and the notables, are seated at the general banquets of the village". In some rich villages, these banquets are served in the large buildings of the hanh lang.



The ceremonies celebrated in honour of the titular genie are fixed. On the first day (l€é séc) and the 15th day (lé vong) of each month, the guardian of the dinh lights candles and lamps and burns incenses, sounds the bell and the drum. On behalf of

the village, he kneels down before the altar. Then he opens the doors for the day to let the inhabitants come and practise their devotions, individually or in groups. On ordinary days only one candle and three joss-sticks are kept burning indefinitely; the doors are closed, they are only opened on the express demand of people who have an offering to make or who want to ask

favours from the divinity.



So, the ‘guardian of the dinh, who is sometimes a hired person or an old man with no family is devoted entirely to this job, the

. Village taking care of his livelihood, but more often it is a notable appointed for this service to the public cult (cai dam) for one year by roster. During that year, he must refrain, most of the time from having profane relations with his family and the external world. In some villages, this service is very strick and imposes confinement on the guardian in the sacred room of the altar from which he is prohibited to have impure communications with the external world, moreover, he must observe a strictly vegetarian diet. Besides the sdéc and vong, at the dinh, ceremonies are held in spring xudn té, in autumn, tha té, at the festival ha dién, at the time of rice replanting; at that of thuwong dién when rice planting is completed, at that of thuong tdn, at the harvest of the 9th month’s new rice, at that of thuong nguyén (the 15th day of the Ist month) which coincides with the /é ky yén (to ask for tranquillity); at that of trung nguyén 15th day of the 7th month (for the deliverance of the souls), that of /é khai ha on the 7th day of the Ist month or khai dn (opening of the stamps, an ancient custom according to which official services are reopened on the 7th day of the Ist month and work is resumed in general). Sacrifices are also made at the ceremony of the 3rd day of the

3rd month, tét mung ba thang ba or lé han thuc, at that of the 5th day of the 5th month, tét mdng ndm thang ndm or doan ngo

that of the 15th day of the 8th month tét rdm thang tam or trung thu, that of the 2nd day of the 12th month or Jap tiét (year-end ceremony), etc.

But the most important feast of the year is the vao dam, "entry to assembly" or vao hdi, "entry to feast". It is generally held in spring or in autumn, or on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth or the death of the genie. It is the great annual feast and the capital event of the cult of the titular genie.




various organize villages many feast, this During entertainments: theater (hat tudng, hat chéo), wrestling (danh vat), chess matches (danh c0), cock fights (choi ga), bird fights _ (choi chim) processions and formation of characters (chay chit) dispute of balls (xe trdi or cuép cau), buffalo fights (choi trau) pigeon flights (tha chim), swing-boat games (/eo du), etc. Besides betel chews and alcohol (gidu ruou) which are indispensable in all sacrifices, the offerings consist of rice breads (odn), bananas (chudi) or other fruits in season: oranges (cam), kakis (hdng), one or several boiled cocks and a tray of stewed glutinous rice (xdi) under ordinary circumstances. For great feasts, the offerings include, besides sticky rice, three animals,

tam sinh, (a pig, an ox or a buffalo, and a goat) or only a pig, an ox or a buffalo. The quantity of offerings depends on the wealth of each commune. In some villages, on the occasion of great feasts, competition of offerings are organized, prizes are awarded to those who have prepared the best rice or presented the best animal for sacrifice. These offerings, are made in turn by the inhabitants of such or such a class or bought at the expense of the village.

During the great feast, a rite is often performed to recall all the eminent features of the genie’s life. A combat scene is thus organized for a warrior divinity, like at the village of Phu Dong (province of Bac Ninh), a robbery scene for a thief genie. According to Mr. Nguyén Khac Khoan, from whom we have received a great deal of information, at the village of Long Khé (province of Thai Binh), at the death anniversary of the genie, a great festival takes place with sacrifices and processions. At night, young people of the villlage, with lighted torches in hand,

stride around the temple, penetrate into the lanes as if they were searching for a thief. Then, the guardian of the temple passes




the statue of the genie through an opening in the back wall of the sanctuary, where the first notable stands posted on the other side. As soon as the statue is out, the latter grasps it at the neck and strikes it three blows with his fist, shouting: "I have him! | have him!" Thereafter the statue is again placed on the sedan chair kiéu and brought back to the dinh in a procession. *



"In any case, the major act of the feast is the sacrifice té: the té is a solemn and general sacrifice. It is very minutely prescribed by the scholars who have imitated the public ceremonies of the imperial cult. It is performed with much pomp and glamour in the course ofthe annual great festivals vao dam. It requires the participation of many notables: there must be a chu té (principal officiant) two bdi té (assistant officiants), a déng xuéng (announcer of commandments in the East), a tay xu6ng (announcer of commandments in the West) and the chdp su (notables who hand incense and alcohol to the chu té). The

latter holding it at the height of his forehead, brings it to sanctuary and presents it to the genie. One, two, or three té, two or three bdi té may be designated, depending on villages. The number of announcers can also be doubled.

the chu the The

number of chdp sy varies from two to eight denengding on the solemnity of the ceremony. All these personages put on the blue dresses, gauze bonnets and flannel or velvet boots. Mandarins, when called to be officiants, put on their beautiful costumes of ceremony (do trdao), their dragonfly winged caps (mii canh chuoén),

their boots, and hold with both hands their hot (ivory plates) and constantly look at each other in it to watch over their demeanour.

"Three mats are spread before the altar of the genie. On the first, the nearest to the altar, offerings are made and prayers are read out. The third one is reserved for the chu té, he must return to his position




after each movement to present the offerings. On the second mat, the rite dm phiic (beverage of happiness) is performed. It is. there

that the principal officiant, the recognized representative of the village, receives the benediction of the protecting God, in the form of a cup of alcohol and a betel chew taken from the altar of the genie. The bdi té remain standing on a fourth mat, behind the chu té. The chdp su and the announcers stand on the right and on the left, at fixed places of the sacrifice site. "All the movements of the officiants chu té, bdi té, chap su during the sacrifice are loudly proclaimed by the announcer in the East. That in the West shouts only the "hung" to allow the officiants to stand up when they are kneeling.

Throughout the ceremony, music is played. Besides the big drum tréng cdi and the gong chiéng that are beaten now and then to punctuate the commandments, there are the kén (clarinet) and the tréng con (small flat drum). To these instruments are added the group of bat adm generally composed of the sénh tién (castanets with small bells), the nguyét (two-string guitar) , the tam (three-string guitar), the nhi (violin), the sdo (flute), the tréng bdc (small drum with only one drumhead) the tiu (kind of cymbals) and the canh (small hand gong). Sometimes a ritual dance is performed by professional groups, for tie genie’s entertainment." * *


The communal cult makes a deep impression on the villagers with the pomp and the minute regulation. No doubt, it has been passed down,

almost without alteration,

for centuries.

commune participate in it in moments of happiness or the vital force of the community is concentrated and It has contributed to giving this cult a dynamic more that of an ordinary religion. The cult of the titular become,

in the


of the



All the

woes. All lost in it. solid than genie has force




cohesion, so important and so indestructible that it could victoriously resist all attempts of regulation by the State. Recently, the few reforms introduced to the commune have led to no change, they have even made the defenders of the village cult more prudent and therefore less vulnerable. That is why we do not want to treat it as a religion and separate it from the general organization of the commune. Mention must be made of other places of cult in the village, besides the dinh. First of all, there is the vdn chi or literary temple, which is a building, or more often a hillock prescribed for the cult of Confucius and his immediate disciples to whom are added the ancient scholars ofthe village. This cult is reserved for scholars, the other notables participate in it only as a homage to their predecessors. In the case where the chief of the scholars, the vdn trudng, and the principal literary graduates are absent, the other notables cannot accomplish the usual solemnities at the van chi. In villages where there are no literary graduates among the inhabitants, most often no "literary temple" is found. In a number of villages having a long military tradition, along

with the vdn chi, there exists the vd chi, military temple. The vo chi is for the cult of ancient military men of a certain rank up, natives of the village, and sometimes

also with them, historical

personages of China, Thai Cong and Quan Vo considered the patrons of military men or symbols of bravery and faithfulness.

The commune also has pagodas chua, consecrated to the cult of Buddha, temples, dén or miéu, reserved for the cult of famous personages, of the genie of the soil and agriculture, etc. Sometimes certain communal dén are dedicated to the illustrious ancestors of certain families. These are but ancient houses of a family’s cult which become communal because of the extinction of direct descendants.





BRIEF BIBLIOGRAPHY. C. BRIFFAUT, La cité annamite, 3 vol., Paris 1909-1912.

NGUYEN XUAN DINH, Nhat Tan Phuong Luoc, Nam Dinh, 1934. G. DUMOUTIER, P. GOUROU,

Essais sur les Tonkinois, Hanoi


Les paysans du delta Tonkinois, Paris, 1936.

VU VAN HIEN, La propriété communale au Tonkin, Hanoi, 1939.

NGUYEN VAN KHOAN, Essai sur le dinh in B.E.F.E.O. 1930. P. KRESSER,

La commune

P. ORY, La commune

annamite en Cochinchine, Paris, 1935.

annamite au Tonkin, Paris, 1894.

P. PASQUIER, L’Annam d’autrefois, Paris, 1930.

LE THUGC, Nguyén Cong Triz, Hanoi, 1928. NGUYEN VAN VINH, Le village annamite in Annam Nouveau, Feb-July, 1931.




The Vietnamese commune is today as it has always been. It has always eluded the eyes of strangers. One can penetrate into it only with great difficulty, and even mandarins representing the emperor’s authority, though received with the respect and the ceremony required by rites and customs, could only know the communal house, the dinh, or the pagoda to which they were conducted. Jealous of their liberty, of their internal organization, always suspicious, fearing that the well off aspect of their village, the wealth of their gardens, the number of their houses should incite among the authorities the idea of increasing the impositions, the




113 S

villagers conceal as bést as they can their person, their property and stand behind this anonymous being: the commune. The pagoda of a very famous Buddha is never found within the village itself because at the time of pilgrimage too many strangers would come, moreover the scenery that nature can offer to the divinity would not exist. Likewise, large markets are always situated at crossroads, near the rivers, close to villages but never inside them. The freedom of the commune, to be fully exercised, needs to erect a veritable bulwark. It is like a family that closes it . doors to discuss personal affairs, without constraint and without admitting a stranger’s ear. . There is another reason for this constant effort of the village to be anonymous, a reason of security. It is certain that until our (French) arrival, the Vietnamese peasant lived a troubled life, full of the dangers of our Middle Ages. Large gangs devastated the country. The drum, the sinister calls of the Chinese horn, gave a deep shudder of terror all over the countryside, being the harbingers of robberies, fires, ransoms, murders, kidnappings of women and girls. There had to be a solid defense, a great courage to resist these terrible companies of plunderers and ruffians coming from Kouangsi and having in their ranks the dregs of the Vietnamese population. Villages in mountain regions could sometimes avoid these cruel devastations. The natural position of a rock, the defensive advantages of the thick forest or of a stream enabled them to put up better resistance. But rich villages on the plains, which could not build strong ramparts, had recourse to the natural enclosure constituted by a tangle of perennial thorny rattans and big bamboos. The village always appears as a green island with its curtain of bamboos that completely hides the roofs of palm leaves and the horns of the pagodas. Only the initiate can recognize in this foliage the enclosure of a village. At first sight, we cannot





believe that these light but compact curtains agglomerations which sometimes include 15000 people.


Inside noises recede at the bamboo hedge. Nothing comes to break the solemn calm ofthe fields. A small lane runs along the winding small levee bank and leads to the hedge. The opening, or the gate, of the village must be guessed. It is made of bamboo and. forms, in general, a kind of herse porticullis set up in the evening. A small tower sometimes crowns it to serve as a place for the night watchers.

P.PASQUIER (L’Annam d’autrefois, page 54-56).






The political regime of Vietnam had gone through many - vicissitudes before reaching the monarchy that was at its apogee in the 1Sth century and was completely regenerated in the 19th century. Today, we have a multitude of political institutions, of which some have their roots in the most ancient organization of the country, others are recently imported due to the necessity of defining new powers. Besides the family, nha, there are two organizations which constitute the framework of the action of individuals: the commune, /ang, and the nation or the state, nwéc.

We have seen that the commune has a particular administrative autonomy and organization. However, the commune /ang is part of the national nwoc and has to respect the laws common to all the country. Each commune has its own regulations. Although the nation is large and powerful, often it cannot encroach on the prerogatives of the commune. For an individual, Jang and nitéc are two disciplines, two environments equally important. The laws of the State have their majesty which in principle makes them compelling to everyone. But the real life of the nation is governed in each commune by the local customs. In practice, laws and customs have clear cut limits in application. If formerly village customs, /é Jang, remained oral and, sometimes, were not subjected to the curiosity of strangers to the commune, it was only for the reason of respect for the imperial laws, phép vua, and for the purpose of enabling the functionaries of the State as




well as the notables of the village to remain possible in their decisions and their attitudes.


as flexible as

When did Victnam become a nation? When did the Vietnamese people get this conception of State, of the central administration? History has related that this country was formerly called Van Lang. But in that remote period, we have seen, history was impregnated with legends. Then, it was the Au Lac that had only a feudal organization:

the chiefs lac hau

and lac twéng had only a local authority. They were only local lords with a power territorially limited to their fief. The State had only a figurative power. The sovereign, lac vuqng, was but an honorific title. The people knew only their local lord. The conception of nation was still very weak even at the end of the 3rd century B.C., Triéu Da (Tchao To) succeded in forming the Nam Viét (Nan Yue). Then under Chinese domination, from the Ist to the 10th century A.D., the country was practically an annex of the Middle Empire. During that period, the Chinese rulers gradually eliminated local resistance and the power

of the local lords, and created a

central organization with enormous powers. In that millennium, many revolts broke out under the impulse of the people of Giao chi (Kiao tche). In the 6th century, for instance, Ly Bon succeeded in founding a kingdom which lasted fifty years. In the 10th century the Twelve s#@ quan insurrection permitted Dinh Bo Linh to form an independent Vietnamese State by the name of Dai Co Viét. This nation founded with great difficulty, after one thousand years of Chinese domination has experienced many hardships for 9 centuries. The Vietnamese national consciousness, acquired thanks to Chinese education and organisation, became very solid in the 19th century because of the victories recorded by Ly Thudng Kiét over the Téng (Song) in the last quarter of the 11th century, by Tran Hung Dao over



the Nguyén (Yuan) at the end of the 13th century, by Lé Loi over the Minh (Ming) at the beginning: of the 15th century, by Nguyén Hué over the Thanh (T’sing) in the 18th century. Thanks to it, our sovereigns not only managed to safeguard our northern borders from Chinese invasion but also to expand — our national patrimony to all ancient Champa and a part of Cambodia, extending our southern frontiers from Qudng Binh to as far as Ha Tién. It was because of this national feeling, which became very strong among the people, that when Vietnam was completely ‘ conquered and when the Court of Hué had signed the Protectorate Treaty, the population all over the country stood up against the new regime for several decades. Even today, in spite of the political and administrative division of the country into three parts, the spirit of national unity always remains in the mind of the people. For some time now, in the face of new problems and a Franco-Vietnamese collaboration that has become closer and closer and more and more loyal, a new conception is taking shape and tending to associate the Vietnamese national spirit with the imperial idea, that of a great fatherland uniting France and Vietnam in sympathy and with the same interests.

Anyhow, in studying the organization of Vietnam, we must distinguish the institutions of Vietnamese origin from those of French origin. Both categories, whether related or not to the authority of the Vietnamese Emperor, are in place all over Vietnam,

Tonkin, Annam

(central Vietnam),

and Cochinchina,

under the control of a governor general, appointed for the whole of French Indochina by the Metropole. So, we shall examine

successively the monarchist regimes with its mandarinal organisation and the French administration with its central power and its local governments.




1- The emperor The constitution of Vietnam is neither democratic nor oligarchic. Its government is a pure and absolute monarchy. The central power is embodied by the emperor and his representatives. The sovereign has no aristocratic class which separates him from his people. The equality among the citizens is absolute: access to official functions is open to everyone. In Vietnam society, there are no other social distinctions than those related to functions,









. intermediaries between the emperor and the people come from the people and their descendants. They return to their positions if they cannot manage to enhance themselves through merit or through success at competition opened by the State to everybody. As carly as the 10th century, the Vietnamese people, after recovering their independence, adopted Chinese’ system completely. The absolute monarch was definitively established in the country, the monarch even takes the same title as the Chinese emperor, Hodng Dé and has the same powers. * *


According to the monarchist principle, the dic Hoang Dé, the august and saintly emperor is Thién tu, son of Heaven. He represents God to govern the people. He alone has the mandatory power. All human beings and all the genii of the nation are under his authority. Like the head of the family vis-a-vis his children, he has the absolute power vis-a-vis his people. He is the "father and mother" of his subjects, and in consequence, the property and the life of everyone belong to him.

The head of a family must perform the cult of his ancestors, the King too must make sacrifices at his ancestral altar. As the



greatest of his ancestors is God, the emperor must offer him a grand ceremony, the Nam giao.

Under the sway of the same ideas, in cases of public calamities, the son of Heaven declares himself responsible for the misfortunes afflicting the nation; he must humbly confess in his edicts, his own indignity, order his Court, his functionaries, his people to fast, offer sacrifices to appease the wrath of the High-Above and bring back prosperity. If he does not respect the rules of imperial virtues, if he sins, if he fails to fulfil his mission he will lose the "mandate of Heaven", thién ménh. The ‘loss of thién ménh means the .loss of the empire. When a sovereign governs tyrannically as history has shown on many occasions, the people stand up at the decisive moment, and a superior man who echoes the ideals of all, declares that the sovereign has lost the mandate of Heaven. The sovereigns who suffered this popular excommunication, all had their dynasties overthrown in revolts or in civil wars. However this evolution in the mind of the people is slow and fraught with terrible sufferings, since it is an act of impiety, a sacrilege to revolt against the king who is invested with celestial power. Moreover, everything that belongs to the king must be objects of the greatest respect. The names of the king and of his ancestors are taboos. No one is allowed to pronounce or to write them.

In all public or private papers, if the king and his ancestors are mentioned, their titles must be written in characters placed higher than the other columns.

The residence of the emperor of Vietnam is called cam thanh, forbidden city, cung cdm, forbidden palace. Those who penetrated into it without authority were punished by death. Scuffles and fighting are forbidden there.




The royal tombs are likewise greatly respected. Those who, for instance,

cut trees or bamboos,

or dig up the soil in the

gardens surrounding them are severely punished.

The obligations imposed on all inhabitants of the empire, from simple private citizens to mandarins,on the occasion of the sovereign’s death were fixed by administrative decisions. For the mourning, the wearing of costumes with ornaments of bright-colour, silk, precious stones, jades, gold and silver, was

prohibited. period.

It was

also forbidden

to marry

during the same

Succession to the throne is hereditory, from a male child to another male. By eldest son, we should not understand the first born of the children of the wives of varioue anh the king’s harem. It is the first born of the children of the empress, who _ is the first rank wife, the legitimate wife of the emperor. Women are excluded from the throne, but not from regency. There is only one exception to this rule in the history of Vietnam: early in the 13th century, emperor Ly Hué T6n abdicated power to his daughter Phat Kim and retired to a pagoda. Phat Kim, known under the title of Chiéu Hoang, did not reign long. This innovation of Hué T6n caused the loss of his dynasty. Some months later the intrigues of a mandarin in the court had the crown transferred to the Tran family. Under the present dynasty, Gia Long decided that special provisions be applied to preserve the throne by the Nguyén -

the Gia thién ha. The heir to the crown would be designated by the


of the




in the



extraordinary circumstances, chosen among the members of his family by high dignitaries of the Court.



2- The imperial palace The sovereign has his palaces. Formerly he lived in Hanoi, well-known under the name of Thdng long or Ké cho. But in the past, the Thuc, in the third century B.C., had settled down in C6

Loa in the present-day Phic Yén province. Without speaking of the period of Chinese domination when the governments of the empire were located successively in Long Bién probably situated, according to Mr. Madrole, in Bac Ninh province, then in La Thanh renamed Dai La Thanh, on the right bank of the Red River, at the ‘ present site of Hanoi; the dynasties of the Dinh and the Lé anteriors, in the 10th century settled down in Hoa Lu, in present

day Ninh Binh. Under the Ly, the capital of Vietnam was shifted to Dai La and thereafter named Thang Long. Thang Long remained the royal residence and head quarters of the government until the advent of the Nguyén. However at the beginning of the 15th century, under the Tran dynasty, the usurpers //6 had intended to transfer the capital to Tay Do in Thanh Héa province where they had ordered the construction of new citadels. Under the Lé dynasty, in the middle of the 16th century, in the epoch of usurpation by the Mac, the royal residence was transferred to Van Lai in Thanh H6a province. Very scanty information is available about the ancient royal palaces. Even precise knowledge about those in Thang Long, which disappeared less than 100 years ago, is scarce. Elsewhere, at C6 Loa and Hoa Lu, the piety of the population has transformed the ancient sacred sites into as many dynastic temples, which have been reconstructed several times.

Hereunder are some particulars about Hoa Lu. King Dinh Tién Hoang, after liberating Dai Co Viét, decided to evacuate the old Chinese citadel Dai La and to create a new capital near his native village Hoa Lu on the Hoang Giang (presently Ninh



Binh province). The capital was rapidly built. Royal edifices and administrative







walls and moats.

Then Lé Hoan, the founder of the dynasty of Lé anteriors, embellished the royal city. In 984, he had a marvellous palace,

that he named Bdch Bdo Thién Tué "eternally precious" constructed in the proximity of the palace of the Dinh and close to Thai Van Son "Hill of Great Clouds". As the Annals say, the tiles were made of silver and the interior sides gold plated. It was a quadrangular edifice with doors on each of its faces. Two other palaces were built later. Many entertainments were organized in the 7th month of the year At dau, 985, for the inauguration of the palaces, and among other things nautical festivals in which long and slender racing pirogues had on their roof human beings and animals. Two temples, one dedicated to the sovereigns of the Dinh, the other to those of the Lé, are still there today. The interior of the Dinh temple contains a profusion of wood carvings lacquered in red and richly gilted. In the sanctuary lacquered and gilt statues of the kings are found. The Lé temple is more modest in size and decorations. There is a wooden statue of Lé Dai Hanh, founder of the dynasty, flanked on the right by the statue of his mother Bao Quang and on the left by that of his fifth son, king Long Dinh. *


The founder of the Ly dynasty abandoned Hoa Lu at the very beginning of his reign to settle at Dai La which he named Thang Long. Annalists say that when the red boat arrived at the landing place, a dragon was seen rising in the air and hovering over the city.


Fan-Che-Hou, Chinese governor of Tsing-Kiang-Fou (Kouei-Lin-Fou) in 1174 left a short description of the residence



of the Ly, according to what was said by Chinese envoys to the Vietnamese Court and reported by Ma-Touan-Lin: "The sovereign lives in a pavilion having four superimposed apartments. The ground floor is reserved for the king, his principal officers lived in the three upper floors; his military house is a post of old soldiers. Near the principal pavilion, we can see edifices decorated with haughty inscriptions. One is called Chouei-Tsin-Kong (Crystal Palace), the other T’ieu-Yuen-Tien (Palace of the first Heaven), the third in an elevated shape still bears the inscription Ngan nan-tou-hou-fou - (An nam D6 hé pha) "General Protectorate of Annam". All these constructions are painted with’ red varnish. The columns supporting the pcan are carved with dragons, storks, and female divinities... In the last quarter of the 18th century, the Abbot Richard who had travelled in Tonkin, published the following narration: "The King’s palace occupies a part of the city: it is enclosed with walls and absolutely hidden by the houses arround it. This quarter is the most beautiful of the city and the best constructed: it is inhabited by the most distinguished persons, the great men of the kingdom. The Courts of justice have their establishments there and land is excessively expensive for those who want to build there. The palace takes a large space, its architecture is not different from that of the principal edifices of the city, its entrance reveals nothing of the grandeur of the monarch who inhabits it and the wealth contained in it... It is known only that, for the prince’s officers and the mandarins, the edifices are made of the finest

wood or bricks, that the ornaments in sculpture, gilding and varnish are as well selected and executed as it can be in a country where the arts‘have not made so much progress as in China, that gold and silver are shining everywhere; that gardens,






orchards, all kinds of land plots, parks, canals, ponds are found

there, in brief everything that contribute to the comfort and the convenience of the people who spend their life there, particularly the prince’s women who never leave the palace, just like the other women and the eunuchs bound there by their duties..." Today very little is left of these ancient royal palaces; in their place, are the garisons of the Hanoi military forces, a fine bell, old guns in a hangar, the gate of honour or central door of the royal residence opposite to the Cdr co (the flag column, watch tower) and beautiful flights of stairs with monolithic ramps decorated with big carved dragons. The royal palace of the present dynasty is in Hué. Its enclosure dated back to Gia Long, founder of the dynasty, who built it in the 3rd year of his reign (1804). The



of the

of this South,

emperor, the





only of the

suzerain Lé


originally established their residence in Quang Tri province, successively at Ai tu, Cat dinh, then transferred it to the immediate neighbourhood of the present city of Hué on the territory of the villages of Phudc Yén in 1626, of Kim Long in 1636, of PhG Xuan in 1687. After unifying the country in 1802 Gia Long settled in that last residence of his predecessors. The present royal residence in Hué was built and rearranged several times by Gia Long and his successors. The ensemble of temples, palaces, residential houses, gardens, empty sites or ponds that form the citadel of Hué, is divided into three enclosures, or "cities" thanh: the external enclosure that in documents was called the capital city, Kinh thanh; the imperial city Hodng thanh, and lastly, between the first two, the forbidden purple city, Tw cam thanh, which is precisely, the residence of the sovereign.

Behind the Midday gate, Ngo mon “-F¥ _ that is the principal door on the southern side of the imperial city, there is



a large court. At the entrance ofthe central alley, we see a great

. expanse of water, Dich tri #4. After this pond is the Bdi dinh 32%

where the mandarins stand on a day of grand ceremony

at the palace Thai hoa, Thai hoa dién


in front of

the Bai dinh. Then comes an edifice which covers the golden

gate, Dai cung mén


(door of the great residence).

Behind, at the end of a court smaller than the preceding one,

we find the palace Can chdnh, Can chaénh dién BRE. Further, the apartments reserved for the sovereign, the palace Can thanh, Can thanh dién, then the residence Khon thdi, Khon thai cung BRE . The Thai hoa is the room of solemn audiences, where the king receives guests on solemn occasions, ritual festivities, visits of the governor general, etc. The construction of this room was completed in February 1805. It occupied at that time the present site of Dai-cung-m6n and was transferred to the place it is found today in the 14th year of Minh Mang’s reign (1835).

This immense room with high lacquered columns with invariably red and gold decorations, seems a little empty to visitors on ordinary days. In fact, the only furniture it contains is a throne covered with its yellow veil, placed before a background tapestry, over-topped by a dais, and preceded by a table inlaid with mother-of-pearl. On the platform where the mandarins stand, we can see rows of nine small steles which mark their hierarchical places on the days of solemn audience. Mandarins of each degree stand in rows parallel to the building, facing the sovereign, each degree at the level of the corresponding stele, the civilian ones on the left, the military ones on the right.

The Can chdnh is an immense room, the most beautiful room

of the












yurys ue

Chuong Buc gate


UY /rppipy (apvb




hee il ®


206 uv GIMCITS



European receptions are also held there. Its columns, its walls, and its ceilings in particular, are all made of solid lim wood, remarkably sculpted and inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory.

In the middle of the room, there is a throne for the king as well as a camp bed and a parade mat. Before the throne are placed a series of small Vietnamese tables of oblong shape with long legs and other furniture of European or local style. It is in this room that the most precious objects of the empire are found, they are of inestimable value: solid gold stamps, one of which weighs 18 kg, particularly precious jades and each of _ them has its own history, the family tree and the golden book of the imperial family, boards with characters traced by Thiéu Tri, etc. Many vases and other ancient or modern porcelain wares, etc. are also found there. *



Beyond the gardens surrounding the two central palaces, Thai Hoa and Can Chanh, there are the dynastic temples. Entering by

the Ngo mon, one will find the Thé miéu {# 4% on the left, in the court of which there bronge, by order of king the latter, in the second illustrious father and the

are the nine enormous urns made of Minh Mang. It was built in 1821 by year of his reign, for the cult of his emperors of the new dynasty.

On the right, symmetrically opposite to the Thé miéu t¢ FA ,

is the temple of Thai miéu

KE , also called Ta miéu


"left temple" or Td t6 miéu "left temple of the ancestors" because it is situated on the left of the emperor when the latter is seated on the throne. It was constructed in 1804 and was dedicated to the nine lords, Chiia Nguyén, predecessors of Gia Long.

On the right and the left of each of these two temples are the galleries of the "Associates to the cult of the right and the left". The tablets of illustrious persons, fallen in the service of




the country, in peace time or in war, during the epoch of former Neguyén lords or under the present dynasty.

Behind the Thdi miéu is the temple dedicated to Nguyén Kim, the common


of the Neuyén




Behind the Thé miéu is the temple in honour of Gia Long’s father. The latter temple precedes the Phung tién, an edifice devoted to the cult of four great emperors. Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thiéu Tri, Tu Dic. It was in this temple that early in 1911, the Imperial museum was installed. Attached to the Phung tién is the royal treasury or Ndi vu .

Today, besides residences in the Forbbiden Purple City, Tu Cam thanh, the emperor has other palaces. In Hué itself on the bank of the Phu Cam

canal, on the other side of the Perfume

River there is the An Dinh cung that emperor Khai Dinh had arranged and transformed later into a residence for the crown prince. It is now one of the most frequented residences of the sovereigns H.M. Bao Dai: and the empress, who are often travelling, have residences in Qui Nhon, Ha Lat, even in France, in Paris, and in Cannes.

3- The imperial cult The village practises the cult of the titular genie. The State has also its cult, that of the Earth, of Heaven, and of all the protecting genii of the kingdom. The emperor, who incarnates the State, is the chief of this official cult. Moreover, as the head of his family, he also observes the cult of his dynastic ancestors. 1. The ancestral



shall not elaborate



at length on the imperial

it is of the same


cult of

as that of other



families of Vietnam. Filial piety is expressed by this cult. Sacrifices are offered every year by the sovereign or his delegates on the days of the funeral anniversary and other feasts in the dynastic temples.

The royal family is native to the village of Gia mi¢u Ngoai Trang, huyén (district) of Tong son, phu (greater district) of Ha trung, tinh (province) of Thanh héda, in Northern Annam (Central Vietnam). There on the mount of Triéu Tudng are the tombs of the common ancestor of the family, Nguyen Kim, and his spouse who was the mother. of Nguyén Hoang, the first lord Nguyén. In the second year of his reign (1803), Gia Long had the temple ' Nguyén miéu built, which was restored under Minh Mang in 1820.

Each year, on days of festivity, the mandarins of Thanh Héa province and those who were specially proposed for service to the cult, offered sacrifices in these temples. From tinue to tire,

the sovereigns come to present the offerings themselves. So, Thiéu Tri, in the second year of his reign (1842), Thanh Thai in the 15th and 18th years (1903 and 1906), Khai Dinh, in the third year, when passing by Thanh Ho6a in the course of their trip to Tonkin, stopped to present the sacrifices.

In the royal palace of Hué, as said above, there are two dynastic temples, the Thai miéu built in the third year of Gia

Long’s reign (1804) for the cult of the Nguyén lords, Chia Neuyén, the ancestors of the founder of the dynasty; and the Thé miéu, constructed by order of the Minh Mang in 1821 in memory of his father and, the emperors of the new dynasty. At the sites of the royal tombs, there are also altars of the deceased sovereigns. Each year many sacrifices are made there, in addition to the funeral anniversaries. 2. The cult of Heaven

The fisrt place in the imperial religion belongs to Heaven, Hiéu , to the Earth, (S)KE%% (or Hodng) Thién-Thuong-Dé





Hoang- Dia-Ky 34% "The feeling of the sovereign power of Heaven", R.P.Cadiére writes "has strongly impregnated the religious consciousness of the Vietnamese. The popular language gives


testimonies of the belief in the power of Heaven:

Heaven is invoked to be a witness, it is called on in the name of

justice, it is resorted to as a saviour. It knows and it sees, it judges and punishes, it is kind, full of love, it gives and protects life; it is ihe master of human destiny". However the people who often invoke Heaven in their cries of despair and their prayers, do not arrange altars in its honour as they do in profusion for the other divinities. Now they consider it an immaterial entity, now the sovereign of all sovereigns, the emperor of the High-Above, who has its Court, services and offices.

The cult of Heaven becomes a dynastic cult. As the Thuong déis the regulator of seasons, the distributor of winds and rains indispensabie for the crops, the imperial cult associates him with the Pia ky who is the sovereign of the Earth, the foster-father of the empire. The Earth becomes, therefore, the object of an imperial cult paralled to that of Heaven. And today at the imperial sacrifice, the altar of Heaven and that of the Earth are on the same row in the central expanse of the cult’s ground. ok *


All the Vietnamese dynasties offer sacrifices to Heaven and to the Earth. These ceremonies, known under the name of Nam

giao #48 power.

are always considered an appendage of the imperial

The Nam giao mound comprises four enclosures in masonry forming four platforms which remain empty on ordinary days. The fourth platform, the outermost, is directly accessible and planted with pines. The principal entrance is in the middle of the southern side. The three interior enclosures are more elevated, one




more than the other. The first, the innermost, is of circular shape;

ihe two others are square, and the fourth rectangular. They are all provided with doors oriented to the four cardina! points corresponding one to another and preceded by flights of stairs. The doors of the third are divided by pilasters into three passages (the middle one is reserved for the genii, the emperor climbs up the mound by the passage on his right); the doors of the two other enclosures have only one passage. The balustrade surrounding the round hillock in the middle is painted blue, that of the second enclosure is painted yellow” On the round hillock devoted to Heaven, a large tent in an azure colour, Thanh 6c, is erected to shelter, in the back, the altar of Heaven on the left, that of the Earth on the right, and

on either side, the altars of the ancestors of the dynasty. The second square enclosure, Phuong dan is dedicated to the Earth,

in the middle of it facing the stairs leading to the round hillock one can find the Hodng 6c, a yellow tent with the altar of exterior incense, Ngoai huong Gn. On this square mound, on the right and on the ieft, there are the altars of the genii of the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Constellations, the Mountains, the Seas, the Rivers, the Lakes, the Clouds, the Rains, the Wind, the Thunder, the Hillocks, the

Hills, the rich and fertile Plains, and lastly the genii presiding over the year and the months. These genii are the companions of Heaven and Earth, that is why the square mound is given the name of Ting dan (the mound of the companions). In the first square enclosure, there is the burner, liéu, a big

vase in masonry where a part of the offerings brought to the altars of the two upper mounds and the. text of the invocations are incinerated. There is also the pit E sé where a little of the hair and the blood of the victims offered to the Earth are buried. The tent for the Great Hait, Dai thir, is erected for the emperor

to stop and wash his hands before climbing up to the square




hillock of the Earth. One can also find displayed several rows of musical instruments as well as weapons and the insignia of the ritual dancers. ok


The sovereign officiates the ceremony himself. In exceptional circumstances, he can delegate a high mandarin or a member of the royal family. On the eve of the sacrifice, he goes in great pomp to the fasting palace, Trai cung, which is situated outside the enclosure of Nam giao, in the South-West of Hué, where he must meditate and purify himself before the Man of bronze, Dong nhan, symbol of abstinence and purity. At tae first hour of fast on the day of sacrifice, around two or three a.m., in general, he leaves the Trai cung and moves to

the Great Halt by the Southern door and washes his hands. From there he goes to burn incense in the Hodng 6c, yellow tent, amidst the sounds of music, while outside the buffalo of sacrifice

is roasted at the burner and a part of its hair and some of its biood are buried in the pit. Then amidst songs, he kneels down to receive the genil. Thereafter, he climbs to the round hillock, under the azure

tent to offer, amongst dances and songs, jadesilk, animals of sacrifices, cooked dishes and three libations. After the first offering of wine, someone reads out the prayer. After the third,

the emperor receives from the genii wine and meat of happiness taken from the offerings. While



at the





designated by the minister of rites, present offerings to the altars of the companions on the square hillock.

Then a part of the offerings is burnt at the burner. The emperor goes down to the Hodng 6c from which he watches the



smoke and flames of the burning to the "song of celestial succour". He then returns to the fasting palace, accompanied by the song of happiness, at this point, mandarins and princes of the blood congratulate him on the accomplishment of the grand ceremony of Nam giao. At daylight, he returns in great pomp to the royal palace. *


This triennal sacrifice offered to Heaven and the Earth, impregnated with a solemnity and majesty unique in Vietnam, ‘ performed in the open countryside, in an unroofed enclosure measuring no less than 390 metres from North to South and 265 metres from East to West, in the calm of night, lighted by four enormous archaic wavering torches 6 metres long hung from four big posts, in reality is not the only imperial cult. In this country with an almost exclusively agricultural economy, like China, rice is the most precious cereal. Therefore, in spring each year the emperor makes it a point to draw the first furrows in order to receive _good grains which will bring about plenty of rice at the next harvest. His gesture gives an example to the people, contributes to driving away famine and assuring abundance, being carried out by the august hands of the one with the celestial mandate. This ploughing ceremony is performed on the "consecrated fields" Tich dién,

therefore the rite is called Lé tich dién. Nowadays, the emperor himself no longer officiates the ceremony in Hué. He delegates a high-ranking mandarin to accomplish the rites. Generally, the phu dodn, the governor of Thira Thién, is designated as khdm mang (imperial delegate) to

proceed with the ploughing of the Tich dién. Nine furrows must be drawn on the royal fields around midnight on the 12th day of the 5th month. Then the farmers of the village of Phu Xuan complete the ploughing and sowing. ;




Platform for sacrifices to

the Earth’s God


Imperial palaces






4- The mandarinate

The emperor of Vietnam is assisted in government by a corps of functionaries called quan lai, the mandarinate. The mandarinate is divided into two orders: the civilian mandarinate, quan van and the military mandarinate, quan vd. The first is much more sought after than the second.

The sovereign formerly had two ways to recruit functionaries: by heredity and the utilisation of the elite through literary and military competitions. Under the Ly, Tran and Lé, there was the _ tradition of Tha dm which allowed the sons of mandarins to be appointed to public office. Under the Lé, special competitions, the Nhiém tw khoa. were organized to choose functionaries among the sons of mandarins. Under the Nguyén, there was also the Tap dm: those who have a mandarinal grade of 3rd degree, 2nd class or above could be authorised to transmit, after their death, a special title called Am tho to their eldest son. The eldest son of a mandarin of Ist degree, 1st class, had the right to take a grade of 6th degree (he who reputedly had merit, the Ist class, the ordinary the 2nd class). The title Am tho of the 6th degree is the highest, the lowest is the Am sinh of the 9th degree, 2nd class, which is given to the sons of ordinary merit of mandarins of 3rd degree, 2nd class. The normal way to recruit functionaries is through a careful choice among the elite of the nation. Literary and military

competitions had been instituted since the Ly and they were several times reorganized and perfected. So, mandarins were normally recruited among possess the university grades of Cu nhdn (licence, bang, Tién si, Tham hoa, Bang nhdn, Trang nguyén of different levels) and exceptionally among the Tu

those who M.A.) Pho (Doctorate tai (B.A).

Besides, habitually, functionaries were also recruited by presentation: mandarins had each to present a virtuous, talented




subject or one of good rehown so that the sovereign might appoint him into the mandarinate. Under the Lé, there were in addition ordinary competitions, the Si vong khoa for well-known scholars, the Hodanh ti khoa for scholars who lived in retirement,

and the Tw trong khoa, which were organised four times each year to choose the elite from among the students. Then, schools called Hau bé were created around the year 1900 to teach mandarins. The students were recruited from the laureates of the triennal competitions, the Cu nhdn, the Tui tai

and the sons of high mandarins provided with the hereditary title of Am sinh. Later these establishments were transformed into l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes Indochinoises (School of Indochinese High Studies), the graduates of which were appointed tri huyén after a period of probation as civil servants in the offices of the administration. In the meantime, the triennal competitions were given up and with them the ancient ways of recruiting mandarins. Today, after some probing, it has been decided that the posts of tri huyén will be, according to the need, offered for competition each year. Only young people under 30 years of age, holding at least a diploma of licence from the French university, are allowed to participate in these competitions. *

The mandarins of the Court are the King’s direct collaborators. They are in charge of the general administration of the country. The external functionaries, those in the provinces and the districts are the King’s representatives in the administration of the people. Therefore, the mandarins, like the King, are called "father and mother" of the people. They have exceptional rights which distinguish them from the common people and make them veritable chiefs. Not only are they exempted from all corvees but they also did not have to pay personal tax. In addition to their salary functionaries in the



districts, the tri phu, tri huyén and tri chau received a sum of 20-50 ligatures, called dwdng liém tién aimed at making them as independant as possible in the accomplishment of their duty. Others received ricefields called /éc dién from the sovereign

according to their title. Under









remunerations paid by the communes: mandarins of Ist degree nhat pham get 400 ligatures annually from four or five xd

(communes), those of 2nd degree nhi pham 250-300 ligatures from two or three xd, those of the 3rd degree tam pham 150-250 ligatures from one or two xd, etc. Those who injure a mandarin are punished more severely than in a case where they commit an ordinary crime against other persons: an attempt to assassinate a mandarin above the Sth degree constitutes one the ten great crimes thap dc. Mandarins represent the royal authority, they are therefore, like the King’ priests of the official religion. They have special costumes, embroidered with motifs conforming to their rank. The sign of their power lies in their seal or stamp, an, that they must always have with them: the application of the dn gives their orders the force of law and public and private papers the character of authenticity. The mandarin’s person has in itself an almost sacred character: under law, they are accorded very strict protection.

However, although mandarins have exceptional rights, they are not considered above the law. The King has instituted very severe regulations preventing mandarins from committing abuses of power. *


The system of advancements and rewards is very carefully determined. Under the Trdn, functionaries were promoted in grade only once every ten years and in function once every



’ fifteen years. Under the Lé, professional organized every year, those who were retrograded.


examinations not worthy

were were

Under the Lé and the Nguyén, the accession to high functions was not so slow as under the 7rdn, however, degradations were frequent and threatened the most eminent dignitaries who neglected their obligations. The example of the great colonizers of the marine alluvial lands of Tonkin, Nguyén Céng Tri, is one of the most typical. Cong Tritt was mandarin under Minh Mang. He received majors in literary competitions, he succeeded, after nine years of service in the Bureau of Annals, in acceding to the function of tham tri, under - minister (Director of offices) in the ministry of justice

(1828). In 1831 he was retrograded to the title of tri huyén (chief of a small district). The following year, he was promoted to the function of bd chanh (chief of the provincial civilian bureau). In 1835, he had the grade of binh bé thuong thu (Minister of the Army) and was designated tong doc (governor general) of Hai an (Hai duong and Quang yén). But the following year, 1836, the emperor demoted him by four degrees. Laters he was restituted three degrees. In1839, he was degraded to the title binh b6 hitu tham tri (vice - minister on the right of the minister of the Army) and recalled to the capital. In 1840 he was promoted to the title of great censor on the left dé sat vién ta dé ngu su, and sent as imperal envoy at first to Tonkin, then to Cambodia. In the first year of Thiéu tri (1841), he reached the grade of tham tan dai than (great counsellor of the Court). Later he was retrograded to the title of binh bé lang trung (chief of offices of the ministry of the Army) and sent as acting governor quyén tuan phu of An Giang, Cochinchina. The following year, he had the grade of binh bé thi lang (under - director of offices of the ministry of the Army). In 1843, he was promoted to the grade of binh bé tham tri (director of offices of the ministry of the Army). But in 1844, he was dismissed of all his functions



because of the accusation by one of his enemies that he had used public services to buy certain products for himself. He was sent to Quang Ngai province as a soldier. At the beginning of 1845, the emperor appointed him underchief of office (chu su)

at the ministry of Justice (Hinh b6). In 7th month of 1848, he was designated to be dn sat (provincial judge) of Quang Ngai.

And in 1847, he had been appointed phu dodn of Thua thién (governor of the province of the capital). In that year he turned 70, and he obtained his retirement in the first year of the reign of Tu Dic (1848). So, Nguyén Céng Trit entered the mandarinate at the age of * 42 in 1820, he had a very active career of almost 30 years under three kings. He was however a functionary of incontestable value. His example shows how the mandarinal career was governed by severe measures which, while making it difficult, could lead to the highest positions in the State, depending on the will of the sovereign. Similar cases are not infrequent in the history of the Vietnamese ancient administration. *



Today, promotion in grade and in function is carried out ina regular, and sometimes extremely rapid way. The minimum required is two years for each grade. Exceptional promotions are possible at the will of the chief of the protectorate, and disciplinary sanctions, copied from the ancient system, can be inflicted on the mandarins. The mandarinate comprises at present eight grades, divided into nine degrees phdm having each two classes trdt, the first being called chdnh and the second tung. The first four degrees called ham duéng, form the category of superior mandarins dn quan. These titled persons are able obtain honorific grades for their parents sinh phong and phong tdng. The other degrees form the han lam ham.





Thése grades are awarded to mandarins and to their subordinates in service in Tonkin and Annam (Central Vietnam) as well as to Vietnamese functionaries of various French public services in these two regions and in Laos. Further,


is made,

in the lower


of the

mandarinats of the grade of vdn giai reserved for subordinate cadres who are holders of university diplomas, and that of ba ho for those who have no diploms.

5- The Vietnamese central administration In the past, in ancient Vietnam, at the times of Vdn lang, the administration was feudal. There were local chiefs called Lac tudng, Lac hau, the lords of the Lac. These were all under the nominal authority of Lac vwong, the King of the Lac.

Under Chinese domination, the country was headed by a governor general called thi¢ sw, and in its subdivisions quan there were the thai thi. Then the titles of huyén lénh and chau muc were created for the administration of the huyén and chdu, replacing the ancient hereditary lords of the locality. Under the Duong (T'ang), the government was organised into a Protectorate dé hé phu, with at its head the dai téng quan, great military governor. Later the head of the government had the title of tiét dé siz. In the chau and huyén, the chau muc and the huyén lénh continued to be the administrative chiefs. * *


At the beginning of the organisation of the State, after the recovery of independence, the first dynasties, Dinh and Lé



anteriors, created a corps of functionaries after the model of the China of the Han and the Dudng. But little precise information is available. Under the Dinh, there were the functions of do hd st su, of twéng quan, of nha hiéu under Lé Hoan, the high dignitaries of the Court included the functions of thdi su, thdi uy for the civilian administration, of téng quan and do chi huy sé for the military administration. The organization was more complete under the Ly. In 1089, the corps of mandarinate was divided into nine degrees. At the Court, there were high dignitaries, the tam thdi: thdi su, thdi phé and thdi ty, to begin with; then the tam

thiéu: thiéu su,

- thiéu pho and thiéu ty. Below them, on the side of the civilian

mandarins, there were the thuong thu, the tham tri on the left and on the right (directors of offices of the ministries); the gidn nghi dai phu on the left and on the right (advisers to the King), the trung thu thi lang (chief of the secretariat), etc. On the side of the military mandarins, there were the dé thong nguyén sty


the téng quan khu mat si (chief of staff)

assisted by the khu mat sw on the left and on the right and the officers kim ng6é thuong tudng, dai tung, dé tung, chu vé tuong, etc. Under the Tran, at the very beginning, the mandarinal organization is completely transformed. Among the dignitaries there were the titles of tam céng, tam thiéu, tu md, tu do, tu khong, with under them at the Court, the tuéng quéc on the right and on the left who directed the affairs of the empire with the assistance of the thu tuéng and the tham tri. In the civilian administration there were at the head of each office a thuong thu and the thi lang, larg trung, vién ngoai, ngu su, etc. In the military administration, at the Court, we had the phiéu ky thuong tung quan, cam vé thugng tuéng quan, kim ngo dai tudéng quan, vo vé dai tuéng quan, pho do tuéng quan, etc.

The services of the ngw su dai was established with the functions of gidm sat ngu sit, ngu suv dai phu, etc. to control and stimulate the administration of the mandarins. The offices, vién,




were reorganized the khu mat vién dealt with the affairs of the Courts, the han lam vién was in charge of the official archives and the elaboration of the royal edicts, the quéc su vién looked after education, and the thdi y vién took care of the health service in the royal palaces. *


Under the Lé, at the inception of the dynasty, the titles of the high dignitaries instituted by the Tran were awarded only to princes of the blood than and deserving ministers hudn. Besides, there was the council chinh su vién which, composed of civilian and military mandarins took charge of important affairs. The dai hanh khién, who took care of all the mandarins, had under them the thuong thu at the head of the Lai bé and Lé bé ministries, which were the only ones maintained then, the functionaries of the bureaus of the ndéi mat vién (secret affairs), the han lam vién (civil affairs), the ngu hinh vién (five punishments: justice), the ngu su dai (censure), the quéc ti gidm vién (education) etc. With regard to the military mandarins, there were at the Court the dai

tong quan, dai dé déc and d6é téng quan who commanded the troops of ngu tién luc quan, thiét déi ngii quan and ngit dao chu vé quan.

Under the reign of Nghi Dan of the Lé dynasty (1459), four other ministries were created: H6 (finance), Binh (army), Hinh (punishment) and Céng (public works) like under the Tran. At the same time, six khoa were established: lai khoa, lé khoa, binh

khoa, hinh khoa, hé khoa and céng khoa to control the affairs of the six ministries. At the head of each ministry there was the thuong thu assisted by the thi lang on the right and on the left, the lang trung, the vién ngoai lang, the tu vu. His successor Lé Thanh Ton established six more bureaus tu : the dai ly tu, the thai thuong tu, the quang léc tu, the thdi béc ty, the hdng 16 tu



and the thugng bdo tu directed by the tw khanh, the thiéu khanh and the tw thia who had the task of dealing with the ceremonies. After the usurpation by the Mac at the restoration of the Lé, above the ministers, thuong thu and the six bd, the functions of tham tung and béi tung were created, which had control over

the administration.


But the lords Trinh succeeded in encroaching on the power of the throne and in seizing all the real management ofthe affairs of the country. Along with the royal Court, Triéu dinh, there was the Lordly Court, Phu liéu which was also divided into the civilian mandarinate and the military mandarinate. The six ' bureaus luc phién were opposite to the six bé (ministries); practically everything was decided in the luc phién. Moreover, there were the troops, qudn phu, with a.special organization exclusively under the command of the lord. *


At the same


time, in the South, the lords Nguyén alienated

themselves gradually from the Court in Tonkin. From 1630 on, the South was officially organized as an_ independent principality. In the central administration of the Nguyén, three bureaus were installed: The xd sai ti which dealt with civil affairs and justice matters and was headed by a do tri and a ky luc; the tudéng than lai ti which was in charge of the collection of taxes and supply to the army and directed by the cai ba, the linh sw ti which looked after the question of feasts and ceremonies and also of the supply to the troops at the lord’s headquarters. A Court was organized there only in 1744 when Nguyén Phuc Khoat took up the title of Vuong. Under Quang Trung of the Nguyén of Tay Son, there were

the tam céng, tam thiéu, dai ching té, dai tu dé, dai tu khdu, dai tu md, dai tu khéng who were the dignitaries of the Court.





Under them were the trung thu tinh, trung thu linh, dai hoc si, hiép bién dai hoc si, thi trung ngu sit, luc bé thuong thu, etc. *


Under the Nguyén,


like the preceding dynasties, Gia Long

instituted the /uc bd, six ministries, with the thugng thu, the tham tri on the left and on the right, the thi lang. The functions of each ministry were determined. The bé Jai, ministry of personnel, was busy with the nomination and transfer of functionaries, the awarding of honorific titles and the elaboration of edicts and warrants. The bd hd, ministry of finance, was in charge of the levy of taxes, the public treasury and the prices of various products. The bé /é, ministry of rites, looked after the ceremonies, the competitions and the rewarding of faithful and deserving subjects. The bé binh, ministry of the Army, had as its task the appointment of military functionaries, the pacification of the country and the recruitting of troops. The bé hinh was in charge of the enforcement of laws and punishments, the comprehension and the expounding of the King’s ideas, the review of serious crimes and doubtful proceedings at law. The b6é céng, ministry of public works, was in charge of official constructions, of the citadels and moats, of the construction and repairing of boats, the recruiting of labour and the purchase of materials. At the head of the han lam vién, were appointed the chudng vién and the iruc hoc si and to secondary bureaus, were appointed mandarins from the grade of thi déc hoc si up. The do sat vién was created to replace the former nguw sw dai with the functions of dé ngu su on the left and on the right, the phd do ngw sit on the left and on the right, the cap su trung at the central office and the gidm sdt ngu sit in the provinces to ensure the control of public affairs.

Moreover, the ndi vu phu was established to safeguard the royal treasury, the tao chinh ty to look after transport and the taxes

on boats, the qudédc tw gidm

to direct education






formation of the elite, the khdm thién gidm to examine the celestial evolution and to elaborate the calendar, the thdi y vién to give medical treatment to the patients of the royal palace. Minh Mang instituted in addition the vdn thu phong which would be called later ndi cdc,'the imperial cabinet, the co mdt vién to take charge of the important affairs of the State, the buu chinh ty to ensure the sending and reception of administrative papers. He made some modifications of the six tu: the thdi thuong tu to prepare the grand ceremonies, the quang léc tu to look after the offerings, the tai ly tu to form with the hinh bé, ministry of justice, and the d6é sat vién an exceptional supreme court, the tam phat ty playing the role of reviewing all the legal proceedings when necessary. Also created was the ton nhdn phu, after the model of the Tran and the Lé for the direction of the affairs of the royal family. Almost all these functions and all these offices still exist today in Hué. But the scope of their power is limited. The Council of censure, dé sdt vién, in charge of the control of the

activities of functionaries and the strict application of laws and regulations and formerly very important, plays only a very unclear role. The ndi vu phu, the royal treasury, as well as the hé bé, ministry of finance, have only the task of executing the autonomous budget of the Vietnamese government. The ministry of the Army, binh bd, has been abandoned. On the contrary, the gido duc bé, ministry of education, the céng nghé my thuat bo,

ministry of Handicrafts and Fine Arts, and the xd dan kinh té bé, ministry of rural economy, have been created.


6- The Vietnamese provincial administration The organization of provincial administration has also vicissitudes. many history our throughout experienced



Previously we have seen that the feudal lords had each a fief that they governed as they pleased under the nominal control of the king. During the centuries of Chinese domination, the country was at first divided into gudn governed by the thdi thi, then into huyén and chdu with the huyén lénh and the chau muc as governors. The first independent dynasties, the Lé anteriors and the Ly divided the country into 24 16, subdivided into phu, chau, trai with at their head the tri phu, phan phu and tri chau as civilian





16 trdn

trai quan



commanders. Under the Tran, from 1242 on, Vietnam was divided into 12 l6 governed by the an phu sw who each had an assistant. There were moreover the tri phu, thong phan, thiém phan, etc. in the administrative districts. For the administration of groups of 2,

3, or 4 communes, there were the dai tu xd and the tiéu tu xd who were chosen from mandarins of Sth degree and above. At the head of each commune was a mandarin called chdanh sit giam. In the provinces, as military functionaries, there were the kinh luoc st, phong ngu sit, thi ngu si, quan sat sit, dé6 hé, dé théng,

tong quan, etc. *


Under the middle dynasty of the Hd (1400-1407), a great change was made in the provincial administration. Some /6 were transformed into trdn: Thdnh Héa became Thanh Dé tran; Quéc Oai, Quang Oai tran; Da Giang 16, Thién Huong trén; Nghé An 16, Lam An tran; Trang An 16, Thién Quan tran; Dién Chau 16, Vong Giang tran; Lang Son phu, Lang Son trén; Tan Binh phi, Tan Binh tran.

The mandarins in the communes were given up. At the head

of the trdn, the an phu sw was maintained. The trdn phu sw were appointed to govern the phu, the thong phdn, the thiém phan to



govern the chdu, the linh ty and the chu ba to govern the huyén. The /6 controlled the phu; the phu controlled the chau; the chau controlled the huyén.



During the invasion by the Ming

to 1413, general Truong Phu



from China, from 1407

divided the country into

17 phu: Giao Chau, Bac Giang, Lang Son, Tan An, Kién Xuong, Phong Hoa, Kién Binh, Tran Nam, Tam Giang, Tuyén Hoa, Thai Nguyén, Thanh Héa, Nghé An, Tan Binh, Thuan Hoa, Thang ‘Hoa, and 5 chau: Quang Oai, Tuyén Héa, Quy Héa, Gia Binh,

Dién Chau. The heads of these circumscriptions were placed under the supreme authority of three central bureaus directed by the Chinese: the bd chdanh ty (Bureau of Treasury of civilian administration) the dn sat ty (Bureau of Justice) and the chudng

do ty (General Administration of Censuré). *



After the removal of the Chinese yoke, the founder of the Lé dynasty returned to the system of the Trdn and the Hé with some modifications (1428-1433). The country was divided in dao. In the dao there were the phi, 16,trdn, chdu, huyén and xd. At the head of each dao, a hanh khién was appointed with an assistant called chdnh tuyén phii sit and his deputy, the phd tuyén phi: siz. In the phi there were the tri phu; in the 1/6 the an phi si, in the tran the trdn phu sit; in the chau the phong ngy sit; in the huyén

the chuyén vdn si and the tudn sat si, in the xd the xd quan. Later, Lé Thanh Ton (1460-1497) carried out profound reforms-in the administration. The territory was divided into 12 dao:




An, Thuan








Sach, Quéc Oai, Bac Giang, An Bang, Hung Héa, Tuyén Quang, Thai Nguyén and Lang Son. For the administration of each dao, three bureaus were established: D6 #% , Tha & , Hién # .

At the head of the dé, there were the dé chdnh tong binh and his assistant dé phd téng binh in charge of the military administration; the tha was headed by two thita chinh (a chanh, principal, and a phd, a deputy) who directed the civilian

administration, the hién was directed by two hién sat (a chanh, principal, and a phd, a deputy) who ensured justice. Mandarins with the title of gidm sdt nguw sw were responsible for the control of the administration of all the dao.

After the conquest of Quang Nam, Thanh Ton enacted new reforms of the system. The country was divided into 13 administrative regions or xi Thanh Héa, Nghé An, Son Nam

(formerly Thién Truong) Son Tay (formerly Quéc Oai), Kinh Bdc (formerly Bac Giang), Hai Duong (formerly Nam Sach), Thai Neguyén, Tuyén Quang, Hung Hoa, Lang Son, An Bang, Thugn Héa, Quang Nam. In border regions, commanding strategic communications such as Nghé An, Thuan Hoa, Tuyén Quang, Hung Hoa, Thai Nguyén, Lang Son, Quang Nam there were installed in addition the Thu ngu Kinh luoc sit. These 13 administrative regions were divided into 52 phiu, 172 huyén and 50‘ chau. These administrative districts in their

turn subdivided into more or less important administrative communes, the huong, phuong, xd, thén, trang, sdch, dong, nguyén, trudng, 8006 communes in all. . *



Later, during the epoch of civil wars between the Nguyén and the Trinh, this organization was kept. In the Southern provinces, the Nguyén lords organized the bureaus of linh sit ti, of xa sai ti and of tudng than lai ti for ggneral administration.



In less important places, only one of these bureaus was set up to deal with all kinds of affairs. At the head of the phi and the huyén, there were the tri huyén and the tri phi. However,








himself Vwong and acted as an independent sovereign. He divided his territory into 12 regions, doanh or dinh: Chinh Dinh (Phi Xuan), Cuu dinh (Ai T#), Quang Binh, Vii X4, BO Chinh, Quang Nam, Phi Yén, Binh Khang, and Binh Thuan, Tran Bién, Phién Tran and Long H6 (Phi Yén, Binh Khang and Binh Thuan had just been taken from the Chams and Trdn Bién, Phién Tran from the Cambodians). In each dinh, there were a trdn thu, a cai ba and a ky luc for general administration. For the phu of Quang Nghia and Quy Nhon which relieved of Quang Nam, at the head of each of them were a tudn phu and a kham ly. The territory of Ha Tién was organized into a trdn with a dé déc as administrator.

Territorial unity was achieved only with Quang Trung of the Neuyén of Tay Son (1788-1792). After installing his capital in Neghé An and transforming Thdng Long into Bdc Thanh (Northern capital), he divided the country into trdn and

appointed the trdn thi them.

34°F and hiép tran f% $4 to govern

In each administrative

district there were, in addition to

the tri huyén and tri phu, the phan tri to take charge ofjustice and the phdn sudt to be responsible for the army. *



The country was once again broken up after the death of Quang Trung and unified only in 1802. Gia Long divided the territory into 23 trdn and 4 doanh. The land spreading from the northern part of Thanh Héa (presently Ninh Binh) to the Chinese



frontier in the North was called Bac Thanh and included 11 tran,

with 5 ndi trdn (interior tran): Son Nam thuong, Son Nam ha, Son Tay, Kinh Bac and Hai Duong and 6 ngoai tran (exterior tran), Tuyén




Cao Bang, Lang Son, Thai

Neguyén and Quang Yén. The territory extending from Binh Thudn to the gulf of Siam and the Cambodian frontier, in the South, called Gia Dinh Thanh

comprised five trdn: Phién An, Bién Hoa, Vinh Thanh, Tuong and Ha Tién.


Between these two territories were the administrative regions of Thanh Héa tran, Nghé An tradn, Quang Ngdi tran, Binh Dinh tran, Binh Hoa tran and Binh Thuan tran. The territory of the capital was divided into four doanh: Truc Lé, Quang Dic doanh, (presently Thwia Thién), Quang Tri doanh, Quang Binh doanh and Quang Nam doanh.

At the head of the Bdc Thanh and the Gia Dinh Thanh there was a governor general, the tong trdn #4Shand his deputy, the pho téng trdn. In each trdén was a luu trdn & $M or a tran thi or a hiép tran, who were assisted by a cai ba and a ky luc.

The trdn were divided into phu, huyén, chau, tong, xd. The tri phu, tri huyén, tri chau were nominated. There were no longer mandarins for the administration of the téng (cantons) and the x@ (communes). In the six ngoai trdn of the Bdc Thanh, the direction of affairs was entrusted to the local chiefs.

In the 12th year of Minh Mang (1821), the trdn were changed into tinh. He added the four provinces of Hung Yén, Ninh Binh, Ha Tinh and An Giang to the 27 provinces of the

Gia Long epoch. There were then 31 provinces or tinh or doanh: he installed there the functions of téng déc ® ,

tudn phu XoO

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Map 8

Scale : 1/100,000

(Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 81) TINH GIA PREFECTURE

"I,tn Hg Tung

yt. qe

ig iil \ \ i ti!Ho Phu

{lh i HeoNan

—— Railway —=—— Waterway



i n




At asd i wil \\\

a tA


Map 9 Scale : 1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 54 - Y Yén)



Scale : 1/25,000

Scale : 1/25,000

(Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 48

(Extr, map, Geog. S., leaf 62 - Dai An:


PHU THANH VILLAGE (Phi Ct district, Binh Dinh)-




Map 11 Scale : 1/100,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 227)






My, horton


Scale : 1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 12)




Map 13 My,

Scale : 1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 64)





TUWy yy





Scale :1/100,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 239) _._






Scale : 1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 31)




Map 16 Scale : 1/100,000

(Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 48 - Son Tay)




Railway -

o==” Waterway

oa mene

Yen Nhan ecm cegeteey


Perec? aek






at 2 s



s= S

Map17 Scale : 1/100,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 220)





Map 18 Scale : 1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf 41 Dong Van)












Map 19

‘Scale :1/25,000 (Extr. map, Geog. S., leaf1 - Dong Son)






Streets in the villages are narrow and terribly muddy in the rainy season. In a number of provinces, village streets are paved with bricks or sometimes with stone. These streets, along which houses are built and isolated by gardens, lead to an alley which is the principal artery linking, in most cases, the two gates of the village. Thus, in long villages, the general plan of the agglomeration presents the appearance of the teeth of a comb. For instance, the villages of Kim Giang and Dao X4 (Ha Dong province) in Tonkin (map 18) and those of Bui Thén and Tac Thién (Thanh H6éa province) in central Vietnam (map 19).

There are villages that follow no regular order: the houses are built along small paths which lead to alleys and then out of the village without passing through the principal gates. This is the case with the group of villages of Yén Ly and MY Quan in Ha Tinh province (map 20) or Phudéc My in Tht Dau M6t province.