Coins and Banknotes of Vietnam and French Indochina


The situation of the Annamese Kingdom on the south-east of the great Indo-malayan peninsula is well known. This state consists at the present day of the two Kingdoms of Tunquin and Cochinchina, of the Kingdom of 占城 Chiem-thanh or Ciampa, and of a part of the Kingdom of Khmer or Cambodia. Ciampa, a Malayan state, and during six centuries the abode of thieves and pirates, was conquered in 1471 by the Annamese army. The Kingdom of Khmer also lost vast territories successively up to the last century and was only able to keep its national independence by the 西山 Tay-son rebellion which upset the feudal constitution of the country. Annam herself was divided between the families 莫 Mac, 鄭 Trinh, and 阮 Nguyen, who, having entirely put aside the royal authority, contested among themselves the supreme power over the kingdom. The French colony of Lower Cochinchina is situated within the territories of the kingdom of Khmer annexed by Annam in 1758.

Mr. CHAIGNEAU, one of the French officers who in the last century accompanied the Bishop of Adran during his first expedition in aid of GIA-LONG, estimated the population of An-nam at between 20 and 25 millions of souls. These figures are evidently exaggerated, at least so far as can be judged at present, as certainly the present population does not exceed 12 millions.

The division of the two Kingdoms of Tunquin and Cochinchina is still existing as a matter of fact The former, which is also the richer and more populated, consists of the following thirteen provinces:

諒山 Lang-son.
高平 Cao-bang.
太原 Thai-nguyen.
宣光 Tuyen-quang.
山西 Son-tay.
興化 Hung-hoa.
廣義 Quang-yen.
海陽 Hai-duong.
北寧 Bac-ninh.
河內 Ha-noi.
興遠 Hung-yen.
南定 Nam-dinh.
寧平 Ninh-binh.

Cochinchina has twelve provinces, namely:

清華 Thanh-hoa.
爻安 Nghe-an.
河寧 Ha-ninh.
廣平 Quang-binh.
廣治 Quang-tri.
廣德 Quang-duc.
廣南 Quang-nam.
廣外 Quang-ngoai.
平定 Binh-dinh.
虎燕 Phu-yen.
慶化 Khanh-hoa.
平順 Binh-thuan.

These geographical divisions were made during the recent reign of the King 明命 MINH-MANG, and the three provinces of Thanh-hoa, Nhge-an, and Ha-ninh. formerly part of Tunquin, were added to Cochinchina. Previously the above two king-doms were separated by a wall which ran along the shores of the 富良江 Phu-luong-giang, called in vulgar Annamese and on our maps the Song-coi river. The provinces do not range all alike, for as far as population and wealth are concerned each of them is under a different authority; in general, however, the public administration in Annam is very similar to that in China.

Originally the territories which formed the Kingdom of Annam were called 交趾 Giao-chi, which name together with that of 交南 Giao-nam prevailed till 225 B.C., when they became a Chinese province under the appellation of 象郡 Siang-kiun.

When the 漢 HAN came into power in China, Tunquin was called 南越 Nam-viet, and its interior division underwent various changes at different intervals. In 502 A.D. we see the country for the first time called 安南 Annam, which name lasted up to 940 A.D., when it was declared independent. During the succeeding dynasties up to the present time the names used for the designation of the state and the different capitals of the kingdom have been as follows:

丁 Dinh. 先皇 Tien-hoang. 968 大越 Dai-viet.
李 Ly. 太祖 Thai-to. 1010 交趾 Giao-chi. 大磊 Dai-la. Now 河內 Hanoi called also 昇隆 Thang-long.
do. 聖宗 Thanh-tong. 1055 大越 Dai-viet. do.
do. 高宗 Cao-tong. 1176 安南 Annam. do.
陳 Tran. 少帝 Thieu-de. 1399 do. 西都 Tay-do. Hue, called also 順化府 Thuan-hoa-phu, and 承天府 Chan-thien-phu.
黎 Le. 太祖 Thai-to. 1424 do. 東京 Dong-kinh. Hanoi called before 東都 Dong-do.
do. 莊宗 Tran-tong. 1545 do. 紹華 Thieu-hoa. Province of 清華 Thanh-hoa.
do. 世宗 The-tong. 1593 do. 東京 Dong-kinh.
阮 Nguyen. 嘉隆 Gia-long. 1803 越南 Vietnam. 富春 Phu-xuan. Hue.
do. 嗣德 Tu-duc. 1862 大南 Dainam. do.

The mythical history of Annam, although derived from China, is much less complicated than that of the latter country. 帝明 DE-MINH, the great-grandson of the Chinese Emperor 神農 SHEN-NUNG, while travelling in the South of China married a daughter of the race of immortals, by whom he had a son called 涇陽王 KINH-DUONG-VUONG. This son began the series of kings known as the 鴻龐氏 HONG-BAN-THI, or family of immeasurable greatness. This family gave birth to twenty rulers, eighteen of whom had the same name, viz., 雄王 HUNG-VUONG, and continued on the throne up to 252 B.C.

Let us leave aside here any description of the history of Annam during this remote period. Doubtless it was formed by Chinese and Malayan colonists who settled there and mixed among themselves, a fact paralleled by the present race of the Sang-ley, or half-casts of Chinese and Tagals now populating the Philippine islands. Each colony was under a chief and lived as in China, by agriculture and fishing.

The first dynasty mentioned in the Annamese annals is that of 蜀 THUC, the rulers of a small kingdom situated in the north-east of Annam, where afterwards its capital city 高平 Kao-bang was built. This kingdom, founded 252 B.C., lasted only 50 years, when internal contests between the different tribes broke out, victory and supremacy continually changing between them until the Chinese interfered, and at last occupied the country, remaining in possession till 940 A.D.

About the year 600 A.D. China organized Annam in a regular manner by dividing the country into 13 chou, at the head of each one of which a governor was placed. A regular tribute was also instituted for the first time, gold and silver appearing at the head of articles to be offered.

In 940 A.D. Annam rose in rebellion against China, and the family 吴 Ngo occupied the throne during 28 years. How Annam since that time has been able to maintain her independence is a mystery. The first three dynasties followed each other with marvelous rapidity: the kings fell under the strokes of assassins or by military conspiracy, and rebellions prevailed in all the provinces; later on the feudal chiefs became so powerful that the kings could not even maintain the shade of their sovereignty. Up till lately, to the time of TU-DUC, Annam sustained its existence solely by its passive policy, which is the only strength of Oriental countries.

Before entering on the description of the coins a historical account of the epoch during which they were cast will first be given. This is done for the special purpose of clearing up the dark period from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, during which Annam was ruled simultaneously by three or even four rulers.

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