To get nearer the subject of this work, i.e. the currency of Annam, we must first throw a glance at the mines and the mining industry of the country.
Annam is very rich in mines, though poor in metals, on account of the Government making the working of the mines a monopoly, or rendering it unprofitable to work them by the imposition of restrictions and by oppressive measures of every kind.
Nearly all the mines are situated in the mountainous districts of the kingdom, namely, in High Tunquin, with the exception of one gold mine in the province of 北寧 Bac-ninh. Metals of every kind are abundant, as proved by the following official list of mines paying royalties to the Government; and yet this list does not comprise the names of all mines worked at the present day.
1. - 煤豐恒 Moi-phaong-hang. Makes an annual payment to the Treasury of seven oz. of gold.
2. - 純茫煤 Thuan-mang-moi. Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
3. - 金喜煤 Kim-hi-moi. Makes an annual payment of twenty oz. of gold.
4. - 寶囊煤 Bao-nang-moi. Makes an annual payment of six oz. of gold.
5. - 爽木煤 Sang-moc-moi. Makes an annual payment of fifteen oz. of gold.
6. - 那邑煤 Na-ap-moi. Makes an annual payment of six oz. of gold.
7. - 春陽煤 Xuan-duong-moi. Makes an annual payment of four oz. of gold.
8. - 上坡煤 Thuong-ba-mol. Makes an annual payment of four oz. of gold.
9. - 下坡煤 Ha-ba-mol. Makes an annual payment of four oz. of gold.
10. - 清陀煤 Thanh-da-moi. Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
11. - 賦內煤 Phu-noi-moi Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
12. - 蝪噏煤 Dich-hop-moi. Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
13. - 木曾煤 Ban-tang-moi. Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
14. - 粘山煤 Niem-son-moi. Makes an annual payment of ten oz. of gold.
15. - 玉輦煤 Ngaoc-lien-moi. Makes an annual payment of eight oz. of gold.
16. - 靈湖煤 Linh-ho-moi. Makes an annual payment of eight oz. of gold.
17. - 仙橋煤 Tien-kieu-moi. Makes an annual payment of eight oz. of gold.
1. - 成樂煤 Thanh-lac-moi. Makes an annual payment of one hundred oz. of silver.
2. - 仙山煤 Tien-son-moi. Makes an annual payment of four hundred oz. of silver.
3. - 送星煤 Toung-tinh-moi. Makes an annual payment of one hundred and thirty oz. of silver.
4. - 美和煤 Mi-hoa-moi. Makes an annual payment of twenty oz. of silver.
5. - 叫和煤 Khieu-hoa-moi. Makes an annual payment of sixty oz. of silver.
6. - 南登煤 Nam-dang-moi. Makes an annual payment of thirty oz. of silver.
1. - 萊昌煤 Lai-xuong-moi. Makes an annual payment of three hundred pounds of copper.
2. - 裕登煤 Du-dang-moi. Makes an annual payment of four hundred pounds of copper.
3. - 聚龍煤 Tu-long-moi. This mine has silver and copper, and makes an annual payment of eighty oz. of silver and twelve thousand pounds of copper.
4. - 玲琛煤 Linh-tham-moi. Makes an annual payment of three hundred pounds of copper.
1. - 廓儒煤 Quach-nho-moi. Makes an annual payment of six hundred pounds of tin.
The working of mines in Annam was first begun when the country was still a part of the Chinese Empire, and before the coming into power of the 吴 NGO Dynasty, but it has been impossible to obtain any reliable information relating to this period.
In the Annals of Annam it is mentioned that in King 大行 DAI-HANH'S palace the throne room, called 百寶千鈛殿 was fitted up with gold and silver; and that the roof of a pavilion called 竜錄殿 was composed of silver tiles. In 1010 King 太祖 THAI-TO of the 李 LY Dynasty, when going to a place called Co-phap, made presents of silk and silver to the aged people of the villages. In the accounts of the accession of some of the later kings we read of similar presents of precious metals being made to the people.
The various savage tribes inhabiting the mountains of the Tunquin frontier and the range of hills lying parallel with the Eastern coast have been from a very early period in the habit of working the mines and bringing down the metals in their rough state, in exchange for different articles. This is still done by the Moi, the Muong, and other tribes who thus bring to the Annamese markets considerable quantities of gold, silver, iron, and lead.
At the time of the occupation of Annam by the Chinese under the 明 Ming Dynasty, in 1414, the Annamese were forced to work the gold and silver mines, without pay, and the metals extracted were sent to China as compensation for the war expenses. Later on, King 太祖 THAI-TO of the 黎 LE Dynasty gave a great impulse to the extraction of large quantities of metals, the work being carried on under Government supervision and on its account. The first king who allowed mines to be worked by private individuals was 裕宗 DU-TONG. In 1708 he established a scale of royalties to be paid by each mine, and this scale or tariff exists to the present day in the form given above, with but little variations.
The Chinese were the only people who availed themselves of this permission, and King DU-TONG, in order to avoid too great a concourse of miners and the troubles that might thereby ensue, gave orders that the number of Chinese working in each mine should be limited to three hundred, and that they should be under the supervision of Government officials, who were entrusted also with the collection of all dues.
In 1729, King 永慶帝 VINH-KHANH-DE issued a curious decree ordering the closing of all mines in the royal province of 清華 Thanh-hoa, the reason for this being that he did not wish to disturb the "veins of the earth that had produced the royal race of the LE Dynasty."
Since that time the mines in Annam have been worked solely by Chinese, who have no doubt made very considerable profits therefrom, inasmuch as, quite recently, the Mandarin of Tunquin complained to the king that the country was being ruined by the exportation to China of all the gold and silver obtained from the mines. It is hard to convince eastern nations that the exportation of precious metals from a country does not affect its resources in any way.
To open up a new mine in Annam it is necessary to obtain the sanction of the Government; and any one venturing to do so without this permission is punished with death by decapitation.
Under the Penal Code thefts in the mines are also punished very severely. This Code says that any one working in gold silver, copper, tin or mercury mines and appropriating any of the mineral, shall be punished as having stolen money; he who offers resistance to those coming to arrest him shall be deported, and should he wound or kill any officer arresting him, he shall be decapitated. The crime of stealing minerals is still more severely dealt with if committed by a company of thirty or more people.
The Code also punishes overseers of mines allowing fraudulent extraction of metals.