As I said in an earlier post I notice a different vibe in this area. I want to understand what is behind this subtle change.
I decide to start my investigation at the very beginning of all life in The Mekong Delta.
The origins of the famous fresh water that freely flows in the thousands of tributaries that irrigate this incredibly fertile land.
Then I hope to look at who lives here , what is their story and what historical milestones influenced their life’s journey.
To answer these questions we take a short cruse on The Bassac III, which is part of the tourist organisation known as Trans Mekong ( firstname.lastname@example.org/ el +84(710) 3829540 )
The Bassac III is a magnificent boat made entirely from wood in accordance with the local marine traditions of the Mekong Delta region. Quite honestly, it is one of the most environmental friendly boats traveling in this area and it is delightful.
Photo: The Bassac III.
Photo: Dining on The Bassac III and the lovely Thanh Tin
After our delicious lunch I set about investigating where the fresh water in The Mekong Delta, comes from?
The Mekong Delta known locally as the Nine Dragon River Delta, is in the region in south western Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties through a network of distributaries into the South China Sea.
Mekong River is a very long river, over 4.350 km, I’m told. Its life begins in Tibet in the plateaus of the Himalayas and then, fed by mountain streams and melting snow, it travels southwards through China, Laos and Cambodia to merge into The South China Sea.
My impression of the Mekong is an area teeming with plant, animal and marine life, which I would imagine – like Ha Long Bay, has a history that dates back millions of years. The Garden of Eden comes to mind when I think about the Mekong Delta. And I wonder if perhaps, the origins of all life including that of humans originate from here.
So with this thought in mind I set about my second task of documenting the historical milestones in the Mekong Delta region.
Note to self.
Documenting milestones in the Mekong Delta is an arduous task as the history of this region is ‘complicated’.
I sincerely hope that my rendition of historical events will be accurately represent what happened at that time.
So here goes…
The inhabitants of the Mekong Delta have a very long history indeed dating back to prehistoric times.
In 7th Century, the Mekong Delta area is part of the Champa kingdom. The French archaeologist Louis Malleret (1942) unearths a statue that represents The Champa God known as Vishnu in Oc Eo.
Interestingly, Oc Eo is connected by canal to the ancient city of Angkor Borel.
In the 1st Century Angkor Borel is believed to be the capital of the kingdom of Funan.
Oc Eo is also connected by sea, to China and India making it a place of great significance.
In the he 13th centuries The Mekong Delta belongs to The Khmer (Cambodian) Empire. It is known as Khmer Krom or Lower Cambodia.
In 1620 the Khmer king Chey Chettha II (1618- 1628) allowed the Vietnamese to settle in the area and set up a Custom House called Prey Nokor.
1698 the Nguyen Lords of Hue send a Vietnamese noble Nguyen Huru Canh by sea, to establish Vietnamese administration structure in the area. This act formally detaches the Mekong Delta from Cambodia, placing the region firmly Vietnamese administrative control. Cambodia is cut off from the South China Sea.
In 1802 the Emperor Gia Long moves the capital of his dynasty from Hanoi to Hue and starts to build the Citadel in an effort to unite northern and southern Vietnam, including The Mekong Delta region, placing all regions in Vietnam under his rule.
During 1840s there is persecution of Catholic Missionaries in Vietnam which evokes sporadic and official reprisals from the French.
In 1857 Emperor Tu Duc executes two Spanish missionaries, including Bishop Jose Maria Dias, which results in a joint Spanish and French invasion of Vietnam.
On the 1st September in 1858 a sea expedition- of 14 vessels carrying 2,500 men, under the naval commander Rigault de Genouilly storms the harbour of Tourane (De Nang) and captures it, in one day. It is turned it into a French military base.
In 1859 Genouilly sails southwards and seizes Saigon.
From 1859 until 1861 the Vietnamese resistance prevents the French from advancing past Saigon.
In 1862 Viet Minh are unable to sustain their defence against the advancing French troops with superior weaponry. A peace treaty is signed which yields the conquered territories to the French.
1867 additional territories – including the Mekong Delta were placed under French rule.
The entire colony is named Cochinchina.
It takes the French 8 years to make themselves masters of Cochinchina and a further 8 years to master the whole country.
In 1883 the Vietnamese court sign a treaty that turned northern Vietnam (Tonkin) and central Vietnam (Annam) into French colonies.
In 1897 Guvnor General Paul Doumer arrives in Vietnam. He imposes French rule over all levels of administration, leaving the Vietnamese bureaucracy, including its Emperors with little or no power.
From 1897 until 1902 Doumer is responsible for the development of French Indochina which now includes Laois and Cambodia. He builds harbours, canals, bridges, railroads and thoroughfares which provides easy access to natural resources of rice, coal, rare minerals and in later years, rubber which are exported directly to France.
During this time economic and social policies are determined, where all industry and profits benefit France. These policies remain for the entire period of French rule.
The people who support of France benefit. Those who do not suffer. There is little or no education available for the entire population of Vietnam.
The French and their supporters are Catholics. The rest of the country practice Buddhism.
Note to self
I cannot help but wonder if the recent History of Vietnam would have unfolded differently, if the Third Emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty Thieu Tri had given his throne to his more moderate eldest son Hong Bao instead of Tu Duc?
Tu Duc, is a staunch Confucianist, opposing conversion of any kind including Jesus’s teachings of compassion and Love by the foreign missionaries.
Perhaps, if he persecuted the Christian less and was able educate his people more, natural disasters such as floods and typhoons would not have broken the spirit and aspirations of the Vietnamese people.
Then, perhaps famine would not have claimed over a million lives
And finally, in 1857 when he decapitates the Spanish Bishop Jose Maria Dias he brings down the wrath of the Spanish and French army who vigorously and successfully invade Vietnam in 1858.
Too late, Tu Duc realises the errors of his ways and he dies a lonely, broken man. Still living in splendour contemplating on life and writing poetry, in his magnificent mausoleum long before this death.
It never ceases to amaze me how just one person can, with unlimited power, inflict suffering so easily, on so many.
I will talk more about this in the next post. The history of this region is so very complex. It is difficult for me to understand. So lets take some time out till next Wednesday where I will continue my search for the Divine in Vietnam and Beyond