French influence in Vietnam in the 19th century Essay

French influence in Vietnam in the 19th century Essay.

In the 19th century, the French had a great influence in Vietnam in different aspects including; culture, religion, ethics, economy, politics and government and nationalistic aspirations of the Vietnamese. The French ruled Vietnam from approximately mid-late 1800’s until 1954 when Vietnam defeated the French. According by Edward Terry on the geocities website, the greatest influence in Vietnam was that of religion. Others may think differently, but this essay will explain how all different aspects had an impact on Vietnam and whether or not the French had a good or bad influence in Vietnam.

According to the textbook Contested Spaces by Thomas Cantwell, French colonialism had a negative influence on Vietnamese society.

The French had a huge impact on the Vietnamese culture. French culture strongly influenced Vietnamese food, language, some architecture etc. The French cuisine had a great influence in Vietnam as you can still find asparagus, white potato and French bread on menus in Vietnam. A Vietnamese breakfast would be a baguette, yogurt and orange juice, which are all typical French items.

In the South, the influence was the greatest, so these things are most often found in southern Vietnam. Before the French came, the Vietnamese used Chinese characters but French missionaries introduced the Latin alphabet to replace that.

The Vietnamese written language doesn’t only use 26 characters like the English language, but many different with different accents. Actual Vietnamese words were hardly influenced by the French and it could be said that in the 19th century, the Vietnamese spoken language sounded just like the Chinese spoken language to people who couldn’t tell the difference. Even though the French language didn’t have a great impact on the Vietnamese spoken language, many well educated Vietnamese speak French. The French influence in Vietnamese culture wasn’t particularly bad or good. Even though, some may argue otherwise.

Vietnamese architecture wasn’t influenced strongly by the French but in the main cities such as Hanoi there can still be found the remnants of old French buildings. The French occupied the city so the majority of the buildings in the center like government buildings, offices, opera houses and big lodges were all made by the French.

As said before, some argue that the biggest influence the French had in Vietnam was that of religion. The Société des Missions Étrangeres (The society of foreign missionaries) claims that up until the year of 1841, 450 000 Vietnamese had changed their religion to Christianity. However, those statistics aren’t very reliable, because during the progress they might have killed twice as many people as that. Having said that, even up to today, Catholicism is the second most practised religion (after Buddhism) in Vietnam. Therefore there can be said that religion was one of the biggest influences the French had in Vietnam.

Vietnamese moral and ethical values were mostly influenced by the Chinese and the French didn’t have a great influence on Vietnamese ethics. The French might have brought in some Europeans habits, but the majority of the Vietnamese lived by Chinese ethics.

The French also had a great impact on the Vietnamese economy. The French opened banks in Vietnam but only to the benefit of the French. Looking at the economic influences the French had on Vietnam there can be said it was a bad influence for Vietnamese people. The French also introduced a wine tax in 1817 and since the national drink of Vietnam was rice wine, this had a great impact on the Vietnamese people. They controlled the rice wine manufacture, distribution and sale in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Local production was illegal.

Salt was also very important product to the Vietnamese. In 1897 Governor General Paul Doumer also introduced a salt tax. Salt could only be purchased from French outlets with a price 10 times larger than its original price. The French also took opium from Asia and introduced it in Europe. They started trading and by 1929 the whole of Indochina was producing approximately 80 tonnes of opium yearly. All of these things influenced the economy because there was more trading and people had to pay a lot of taxes on things that were free before. Looking at all of these things there can be said that the French did have a negative influence on the Vietnamese economy.

The French obviously had an effect on the Vietnamese government because they were ruling the Vietnamese. When they first arrived in Vietnam, they divided it in three different parts called; Bac Ky (Tonkin), Trung Ky (Annam) and Nam Ky (Cochin china), so they could gain control over each part at a time. While the French were in Vietnam the emperor remained a figure head with no real power. He could practice his activities with his court and initiated laws, and conducted ceremonies as long as they didn’t clash with the French policies and intentions. The French were in control over the government and therefore also the politics. As said before they introduced more taxes and with these taxes came new laws. According to the book: A short history of South east Asia by Church P., the Vietnamese imperial government had lost all capacity to control events.

Another thing that changed while the French were in Vietnam was that the Vietnamese became more nationalistic. The Vietnamese wanted independence from the French and had a very nationalistic attitude. The French being in Vietnam also started guerrilla warfare. The Vietnamese stood up against the French. Guerrilla warfare isn’t supported by the official military of the government but can be very organized. The French being in Vietnam flamed up their nationalistic aspirations.

There can be concluded that the French had a huge impact and influence in Vietnam on all different aspects of live and the country. In conclusion from analyzing these different things there can be said that the French mainly had a negative influence in Vietnam.

Bibliography: by Edward Terry Cantwell, Contested spaces Conflict in Indochina. McGraw Hill education, first edition 2003, NSW.

Church P. 2006, A short history of South East Asia, John Wiley & Sons, Singapore.

French influence in Vietnam in the 19th century Essay

Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” Essay

Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” Essay.

On the outside of Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” is a very hopeless type of story about a young man in the Vietnam War who recounts events in which could have been his last. He gives thanks to certain objects, as if they were the reason that he did not in fact get shot, or that he didn’t trip over a landmine. The thanks he is giving could be interrupted as thanks to God for these objects, or a downright statement of a lack of god in his life or this war.

Komunyakaa is making a statement about the war, and about his beliefs, though it is only with further dissection that the reader can begin to see which side Komunyakaa is coming from; the religious side or an almost denouncement of religion and a lack of a god in the Vietnam War.

The poem opens with Komunyakaa giving thanks “for the tree between me & a sniper’s bullet.” Komunyakaa is thanking the tree for coming in between him and the bullet.

In the next couple of lines he states that he doesn’t know “what made the grass sway seconds before the Viet Cong raised his soundless rifle.” The reader gets the alliteration from the sway, seconds, and soundless, which gives the reader an almost calmed sense about it; it’s not so much that the Viet Cong raised his rifle attempting to kill the narrator, but that the grass swayed seconds before he raised his soundless rifle. Nature seems to be the one Komunyakaa seems to be referring to when he is giving his thanks, which could be directly linked to God, or, taken the opposite way, as a glorification of nature rather than the act of God.

During the next couple of lines we get a look into his past;

“Thanks for deflecting the ricochet against that anarchy of dusk. I was back in San Francisco wrapped up in a woman’s wild colors, causing some dark bird’s love call to be shattered by daylight when my hands reached up & pulled a branch away from my face.”

Obviously this boy is far from home, young, like most soldiers were, with someone at home that may be a wife or a sweetheart. The narrator was close to death in this scene. He was back at home, with the woman he might have loved, until it was “shattered by daylight” when the branch was pulled away from his face. When he is giving thanks later into the poem, he begins to state that he does not know who to thank.

“What made me spot the monarch writhing on a single thread tied to a farmer’s gate, holding the day together like an unfingered guitar string, is beyond me.”

The narrator states that it was beyond him who or what brought that butterfly to rest on that trip-wire. He could also literally mean beyond him in the spiritual sense of the word as well. It’s still unclear because the reader does get an overwhelming sense of nature intervening in these potentially life-threatening events.

Finally the reader gets personal feelings about the situation from the narrator.

“Thanks for the vague white flower that pointed to the gleaming metal reflecting how it is to be broken like mist over the grass, as we played some deadly game for blind gods.”

He is giving thanks for the flower giving away the position of some kind of anti-personnel mine, but he describes the war as a game for “blind gods.” With the lack of religious evidence and the sincerity for the thanks to be religious, the reader may assume that the thanks is directed toward chance, and the idea that all these things that saved the narrators life were just there by chance, and for so many other soldiers they weren’t. With the reference to the “blind gods,” the reader may see that as a reference to Johnson, Nixon, or the American government during the Vietnam War.

The way Komunyakaa expresses the narrator’s thanks and the way he describes the events seems too relaxed, he seems too detached from them, like he wasn’t himself during this times. It is only until the last line when he describes “something” that moved among the lost trees and moved only when the narrator moved, that the reader feels like their may be more to the narrators thanks. But, the narrator never states he knows why there was something among those trees; he states that he doesn’t know why there was.

Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” is, in some ways, difficult for the reader to interpret. But when looking back at the Vietnam War, and how most soldiers came out it and how most of the American public felt about it, the reader can get a sense of Komunyakaa’s resentment for the war and whoever, spiritual or political, sent him there. On the outside the reader can easily interpret a religious theme, and an almost prayer-like poem to God, but when delving deeper, one can see the almost opposite; a lack of God.

Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Thanks” Essay