Polygamy is permitted but rarely practised, and the wife enjoys a position of some freedom.
Though fond of ease the Annamese are more industrious than the neighbouring peoples. Theatrical and musical entertainments are popular among them. They show much outward respect for superiors and parents, but they are insincere and incapable of deep emotion. They cherish great love of their native soil and native village and cannot remain long from home. A proneness to gambling and opium-smoking, and a tinge of vanity and deceitfulness, are their less estimable traits. On the whole they are mild and easy-going and even apathetic, but the facility with which they learn is remarkable. Like their neighbours the Cambodians and the Chinese, the Annamese have a great respect for the dead, and ancestor worship constitutes the national religion. The learned hold the doctrine of Confucius, and Buddhism, alloyed with much popular superstition, has some influence. Like the Chinese the Annamese bury their dead.
Among the savage tribes of the interior there is scarcely any idea of God and their superstitious practices can scarcely be considered as the expression of a definite religious idea. Roman Catholics number about 420,000. In the midst of the Annamese live Cambodians and immigrant Chinese, the latter associated together according to the districts from which they come and carrying on nearly all the commerce of the country. In the forests and mountains dwell tribes of savages, chiefly of Indonesian origin, classed by the Annamese under the name Moïs or “savages.” Some of these tribes show traces of Malay ancestry. Of greater historical interest are the Chams, who are to be found for the most part in southern Annam and in Cambodia, and who, judging from the numerous remains found there, appear to have been the masters of the coast region of Cochin-China and Annam till they succumbed before the pressure of the Khmers of Cambodia and the Annamese. They are taller, more muscular, and more supple than the Annamese. Their language is derived from Malay, and while some of the Chams are Mussulmans, the dominant religion is Brahmanism, and more especially the worship of Siva. Their women have a high reputation for virtue, which, combined with the general bright and honest character of the whole people, differentiates them from the surrounding nations.
Evidently derived from the Chinese, of which it appears to be a very ancient dialect, the Annamese language is composed of monosyllables, of slightly varied articulation, expressing different ideas according to the tone in which they are pronounced. It is quite impossible to connect with our musical system the utterance of the sounds of which the Chinese and Annamese languages are composed. What is understood by a “tone” in this language is distinguished in reality, not by the number of sonorous vibrations which belong to it, but rather by a use of the vocal apparatus special to each. Thus, the sense will to a native be completely changed according as the sound is the result of an aspiration or of a simple utterance of the voice. Thence the difficulty of substituting our phonetic alphabet for the ideographic characters of the Chinese, as well as for the ideophonetic writing partly borrowed by the Annamese from the letters of the celestial empire. To the Jesuit missionaries is due the introduction of an ingenious though very complicated system, which has caused remarkable progress to be made in the employment of phonetic characters. By means of six accents, one bar and a crotchet it is possible to note with sufficient precision the indications of tone without which the Annamese words have no sense for the natives.
Agriculture and other Industries.—The cultivation of rice, which is grown mainly in the small deltas along the coast and in some districts gives two crops annually, and fishing, together with fish-salting and the preparation of nuoc-mam, a sauce made from decaying fish, constitute the chief industries of Annam.
Silk spinning and weaving are carried on on antiquated lines, and silkworms are reared in a desultory fashion. Besides rice, the products of the country include tea, tobacco, cotton, cinnamon, precious woods and rubber; coffee, pepper, sugar-canes and jute are cultivated to a minor extent. The exports (total value in 1905 £237,010) comprise tea, raw silk and small quantities of cotton, rice and sugar-cane. The imports (£284,824 in 1905) include rice, iron goods, flour, wine, opium and cotton goods. There are coal-mines at Nong-Son, near Tourane, and gold, silver, lead, iron and other metals occur in the mountains. Trade, which is in the hands of the Chinese, is for the most part carried on by sea, the chief ports being Tourane and Qui-Nhon, which are open to European commerce.
Administration.—Annam is ruled in theory by its emperor, assisted by the “comat” or secret council, composed of the heads of the six ministerial departments of the interior, finance, war, ritual, justice and public works, who are nominated by himself. The resident superior, stationed at Hué, is the representative of France and the virtual ruler of the country. He presides over a council (Conseil de Protectorat) composed of the chiefs of the French services in Annam, together with two members of the “comat”; this body deliberates on questions of taxation affecting the budget of Annam and on local public works. A native governor (tong-doc or tuan-phu), assisted by a native staff, administers each of the provinces into which the country is divided, and native officials of lower rank govern the areas into which these provinces are subdivided. The governors take their orders from the imperial government, but they are under the eye of French residents. Native officials are appointed by the court, but the resident superior has power to annul an appointment. The mandarinate or official class is recruited from all ranks of the people by competitive examination. In the province of Tourane, a French tribunal alone exercises jurisdiction, but it administers native law where natives are concerned. Outside this territory the native tribunals survive. The Annamese village is self-governing. It has its council of notables, forming a sort of oligarchy which, through the medium of a mayor and two subordinates, directs the interior affairs of the community—policing, recruiting, the assignment and collection of taxes, &c.—and has judicial power in less important suits and crimes. More serious cases come within the purview of the an-sat, a judicial auxiliary of the governor. An assembly of notables from villages grouped together in a canton chooses a cantonal representative, who is the mouthpiece of the people and the intermediary between the government and its subjects. The direct taxes, which go to the local budget of Annam, consist primarily of a poll-tax levied on all males over eighteen and below sixty years of age, and of a land-tax levied according to the quality and the produce of the holding.
The following table summarizes the local budget of Annam for the years 1899 and 1904:—
|£203,082 (direct taxes, £171,160)
£247,435 (direct taxes, £219,841)
In 1904 the sum allocated to the expenses of the court, the royal family and the native administration, the members of which are paid by the crown, was £85,000, the chief remaining heads of expenditure being the government house and residencies (£39,709), the native guard (£32,609) and public works (£24,898).
Education is available to every person in the community. The primary school, in which the pupils learn only Chinese writing and the precepts of Confucius, stands at the base of this system. Next above this is the school of the district capital, where a half-yearly examination takes place, by means of which are selected those eligible for the course of higher education given at the capital of the province in a school under the direction of a doc-hoc, or inspector of studies. Finally a great triennial competition decides the elections. The candidate whose work is notified as très bien is admitted to the examinations at Hué, which qualify for the title of doctor and the holding of administrative offices. The education of a mandarin includes local history, cognizance of the administrative rites, customs, laws and prescriptions of the country, the ethics of Confucius, the rules