Vietnam 100 years ago: emperor and aristocracy


There is no national representation in Annam. The Commune, so powerful in itself, appoints its chiefs of the canton, it is true, but these pass into the pay of the provinces, and owe their promotion to the State alone.

Between the Emperor and the people there are only the mandarins. Otherwise no aristocracy exists. Titles of nobility are sometimes granted for some brilliant action or distinguished service, but these are no longer hereditary. As in each generation the degree of nobility is lowered, the privileges conferred are of very short duration.

The Emperor is at the same time supreme head in religion, supreme judge, and chief of all civil and military powers. He is the only being who has the right to offer sacrifices to Heaven and to Earth. He must be addressed by his people on their knees, and no one may look at him.

At one time the Emperor only left his palace for purposes of ceremonial ritual, and heralds went before to announce his coming, so that the inhabitants might go home and shut their doors.

It is needless to add that these practices have for many years fallen into disuse. It would be difficult to bring them into harmony with the present government of Annam, which is a Protectorate.

The monarch bears the title of Hoang de (emperor), but he is usually called vua (king). It is also the title he employed in his relations as vassal to China.

Next to him in authority come the “four pillars of the Empire” that is to say, the high chancellors ; and the six Ministers of State i.e., of Home Affairs, Finance, Rites and Ceremonies, War, Justice, and Public Affairs.

Read more:
Vietnam 100 years ago: table manners
Vietnam 100 years ago: chewing the betel-nut
Vietnam 100 years ago: how to become a mandarin
Vietnam 100 years ago: religion and superstitions
Vietnam 100 years ago: worshiping ancestors

Vietnam 100 years ago: practice of polygamy
Vietnam 100 years ago: chief wives of the mandarins
Vietnam 100 years ago: numerous wives of the Emperor

Text: Gabrielle Vassal
On & off duty in Annam, London 1910
Photo: old photo from internet


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