Annamite ambassador

Annamite ambassador

As part for the negotiations for the Treaty of Hue, which confirmed the Treaty of Saigon of the previous year, an Annamite legation travelled to Paris in 1863, landing at Toulon on 9 September. The senior mandarin, Phan Thanh Giang, committed suicide on his return to Indochine, when the French failed to honour the terms of the treaty.

According to a report from their Paris correspondent that appeared in the Times on 17 September 1863: ‘The Annamite Ambassadors, whose arrival we yesterday announced, are the objects of great curiosity to the Parisians. Their appearance cannot be said to be prepossessing, and cleanliness they seem to look upon as a crime. Like the Chinese and Japanese they dispense with pocket-handkerchiefs, but the square pieces of paper which the former use as a substitute either have not found their way to the kingdom of Annam, or are considered as one of the superfluities of exaggerated civilization. The consequences are not pleasant to witness, the change of climate having affected some of the distinguished visitors with coryza. It has also been seen with surprise that the chief dignitaries among them alone wear shoes – rank with the Annamites being outwardly marked by the covering for the feet. They are great smokers, and are hardly ever to be seen without a cigar or cigarette in their mouth, and they are said to show a lively appreciation of French cuisine; they are fond of champagne, and truffles in particular meet with their approbation; they are even said to prefer this savoury tuber to their favourite dish at home – pickled caterpillars.’

‘The ambassadors have commenced their rounds of official visits, and are said to be well versed in the laws of etiquette. The first ambassador – described as remarkable for his intelligence and for that reason looked on with suspicion at the court of Hué – is accompanied by two dignitaries, who under the pretence of assisting him are specially charged to keep a watch over him. He is reported to be aware of this, and takes his precautions in consequence. The account which has been given of their mission appears to be true. The Emperor of Annam wishes to recover the three provinces of Lower-Cochin-China occupied by the French troops. The motive for this desire is not so much to recover a few hundred leagues of territory as to plunder and hang the faithless subjects who have submitted to the French. At the same time he would not be sorry to dupe the foreign barbarians, to whom he offers, it is said, 40,000,000 f., without have the remotest intention of giving them a sou.’

Photographed by A.A.E. Disdéri of Paris.

Code: 122052
© Paul Frecker 2022