Cochinchina (Vietnamese: Nam Kỳ, Khmer: កូសាំងស៊ីន, Kausangsin, French: Cochinchine) is a region encompassing the southern third of current Vietnam whose principal city is Saigon or Prey Nokor in Khmer. It was a French colony from 1862 to 1954. The later state of South Vietnam was created in 1954 by combining Cochinchina with southern Annam. In Vietnamese, the region is called Nam Bộ. Historically, it was Gia Định (1779–1832), Nam Kỳ (1834–1945), Nam Bộ (1945–48), Nam phần (1948–56), Nam Việt (1956–75), and later Miền Nam. In French, it was called la colonie de Cochinchine.
In the 17th century, Vietnam was divided between the Trịnh lords to the north and the Nguyễn lords to the south. The northern section was called Tonkin by Europeans, and the southern part called Cochinchina by most Europeans and Quinam by the Dutch.
During the French colonial period, the label moved further south, and came to refer exclusively to the southernmost part of Vietnam, controlled by Cambodia in prior centuries, and lying to its southeast. The capital of the French colony of Cochinchina was at Saigon. The two other parts of Vietnam at the time were known as Annam (Central Vietnam) and Tonkin (Northen Vietnam).
The conquest of the south of present-day Vietnam was a long process of territorial acquisition by the Vietnamese. It is called Nam tiến (Chinese characters: 南進, English meaning "South[ern] Advance") by Vietnamese historians. Vietnam (then known as Đại Việt) nearly doubled its territory in 1470 under the great king Lê Thánh Tông, at the expense of Champa. The next two hundred years was a time of territorial consolidation and civil war with only gradual expansion south.
In 1516, Portuguese traders sailing from Malacca landed in Da Nang, Champa, and established a presence there. They named the area "Cochin-China", borrowing the first part from the Malay Kuchi, which referred to all of Vietnam, and which in turn derived from the Chinese Jiāozhǐ, pronounced Giao Chỉ in Vietnam. They appended the "China" specifier to distinguish the area from the city and the princely state of Cochin in India, their first headquarters in the Malabar Coast,
As a result of a civil war that started in 1520, the Emperor of China sent a commission to study the political status of Annam in 1536. As a consequence of the delivered report, he declared war against the Mạc dynasty. The nominal ruler of the Mạc died at the very time that the Chinese armies passed the frontiers of the kingdom in 1537, and his father, Mạc Đăng Dung (the real power in any case), hurried to submit to the Imperial will, and declared himself to be a vassal of China. The Chinese declared that both the Lê dynasty and the Mạc had a right to part of the lands and so they recognised the Lê rule in the southern part of Vietnam while at the same time recognising the Mạc rule in the northern part, which was called Tunquin (i.e. Tonkin). This was to be a feudatory state of China under the government of the Mạc.
However, this arrangement did not last long. In 1592, Trịnh Tùng, leading the Royal (Trịnh) army, conquered nearly all of the Mạc territory and moved the Lê kings back to the original capital of Hanoi. The Mạc only held on to a tiny part of north Vietnam until 1667, when Trịnh Tạc conquered the last Mạc lands.
The Nguyễn lords ruled the southern provinces of Vietnam from the city of Huế (in what was later called Annam by the French, though Annam historically refers to the northern part of modern Vietnam). The Tây Sơn dynasty also ruled the south but not from Saigon, instead they ruled from Đà Nẵng. Nguyễn Phúc Ánh ruled the united country of Vietnam from his ancestors’ capital of Huế. Cochinchina was never a single united administrative unit until the French seized it in the 1850s. Cochinchina was occupied by Japan during World War II (1941–45), but was restored to France afterwards. In 1955, after the First Indochina War, Cochinchina was merged with southern Annam to form the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam).
Cochinchina Kingdom of the Nguyen Lords (1620-1774)
In 1623, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, the lord of the (then) southern provinces of Vietnam, established a trading community at Saigon, then called Prey Nakor, with the consent of the king of Cambodia, Chey Chettha II. Over the next 50 years, Vietnamese control slowly expanded in this area but only gradually as the Nguyễn were fighting a protracted civil war with the Trịnh lords in the north.
With the end of the war with the Trịnh, the Nguyễn were able to devote more effort (and military force) to conquest of the south. First, the remaining Champa territories were taken; next, the areas around the Mekong river were placed under Vietnamese control.
At least three wars were fought between the Nguyễn lords and the Cambodian kings in the period 1715 to 1770 with the Vietnamese gaining more territory with each war. The wars all involved the much more powerful Siamese kings who fought on behalf of their vassals, the Cambodians. In the late 18th century, Vietnam was briefly unified under the Tây Sơn. These were three brothers, former peasants, who succeeded in conquering first the lands of the Nguyễn and then the lands of the Trịnh.
Final unification came under Nguyễn Phúc Ánh, a remarkably tenacious member of the Nguyễn noble family who fought for 25 years against the Tây Sơn and ultimately conquered the entire country in 1802. He ruled all of Vietnam under the name Gia Long. His son Minh Mạng reigned from 14 February 1820 until 20 January 1841 what was known to the British as Cochin China and to the Americans as hyphenated Cochin-China. In hopes of negotiating commercial treaties, the British in 1822 sent East India Company agent John Crawfurd, and the Americans in 1833 sent diplomatist Edmund Roberts, who returned in 1836. Neither envoy was fully cognizant of conditions within the country, and neither succeeded.
Gia Long's successors (see the Nguyễn dynasty for details) repelled the Siamese from Cambodia and even annexed Phnom Penh and surrounding territory in the war of 1831 to 1834, but were forced to relinquish these conquests in the war of 1841 to 1845.
Colonial Cochinchina (1864–1949)
In 1858, the French government of Napoleon III, with the help of Spanish troops arriving from the Philippines (which was a Spanish colony at the time), decided to take over the southern part of Vietnam ; the Vietnamese government was forced to cede the provinces Biên Hòa, Gia Định and Định Tường to France in June 1862. These territories, which were then called by the French lower Cochinchina (Basse-Cochinchine) became a colony called Cochinchina.
In 1887, the colony of French Cochinchina became part of the Union of French Indochina, while remaining separated from the protectorates of Annam and Tonkin. In 1949, it was incorporated into the newly-formed State of Vietnam.
- Li, Tana Li (1998). Nguyễn Cochinchina: southern Vietnam in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. SEAP Publications. p. 72. ISBN 0-87727-722-2.
- Reid, Anthony. Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce. Vol 2: Expansion and Crisis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. p211n.
- Yule, Sir Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell, William Crooke (1995). A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases: Hobson-Jobson. Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0-7007-0321-7.
- Crawfurd, John (21 August 2006) . Journal of an Embassy from the Governor-general of India to the Courts of Siam and Cochin China. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). London: H. Colburn and R. Bentley. 475 pgs. OCLC 03452414. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
- Roberts, Edmund (12 October 2007) [First published in 1837]. Embassy to the Eastern courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat : in the U. S. sloop-of-war Peacock ... during the years 1832-3-4 (Digital ed.). Harper & brothers. 310 pages. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- Ruschenberger, William Samuel Waithman (24 July 2007) [First published in 1837]. A Voyage Round the World: Including an Embassy to Muscat and Siam in 1835, 1836 and 1837. Harper & brothers. OCLC 12492287. Retrieved 25 April 2012.
- Encyclopedia of Asian History, Volume 4 (Vietnam) 1988. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York.
- Vietnam - A Long History by Nguyễn Khắc Viện (1999). Hanoi, Thế Giới Publishers
- ArtHanoi Vietnamese money in historical context
- WorldStatesmen- Vietnam