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A THESIS Submitted to Michigan State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of History—Master of Arts 2013


ABSTRACT WHERE PEOPLE & PLACES MEET: TRAVEL AND THE SPATIAL IDENTITIES OF INDOCHINA, FRANCE, AND HUE IN 1920s-1940s VIETNAMESE PRINT By Cindy A. Nguyen This thesis examines the creation of the spatial identities of Indochina, France, and Hue in Vietnamese print media on travel and mass tourism in early twentieth century. Through the direct experience of travel as well as armchair perceptions via travel stories and ephemera, individuals constructed Indochina, France, and Hue with political, cultural, and gendered meanings. In other words, travel can contribute to the invention of place, shaped through the topophilia or spatial sentiment. Although affective understandings of place can be subjective, this thesis demonstrates how Vietnamese travelers translated their encounters with new places and people through concomitant discourses on modernity, class, nationalism, and urbanism. In this way Indochina, France, and Hue became sites for the expression of new forms of collective identities such as the Vietnamese intelligentsia, middle class, and students. Through an analysis of Vietnamese and French language advertisements, travelogues, and fiction published within Vietnamese print between the 1920s and 1940s, this project seeks to convey the personification of places through both personal experiences and wider socio-cultural debates. Furthermore, as indicated in many textual representations of travel, the process of movement symbolized the catalyst for self-reflection as well as utopic visions for social and political opportunity. Thus, this thesis demonstrates the interrelationship between people and place, such that travelers defined the places of Indochina, France, and Hue, and were also shaped by its rhetoric.


For Eric who always believed in me


ACKNOWLEDGMENETS This master’s thesis would not have been possible without the kind support of many people. First and foremost, I would like to thank my advisor Dr. Charles Keith for his guidance and encouragement throughout my years at Michigan State University. Through many reflective conversations, he challenged me to be critical, exhaustive, and bold in my research and thinking. I also extend the deepest gratitude to members of my guidance committee, Drs. Leslie Page Moch and Aminda Smith, whose knowledge of migration, social history, and cultural history have shaped my lens of analyses. Special thanks to friends near and far whose selflessness and generosity have defined my experience in Michigan: Alex Galarza, Alison Kolodzy, Andrew Pham, April Greenwood, Ashley Sanders, Beth Dutridge-Corp, Carolyn Pratt, Catherine Foley, Ella Fratantuono, Emily Joan, Flora Feltham, Helen Irene, Jason Black, Jean-Paul deGuzman, Jenae Cohn, Jess Mcleod, Leslie Chanthaphasouk, Liz Timbs, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Huey, Stephanie Yang, and Sylvia Marques. And finally thank you to my best friend and confidant, Eric Kim, and to my family for their unending patience and love throughout my studies.


TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF FIGURES CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Theoretical Context Travel and Transportation within the Formation of Urban Middle Class Identity Print and the Circulation of Ideas on Modernity, Travel, and Space Sources & Methods CHAPTER 2 EXPLORING THE SPACE OF INDOCHINA: INVENTION AND REALITY Making Sense of Indochinese Space and Community through Travel Relational Definitions of Spaces & Self: The Wilderness, Countryside & Mountains Power and Privileged Isolation of Airplanes, Automobiles, and Mountain Resorts CHAPTER 3 FINDING ‘CIVILIZATION’: FRANCE AND THE FAILURES OF COLONIALISM The Rhetoric of Civilization and Reality of Education Abroad: France and the Opportunity for Socio-Economic Ascension Finding Social Purpose in France, the “Laboratory of Political and Cultural Modernization” France as Cultural and Generational Dystopia Conclusion EPILOGUE MAKING SENSE OF NEW AND OLD SPACES: HUE AS A SITE OF CULTURE AND HERITAGE Hue and the Invention of a Lost Past BIBLIOGRAPHY 90 vi 1 2 5 16 21 26 27 40 48 56 59 66 72 79

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Figure 1-1: Tourist brochure and map of the famous ‘red colored road,’ la route mandarine


Figure 2-1: “Scenery of Đề-Thiên Đề-Thích”- Scenic image that accompanied tourism articles to Angkor Wat. Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, 9 January 1930 33 Figure 2-2: Phong Hoá, 9 June 1933 “Two ways of Vacationing or East and West Avoiding Each Other” Figure 3-1: Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, 26 September 1929. Photo of Vietnamese students who participated in the scholarship competition on 15 September 1929 53 65

Figure 3-2: Cartoons that accompanied the series “Going West” Phong Hóa, 18 August 1932 73 Figure 4-1: Cover of Phong Hóa, 13 March 1936 85


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION In a two month long series titled “Le Tourisme et les Annamites” and the Saigon based newspapers La Tribune Indochinoise, the author explained the social and political importance for Vietnamese to participate in the modern practice of tourism. The author expanded on the saying “Les voyages forment la jeunesse” [Travel broadens the mind], and reiterated that travel shaped the conceptions of one’s patrie [fatherland] and that of other countries near Indochina. Through comparison and contrast with locations described as “the West,” Dutch Indies, Siam, Hong Kong, the author drew the cultural borders of Indochina’s spatial identity. As explained in the Vietnamese 1928 article, travel experiences can transform a material space into a place with political, cultural, and gendered characteristics. This thesis explores the creation of the spatial identities of Indochina, France, and Hue through an examination of tourism advertisements, reports, and travel stories, or du ký, which flourished in the Vietnamese popular press between the 1920s and 1940s. As Vietnamese traveled through and beyond the region via new modes of transit and popularized routes, they mapped places with cultural, colonial, political, and personal                                                                                                                 1 Within the majority of colonial documents, “Vietnamese” (those of Viet ethnicity) are referred to as “Annamese” or “Annamites.” For this project, I instead use the contemporary term “Vietnamese” to refer to Eastern Indochina and the Viet people as a cultural-linguistic group. 2 The author explains “Le voyage, dit-on, forme la jeunesse”—a saying that closely translates to the English phrase “Travel broadens the mind.” “Le Tourisme et les Annamites,” La Tribune Indochinoise, 16 May 1928. All Vietnamese and French translations to English are my own. 1
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significance through the publication of their travel experiences. Moreover individuals’ reflections upon travel and geography complicate the understanding of Vietnamese modern leisure, cultural identity, and political community in the late colonial period. Thus this project joins together concepts of travel and space and interprets this as both horizontal and vertical movement—the former defined as an individual’s physical movement, and the latter as the construction of a ‘spatial identity’ through multileveled reflections on culture, history, and community.

Theoretical Context As discursive devices, ‘places’ can function both as ‘subjects acting upon’ and ‘objects acted on by’ travelers. The act of travel and the translation of that experience in personal diaries or print media can demonstrate the multidirectional relationship between subject and environment. For example, many travel stories of Vietnamese youth who journeyed to France convey emotions ranging from responsibility and empowerment to isolation and dystopic realization. Within travel stories of Indochina, individuals reflected on an invented cultural and political space as well as on their own relationship to the changing environment. Yi-Fu Tuan claims that ‘spatial knowledge’ occurs “when movement and changes of location can be

envisaged” while in a similar way, John Urry and Chris Rojek argue that tourism directly shapes

                                                                                                                3 Michael Cronin defines and distinguishes between these two types of travel within his book Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2000), 19. 4 As discussed in Chapter 2, two of the most well-known travel stories to France are Nhất Linh’s ‘Going to France’ and Lê Hũu Tho, Itinéraire D’un Petit Mandarin: Juin 1940, Collection Mémoires Asiatiques (Paris: L’Harmattan, 1997). 2

the foundation of national culture. As routes of self-reflection, these emotional responses to the changing landscape embody how “for humans, both the effects of space on our behavior and our use of space are mediated by place.” Although the backgrounds and motivations for travelers varied extensively, these narratives expound the influential role of place—in this case, the coterminous departure from and definition of ‘home’—upon spatial awareness and self-identity. In other words, the act of travel inspired new ways of thinking about the self and spaces such as Indochina, France, and Hue. As Thonchai Winichakul has elucidated in Siam Mapped, space is not presumed but is actively translated into mapped political manifestations of space. Winichakul also challenges Western geography and mapping techniques as the purveyor of political boundaries and provides insight into indigenous conceptions of space based on spatial relativity through power and tributary networks. Furthermore, cultural and literary processes of understanding space also function as other ‘informal’ ways of imagining space. In this way, the act of travel and its subsequent textual representations also contribute to construct a place. Vietnamese travel stories demonstrate the multiplicity of spatial perceptions and ultimately add to and challenge colonial                                                                                                                 5 “Spatial Ability, Knowledge, and Place” in Yi-Fu Tuan and Steven Hoelscher, Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 67-68. Tuan explained the creation of mental maps in the following way: “once on its exploratory path, creates large and complex spatial schemata that exceed by far what an individual can encompass through direct experience.” Chris Rojek, Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory (London: Routledge, 1997). 6 Àngels Pascual-de-Sans, “Sense of Place and Migration Histories Idiotopy and Idiotope,” Area 36, no. 4 (December 1, 2004): 348–357. Pascual-de-Sans poses an innovative method to understand the ‘personal temporality’ of place using the medical concept of idiotope (the relational determinates of antibodies) to symbolize the sense of belonging of people to places and places to people. 7 Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: a History of the Geo-body of a Nation (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1994). 3
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constructs of space. During the colonial period, a multitude of maps emerged to spatially represent French colonial Indochina. The map represented geo-political boundaries and functioned as a symbol of conquest, Western dictations of space, and what David Harvey describes as the “homogenisation” of “spatial itineraries and spatial stories.” For example, Indochina, consisting of the protectorates of Laos, Cambodia, and Tonkin, Annam, and the colony Cochinchina, was both real and imagined. Architectural projects imported and interpreted French ideals of beauty, modernity, and ‘Indochineseness’ onto the landscape. At the same time, schoolbooks, maps, and cultural projects represented the colonized region, les cinq fleurs [The Five Flowers], as a unified cultural and physical reality. Scholars such as Gwendolyn Wright, Panivong Norindr, Nicola Cooper, and Matt Matsuda have illuminated the phantasmic of Indochina within French popular imagination and colonial policy.
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These works depict how the

geographic space of Indochina was co-opted as a ‘blank slate’ to exhibit French definitions of beauty and historical value. But how did the space of Indochina emerge and evolve on the local, everday level of socio-cultural perceptions and political reality? To what extent did aspects of ‘L’indochine française’ permeate or were reinvented throughout Vietnamese popular imagination and vernacular print? Rather than a purely colonial discursive act, the invention of                                                                                                                 8 David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Oxford, England; New York, NY, USA: Blackwell, 1989). 9 Les Cinq Fleurs: L’Indochine Expliquee by Jean Marquet was a school primer that explained the history of French Indochina to young public school children. 10 Gwendolyn Wright, “Chapter 4: Indochina: The Folly of Grandeur,” in The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Penny Edwards, Cambodge: The Cultivation of a Nation 1860-1945 (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2007); Panivong Norindr, Phantasmatic Indochina: French Colonial Ideology in Architecture, Film, and Literature (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997); Matt K. Matsuda, “Indochina: Romance of the Ruins,” in Empire of Love: Histories of France and the Pacific (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 2005), 137–160. 4

Indochina and space more broadly occurred throughout various literary, personal, social, and political channels. This qualitative and quantitative study of Vietnamese travel and textual media can illuminate how Vietnamese mapped their cultural and physical world and constructed the space of Indochina, France, and Hue. Furthermore, an examination of these texts demonstrates the interplay between ideas such as the West, modernity, colonialism, and the individual upon the everyday understandings of space. Thus, this project integrates the development of spatial identities—as illuminated through travel and textual translations—into the cultural history of late colonial Vietnam. Informed by studies on print culture, gendered geography, and cultural translation this research also demonstrates how the relational nature of agent and space shaped Vietnamese conceptions of self and the collective. How did the shift of everyday space and formation of spatial identities that accompanied an individual’s travel come to shape their perceptions of self, home, and abroad? Mechanisms of movement could concretize difference, shift cultural conceptions of place, and shape regional, national, and ideological identity. On a more individual level, the experiences of movement—such as study or travel abroad—often inspired new forms of personal exploration and expression. In examining how places such as Indochina, France, and Hue were spatially represented, rigid borders of empire give way to diverse amalgamations of personal, cultural, and political values associated with the idea of a place.

Travel and Transportation within the Formation of Urban Middle Class Identity In his introduction to modern Vietnamese literature, Gregory Lockhart emphasizes the tremendous influence of ‘modernity’ upon expressions of individual and social identity: “What we are dealing with in this new social arrangement is nothing less than the creation of new


categories of self and collective identity that encompass and include everyone in the rise of the modern city.”

Integral to the development of the modern city was the evolution of

transportation and communication systems that facilitated the movement of people and ideas. These mechanisms facilitated new and old processes of movement such as local and worldwide tourism, regional and urban rural migration, and study abroad. Charles Burdett and Derek Duncan explain how the 1930s witnessed the global and modern phenomena of movement, particularly because the development of transportation made tourism increasingly accessible to the growing middle class.

In the case of Vietnam, the 1920s and 1930s witnessed immense

cultural and economic transformations. This included the expansion of modern transportation networks, the development of a generation of Vietnamese journalists and intellectuals, the petitbourgeois middle class, and urban entrepreneurs who themselves directly shaped and expanded a culture of leisure, exploration, and social debate. The construction of transportation networks such as roads and railways was an essential part of the physical colonization of Indochina and the ideological demonstration of the mission civilisatrice [civilizing mission]. Goscha explains how European missionaries, traders, and later colonialism itself built upon the preexisting infrastructure of overland and sea transportation networks between modern-day Vietnam, Siam, Java, Malaysia, and China. For example, Route Coloniale n°1, đường thuộc địa số 1 [Colonial Route 1] a 2600-km route stretching from China

                                                                                                                11 Greg Lockhart and Monique Lockhart, trans., The Light of the Capital: Three Modern Vietnamese Classics (Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996). 12 Charles Burdett and Derek Duncan, Cultural Encounters: European Travel Writing in the 1930s (New York, NY: Berghahn Books, 2002). 6

to Siam, was constructed on a historical route “con đường thiên lý” [The Mandarin Road].


Described as “folie des chemins” [road craziness], the laying down of brick and metal supported the colonial economy, extraction of raw goods, and also intrusively symbolized the French presence. By the 1920s, the automobile increased in significance throughout tourism guides, newsprint, and literature, symbolizing wealth and a separation from the environment. David Del Testa describes the automobile as the representation of “a French quest for individuality, social status, and difference.”

Yet automobiles were not exclusive to French colonialists. In a 1923

report Francois de Tessan explained that there were two to three thousand cars in circulation in [Saigon]. A mere 68 were registered in 1914…Europeans are not alone in having acquired a taste for automobiles. Out of a thousand cars imported into Indochina over an eighteenth month period, 500 were acquired by whites, 262 by Annamese, 149 by Chinese and 14 by Hindus, Cambodians, 15 or Laotians.

                                                                                                                13 Khuông Việt, “Con Đường Thiên Lý,” in Tạp Chí Trí Tân 1941-1945, Truyện Và Ký: Sưu Tập Tác Phẩm, ed. Nguyên Ân Lại and Nguyễn Hữu Sơn (Hà Nội, Vietnam: Nhà Xuất Bản Hội Nhà Văn, 2000), 677–685. Originally published as No. 171 December 1944. Việt explains the history and transformation of the road over time, particularly as new developments in road building and transportation changed who used the road. 14 David W. Del Testa, “‘Imperial Corridor’: Association, Transportation and Power in French Colonial Indochina 1,” Science Technology & Society 4, no. 2 (September 1, 1999): 319–354. For an advertisement of tourism by automobile, see Image 1-2 in Index. 15 Francois de Tessan, Dans l’Asie qui s’éveille, Paris: La Rennaisance du Livre, 1923, 15 as cited in Eric Thomas Jennings, Imperial Heights: Đà Lạt and the Making and Undoing of French Indochina, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 171. 7

Figure 1-1 Tourist brochure and map of the famous ‘red colored road,’ la route mandarine. Other historic names for this road were đường Cái Quan, đường Quan Lộ, Quan Bá. For interpretation of the references to color in this and all other figures, the reader is referred to the electronic version of this thesis. (The smaller text of the locations are not pertinent to the use of this figure).


Del Testa has examined the influence of modern transportation such as railroads, automobiles, and bicycles upon perceptions of time, space, and also upon how Vietnamese experienced colonialism in the everyday.

Building upon the scholarship of Stephen Kern, Michael Adas,

John Stilgoe, and Mary-Louise Pratt, Del Testa proposes the idea of “Imperial Corridors” defined as “environments of cross-cultural contact and political struggle that emanated from the railroad lines and roadways in a colonial context.”

Although those of financial capability more

directly experienced new modes of transportation such as airplanes and automobiles, travel as a phenomenon influenced a range of Vietnamese social classes through the intrusive construction of transportation networks and routes. Del Testa begins to examine the significance of modes of transit upon personal relations, and proceeds to argue that Vietnamese authors and artists used modern transportation as a platform to critique colonialism. These authors weave together the significance of geography and identity and lay the groundwork for this study, which provides a deeper examination of the processes of relational self-definition that modern transportation inspired. With the development of transportation networks such as railways and roads for trade, administration, and resource extraction, the movement of goods and people extended throughout and beyond the colonial Indochina. In Going Indochinese, Christopher Goscha shows how Indochina developed through the network of Vietnamese administrators and workers who paved

                                                                                                                16 David W. Del Testa, “Automobiles and Anomie in French Colonial Indochina,” in France and “Indochina”: Cultural Representations, ed. Kathryn Robson and Jennifer Yee, (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2005), 63–77; Del Testa, “‘Imperial Corridor’.” 17 Del Testa originally explains this idea in reference to the Transindochinois railroad in 1936 as a “space of rigidity and coercion. Del Testa, “‘Imperial Corridor,’” 65; Del Testa, “Automobiles and Anomie in French Colonial Indochina.” 9

the way along the eastern coast and westward in an ‘internal colonization’ of the five regions.


Described within French colonial policy as a ‘Franco-Annamese collaboration’ or ‘association,’ the infrastructural development of Indochina involved thousands of Vietnamese as local government agents, soldiers, workers, and explorers.

Between 1923 and 1929 alone, over

70,000 contract workers traveled by boat from Tonkin and Annam to Cochinchina, Cambodia, and Laos to develop transportation industries.

In this manner, the employment and movement

of Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians along these physical transportation lines reified the imperial construct of an Indochinese state. Goscha explains this ideological and geographic convergence in the following manner: “The automobile, the map, the bureaucracy, and an unprecedented Indochinese road network represented a major reorientation in pre-existing

                                                                                                                18 Christopher E. Goscha, Going Indochinese: Contesting Concepts of Space and Place in French Indochina, NIAS Classics Series; No. 3 (Copenhagen, Denmark: NIAS Books, 2012). Goscha illuminates how French colonial policy makers built upon the historical construct of Vietnamese expansion, where Indochina could be imagined as “Gia Long's Empire reconstituted, expanded by us through [the acquisition] of exterior possession..." Chambre des Deputes, no. 1904, session de 1887, 'Annexe du proces-verbal de la seance du 1 juillet 19887, Proposition de resolution', 32, Memoires et Documents, Asie-Indochine, volume 102, MAE as cited in Goscha, Going Indochinese, 25. 19 In his second mandate La mise en valeur des colonies delivered in Hanoi in April 1919, Governor General Albert Sarraut declared the policy of Franco-Annamite collaboration: "What do we want to do and how must we work together, French and Annamese, for the good of this wonderful Indochina and for the welfare of her populations? That is after all the goal to be reached, the very one that occupies my mind and endlessly haunts my spirit." as cited in Goscha, Going Indochinese. 20 For further information on colonial development policy, see Raymond Betts, Assimilation and Association in French Colonial Theory: 1890-1914 (University of Nebraska Press, 2005). E. Delamarre, L ‘émmigration et les l’immigration ouvrière en Indochine, Paris, Section générale du travail de l’Indochine, 1931, p. 17 as cited in Christopher Goscha, “Récits de voyage viêtnamiens et prise de conscience indochinoise (c. 1920-1945),” in Récits de voyage des Asiatiques  : Genres, mentalités, conceptions de l’espace, ed. Claudine Salmon (Paris: Ecole Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1996), 256. 10

conceptions of time and space.”


Thus beyond functional value Indochina permeated

throughout the Vietnamese press as a discursive space with a collective identity in need of understanding and exploration.

By the late colonial period, the multifaceted phenomenon of ‘movement’—as embodied by direct and indirect contact with expanded transportation networks—was a fundamental facet of Vietnamese life, connecting physical and cultural distances. Lines of transit such as the Messageries Fluviales canals and rivers system, railways, and roads for automobiles, bicycles, and cycle rickshaws extended throughout the countryside and cities, connecting and making Indochina a spatial reality. In 1920 the length of the road network was 18,645km and increased to 28,817km by 1940.

Furthermore, steamships and airplanes connected Vietnamese to the

networks of regional and global travel. For example, the international lines Messageries Maritimes or Chargeurs Réunis had regular service between Marseille and Saigon, and from the Vietnamese ports of Hai Phong, Da Nang and Saigon to those of Yokohama, Vladivostok, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Singapore, that connected through to the Suez Canal. French and Vietnamese travel guides detailed itineraries that included places such as Dijibouti, Ethiopia,

                                                                                                                21 Ibid., 49. Goscha, Going Indochinese. Christopher Goscha argues that this shift in geographic mentality also shaped business practices towards the Indochina federation rather than strictly confined within cultural-linguistic realms. 22 One of the most famous debates on the Indochinese cultural reality lasted for several years between Nguyễn Văn Vĩnh and Phạm Quỳnh. The question of an Indochinese collective also emerged amongst revolutionaries who sought a to unify communist movements against French domination. Christopher E. Goscha, “Vietnam or Indochina?: Contesting Concepts of Space in Vietnamese Nationalism, 1887-1954,” Nordic Institute of Asian Studies no. 28 (1995). 23 Goscha also provides statistics for ‘non-metalled’ roads: for 1920 10,603 km; for 1940, 19,245. Direction des Services économiques, Service de la statistique générale de l’Indochine, Résumé statstique relatif aux années 1913 à 1940, Hanoi, IDEO 1941, p. 12 as cited in Goscha, “Récits de voyage viêtnamiens et prise de conscience indochinoise (c. 1920-1945),” 256. 11

Ceylon, and Malaysia demonstrates “how well Vietnam was integrated, measured by its connection with global networks of communication and transportation.”

Technological advancement in communication and transportation networks, as well as an influx of ideas, goods, and capital, provided the infrastructure for popularized travel. By the turn of the century the influx of investment capital for commercial development contributed to the expansion or creation of industries catering to a European clientele (and some well-connected Vietnamese administrators) who had an abundance of capital and time for leisure. Partially subsidized and promoted by the state, European tourism companies emerged to encourage Europeans to travel to historic heritage sites, natural wonders, and coastal resorts (stations balnéaires). Eric DeWald notes that these early industries were “racially bifurcated” as the colonial state heavily subsidized white tourism in contrast to Asian businesses and commercial development.

Some of the most popular sites for European tourism were transformed cultural

and ritual centers such as the Perfume Pagoda in Hà Tây, Hùng Vương temple in Phú Thọ, La Vang cathedral in Quảng Trị, Phong Nha in Quảng Bình, and imperial tombs and the citadel at Hue. The most popular colonial resorts were located in Đà Lạt, Bà Nà, Bạch Mã, Sầm Sơn, Cửa Lò, Đồng Hói, Cửa Tùng, Thuận An, Nha Trang and Tam Đả.

                                                                                                                24 Claudius Madrolle and Jacques Lê Văn Đức wrote many travel guides that exhibit the global nature of movement during this time. Claudius Madrolle, “De Saigon à Tourane. La Route Mandarine Du Sud-Annam. Les Monuments Cham. Le Circuit Des Monts Pandarang, Đà Lạt et Le Lang-Biang,” 1926. Jacques Lê Văn Đức, Vers la France! Saigon, Singapore, Penang, Colombo, Aden, Djibouti, Suez, Port-Said, Marseille. Notes de voyage par un Annamite. (Qui Nhon, Vietnam: Imprimerie de Quinhon, 1928). Goscha, “Récits de voyage viêtnamiens et prise de conscience indochinoise (c. 1920-1945),” 255. 25 Erich DeWald, “The Development of Tourism in French Colonial Vietnam, 1918-1940,” in Asian Tourism: Growth and Change, ed. Janet Cochrane (Amsterdam  ; Boston  ; London: Elsevier, 2008), 221–232. 12

It was not until the 1920s and 1930s that Vietnamese tourism increased in popularity. The 1933-1938 reports of tourists in Annam note an increase from 475 to 3,000 Indochinese tourists.

Among the popular sites were mountain resorts such as Đà Lạt, and also famous

mountains, natural wonders and places of historical ‘heritage’ such as Hue, Hanoi, and Angkor Wat. ‘Indochinese’ also participated in tourism as bureaucrats, journalists, and leisure-seeking nouveau riche elites. Like European tourists, Vietnamese leisure-based travel was restricted in accordance to economic means.

Later on, the Vichy regime of the 1940s heavily endorsed the

sur place [on the ground] movement and self-realization of native populations (especially Vietnamese elites and youth) through cultural programs, propaganda drives, and sporting events such as the ‘Tour d’Indochine,’ a 4,000-kilometer bicycle race throughout Indochina.

In this

way the geographic movement, cultural exploration, and Vichy state-sponsored events reified to a certain extent a spatial and cultural identity of ‘Indochina.’ Participation in travel was experienced unevenly across Vietnamese social classes; advertisements and travel stories primarily targeted an urban, middle or petit bourgeois readership. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, a Vietnamese ‘middle class’ emerged with distinct                                                                                                                 26 Protectorat de l’Annam, Rapport d’ensemble sur la situation du Protectorat (Hue: Imprimerie Phuc Long, 1938) as cited in Jennings, Imperial Heights, 171. 27 In one advertisement for a several day all-inclusive trip to De Thien and De Thich, the trip was priced at 45$. In comparison one of the most expensive newsletters was priced at 10$. “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 36 (9 January 1930): 9. 28 These Vichy period cultural projects were founded on the idea of reinstating a sense of cultural and spatial unity: “…(through) these representatives of the Indochinese youth, we were hoping that, after having contemplated and reflected (on what they saw), they would be able to announce the truth (of the Indochina) surrounding them." (Ducoroy, op. cit., 169-189) as cited Goscha, Vietnam or Indochina, 81. DeWald also explained that these cultural identity projects throughout the French colonies reflected the Vichy regime’s state ideology of ‘Work, Family, and Nation.’ DeWald, “The Development of Tourism in French Colonial Vietnam, 1918-1940,” 230. 13

social relations and practices shaped by ideas on urbanism, consumerism, and ‘Western modernity.’ The appeal of travel was part of the fixation with the ‘symbolic capital’ of middle class success such as Western dress and goods, education abroad, transportation, and other leisurely activities such as sports, dancing, and hunting.

Throughout Vietnamese newsprint,

many of these social and cultural practices were conflated with ‘modernity’—a state of being often associated with the West and defined antithetically against tradition, the past, or resistance to urbanism and ideological changes. These social constructs came into widespread use when discussing travel and its significance as a measure of civilization and modernity. In the volume, The Reinvention of Distinction, Van Nguyen Marshall, Lisa Barbara Welch Drummond, and Daniáele Bâelanger describe how the Vietnamese urban middle class was characterized by the ‘symbolic capital’ of a certain lifestyle.

This understanding expands

upon Pierre Bourdieu’s interpretation of ‘field’ and ‘habitus’ and provides a broader framework to understand the role of Indochinese travel within the formation of Vietnamese middle class identity. The authors of this volume argue that members of the Vietnamese urban middle class were defined by its actions in a way that broadcasted ‘distinction’ from the urban working poor and the emulation of wealthy and at times ‘Western’ behavior. Exploring the intertwined relationship between consumer culture, urban Vietnamese middle class, and perceptions of modernity, George Dutton demonstrates how the ‘rational consumer’ symbolized a shift towards

                                                                                                                29 Van Nguyen-Marshall et al., The Reinvention of Distinction: Modernity and the Middle Class in Urban Vietnam, Asia Research Institute Springer Asia Series (Singapore: Springer, 2012). The authors approach the middle class within the framework of behavior and lifestyle: “In this view, classes are not defined a priori by fixed and objective attributes; they are not based on a materialistic conception of power and inequality but on the idea of ‘symbolic capital.’” 9. 30 Ibid. 14

individualism and new configurations of a consumer community.


Dutton describes how the

urban shift towards individualism was symbolized in changing gender norms, new definitions of love and relationships, and increasing attention to beauty, appearance, and public representation. Many newspapers reported extensively on and advertised novel modes of transportation, reflecting a fascination with the ability to transcend space and time.

Dutton explains that the

development of consumer, middle class identity was centralized within the few cities that had a critical mass of residents (primarily Vietnamese), commercial industries, and a colonial administration such as Saigon-Chợ Lớn (300,000 inhabitants), Hải Phóng (200,000), and Hanoi (150,000).

Print and literature functioned as the stage for individuals to make sense of the

ambiguities of urbanization, and to understand “’progress’ both as benefit and threat.”

It is

within these primarily urban settings that Vietnamese dealt with questions of the ‘modern,’(represented in newspapers by the French word moderne and Vietnamese từ mới [new vocabulary] tân thời, hiện thời, kim thời,) and its intersections with ideas of the individual and collective and new notions of time and space.

                                                                                                                31 George Dutton, “Advertising, Modernity, and Consumer Culture in Colonial Vietnam,” in The Reinvention of Distinction: Modernity and the Middle Class in Urban Vietnam, ed. Van NguyenMarshall et al., Asia Research Institute Springer Asia Series (Singapore: Springer, 2012), 21–42. 32 The race between airplane and automobile was between London and Edinburg and explained how the train passengers were able to communicate with those in the air by telegraph. “Xe-lửa Chạy Thi Với Tàu Bay,” Báo Đông-Pháp (July 27, 1928): 1. 33 P. Galstady, La Cochinchine (Saigon: Société des Études Indochinoises, 1931) 32, 34 and Eugène Teston and Maurice Percheron, L’indochine Moderne: Encyclopédie Administrive, Touristique, Artistique, et Économique (Paris: Librarie de France, 1931). 454, 537, 543 as cited in Dutton, “Advertising, Modernity, and Consumer Culture in Colonial Vietnam.”, 23. 34 George Dutton, “Lý Toét in the City: Coming to Terms with the Modern in 1930s Vietnam,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 2, no. 1 (February 1, 2007): 80–108. 15

Print and the Circulation of Ideas on Modernity, Travel, and Space By the 20

century, new technological and linguistic changes created a world of print

that was both efficiently mass-produced and also more easily read through the proliferation of a Romanized Vietnamese writing system, quốc ngữ [national language].

While printing houses

emerged primarily in cities, the circulation of newspapers and printed material promulgated across geographic divides, constructing what Benedict Anderson describes as an “imagined community” based on new, often abstract conceptions of connection and belonging.

Many of

these newspapers facilitated discussion of new social trends and political events, as well as furthered the development of quốc ngữ. Quốc ngữ and French language newspapers emerged as the ‘language-of-power’ to discuss, re-contextualize, and proclaim both từ mới [new vocabulary] and new ideas. In the words of a well-known journalist and Vietnamese correspondent in France, “We do not pay enough attention to the fact that Vietnamese newspapers have a profound impact on the minds of our compatriots. I do not mean only newspapers in quốc ngữ that, despite falling victim to the tyranny of an arbitrary censorship, play an undeniable role in the moral and intellectual education of the Vietnamese. Even newspapers written in French have tremendous

                                                                                                                35 As a result of Chinese domination (111BC-938AD), many Vietnamese cultural practices including language were Chinese-inspired. Based on Chinese characters and a Chinese language model, most Vietnamese literature and popular text was written in chữ nôm. While most people could comprehend the Vietnamese language, literacy in chữ nôm was limited primarily to a small number of Vietnamese elite. Formal court writing was recorded in chữ Hán-Việt and also as chữ nho (Sinicized Vietnamese or classical Chinese), which further narrowed pre-colonial literacy. Portuguese Christian missionaries initiated Romanized quốc ngữ script in the early 16th century, and the French furthered the development of quốc ngữ within its colonial administration and education system. However, literacy in quốc ngữ was still limited to an estimated 20% in the 1930s. 36 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities  : Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Rev. ed. (London; New York: Verso, 2006). 16

influence among our compatriots.”


Alongside a plethora of translated literature from all over

the world were new developments in Vietnamese literature, such as reportage, satire, prose fiction, and mulitple forms of novels.

The continual development of Vietnamese literature, transportation, newsprint industry, and urbanization promoted a sense of Vietnamese community and consciousness characterized as the làng báo chí [newspaper village].

Philippe Peycam explains that the làng báo chí was

also similar to notions of the print sphere and the French social concept of engagement. Peycam states, “the use of newspapers by a number of Vietnamese corresponded to both political and socioeconomic functions: the need for economic integration, new forms of convivilaity among urbanized Vietnamese, and new modes of individual agency within and for the community.”


the introduction to the 1930’s Vietnamese satirical novel Dumb Luck by Vũ Trọng Phụng, Peter Zinoman described the the Vietnamese journalism and literature as one dominated by “progressive language and modernizing ethos.”

Hence, Vietnamese newsprint emerged as a

vibrant medium for debate and dispersion of ideas on modernity, travel, and space. Within this effervescent print sphere, individuals discussed local and world news as well as made sense of ambivalent iterations of ‘modernity’ through cultural and social behavior, material culture, and                                                                                                                 37 Cao Văn Chánh in L’Essor Indochinois, August 9, 1924 as cited by Philippe M. F Peycam, The Birth of Modern Vietnamese Political Journalism: Saigon, 1916-1930 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 78-79. 38 Amongst the notable works of reportage were those written by ‘social realists’ such as Vũ Trọng Phụng. Satirical prose and fiction became increasingly popular as a humorous critique of urban life and social ills during colonial 1920’s and 1930’s. Of particular significance was the journal Phong Hóa of the group Tụ Lực Văn Đoàn (Self-Reliance Literary Group.) 39 Peycam, The Birth of Modern Vietnamese Political Journalism, 72.
40 41


Peter Zinoman, “Preface,” to Dumb Luck: a Novel by Vũ Trọng Phụng (University of Michigan Press, 2002), 2, 10. 17

literature. Zinoman characterizes the development of Vietnamese intellectual life and interpretations of modernity as a ‘provincial cosmopolitan,’ a “random and uneven mode of engaging with global modernity” in which ideas traversed great distances and through texts to the majority of Vietnamese intellectuals who did not directly study in France. Zinoman explains that in reality, “Vietnamese intellectuals enjoyed little more than a filtered access to the cultural life of metropolitan France through a dense mesh of geographical distance, slow-moving transportation and communications technologies, and deliberate colonial policies of censorship and obscurantism.”

In this way, Vietnamese intellectual engagement with modernity was an

amalgamation of local and global constructs, which underwent processes of linguistic and cultural transformation within the pages of print. Assuming a variety of affective definitions ranging from technological advancement to women’s rights, ‘modernity’ took on a “talismanic form” in newspaper debates and advertisements.

Urbanites were fascinated with material objects connected with health, beauty,

and transportation that reflected the symbolic power of ‘modernity,’ and attainment of such goods was one of the few “viable avenues for social advancement within colonial society.”

Alexander Woodside explains that the obsession with material possessions was a way for the Vietnamese middle class to salvage “its sense of subordination to French administrators.

Furthermore certain consumerism and travel signified the participation in a filtered world of                                                                                                                 42 Peter Zinoman, “Provincial Cosmopolitanism: Vũ Trọng Phụng’s Foreign Literary Engagements,” in Traveling Nation-Makers: Transnational Flows and Movements in the Making of Modern Southeast Asia, ed. Caroline S. Hau and Kasian Tejapira (Singapore: NUS Press, 2011), 126–152, 127. 43 Dutton, “Advertising, Modernity, and Consumer Culture in Colonial Vietnam.” 28.
44 45

Ibid., 25.

Alexander Barton Woodside, Community and Revolution in Modern Vietnam, First Edition (Houghton Mifflin School, 1976), 92. 18

‘Western modernity’ and colonial success. Eric Jennings questions the extent of mimicry in Vietnamese elite behavior and asks, “To what degree were claims of wanting to emulate French leisure practices coerced, or at least a product of a system that forced Vietnamese elites to profess admiration for the colonial power?”

Jennings explains that “the colonial administration

used French tourist practices as yardsticks to measure merit—or in this case assimilation— among Vietnamese subjects.”

For example, some of the questions asked between 1915 and

1930 to Vietnamese candidates for French citizenship called for the adoption of French social practices such as wearing Western clothes, practicing sports, and making leisurely trips to the sea or to the mountain.

In this way, along with Western dress, sports, and the French language,

travel and tourism held a material and symbolic value, associated with socio-economic and middle class success as well as modernity and forward thinking. The practice of travel and tourism lies within an overarching and fluid definition of ‘modernity’—an imagined socio-political expectation predicated by the civilizational evolution towards Western social norms. As seen in the applications for French colonial citizenship, participation in tourism and other cultural activities was considered one of the benchmark standards for inclusion. In one advertisement, the author called for Vietnamese to participate in the spirit of tourism where they could retreat to the hill station town of Đà Lạt to experience the economically privileged and culturally exclusive “colonial lifestyle” of leisure. Articles called                                                                                                                 46 Jennings, Imperial Heights, 174.
47 48

Ibid., 172.

Jennings draws these questions from the following studies on questions for Vietnamese citizenship candidates: Hue-Tam Ho Tai, “The Politic of Compromise: The Constitutionalist Party and Electoral Reforms of 1922 in French Indochina,” Modern Asian Studies 18, no. 3 (1984), 382. Emmanuelle Saada, Les Enfants de la Colonie: Les Metis de l’Empire francais entre sujetion et citoyennete (Paris: La Decouverte, 2007), 130 as cited by Jennings, Imperial Heights, 172. 19

Vietnamese to change their worldviews and cultural practices. Vietnamese newspapers in particular played a significant role in the discussion and dissemination of these ideas, calling for the adoption of ‘modern’ practices both in and outside of the home.

In this way, Western

‘modern’ behavior and interpretations of leisure, health, and wealth influenced Vietnamese socio-cultural practices and definitions of success. Using Sanjay Seth’s understanding of history as a “code that constitutes a series,” tourism in Vietnam also existed in a ‘code’ fundamentally dependent upon a language of Western modernity and leisure.

Many popular Vietnamese tourist destinations thus mirrored those of

Westerners, and Vietnamese representations of travel also mimicked the Western reasoning of tourism and its benefits. In this way the outward translation of an idea or cultural practice also recycled the original coded language in which the term was born.

Lydia Liu’s concept of

‘translated modernity’ in many ways embodies Vietnamese manifestations of travel as a permutation and invention, rather than a trajectory reducible to “foreign impact [or] to the selfexplanatory logic of the indigenous tradition.”

For instance, Liu argues that encounters can not

                                                                                                                49 Thuy Linh Nguyen analyzes the translation of French scientific practices and colonial campaigns to modernize Vietnamese childbirth traditions in her dissertation. Thuy Linh Nguyen, “The Medicalization of Childbirth in Colonial Vietnam (1880-1944),” Ph.D. Dissertation, (University of Pennsylvania, 2009). 50 Sanjay Seth, “Reason or Reasoning? Clio or Siva?,” Duke University Press 22, no. 1, (Spring 2004): 85–101. 51 “The act of translation, for example, cannot but participate in the performativity of a language that circumscribes and is circumscribed by the historical contingency of that act.” Lydia He Liu, Translingual Practice: Literature, National Culture, Andtranslated Modernity--China, 19001937 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995), xvii. She continues: “Any attempt to historicize above and beyond the circumstances of such performative/ constative acts of speech and writing (evocation, translation, citation in and out of context, and so on) is bound to lead to the reification of the idea, concept, or theory being analyzed and, consequently, to the impoverishment of our understanding of historical practice.” 52 Ibid., xix. 20

be cast along a spectrum divided by constructs of the East and West, essence and translation, Homi Bhabha’s “Self and Other,” or power and resistance.

In this way, this project seeks to

problematize the reification of the all-encompassing lens of ‘colonial modernity’ to interpret acts of identity formation and leisure practices.

Thus on a theoretical level, a nuanced examination

of Vietnamese travel and tourism must recognize the tension between mimicry and invention and not simply assume the shadowy definition of ‘Western modernity.’

Sources & Methods Throughout the colonial period, foreign places, routes, and modes of transit permeated Vietnamese print as travel stories and advertisements, and empowered the broader Vietnamese readership with the ability to culturally map the world around them. Texts about regional tourism, investigative reports, study abroad in France, and news about transportation provided readers with an armchair experience of travel, exploration, and mechanized movement. Furthermore, these texts perpetuated constructs of spatial realities. For example, in the references to Indochina as a geographic entity—Trung Hòa Nhật Báo often explained regional cultural distinctions as members of the “gia đình Đông Dương” [Indochinese family]; Nam Kỳ Địa Phận

                                                                                                                53 Ibid. “Preface” and “Introduction.” Robert Young and Homi Bhabha’s examination of hybridity and culture embody this critical approach. “Bhabha defines hybridity as ‘a problematic of colonial representation…that reverses the effect of the colonialist disavowal, so that other “denied” knowledges enter upon the dominant discourse and estrange the basis of its authority.’ Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders: Questions of Ambivalence and Authority Under a Tree Outside Delhi, May 1817,” in The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 69. As cited in Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture, and Race (London  ; New York: Routledge, 1995), 21. 21

printed “Đông Pháp địa dư” [A song about Indochina’s geography]; and travelogues detailed the systems of regional transit.

Within these texts about movement, authors increasingly documented and expressed their journeys through the relatively unstructured, semi-literary genre of du ký [travel story]. Du ký was not always differentiated from other forms such as nhật ký [journal], or French récits [narrative], but were emblematic of new ways of thinking and writing through the first person “I.”

In his analysis of travel stories, Christopher Goscha estimates a minimum of hundreds of

Vietnamese travel stories published between 1918 and 1945. Aside from travels to France and the few to Germany, Russia, and England, most Vietnamese travel narratives contain movement throughout the Vietnamese ethnic space concentrated in the delta; the ethnically non-Vietnamese highlands; Indochinese space that includes Laos and Cambodia; and lastly regional Asian travel from Japan to India and Singapore to China.” “within and outside the realm of literature.”
58 57

Nguyễn Hữu Sơn describes du ký as both

Sơn’s research categorizes the majority of travel

                                                                                                                55 These two newsprint references to Indochina were explained in Charles Keith, Catholic Vietnam: A Church from Empire to Nation (University of California Press, 2012). Jacques Lê Văn Đức provided details on the geography, timetables for sea and land transportation, and explanations for visas and maps in the following travel stories: Ba ngày xe hơi du lịch (Qui Nhon, Vietnam: Imprimerie de Quinhon, 1925), Jacques Van Ðúc Lê, Du-lich bên Xiêm (Qui Nhón: Imprimerie de Qui Nhon, 1926). 56 David G. Marr, “Concepts of ‘Individual’ and ‘Self’ in Twentieth-Century Vietnam,” Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 4 (October 2000): 769–796. 57 Goscha, “Récits de voyage viêtnamiens et prise de conscience indochinoise (c. 1920-1945).” Nguyen ̂ ̃ Hữu Sơn , Introduction to Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà xuat ̂ ́ bản Trẻ, 2007), 5. This volume compiles the travel literature or du ký genre of literature from Nam Phong Tạp Chí between 1917-1934. Du ký or du hành is loosely translated as travel report or travel story. 22

stories according to designated purpose: accounts of long trips, scientific studies, surveys of cultural and historical sites, and artistic musings.

In addition to Sơn’s line of investigation, this project delves into the social and psychological significance of movement to shape perceptions of space. Du ký travel narratives extend beyond merely individual journeys or leisurely vacation diaries, because these journeys were often published in newspapers and disseminated to the increasingly literate Vietnamese population.

Nguyên Ân Lại asserts that Đông Dương tạp chí (1913-1919), Nam phong (1917-

1934), Tri tân (1941-1945), and Thanh nghị (1941-1945) were four of the most influential culture and education newspapers in the first half of twentieth-century Vietnam.

This project

will examine texts from these news sources and other popular Vietnamese serials such as Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, Báo Đông Pháp, L’Annam Nouveau, La Tribune Indochinoise, Phong Hoá, and Tương Lai. Representations of travel to an imagined public readership embody the multivariable translations involved within the modes of experiencing ‘travel’ through movement, writing, and reading. The experience and representation of travel functioned as the “cartography of self-assertion” for individuals to re-conceptualize their lives in relation to changing social

                                                                                                                59 Sơn also categorizes these stories by three popular regional destinations, North, Quang Ninh, and Hue. 60 The majority of the travel narratives examined in this project was often written by moderate intellectuals, journalists, and officials, who operated in the in-between space of colonial legitimacy and social reform. 61 Introduction to Vũ Nhật, “Hà Nội - Vientiane Trong Hai Giờ,” in Tạp Chí Trí Tân 1941-1945, Truyện Và Ký: Sưu Tập Tác Phẩm, ed. Nguyên Ân Lại and Nguyễn Hữu Sơn (Hà Nội, Vietnam: Nhà Xuất Bản Hội Nhà Văn, 2000), 374–383. 23

norms of the individual, community, gender, and nation.


In other words, these sources provide

insight into the individual transformation and public representation of movement and how these reflected shifting definitions of self and society. Within these representations of Indochinese tourism routes, student life in France, and the imperial and scholar traditions in Hue, the authors associated certain cultural, social, and political identities with the spaces to which they traveled. Underneath the surface details of various routes and encounters, the travel journey itself functioned as a means of transformation for individuals to re-envision themselves in relation to the changing environment. The following two chapters and epilogue examine representations of movement to and through Indochina, France, and Hue. These chapters consider how spatial identities were constructed through individual travel and representation of that movement within newsprint. This approach sheds light on the complex world of the private and public, as individuals conceptualized new spatial realities through engagement with ideas on modernity, individualism, and community. The strength of a geographically defined analysis is the ability to highlight the simultaneous construction of a place and its forces upon human behavior and perception. Furthermore, the borders of a place function to categorize and make comprehensible movement—complex forms that cannot simply be categorized structurally such as for travel, tourism, work, or study abroad. A wider interpretation of movement and space demonstrates the far-reaching influence of travel and textual representations upon the socio-cultural perceptions of identity, modernity, and urbanism. The following three chapters examine the rhetoric of place and representation of Indochina, France, and Hue. What political, administrative, and cultural contexts brought these                                                                                                                 62 “Recreation (leisure) transformed to re-creation (“regeneration and “creation of a new self” into a “cartography of self-assertion” within the intersections of “space, gender, status, literacy, the economy, and the body.” Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1989), 2. 24

spaces into historical significance during the late colonial period? How are these spaces represented within popular newsprint and constructed as places of affect histories, with cultural or political meaning? This analysis of travel texts will illuminate the personal and political characteristics of Indochina, France, and Hue as sites of middle class identity, youth dystopia, and lost heritage. These chapters also demonstrate the underlying conversation on civilization and modernity, where the voyeuristic nature of the traveler reflected an autonomous individual moving throughout new regions and experiences. Yet along with the “transformative rearticulations of individual agency,” the role of the individual was shaped too by its relationship with society and formulations of political and cultural community.

A close study of the travel

experience and representation within newsprint delves deeper into the complex conversation between cultural expectations, personal encounters, and spatial communities.

                                                                                                                63 Mark Philip Bradley, “Becoming ‘Van Minh’: Civilizational Discourse and Visions of the Self in Twentieth-Century Vietnam,” Journal of World History 15, no. 1 (March 1, 2004): 65–83, 66. 25

CHAPTER 2 EXPLORING THE SPACE OF INDOCHINA: INVENTION AND REALITY With the development of local transportation networks along rivers, road, rail, and air in the first decades of the twentieth century, travel throughout Indochina became an experience not just for rich Westerners or the Vietnamese royal family, but also for the expanding Vietnamese middle class. For them, Indochina represented an amalgamation of ideals associated with essentialized fantasies of middle class mobility, pastoral landscape, and heritage site. For the nouveau riche Vietnamese middle class, participation in the lifestyle of colonial leisure and travel was a performative marker of socio-cultural success. And for some others, travel signified a modern form of understanding both the cultural and natural landscape of Indochina. As demonstrated in travel stories throughout the region, Indochina became the ‘near abroad’ for many upwardly mobile Vietnamese eager to experience mechanized movement, cushioned resorts, and tourism destinations. In this way, Indochina represented a space for Vietnamese urbanites, intellectuals, and the middle class to explore and exercise new forms of collective identities. While direct access to such touristic journeys still depended upon a measure of disposable income, the practice of travel to destinations in Indochina such as Angkor, Đà Lạt, and Phú Quốc permeated the pages of Vietnamese newsprint along with discussions on ‘modernity,’ urbanization, and gender. These topics of debate ultimately symbolized new spatial


perceptions and relations in late colonial society that defined privilege and mobility. Furthermore, the ability to travel symbolized the increasing rift between urban and rural, French and Vietnamese, and the privileged and disenfranchised. With Indochina as the ‘near abroad’ for Vietnamese, how did Vietnamese imagine and reinvent an Indochinese space through the act of travel? This chapter examines Vietnamese print discussions on travel throughout Indochina. It demonstrates how the spatial identity of Indochina was closely intertwined with the emergence of a Vietnamese middle class consciousness. The first section considers how travel within the region functioned as a way to ‘know’ and ultimately imagine the spatial identity of Indochina as a cultural and historical unit. The second section addresses the relational nature of traveler and environment and examines how Vietnamese travelers promoted essentialized visions of rural spaces. The last part considers the influence of Western ideas of privileged space upon transportation and leisure culture as it manifested itself in travel throughout Indochina. The following sections illustrate the multifaceted architectures of mobility that brought Vietnamese throughout the space of Indochina and also circulated debates about the personal and collective significance of travel.

Making Sense of Indochinese Space and Community through Travel Many popular journeys such as those from Hanoi to Saigon along la route mandarine [the Mandarin Road], to ‘heritage’ sites like Angkor Wat, or to mountain resorts of Đà Lạt, symbolized routes of engagement with the colonial project and essentialized constructs of the ‘West.’ This is due to the fact that travel itineraries often developed based on existent European tourism or were shaped by a mimicry of leisure practices. Nevertheless Vietnamese travel within Indochina was also a creative phenomenon, conceived through interpretations of modernity,


individualism, urbanization, and leisure. Through travel, individuals could witness sites popularized amongst Westerners as symbols of ‘Indochina’ such as Angkor, but could also create for themselves a different meaning of that space. In this way, Vietnamese travel within Indochina took on a broader cultural and political significance as a demonstration of Vietnamese ‘modern’ capability and the expression of alternatives vision of space. While not directly anti-colonial or nationalistic, the spatial identities explored and imagined through Vietnamese travel were products of new ways of thinking about the individual and the collective. This re-orientation towards individual cultivation also embodied the social transformation at the turn of the century, influenced by Social Darwinistic mentalities of a heightened the role of the individual; individual cultivation and personal will-power became underlying currents for Vietnamese literature and newsprint as well as social reform.

Vietnamese travel within Indochina demonstrated the

multifaceted exploration of self through space and provoked conversations on questions of modernity, national or cultural belonging, and individual achievement. This section explores the discourse on physical and social mobility as symbols of middle class expression, civilizational progress, and also gendered concepts of spatial difference. In the beginning of many travel stories, authors declared and justified their own cultural and intellectual significance as mediators between the local and the foreign. Authors often framed the travel experience as beneficial to both the individual and the community—an idea loosely referenced as the author’s readership, home, country, or the larger Vietnamese imagined community of nhà nước [state]. For example, in the first pages of Đông-Phương Du-Lịch [Travel to the East] written in 1923 by Jacques Lê Văn Đức, Đức emphasized the importance for                                                                                                                 64 Mark Bradley considers how Vietnamese intellectuals grafted the Spencerian perspectives of Social Darwinism in early 20 century reform movements of self-strengthening and modernization. Ibid. 28

this pilgrimage for both himself and the Catholic community to which he returns.


He explained

how on his return he would share his experiences with his parents, friends, and community, and thus the trip would not be without value. The author’s designated sense of importance can initially be read merely as a self-promotion and declaration of legitimacy over subject matter. Nonetheless, the ways in which authors represented the purpose of travel in their own du ký or in advertisements for tourism reveal a deeper reflection on how travel functioned as a valuable form of understanding and knowledge for the self and community. To justify travel and its inherent selflessness, Lê Văn Đức for example, commended those who “believed without seeing,” but still extolled travel as a form of seeing and learning.

He contrasted the Biblical verse with the proverb “To travel is to gain knowledge of this and that; staying at home, who knows when one will become wise.” Along with this popular Vietnamese proverb, other travel stories often referenced other Vietnamese proverbs, like, “Traveling just one step, one acquires a basket of wisdom” or “journey [to see] for the purpose of knowing,” to enumerate the legitimacy, benefit, and objective of travel.

Along with other từ

mới [new or reinterpreted Vietnamese vocabulary], the idea of acquiring ‘knowledge’ ranged in definition and interpretation. For example, ‘knowledge’ could be loosely translated to                                                                                                                 65 Jacques Lê Văn Đức, Đông-Phương du-lịch: Cuốn thứ nhứt, trans. Eugène Văn Đình Nguyễn (Qui Nhon, Vietnam: Imprimerie de Quinhon, 1923). “Nhứt là chủ-ý về phần đạo, thì lại càng qui-hoá, vì khi trở về, ta thuật lại cho cha mẹ, bạn hữu, cho đồng-bang ta nghe những đểu ta đặng nghe đặng thấy, biết, thì nào có phải là vô-ích?” 3. 66 Jacques Lê Văn Đức referenced the verse “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:29 67 “Đi một ngày đàng học một sàng khôn,” [Traveling just one step, one acquires a basket of wisdom], “Đi chơi cho biết” To travel is to learn, Đi cho biết đó biết đây, ở nhà với mẹ biết ngày nào khôn” [To travel is to learn this and that, staying home with one’s mother who knows when one will become wise] and reiterates how the knowledge, sights, and lessons he gained in this trip would extend to the larger community. 29

intelligence, wisdom, mind, or widened perspective.


In just one article, the author rationalized

his arguments for tourism as the opportunity to “gây cho mình có nhiều mối cảm tưởng về lịch sử và mỹ thuật” [widen one’s perspectives on history and art], “làm cho mở mang kiến văn và trí thức” [expand opinions and intelligence], as well as “đi coi cho biết” [journey to see for the purpose of knowing].

In these reiterations of the Vietnamese partial compound verb for travel,

“đi” [to go], “coi”[see/watch], “xem” [to see], writers appropriated these proverbs to emphasize the cultural necessity of travel for the purpose of gaining knowledge.

With such cultural and

ideological importance and benefits, travel was represented as pertinent and priceless. Vũ Nhật explained that even for those of limited economic means, travel (specifically an airplane trip) was “a great financial sacrifice taken in order to satiate one's curiosity.”

Phạm Quỳnh (1892-1945) introduced his travel narrative in such a manner, not withholding prideful remarks on his “honorable feat” to depart from home and gain

                                                                                                                68 “Knowledge” in Vietnamese is often used similar to the English words “wisdom” and “intelligence”—qualities obtained historically through studying letters and morals (Confucian). Duy Anh Đào, Hán-Việt Từ-Điển (Saigon: Trường-Thi Xuất Bản, 1957). 69 Sơn Mục N.X.H. Mẫu, “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 25–44. 70 In his definition of du ký travel stories, Nguyễn Hữu Sơn describes the action of “đi” and “xem” as the essence of travel. Sơn continues to describe how du ký stories depict the experiences and efforts through which a traveler determinedly perseveres. Nguyen ̂ ̃ Hữu Sơn Nguyen, ̂ ̃ “Du Ký Trên Tạp Chí ‘Nam Phong’ (1917-1934),” Lý luận phê bình văn học, January 29, 2009, 71 Vũ, “Hà Nội - Vientiane Trong Hai Giờ.” The beginning of the quote refers to his fellow readers as “we, working class laborers, with an income no more than 100$.” Tạp Chí Tri Tân was a weekly newspaper that began in June 3, 1941. Its namesake originated from the Confucian saying, “ôn cố tri tân, ôn cũ biết mới.” 30



Quỳnh, editor of the Hanoi based journal Southern Wind (Nam Phong Tạp Chí)

and later Minister of Education, serialized one of the most extensive and well-known travel stories, “A Month in the South” between November 1918 and January 1919. Reinforcing his argument with the saying “To travel is to gain knowledge of this and that…” Quỳnh asserted that his travels helped him obtain a measure of “wisdom.”

Nguyễn Hữu Sơn describes Phạm

Quỳnh’s assertive and lengthy self-praise as an attempt to display qualifications as an earned right to cast judgment and publicly comment on various regions and cultures.

In another of

Phạm Quỳnh’s famous travel narratives, Pháp du hành trình nhật ký [Diary of a Journey], and in a public lecture at the Hanoi Opera House on October 12, 1922, Quỳnh announced, “After returning from afar, one is free to boast.”

Through validations for travel, authors of travel

stories attempted to carve out and define for themselves social purpose, intellectual meaning, and even cultural responsibility. Through this convergence of travel and knowledge, the road was positioned to redefine a traveler’s own sense of worth and reflect changing assumptions of space, mobility, and worldly

                                                                                                                72 Phạm Quỳnh, “Một Tháng ở Nam Kỳ,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 2, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 145–253, Originally this travelogue was serialized in Hanoi between November 1918 and January 1919 as Numbers 17, 19, 20, 21, and 22 of Nam Phong. “Một Tháng ở Nam Kỳ” appears in volume 2, 145-253. 73 Here, Quỳnh engages in a stylistic cyclical argument, both humbly denying his complete and admirable wisdom and affirming the significance of his experiences. 74 Nguyễn Hữu Sơn Nguyễn, “Du Ký Về Vùng Văn Hoá Sài Gòn -Nam Bộ Trên Nam Phong Tạp Chí (1917-1934),” September 2007, Specifically, Sơn highlights Quỳnh’s enthusiasm to observe and make “clear and informed” comparative analyses (based on his experiential knowledge) between Saigon and Hanoi. 75 As cited by Lockhart and Lockhart, “Broken Journey: Nhất Linh’s ‘Going to France’.” 31



Phụ Nữ Tân Văn [Women’s News], a progressive weekly magazine based in

Saigon in the 1930s, organized a popular tourism trip between Saigon and Angkor for their primarily Vietnamese middle class and urban readership.

This approximately ten-day trip

scheduled for February 9, 1930, was advertised over the course of six monthly issues and initially included a visit to Đà Lạt. One of the follow up articles, “Cuộc du-lịch Đề-thiên” published in January 20, 1930, explained how the trip was canceled last minute because those who had to work (“anh em lao động và các viên chức”) would not be able to participate.


trip would be postponed to a holiday such as Pâques [Easter] and explained how “a scenic trip such as this, must have a lot of travelers to discuss, learn, and reflect on the landscape together.” Defined by “an embrace of individualistic values at the philosophic level and new collective ideologies,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn functioned as a platform for diverse discussions on cultural trends and political life.

Furthermore, popular newspapers such as this one catered to a readership of

primarily men and women of the intellectual bourgeoisie, who according to a colonial study by Andre Dumarest (1935), tended to mimic a certain “Western” lifestyle and cultural values.


                                                                                                                76 Sarah Whitney Womack, “Colonialism and the Collaborationist Agenda: Pham Quynh, Print Culture, and the Politics of Persuasion in Colonial Vietnam,” Ph.D. Dissertation, (University of Michigan, 2003), accountid=12598. 77 “Angkor-Đà Lạt,”“Saigon-Angkor,” “Đế-thiên Đế-thích,” No. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 40. Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, December 1929-February 1930. 78 The reason for postponing the trip and the article’s use of the term “anh em lao động và các viên chức” remain ambiguous as to what type of audience the trip was catered towards. “Viên chức” was a general term for official while “anh em lao động” implies general workers. 79 Peycam, The Birth of Modern Vietnamese Political Journalism. André Dumarest, Formation de classes sociales en pays annamite (The formation of social classes in Annam) (Lyon: Ferreol, 1935), 234 as cited in Shawn McHale, “Printing and Power,” 177. 32

the article “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học” [To travel is to learn], the author explained that title was inspired by a supposedly popular “Western saying.”

Not only did this article explicate the

direct association between tourism and knowledge but it also used a construct of the ‘West’ to reinforce its significance. Published in Phụ Nữ Tân Văn on 9 January 1930, the trip to Đế-thiên Đế-thích [Angkor Wat] promised its participants the experience of gaining worldly knowledge— specifically the opportunity to understand the “beautiful civilization of the thriving Cao-mien [Cambodia] of the olden days.” With cultural and historical knowledge as a primary justification for travel, the advertisement firmly stated that a journey to historic locations far eclipsed the knowledge gained from fifty books.

Figure 2-1 “Scenery of Đề-Thiên Đề-Thích”- Scenic image that accompanied tourism articles to Angkor Wat. “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học,” Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, no. 36 (9 January 1930). Here and in other print media, advertisements encouraged Vietnamese to travel, invoking a sense of social responsibility to know and understand the country in which they dwelt. However, Vietnamese travel to western parts of Indochina (Laos and Cambodia)—an area that                                                                                                                 81 “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học,” Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, no. 36 (9 January 1930). 33

was not ethnically Việt or Kinh and historically had been spaces of Vietnamese dynastic expansion—underscored the many layers of spatial identity. Throughout travel stories such as Nguyễn Văn Vĩnh’s “Cochinchine et Cambodge”, and “Un mois avec des chercheurs d’or,” and Đông Pháp Thời Báo’s “Người Annam Di Cư Sang Lào” [A Vietnamese travels to Laos] authors often raised questions about cultural difference, and within this reflection considered the nature ‘Vietnamese’ characteristics, culture, and history.   Similarly the trip advertised in Phụ Nữ Tân Văn to Angkor Wat claimed that by reflecting on the old buildings, trees, statues, and stones, travelers should be stirred to critical reflection, emotion, and a deeper understanding of the world around them.
83 82

Trần Quang Huyến, a civil servant to the Résidence supérieure of Laos

in Vientiane, described his travels throughout the "foreign" territories of Indochina in “Ai Lao Hành Trình” [Journey to Laos].

Even when traveling by river, sea, and road from northern

Indochina southward, he remarked that he only now realized the incredible cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences in the North and South. With increasing distance from the port of Hải Phòng, Huyến felt a sense of homesickness and cultural detachment. Du ký and newsprint representations of knowledge continually emphasized the necessity of travel not only as a social imperative but also as a reflection of civilization measured against ‘the West.’ In a description of fellow airplane passengers, the Vietnamese narrator explained how everyone, except for four Westerners, gazed silently outside the windows, mesmerized by                                                                                                                 82 Nguyễn Văn Vĩnh’s travel stories were published in L’Annam Nouveau, 7, January 1932, 1-2 and ‘Annam Nouveau, March-April 1936, 1 of each issue. “Người Annam Di Cư Sang Lào” was published in the 4 February 1928 issue of Đông Pháp Thời Báo. 83 “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học.” Trần Quang Huyến, “Ai Lao Hành Trình,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 19171934, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 257–274. Originally published as No. 57 in March 1922. 34

the scenery. The author immediately assumed that the Westerners were frequent travelers and thus accustomed to such magnificent views.

In the same 1930 article “To travel is to learn,” the

author also explained that tourists from dozens of Western countries had already flocked to Indochina’s historical sites, yet Vietnamese had not yet recognized the cultural significance of such a touristic experience. In this way the author reinforced the necessity to mimic certain Western behavior—in this case of tourism and exploration of Indochina. Moreover within this line of argument, the author seemed to represent the contrast between Westerners and local inhabitants as an affront to the cultural and spatial awareness of Vietnamese. Using precisely the verb “to know,” the author concludes: “If we live so close to historical sites such as Angkor Wat, shouldn’t we journey so we could know as well?”

In this way the road or a traveler’s journey

took on a heightened meaning beyond physical movement or reclusive leisure. The road symbolized a forum to explore the meaning of modern and ‘Western’ practices and functioned as an “active stage on which meanings could be ‘discovered, created, and communicated.’”


other words, the ‘road’ was a metaphoric space that offered Vietnamese the opportunity to participate in popular ‘Western’ practices such as tourism, as well as individually experience, redefine, and be transformed by new modes of thinking. In the two-month-long series titled “Le Tourisme et les Annamites” [Tourism and the Annamese], the unnamed authors viewed travel as a reflection of cultural and civilizational                                                                                                                 85 Nhật, “Hà Nội - Vientiane Trong Hai Giờ.” Originally published in Tạp chí Tri tân as no. 7778 in December 1942. “Except for a group of four Westerners who had been sleeping pleasantly since they had eaten the inflight meal—these four men, either they had no emotions to the site, or they fell asleep because they probably have flown in an airplane many times; thus the scenery from the heavens downwards in their eyes must be so boring." 86 “Đi Chơi Tức Là Học.”

Judith Adler, “Travel as Performed Act,” American Journal of Sociology 94, no. 6 (May 1989), 1368. 35

necessity. This series appeared throughout 1928 within La Tribune Indichinoise, a FrancoVietnamese newspaper initiated by Constitutionalist Buì Quang Chiêu and Nguyễn Phú Khai in 1917.

The first column on May 16th began with a quotation by Theodore Roosevelt: “All great

fundamental truths are apt to sound rather trite, and yet in spite of their triteness they need to be reiterated over and over again.”

With this declaration of “fundamental truths,” the article

characterized the “freedom of travel” as one of the basic human rights. Furthermore, this article continued to say that only a limited number of bourgeois Vietnamese and young students traveled to France and thence exercised this “right.” Critiquing Vietnamese social mores as “patriarchal, simple, and fearful of newness,” the article declared that tourism was virtually unknown in Vietnam. These critiques and the explanation of the “right to travel” formed the foundation of the author’s call to action: for the French language and quốc ngữ Vietnamese press both to transform “Vietnamese attitudes towards tourism,” “persuade the indigenous public opinion,” and create organizations to facilitate Vietnamese tourism.

Much like the avid comparisons that appeared in Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, the ‘modern West’ is contrasted to Vietnamese static and antiquated perspectives. Throughout his extensive travel story from Hanoi to Saigon, Mẫu Sơn Mục reflected on and made cultural comparisons of the                                                                                                                 88 La Tribune Indochinoise (founded 9 August 1926) succeeded La Tribune Indigene, which was the first Vietnamese political newspaper initiated by Buì Quang Chiêu and in 1917. For a th thorough examination of Saigon political journalism in the first three decades of the 20 century, see Peycam, The Birth of Modern Vietnamese Political Journalism. 89 This quote from Theodore Roosevelt was originally published in “Promise and Performance” in Outlook in 2 July 1900. 90 It is possible that underlying the author’s call to action were Constitutionalist political demands for indigenous access and representation. Calling for Vietnamese to travel to other neighboring countries, especially Siam and the Dutch East Indies, the author emphasized the importance of learning from other independent and colonized societies. For example, he remarked that in the Dutch East Indies, the Dutch colonizers have a “penchant for equality,” offering indigenous populations the opportunity for public participation. 36

various cities to which he traveled. On visiting Saigon, Mục concluded that Western fashion, particularly feminine attire, could come to signal “modernity and forward-thinking” and should become more popular in Vietnamese society.

Characterizing social strata according to fashion

sense, Mục ultimately called on Vietnamese to mimic Western fashion as a symbol of modernity and forward-thinking: “Well-mannered women wear clothing adorned with white flowers, while women laborers wear black with a white head scarf...The most elite Vietnamese women abandon the feminine clothing style and mimic that of men. Instead, we must copy Western fashion, particularly women’s dresses...”

Mục’s “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn”

[Journey by Road from Hanoi to Saigon] also attributed an intellectual purpose and cultural necessity for travel. In passing through Hue, Mục remarked that his journey was not one for leisure, but one concerning “art.”

Here Mục defined “art” as the “physical manifestation of

literature” but remained ambiguous as to its details and social function. In this manner, the pursuit of travel was justified as a mechanism for artistic inspiration and experiential knowledge. Furthermore throughout many Vietnamese travel stories, authors reflected upon how the opportunity to travel shaped their collective identity. Across geographic and cultural boundaries, travelers recognized different manifestations of community such as by class, profession, or socio-political outlook. In an example of a metaphorical journey, Benedict Anderson considers the psychological transformation of functionaries when traveling and meeting others: “In his journey, he understood rather quickly that his point of origin—conceived either ethnically,

                                                                                                                91 Mục, “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn.” Originally published as number 129 on May 1928. 92 Ibid. 39-41.

Ibid., 28-29. 37

linguistically, or geographically—was of small significance.”


Here Anderson emphasizes that

movement attaches an individual’s localized identity to a larger community. Print media relating to travel, ranging from mass-produced Madrolle travel guides to Vietnamese travel stories, disseminated “points of reference for travel” and functioned as a platform to explore ideas of Indochinese space.

In the travel story “Đi Tàu Bay” [Traveling by Airplane] signed April 1919,

sergent aviateur Phan Tất Tạo provided practical recommendations such as clothing preparations, and led the reader through the experience of flying in his descriptions of the disconcerting speed and wind, bizarre feeling of lift off, an the excitement of a new perspective of the world.

The expansion of mechanized movement such as trains, automobiles, and

airplanes increased the ability to travel and changed the perception of “lived distance” between cultural spaces.

Within Vietnamese newsprint, authors expressed their ambitions to travel to

places such as Laos, Angkor, Hanoi, and Saigon and the logistics of such a trip. Vũ Nhật described his aspirations to experience flying in the travel story “Hà Nội- Vientiane trong hai giờ” [Hà Nội – Vientiane in Two Hours] published in 1942.                                                                                                                 94 Anderson, Imagined Communities. Anderson examines the educational and language policy of Indochina in his chapter titled “The Last Wave.” 95 Goscha, “Récits de voyage viêtnamiens et prise de conscience indochinoise (c. 1920-1945).” 258. See Signalisation routeiere. Arrete du gouvernement general de l’indochine 12 September 1936, Hanoi, IDEO, 1937, and the satirical comic of Dong Song (Nhat Linh) in Phong Hoa 22 Septembre 1932, p. 1. For an example of a Vietnamese guide book, see Jacques Lê Văn Đức, Tây hành lược ký: Từ Sàigon đến Marseille, trans. Eugene Văn Sắt Đinh (Qui Nhon, Vietnam: Imprimerie de Quinhon, 1923). 96 Phan Tất Tạo, “Đi Tàu Bay,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 78–83. "Tuy rằng lúc đó còn lo sợ, song chắc rằng các ong bà đã thất trong người khoan khoái dần lên, như nhẹ nhàng mát mẻ...” 79. 97 Stephen Kern, The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983). 38

Ever since there existed a route from Hanoi to Vientiane, I held in my heart the dream to experience ‘departing through the clouds returning by wind’ in my lifetime. Every so often I go to the airfield, see the huge engines of the Dewoitine, peer in to see its fancy 98 passenger seats, and my desire grows ever stronger. Towards the end of his travel story Nhật quoted eighteenth century Vietnamese nôm poet Nguyễn Du who called for Vietnamese to visit Laos regardless of the distance.

He then

explained in jest that Nguyễn Du could foretell the future because the airplane had made the distance to Laos a manageable reality. As in the airplane story “Hanoi – Vientiane in Two Hours,” many individuals expressed how their journey was the realization of a dream to travel within Indochina, explore exotic places referenced in literature, and experience novel modes of transit.

For example, when invited to accompany his friend by motorbike to Saigon in the next

three days, Mẫu Sơn Mục immediately agreed, explaining that a journey by highway into Hue and Saigon was one of his lifelong dreams.

Pham Quỳnh’s “One Month in the South” also illuminates the relationship between travel and cultural space. In the following lines, Quỳnh exclaimed that his travels inspired him to perceive Southerners, specifically, other workers in the newspaper business, as his đồng nghiệp [colleagues]. In each instance of meeting the other colleagues, we have festive and pleasant discussions. I know that those of the South and of the North rarely have the opportunity

                                                                                                                98 Nhật, “Hà Nội - Vientiane Trong Hai Giờ.” Vũ Nhật references the following quote by Nguyễn Du: “Đường xa chi ngại Ngô, Lào.” Ibid., 383. 100 Ibid.
101 99

Mục, “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn.” 39

to meet one another and become friends; but each time we do meet each other, it truly is 102 easy to become good friends. Described as the spirit of journalism, Quỳnh emphasized the “natural or comfortable” relationship between the North and South regardless of geographic distance and historic differences.

Following his assertion of Vietnamese camaraderie, Quỳnh concluded his travel

series with the idealistic proclamation that both Northerner and Southerner were ultimately children of the same household.

What Quỳnh referred to as a “tourist trip” of the South, travel

extended his consciousness—“where far away lands become part of ‘our country,’ strangers become brothers and comrades, and home asserts a new and deeper meaning.”

Relational Definitions of Spaces & Self: The Wilderness, Countryside & Mountains Travel stories and advertisements dedicated pages to discussing in length the natural landscapes and countryside, often in oversimplified, stark contrast to a sense of modernity and normalcy. With the overwhelming ascendancy of the urban middle class within the realms of travel and print, representations of the trips into the wilderness and countryside often slipped into the realm of bucolic romance and even utopic fancy. Revolutionary Trường Chinh described the                                                                                                                 102 He begins this reflection by defining the newspaper workers from Saigon as explicitly “fellow comrades (“đồng nghiệp”, tức là các anh em làm báo ở Sài Gòn) with whom it is naturally are easy to become friends (thật là dễ nên cái tình thân ái vậy). On this trip Phạm Quỳnh notes that he visited the editors, managers, or contributors of southern newspapers such as Bùi Quang Chiêu, Nguyễn Phú Khai, Diệp Văn Cương, and Diệp Văn Kỳ. 103 Quỳnh, “Một Tháng ở Nam Kỳ.” Pham Quỳnh commented that journalists from all regions dedicate their lives to “proclaim news for the country” and are “united as a community under the universal goal to strengthen and modernize one’s country.” 104 Ibid., 253. In another section when discussion Quỳnh’s visits to fellow newspaper journalists, he reiterates his realization with the following profession: “Since we (northern and southern people) are part of the one country, although far away, we are brothers; as long as with each other we are fair, and not have habit of indifference of a rude person, then would it virtually be impossible to not become close friends?" 40

urban middle class illusion of the countryside in the following anecdote: “[Vietnamese] aristocratic and bourgeois writers set out in their cars and speed through the countryside; they see the green and fragrant fields, the thick smoke rising from the thatched roofs in the evening and immediately invent a picture full of ‘poetic flavor.’”

These sketches of the rural landscape

portrayed the countryside as the ideal space, or Leo Marx’s ‘Middle Landscape,’ one carefully balanced between the raw dangers of the wild and the oppressive structure of the city.

Furthermore, the mutable environment often functioned to fulfill the dreams and ideals of the author. Stories that reinforced masculine determination framed the wilderness as unconquerable while advertisements for mountain resorts appealed to those who wanted to cleanse themselves of urban disorder. These texts harkened upon certain emotions of topophilia, the sentiment associated with place, to buttress visions of power aligned with masculinity and class.

Within these accounts, authors often associated the ‘road’—from wild frontier to

tranquil escape—in a relational understanding of their own sense of ‘home’ and self. Although a measure of egocentrism dominated the perspectives in these travel narratives, these representations exemplify how the natural environment and experience of rural travel came to shape the identity of the predominantly urban travelers themselves. For example, travelers often described how the countryside and mountains inspired new perspectives such as a deeper appreciation for the comforts of home, the realization of a new cultural community, or nostalgia                                                                                                                 105 Trường Chinh and Nguyên Giáp Võ, The Peasant Question 1937–1938, trans. Christine Pelzer White, vol. 94, Data Paper--Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974). 9. 106 Yi-fu Tuan, Topophilia: A Study of Environmental Perception, Attitudes, and Values (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974); Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America, 35th Anniversary (Oxford University Press, USA, 2000). 107 Yi-fu, Topophilia. 41

for the past. In other stories, the natural environment served as both an escape from the urban chaos and as an adventuresome challenge into the frontier. Lê Văn Ngôn explained how during his summer living with a rural French family he learned the pleasant simplicities of country life away from the noisy city. He described that there, happiness was derived from scenes such as a “peaceful family, the high mountains, vast fields, conversations while milking cows, and flocks of chickens fed each morning.”

In “Chơi Phú Quốc” [Traveling to Phú Quốc], Mộng Tuyết intertwined depictions of the natural envioronment and local inhabitants with a “poetic flavor”, inspired by the “exotic, foreign, and elegant sounds” of the island.

Mộng Tuyết whose real name was Thái Thị Úc,

was a journalist and poet, known for her writing style, vivid imagery, and participation in the Hà Tiên tứ tuyệt literary group (Đông Hồ, Mộng Tuyết, Lư Khê, Trúc Hà). Although for a short period, Mộng Tuyết published under her husband, Đông Hồ’s pen name, she quickly established a literary reputation, even earning recognition from the Tự Lực Văn Đoàn (Self-Reliance Literary Group) for her work in 1939.

One of her lesser known contributions is the romantic

travel narrative “Traveling to Phú Quốc” serialized in 1934 in Nam Phong [Southern Wind], numbers 198-200. In “Traveling to Phú Quốc,” Tuyết eloquently illustrated her visit to the island                                                                                                                 108 Lê Văn Ngôn, “Năm Ấy ở Pháp,” in Tạp Chí Trí Tân 1941-1945, Truyện Và Ký: Sưu Tập Tác Phẩm, ed. Nguyên Ân Lại and Nguyễn Hữu Sơn (Hà Nội, Vietnam: Nhà Xuất Bản Hội Nhà Văn, 2000), 753–760. 109 Mộng Tuyết, “Chơi Phú Quốc,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 382–395 originally published in May-July 1934 in Numbers 198-200 in Nam Phong journal. 110 Mộng Tuyết was recognized for her work Phấn hương rừng in 1939. “Website Phòng GD Và ĐT Giang Thành - Kiên Giang Nữ Sĩ Mộng Tuyết,” accessed February 21, 2013,; “Truyện Mộng Tuyết Thất Tiểu Muội - Tác Giả Hồ Trường An,” accessed February 21, 2013, 42

as a dream realized—an internal conversation weaving between fact and fiction, hearsay and her own perspectives. For example, when she and her companions came upon a rugged field, Tuyết recalled stories of local villagers who picked sim fruit in the fields during the spring. This recollection triggered a dreamy image of a pair of women, flittering among the trees, singing and picking fruit. Even with the empty field, Tuyết’s imagination built a story of idyllic peasant life. In another instance, she remarked upon the hardworking locals at the small western township of Dương Đông: “Underneath the dim lights, the fisherman works to repair his net while conversing; he seems happy—merrily and peacefully content with his task.”

This story

demonstrates how a space becomes a place for expression of middle class life, environmental leisure culture, and urban illusions of the utopic countryside.

Tuyết’s travel story is also an example of how the natural environment served to engage and transform the traveler over the course of the journey. In the beginning of her narrative, Tuyết described her previous world as “the silent and secretive life of a girl living in an isolated maiden’s chambers,” and the sights and sounds of her journey bring her to “forget all the sad things in her life.” Nevertheless, the place and significance of ‘home’ transformed over Tuyết’s journey and the physical challenges of exploring the island both excited and reminded her of her own limitations. ‘Home and road’ are placed in this contradictory binary, but with fluid reinterpretations triggered by physical markers, such as a waterfall that reminded her of a proverb on parents’ unending love for their children. By the end of the trip, Tuyết described her departure from the island as a return home to “a place that she always held in the heart.” While much of this story reads as a romantic recollection of a young girl’s first travels and inevitable                                                                                                                 111 Ibid. 384.

Sơn, “Du Ký Về Vùng Văn Hoá Sài Gòn -Nam Bộ Trên Nam Phong Tạp Chí (1917-1934).” 43

homesickness, the emphasis on personal adventure, physical displacement, and emotional conversion is significant. In reading Mộng Tuyết’s travel narrative, the physical departure from home brings her to realize that very space both as an impediment and as a safe, welcoming haven. As a metaphorical movement towards new ideas and customs, travel could symbolize an escape from the static ‘home’ towards the pursuit of progress and intellectual newness. Throughout travel stories and advertisements, physical mobility was presented in ways that at times reinforced gendered spheres—such as of feminized homes and colonial projects—and other times celebrated the triumph over realms of immobility. Newspapers often posted announcements about great feats of transportation movement particularly by women. For example, a 1929 Phụ Nữ Tân Văn article announced that an American woman successfully led a fleet of cars around the world for eight years, and thus defied the popular belief that women had “không đủ tài căng nghị lực” [a limited number of talents and capabilities].


freedom of movement was in some cases aligned with political and civic liberties. In an article titled “Chị em cần biết điều kiện gì trước khi tiếp xức…”“ [Before going out to the world, what should you women know?], the author Xuyên Sơn explained the importance for women to physically and symbolically step away from the home and take upon more civic responsibilities outside of the home.

These articles emphasized the importance of “nghị lực,” represented as

energy or self-initiative for women to initiate change to overcome cultural and environmental obstacles. Also published in the same newsletter Tương-Lai [Future] in 1934, the article “Biết Hoạt Động Mới Được“ [One Must Know Activities] demonstrated the link between movement                                                                                                                 113 “Một Người Con Gái, Làm Đầu Một Toán Xe Hơi, Đi Du-lịch cả Thế-giới Từ 8 Năm Nay,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 25 (October 17, 1929): 6. 114 Xuyên Sơn, “Chị Em Cần Biết Điểu Kiện Gì Trước Khi Tiếp Xức...,” Tương-Lai, 1934. 44

and political liberation, but through the perspective of female author Quỳnh Diêu. Quỳnh Diêu attributed movement and transportation to a sense of social change and gendered mobility. Addressing women explicitly, Diêu proclaimed that the world was becoming more mechanized and women must walk towards the ‘future,’ We are now living in a time of movement, of global competition and comparison, a world with the emergence of very big cities, trains operating north and south, and numerous other changes “sôi nổi” [rumbling and emergence of change]" have already occurred, and 115 thus has undeniably transformed the mentalities of the past. In particular Quỳnh Diêu used the metaphor of movement to emphasize the importance of “giải phóng vấn đề phụ nữ” [the liberation of women’s issues] and bình quyền [equality].


explained that in Vietnamese history, men kept women constrained to the household, and Vietnamese women must “become strong, believe in the ability to move forward, participate in the world beyond family, and not be weighed down by the mentality of the past.” Within this article Diêu associated ‘the past’ with antiquated social mores that denied women the physical ability to move (such as foot binding) and social mobility (such as holding political positions and suffrage). She explained that the “light of equality still lies defiantly at the curtain of the ancient world” such as Vietnam, and encouraged Vietnamese women to look towards China who “entered the world economy, encountered the West, and their old ways of looking at the world dissolved.” Movement away from the gendered realm of ‘home’ signified the liberation from the past and towards equality loosely associated with constructs of modernity and the West.

                                                                                                                115 Quỳnh Diêu, “Biết Hoạt Động Mới Được,” Tương-Lai no. 1 (February 15, 1934): 56–57. Diêu continues to explain that “much like how China was changed by trains and transportation towards social and cultural change, we (Vietnamese women) too should take this road of equality, and walk towards the future too.” 116 Ibid. 45

Throughout Vietnamese print media the opportunity for movement offered agency and power, the space of ‘home’ was aligned with a mother who could be both welcoming and debilitating, and exotic lands exuded a heroic appeal for adventure and conquest. Furthermore, these articles emphasized the significance of tourism or the “freedom of movement” as an expression of both civilizational behavior and civil liberty. In the beginning lines of Phạm Quỳnh’s travel story, he referenced a popular Vietnamese proverb that symbolically glorified the responsibility of “going to the battlefield and surrendering one’s life to defend the Vietnamese people.”

This duty signified an individual’s rite of passage, aligning the gendered sacrifice of

leaving one’s home to what Quỳnh described as “becoming a man or exerting manliness.” In this way, with a nod to Confucian social mores, Quỳnh linguistically twisted the proverb to redefine how he, a well-traveled man who had “left his home, spent 10 days at the capital of Hue, and now one month in the South of Vietnam,” definitely had earned his right to “become a man.” In “Ai Lao Hành Trình” [Journey to Laos] Trần Quang Huyến attempted to combat his homesickness by reminding himself of the cultural responsibility for men to leave home. He associated the significance of travel with manliness in his allusion to the Vietnamese proverb "Nam nhi chí tại tứ phương…”

Loosely translated to signify that men should travel to many

places, Huyến also added that during their journey, men should “not hesitate when confronted with the need to climb mountains, ford rivers, travel through the wind and night, and must bear on their shoulders all obstacles and challenges.”

The discourse of gendered difference was

deeply embedded within many narratives, attributing masculine empowerment and change to the                                                                                                                 117 Làm trai đã đáng nền trai, Phú Xuan đã trải, Đồng Nai cũng từng.
118 119

Huyến, “Ai Lao Hành Trình.” Ibid., 258. 46

‘road’ and feminine stability to the ‘home.’


These media representations of women’s apparent

immobility and the isolation of home, however, must be regarded within its historical context and print audience of the generally urban, literate, middle class.

In the investigative and scientific report titled “Cảnh Vật Hà Tiên” [The Natural Environment in Hà Tiên] by Đông Hồ and Nguyến Văn Kiểm and published in Nam Phong Tạp Chí between May and September of 1930, Đông Hồ dedicated one section to retell his travel to Mount Đá Dựng on December 7, 1926. Hồ explains how this site was one of the ten most stunning sights deemed worthy by eighteenth century official and literary figure Mạc Thiên Tích.

Within Đông Hồ’s retelling and personal observations, Mount Đá Dựng offers the most

scenic view in all the lands, and thus “must be the most challenging of all journeys.” In stark contrast to the dreamy lure of Tuyết’s illustration, particular attention is dedicated to the countless number of obstacles encountered on the way up Mount Đá Dựng such as sporadic storms, difficult rocky terrain, and fallen trees. Within this description, the physical challenges and the process of overcoming them were the measures of what made an “enjoyable and adventuresome experience.” The story concludes with a proverbial statement “...if this scenic                                                                                                                 120 Studying historic gendered mobility in the Edo period (1600-1868), Laura Nenzi examines the symbolic construction and limitations of the Japanese Tokugawa government to regulate women’s mobility. Nenzi argues that the symbolic association of women to the home reflects the importance of women’s “crucial roles in the economy of the household, lineage, and power balance.” Nenzi, Laura Nenz Detto. “At the Intersection of Travel and Gender” in Excursions in Identity Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan. (Honolulu, HI: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), 51. 121 Additionally, the question of women’s freedom to travel assumed certain class-based definitions of movement that could disregard historical patterns of Vietnamese mobility related to economy, spirituality, and marriage. 122 Đông Hồ and Văn Kiểm Nguyễn, “Cảnh Vật Hà Tiên,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 516–639. The structure of this report followed that of a scientific encyclopedia as seen in its extensive sections on topics such as fruit and foliage, beautiful scenery, history, and schools. 47

point was in the middle of the market, then it would not be valuable at all.” While the original account could have been presented more as a metaphysical painting of the undiscovered beauty of the region, Đông Hồ’s selective ‘literary translation’ emphasized the relationship between the traveler and the untamed frontier.

Driven not just by the goal of experiencing a scenic

mountain view, the travelers seem to be compelled to demonstrate their own physical and mental capabilities. They declared that this trip was neither for the weak nor for those who agonized over proper appearance and formalities. In this way, representations of travel and its unseen obstacles offered the symbolic opportunity to assert a re-conquest of the land. Throughout these depictions, ‘Indochina’ was represented with a timeless, pastoral quality, and functioned as the backdrop for individuals to deal with questions of cultural belonging and social identity. From the fetishization of the rural life to the victorious exploration of rugged terrain, these associations demonstrate how travelers reasserted a sense of authority of a space and experience.

Power and Privileged Isolation of Airplanes, Automobiles, and Mountain Resorts The structure of colonial tourism developed alongside the appeal of privileged alienation. Mountain resorts brought visitors to a retreat away from the chaos of the city and modern transportation brought travelers through a surreal experience of time and space. The ability to ‘visit’ a place through the modernization of transportation and an infrastructure around tourism, contributed to a consumerist, extractive mentality in which places served designated purposes for                                                                                                                 123 Here I examine the intertextuality of these sources as acts of cultural translation—an attempt to interpret foreignness in the cultural language of the local (in this case of two drastically different literary styles and periods). Beyond linguistic transference, translation can be conceptualized as a discursive and ideological ‘migration’ throughout time and space. In other words, the translation of an idea focuses on the transformative process the idea undertakes as it moves throughout cultural and geographic distances. Clem Robyns, “Translation and Discursive Identity,” Poetics Today 15, no. 3 (October 1, 1994): 405–428. 48

visitors. Furthermore, the relatively short duration of time spent in travel destinations also helped to fetishize the place within the traveler’s memory. The landscape often operated within the performativity of a touristic culture and signified a homogenous, essential, utopic space for travelers to either transcend and overcome—hence demonstrating dominance—or to manipulate for the purpose of privileged isolation. Novel forms of transportation such as the airplane, train, steamship, and automobile also symbolized positions of power between travelers and their surroundings. Based on the concept of ‘space-outside-time’ modern transportation enclosed travelers in a realm of order and luxury and isolated them briefly from the environment.

Within many travel stories authors contrasted the

sense of order and control of transit schedules, compartments, and routes with the rugged terrain that they sped through. Traveler Vũ Nhật was increasingly impressed by the sense of timeliness of his flight from Hanoi to Vientiane: on the long awaited day of his departure the passengers completed their paperwork at the Air France office at 5:20AM, were transported by automobile to the Bạch Mai airport at 6:00AM, and by 6:25AM were buckled up in their seats labeled with “a sign of each passengers’ name so that we could neither choose where to sit nor could we argue about which of the seats were better.”

The sense of ‘timelessness’ of his trip was accentuated

by the indulgence of the present—in an “all-inclusive experience” the airline took care of the passengers’ luggage, provided biscuits and coffee, and even offered the in-flight service to compose telegrams.

                                                                                                                124 Del Testa references Certeau’s chapter on railways and the exterior for this idea. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. Steven Randall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). 125 Nhật, “Hà Nội - Vientiane Trong Hai Giờ.” 49

Of all the forms of transit, the experience of travel by airplane most symbolically and physically lifted passengers away from the earthly terrain and provided larger than life perspective from the clouds. Nhật described the flight as an ineffable suspension within white emptiness and explained that he now understood the feeling of “elation as if rising through the clouds.”

As if swept away into a realm of dreamy impossibility, timelessness, and

placelessness, he described that at the same time where on earth it was only raining, he and the passengers were sitting on the clouds where scholar Tân Đà encountered the heavenly fairies. In “Đi Tàu Bay” [Traveling by Airplane] published in December 1942, Phan Tất Tạo leads the reader through the experience of flying with practical recommendations and descriptions on clothing preparation, reactions to the disconcerting speed and wind, the bizarre feeling of liftoff, and the excitement of a new perspective of the world.

Just as how the journey to Phú Quốc

brings Mộng Tuyết to “forget all the sadness in her life,” Phan Tất Tạo exclaimed, “of course we dreamt that this flight would never end so that we could gaze at the scenery forever. And all our earthly worries disappeared.”

These iterations of travel demonstrate a sense of surreal

timelessness and euphoria surrounding modern transit. Through the physical departure from the familiarity of home into the novel experiences of existing ‘outside’ of that time and space, travelers expressed a sense of renewed perspective. In the case of the Vietnamese middle class travel, the material separation wrought by modern technologies reinforced ideas of privilege and also of difference between urban and rural society.                                                                                                                 126 Ibid. “Sướng như lên mây.” Tạo begins his travel story with a mention to Governor General Albert Sarraut, whom Tạo explains to be the reason for the arrival and popularity of the airplane in Indochina. Phan Phan, “Đi Tàu Bay.” Originally published as No. 77 and 78 in December 1942. 128 Ibid. “Còn bao nhiêu sự lo nghĩ ở dưới trần ai thì quên sạch.” 50

David Del Testa explains that modern transportation “allowed observers to objectify and thus romanticize the world they envisioned and cathect with it their desires for bucolic simplicity and an organic social order with themselves primary.”

Throughout Mộng Tuyết’s trip, she and her

companions traveled by boat, automobile, and food and her remarks about each stage of the trip seemed to be deeply shaped by the mode of transit. Throughout the days by automobile through Dương Đông, Mộng Tuyết’s descriptions of the environment lack the eternal and romantic quality that characterized the boatride and walks. The automobile—described by David Del Testa as a symbol of “individual strength and the private world”—seemed to contrast distinctly with the collective experience of boat travel within this travel narrative.

On their return trip

home, Mộng Tuyết and her travel companions decided to take a fish sauce shipping boat home “for the experience of it.” Although they faced torrential storms and grew increasingly homesick, Mộng Tuyết also described the collective joy of exploring another island and playing music together as they waited for the storm to pass. The cartoon titled “Hai lối cầu mát hay là đông tây không gập nhau” [Two ways of Vacationing or the East and the West Avoids Each Other], exemplifies not only the separation between the automobile driver and the physical and temporal environment, but also the association of the automobile with Western tourism.

Printed in the weekly satirical newspaper

Phong Hoá on 9 June 1933, the left panel depicted automobiles winding up mountains towards                                                                                                                 129 Del Testa, “Automobiles and Anomie in French Colonial Indochina.” Del Testa explained how the automobile also reflected the owners position in the world: “Because society views them as an extension of the individual, automobile owners take great pride in maintaining their appearance, keeping them in a manner that reflects their won worldview and advertises to the world…” 67. 130 Ibid. Khắc Nghệp, “Hai Lối Cầu Mát Hay Là Đông Tây Không Gập Nhau,” Phong Hoá, 9 June 1933. 51

the hill stations of Tam-đảo, Chapa, and the beach Đồ-sơn while the right side portrayed crowds of Vietnamese partaking in prayer and festivities. Khắc Nghiệp included a caption that contrasted these scenes as two ways of vacationing or “lối cầu mát” [ways of ‘praying’ for the cool].

This representation accentuates the difference between West and East and the caption even described the Vietnamese style of “vacationing” as “lạ thay” [strange and abnormal]. While this cartoon explicitly compared the ‘traditional’ activities to Western tourism, the author also drew a contrast between the relationships of individuals to the environment. While westerners sped through the roads towards the isolated hill-stations, the other scene highlights the stationary activities of prayer and festivals.

                                                                                                                132 Jennings, Imperial Heights. In Eric Jennings interpretation of these two scenes, he emphasizes the difference in Western and Eastern strategies of “experiencing cool weather” or the “strangeness of older Vietnamese ways [such as hot and cold techniques], in contraposition to rational, modern, and elite Western tourism [and altitudinal benefits].” 173. 52

Figure 2-2 Phong Hoá, 9 June 1933 “Two ways of Vacationing or East and West Avoiding Each Other”; Caption reads “Đồ-sơn, Tam đảo, Chapa, Westerners experience cool weather in these three places. ...But we experience cool weather so strangely!” Mountain resorts or station balnéaire d’altitude exuded that appeal as a colonial utopia and ecological haven. The hill station at Đà Lạt, the urban project of chef de l’urbanisme Ernest Hébrard, was developed primarily with the purpose of privileged isolation for colonists to retreat from urban life. The altitude and physical separation from other cities reflected the deep-seated ideas of ‘boundary anxiety’ based on fears of hygienic contamination and racial “difference and


the integrity of the colonial body.”


Like some parts of cities, mountain resorts were often

racially zoned, yet not explicitly exclusive to white colonialists. Several Vietnamese newspapers questioned why so few Vietnamese traveled to mountain resorts and concluded that these types of experiences were accessible to the wealthiest, who expected lavish amenities, transport, and hotels.

At the same time, other articles called for Vietnamese to emulate French trips to the

mountains, based on “Saint-Simonian philosophy, hygienic popularization, hints of colonial reformism, and a discourse of social amelioration.”

Nguyễn Tiến Lãng praised Đà Lạt and the

dream of journeying there in Indochine, La Douce: he described Đà Lạt in the following way: “Đà Lạt, so highly praised in tourist propaganda, Indochinese paradise that has become the dream of so many honest families, Đà Lạt does not disappoint. It is a restful resort, an Indochinese Simla. Beautiful and luxurious, with around its Palace some hundred and forty villas…”

Many of these Vietnamese travel guides and stories emphasized the natural

environment and reclusive appeal of Đà Lạt. Catered mainly to Western tourists, Đà Lạt also offered the infrastructure for sightseeing, hunting, and hotels, and thus provided individualized opportunities for the “romantics” to “culturalists” interested in the hill tribes around the

                                                                                                                133 Nicola Cooper, France in Indochina: Colonial Encounters, First Edition (Oxford, United Kingdom: Berg Publishers, 2001). 134 “Peut-on développer le Tamdao? Eveil économique de l”indochine, September 20, 1924, 3, “Đà Lạt et les Annamites,” L’echo annamit, 31 December 1925 as cited in Jennings, Imperial Heights. 135 Ibid., 170. Nguyễn Tiến Lãng, Indochine La Douce. (Hanoi: Éditions Nam-ky, 1935) as cited in Jennings, Imperial Heights, 139. 54



Many of the travel stories described above compared the urban and rural landscape,

often associating the countryside and nature with an idyllic allure contrary to that of their home. These stories also demonstrate how a space becomes a place for expression of middle class life, environmental leisure culture, and urban illusions of the utopic countryside.


European tourist destinations in Indochina, such as Angkor Wat, Hue, and environmental retreats, echoed the colonial imagination of Indochina as a lost antiquity and natural wonder. In the traffic-filled decades of colonial exhibitions, airplanes and railways, and mass consumer branding, what can now be understood as ‘global consciousness’ and marks of modernity, developed in localized and fragmented ways. Such motifs permeated throughout Vietnamese print, some even with explicit calls to mimic Western practices such as tourism and women’s dress. Yet as demonstrated in these stories on travel, new forms of movement and experiences were translated through personal understandings of place as well as the gendered domains of the ‘home’ and the ‘road.’

                                                                                                                137 Nguyễn Trung Thu, “Chơi Xuân Đalat,” Tân Tiên Báo, 20 February 1938, 27 March 1938, as cited in Jennings, Imperial Heights, 176. 138 Sơn, “Du Ký Về Vùng Văn Hoá Sài Gòn -Nam Bộ Trên Nam Phong Tạp Chí (1917-1934).” 55

CHAPTER 3 FINDING ‘CIVILIZATION’: FRANCE AND THE FAILURES OF COLONIALISM Throughout the colonial period, thousands of Vietnamese traveled to France for varying purposes and durations—from short tourism trips, study abroad, and employment to recruitment as soldier-workers during the two World Wars.

The idea of ‘France’ pervaded throughout

Vietnamese newsprint, and existed as both a place of opportunity and disillusionment throughout the circulation of news, letters, and travel stories from abroad. These writings originated from a politically and economically diverse group of Vietnamese who through their accounts of their experience abroad, created a place with cultural and political meaning. For some individuals, travel to France was an opportunity for socio-economic ascension through stud and employment. And for others, France was a space for the exploration of the individual—emancipated from the expectations from home and influenced by new ideas, opportunities, and networks. This chapter seeks to shed light upon the various iterations of ‘France’ throughout Vietnamese newsprint, with an emphasis on moments of personal and collective discovery accentuated through movement. Furthermore, it demonstrates the complex dualities of France as                                                                                                                 139 Some Vietnamese also permanently resettled in this period. One of the most well known Vietnamese immigrants to France during the colonial period was Lê Hữu Thọ, author of the semi-autobiographical Itinéraire d’un petite mandarin. Thọ had studied in Tonkin at a French lycée, and arrived in France in 1939 at age 19 intending to be a translator. However, Lê Hữu Thọ found himself caught within the tides of the second world war, and lived through the Vichy regime, and settled in France. 56

a place of economic and cultural opportunity, new perspectives, and forms of community as well as personal disappointment, imperial limitations, and anomie. The first section examines the construction of France as a place of ‘civilization’ and opportunity. For many Vietnamese, the journey to the métropole embodied a personal realization of ‘global modernity’ and its nebulous tenets such as civil liberties, individualism, and political engagement. At the same time these writings often conflated new experiences abroad such as modern transit, different foods and cultural practices, as the zenith of civilization. With the limitations for intellectual and economic ascension in the colony, France was portrayed as a space—both real and imagined—for economic opportunity, social acceptance, and cultural zenith. Furthermore, for those who traveled to France to study, their time abroad was shaped both by the desire for a French degree and by a discourse on the ascendancy of modern education and Western knowledge. Within the rhetoric of sending Vietnamese students abroad, ‘France’ was a place of symbolic power and responsibility defined in relation to shifting definitions of the home—both familial and national. Yet students did not always wholeheartedly assume this burden of socio-cultural obligation and instead perceived their physical separation from home as the emancipation from both family and outmoded social expectations. The second part of this chapter considers how the experience of student networks and political associations contributed to the formation of new communities and forms of collective identity predicated on diasporic existence, a phenomena that Benedict Anderson has described as ‘long-distance nationalism.’

Although some of these

groups were founded upon nationalistic visions of the ‘home-country’ of Vietnam, they also reflected a personal and inward search for social purpose. In this way within these affective                                                                                                                 140 Benedict R. O’G Anderson, The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World (London  ; New York: Verso, 1998). 57

understandings of France, the question of home and belonging remained present as a frame of constructing their travel experience. Underneath the grandeur of economic possibility and civilizational modernity were also the challenges of life abroad and the subtle everyday experiences of the colonial relationship. Along with the expenses of living abroad, many of the authors also discussed the difficulties of acculturating to French culture and city life. Although there existed transnational networks of friends, classmates, and socio-political associations, a theme of cultural isolation and disorientation permeates many texts. This sense of personal wandering and collective disillusionment symbolizes the development of a generation of Vietnamese déclassés who transcended both physical and cultural space existing as neither fully Vietnamese nor French. These representations of France exemplify the diverse ideals associated with the space such as the idealistic luminance of French civilization and political liberties as well as the harsh racial and financial realities of life in the métropole. This examination of Vietnamese travel to France does not attempt to represent the diverse experiences of Vietnamese abroad, but seeks to provide insight into the dialectic that existed between métropole and colony, ideal and reality, fantasy and disillusionment. In particular, these texts shed light upon the emergence of a Vietnamese generation of young, male, middle class elites and urban intellectuals who traveled and wrote about France throughout Vietnamese newsprint. How did these marginal/exceptional individuals exposed to Western education and social idealism perceive themselves and the space of France? How did these travelers navigate the ideal and reality of France and the quotidian contradictions of French colonialism? For example, some of these texts demonstrate how travelers comprehended ideas of the “West” through the bifurcation of civilizational ideals,


separated from an oppressive colonial identity.


Rather than assume colonial study as simply a

producer of radical intelligentsia, this chapter considers how the spatial identity of ‘France’ was shaped both by the attraction to the cultural and political fantasies of France and rejection by that cultural world.

The Rhetoric of Civilization and Reality of Education Abroad: France and the Opportunity for Socio-Economic Ascension Throughout Vietnamese travel accounts, the idea of France was often interwoven with constructs of civilization, individualism, and Western culture. Published in the weekly newspaper Phụ Nữ Tân Văn [Women’s News] the article “Hai mươi bốn giờ của tôi ở đất Pháp” [My 24 hours in the country France], exemplifies the progression of emotions on arrival in France.

In the initial lines of his travel story, the author Cao-Chánh reminded himself that

France was known as the “place of the national revolution of 1789, the home of Mirabeau, La Fayette, and the land of freedom” and that for the next three years he would benefit from the “free and unhurried” European atmosphere.

However even before he could descend from the

ship, Cao-Chánh met with a series of police interrogations that made him doubt the authenticity of “freedom” in France. After the initial confusion, the rest of the travel story retold his initial impressions with France and his comparisons with Vietnam. In witnessing the large buildings,                                                                                                                 141 Shu-Mei Shih, “Writing Between Tradition and the West: Chinese Modernist Fiction, 19171937”, Ph.D. Dissertation, (University of California, Los Angeles, 1992). And her article ShuMei Shih, “Gender, Race, and Semicolonialism: Liu Na’ou’s Urban Shanghai Landscape,” The Journal of Asian Studies 55, no. 4 (November 1, 1996): 934–956. 142 Cao Chánh, “Hai Mươi Bốn Giờ Của Tôi ở Đất Pháp,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 24 (10 October 1929), 10–11. 143 Ibid. “Không khí thong-thã ở Âu-châu.” 59

boulevards, and monuments, Cao-Chánh exclaimed, “My feeling, is one of a person who has lived for a long time in an ancient customs and culture, who has just stepped foot into a place of civilization that is very new and very different." Cao-Chánh also recounted his conversation with his hostess, Madame R., who inquired about the lack of displays of affection of Asians. Through his attempted explanation of Vietnamese customs, Cao-Chánh realized the deep rootedness of Vietnamese identity, and remarked that even those who lived in France for a long time would never become as expressive as Europeans. As if critiquing surface attempts of cultural assimilation and Western mimicry, Cao-Chánh explained the recent trend of the ‘modern women of Asia’ and fascination with the idea of “aí-tình” [love and affection], a “word that has only existed in Asia for a few years.”

Even in a short article, the author conveyed his initial

impressions of France such as middle class customs, transit systems and buildings, as well as more abstract ideas of freedom, liberty, and relationships. Within this travel story, Cao-Chánh also navigated constructs of Western civilization and considered the claims of Western comforts and cultural superiority. He concludes the narrative with the sarcastic assessment of the train ride to Saigon, a metaphor for his first impressions and disappointment in France: “My first night in the country of France was very ‘comfortable.’” Vietnamese study abroad in France also was another process by which individuals dealt with the rhetoric of France’s civilizational superiority and educational opportunity. Characterized by shifting colonial education policies, lack of funding, and a disorganized scope of curricula and training, the French colonial school system offered a haphazard and limited educational

                                                                                                                144 Ibid. 60

opportunity for Vietnamese.


Thus, many Vietnamese sought intellectual enrichment and

economic leverage through overseas studies in France. Aside from the few cases of early Vietnamese diplomats from the Hue court to France, large-scale Vietnamese study abroad did not occur until after 1910—when a series of initiatives for modern education in Vietnam were suppressed, leaving little “alternative for modern education except for a Tây Du or voyage à l’Ouest [journey West] to France.”

Children of well-connected and landlord merchant classes,

or the petit bourgeois urban population, formed the majority of the student population, yet the relatively poor working class also participated in overseas education through community or patron sponsorship.

Furthermore, the emergence of a nouveau riche Vietnamese middle class

ushered in new social standards to showcase affluence and success, many of which reflected the perceived lifestyle of French colons such as the following material and experiential qualifiers: Western clothes, practicing sports, leisure travel, or access to a “modern French education” for

                                                                                                                145 Even though over the years the primary education system showed improvement in organization and access, between 1920 and 1938, the highest number of Vietnamese youth enrolled in school did not surpass 10 percent. Gail P. Kelly, “The Relation Between Colonial and Metropolitan Schools: A Structural Analysis,” Comparative Education 15, no. 2 (June 1, 1979): 209–215; Gail P. Kelly, “Conflict in the Classroom: A Case Study from Vietnam, 1918-38,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 8, no. 2 (January 1, 1987): 191–212. 146 Pierre Brocheux, “Une histoire croisée : l’immigration politique indochinoise en France, 1911-1945,” Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières, 2009, marked the end to Phan Bội Châu’s ‘Đông Du [Go East]’ movement for Vietnamese to study abroad in Japan, and around the same time the closure of the University of Indochina, Tonkin Free School (Đông Kinh Nghĩa Thục or L’ecole libre du Tonkin), and attempts for modernisation or ‘enlightened’ education initatiatives. 147 David G. Marr, Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981). 61

their children.


In this way, the possibility of study abroad in France also symbolized entrance

into the cushioned fantasy of colonial success, defined by a French degree or a position in the civil service. By 1926 and 1927 colonial educational reforms in Franco-Vietnamese education also pushed Vietnamese students to obtain a French diploma in order to hold a position in the civil service.

With this restriction, a degree earned in the métropole, regardless of prestige of

institution, carried considerable weight in comparison to one earned from a Franco-Vietnamese school.

The majority of officially registered students stayed in France for six to seven years

depending on their ability to secure funding. Official records estimated Vietnamese high school and university students in France in 1929 to be at least 1,800 (1,100 in Paris, 200 in Aix-enProvence, 110 in Toulouse, and the remaining in Marseille, Bordeaux, and Lyon).


around 3675 individual files of Indochinese living in France were accounted for in the Ministry of Colonies, official population data on Vietnamese migrants was severely limited, unsystematic, and often broadly classified.                                                                                                                 148 Many of the nouveau riche, large landowner families from Cochinchina (Southern Vietnam) financially and politically benefited from French colonial redistribution into a plantation economy. Kelly illustrates how this lifestyle was mocked through the popular Vietnamese proverb “The civil servant gives orders; in the evening he drinks champagne, and in the morning, cow’s milk.” Kelly, “The Relation Between Colonial and Metropolitan Schools.” 213-214. 149 Marie-Eve Blanc, “Vietnamese in France,” in Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World, vol. 2, 2 vols. (New York: Springer, 2005). 150 For example, Vietnamese students who held a French baccalaureat garnered more socioeconomic clout than those who earned a colonial baccalaureat. 151 These population statistics originated from a police note from 23 January 1929. CAOM, Slotfom III/6 as cited in Brocheux, “Une histoire croisée : l’immigration politique indochinoise en France, 1911-1945.” Furthermore, Marie-Eve Blanc provides a useful, although limited chart of the changing Vietnamese population in France during the colonial period in “Vietnamese in France,” in Blanc, “Vietnamese in France.” 1161. 62

Colonial officials did not maintain a consistent policy on migration and instead issued confusing and contradictory policies in regards to Vietnamese travel and study abroad in France. In the earlier years of overseas study, colonial policies were deeply informed by the ‘mission civilisatrice’ and associationist policies; accordingly, in the 1910s to 1920s study abroad was described by colonial administrators as the opportunity for cultural and intellectual enrichment of the “gentle, well mannered, and hard-working” Vietnamese.

The semantics of building loyal

and educated Vietnamese elites carried through many of the reforms in Franco-Indigenous schools as well as the rare colonial scholarships to study abroad, such as the highly publicized sponsorship of Phan Văn Trường.

On the other hand, some officials such as Governor

General Pierre Pasquier, worried about the politicizing influence of a liberal education system and left-wing associations in France. Regulative measures were enforced more strictly in the late 1930s, due to attempts to quell the rise in anti-colonial activity. Nevertheless, compared to other French colonies, Vietnamese traveled to France in larger numbers through initiatives such as family sponsorship, military or ship hand consignment, or aided by informal networks for housing and job opportunities. Aside from an administrative classification, the ‘Vietnamese student in France’ also emerged as a particular social category throughout Vietnamese intellectual and political debates on modernity, nationhood, and education. The Vietnamese student became a social type, infused with overlapping expectations for socio-economic prestige or political activism on their return to the colony. In many ways ‘the student’ served as a vehicle for depicting broader discontent in                                                                                                                 152 Scott McConnell, Leftward Journey: The Education of Vietnamese Students in France, 1919-1939 (New Brunswick, USA; Oxford, UK: Transaction Publishers, 1989). 153 “Phan Văn Trường Đã được Chánh Phủ Pháp Đại-xá,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 48 (17 April 1930), 11. 63

Vietnamese politics and French colonial society. These texts demonstrate how the construct of the Vietnamese ‘student’ emerged in conjunction with the spatial identity of ‘France,’ and were constantly re-invented within social and political discourses. The newspaper Phụ Nữ Tân Văn [P.N.T.V.] used national rhetoric to garner a sense of civic engagement to support Vietnamese in France. In its second issue on 5 May 1929, the series “A Xu/Sou for the Students” urged its readers to donate weekly to aid Vietnamese students in France.

While the request did not explain how the money would be sent or for what explicit

purpose, the act of giving and sacrificing for ‘Vietnamese society’ merited detailed justification. Following the request for donations for scholarship funds, the article explained the social significance of supporting the education of Vietnamese youth with the following declaration: “When we brothers and sisters realize and feel compelled to worry about our home (quê hương) —our country and future—then on that day we will stand up and open our eyes with others; if not that day will be very far away from us.” This statement revealed the complex relationship between individual and ‘home’—a bond depicted as civic duty towards the country of Vietnam. Within these study abroad campaigns of civic engagement and social improvement, ‘France’ was the space where Vietnamese could acquire new skills and perspectives that ultimately could contribute to “our country and future.”

                                                                                                                154 Quán Chi, “Đồng Su Cho Học-sanh- Ý Kiến Của Bác-sĩ Nguyễn Xuân-Bái,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 45 (27 March 1930), 5–6. 64

Figure 3-1 Phụ Nữ Tân Vân, 26 September 1929. Photo of Vietnamese students who participated in the scholarship competition on 15 September 1929. Almost every issue of P.N.T.V. contained at least one article focused on Vietnamese students in France. The topics concerned requests for monetary contributions, the status of community-funded scholarships, or discussions on the importance of education. In virtually all of these correspondences and campaigns, those in need of scholarships, or just simply young Vietnamese in France, were often referred to as the ‘Poor Students.’ These conversations lacked specific details of the ‘Poor Student,’ what subject they studied, or if they were actually registered students abroad. Thus students were often represented as a social category in need of community assistance. This conflation of identity presumes individual characteristics as well as a sense of individual agency. In the scholarship campaigns of P.N.T.V., the construct of ‘Poor Student’ functioned as a rallying force, a social cause to invoke community activism. Furthermore, the act of furthering educational opportunity was often portrayed as a contribution towards the greater good or fellow “đồng bào“ (compatriot, or literally “children of the same




This moment of vibrant socio-political debates, cultural reform, and re-articulations

of identity represented the development of an imagined community of ‘our country,’ in which individuals both belonged to and could shape. Yet, at the foundation of social change and the expression of the collective (be it understood as a national consciousness, global modernity, or class awareness) was the reexamination of the relationship between self and society.

Finding Social Purpose in France, the “Laboratory of Political and Cultural Modernization”

In contrast to the well-publicized community event of scholarship competitions (that even merited positions in the first pages) the series titled “Letters Sent from France” depict a much more conflicted representation of student life in France. Often these articles were published by student correspondents currently living in France; some letters were authored by well-known contributors such as Cao Chánh, (who also went by Thạch Lan) but the majority of the articles, like the other columns, were un-authored or signed by the collective “P.N.T.V.” One of the most critical examinations of Vietnamese study abroad was Thạch Lan’s reflection titled “What do Vietnamese students learn abroad?” printed on 16 January 1930.

Modeled as an interview

between the author and a student, Thạch Lan asked the student to explain the significance of Vietnamese youth studying in France. Characterizing Vietnamese study abroad as a “popular current trend,” Lan repeatedly pushed the student to explain the purpose of study abroad, rather                                                                                                                 155 Jayne Werner, Gender, Household and State in Post-Revolutionary Vietnam (New York: Routledge, 2009). 156 Brocheux, “Une histoire croisée : l’immigration politique indochinoise en France, 19111945.” 157 Thạch Lan, “Người Annam Đi Ngoại-quốc Học Gì?,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 37 (16 January 1930), 12. 66

than the technical details of the experience. The student responded by explaining the various disciplines, (law, literature, medicine, and machinery,) and degrees, (tú tài, cữ nhơn, tấn sĩ, kỷ sư,) that Vietnamese earned; simply put, a student returned to Vietnam and was henceforth a “nhân tài, [talented person] of course.” Yet, as evident in Thạch Lan’s repetitive questioning of “So then what?” Lan sought to expose the flawed justifications for purposeless travel abroad. The rest of the two-page article critiqued the supposed “knowledge” that came with a diploma. In Lan’s caricature of a Vietnamese student, French degrees were devoid of meaning because they were not awarded on merit, but instead were given because teachers were frustrated with their lazy and ignorant students. In describing an incident in which an English teacher took pity on his poor but lazy Vietnamese student, Lan sarcastically commented, “Yet again, today our Vietnam receives another degreed scholar.” Although Lan’s interrogative fictional piece projected a caricature of Vietnamese students as lazy and undeserving, Lan, a student correspondent himself, did not believe in the deterministic fate of Vietnamese youth. He proudly asserted, “Our Vietnam truly has the potential to learn.” With this qualifier, Lan adamantly called for the reexamination of the role and responsibility of Vietnamese youth. “Our generation of youth today has a penchant for excuses—at age 20, they claim that they are still too young to contribute to society and must focus on their studies!” In this way, Thạch Lan measured the success of Vietnamese study abroad according to students’ return to Vietnam and their ability to ‘contribute to society.’ Lan continued to elaborate on the social responsibilities of educated youth by describing and dividing the existing social stratum of intellectuals into two categories—politics and letters, (the former listed as law, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and the latter as journalism, literature, and speech competitions). He specifically used the new word “thượng lưu xã hội,” translated from


the French word for intellectual elite, [élite], to categorize the broad spectrum of educated individuals (without much regard to background, class, or political leaning).   In reexamining these intellectuals, Lan recognized their intellectual accomplishments, but critiqued this “elite intellectual generation” as “outdated for modern society.”

Thus, he once again addressed the

youth of today to step up and assume the necessary social and political duty that accompanied the “new educated social stratum.”

While Lan did not clearly specify what the ‘inherent duty’

of youth actually entailed, his focus was clearly to invoke both shame and responsibility within the young readers of the newspaper. He further critiqued students who not only hid behind their studies, but also did not return as wise, empowered intellectuals. Lan concluded with the request for those apathetic, “ignorant” students to come home and either better prepare themselves for dedicated study, or find some other meaningful contribution to society rather than be a mere degreed student, described as “no worse than a retired person.” In this piece, Thạch Lan positioned himself outside of this class of ‘elite intellectuals’ to re-examine the troubling state of Vietnamese youth, who he believed to be “mesmerized by modern trends and leisurely life in Paris.” Instead, Thạch Lan commanded students to take up the social responsibility that accompanied their education and contribute to the larger meaning of xã

                                                                                                                158 Thạch Lan described the existing heritage of social intellectual elites in the following manner: “from the South: Buì Quang Chiều, Nguyễn Phan Long, Dương Văn Giáo, the Central: (?) and the North: Nguyễn Văn Vĩnh, Phạm Quỳnh, etc...” Lan recalled his disappointing interview with intellectual Bùi Quang Chiều where Chiều hesitated to directly address Lan’s question on “the issue of women.” Instead, according to Lan, Chiều replies, “I’m already very old, and my duties are almost over…”Thạch Lan, “Người Annam Đi Ngoại-quốc Học Gì?”. 159 Thạch Lan called on the generation of students to be ashamed of their accomplishments in comparison to those of the Chinese heroine Trịnh Duc Tú, with the phrase “even this little Chinese girl took on the responsibility of society.” 68

hội [society], (another newly defined word influenced by the idea of French societé).



the caricature of the ‘Vietnamese student’ in Thạch Lan’s article differed greatly from the ‘Poor Student’ of P.N.T.V.’s scholarship campaigns, both representations continued to reattribute new social meaning according to constructs of France and its allure as a space of civilization and modernity. Within discussions on colonial education policy, socio-economic success, civilizational discourse, and political activism, sending communities and students discussed and re-invented ‘the student’ as vehicles for change. This constructed reciprocity between community and student sheds light upon the symbolic power of “the modern” (as understood within politics, culture, and/or class) derived from a French educational degree. Inherent to this understanding of student purpose were two factors: the potential of a cultivated individual and the necessary ‘return’ home of the student. At the same time, this generational and radicalizing shift was specific to the group of Vietnamese youth who came of age in a political climate—a time characterized by “iconoclasm and the marriage of the personal and the political” in which Vietnamese were frustrated with the failures of acommodationist reform to produce change and also unattached from the past scholarled resistance of colonialism.

Hue-Tam Ho-Tai explains the various manifestations of

Vietnamese radicalism within diverse nascent ideological paths ranging from Marxism to Constitutionalism. For example, Marxism attracted many Vietnamese anti-colonial youth through its “promise of a certain victory instead of annihilation, and national redemption instead                                                                                                                 160 Đào Duy Anh defines xã hội (society) as “1) nhiều người cùng mưu ích lợi chung, kết hợp thành đoàn -thế 2) Những đoàn –thế loài người có mối quan-hệ sinh-hoạt chung nhau (societé).” 572 The first meaning refers to mutual benefit and coordination, the second focuses on relationship and a more Western notion of social interaction. 161 Ho Tai Hue-Tam, Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992). 69

of endless struggle for survival” characteristic of Social Darwinism.


Amongst the Vietnamese

population in France existed a smaller number of student activists who also engaged within the loose network of Vietnamese and French students, workers, writers, socialists and liberals, and intellectual leaders. The most famous of these activists were the “Five Dragons,” Nguyễn An Ninh, Nguyễn Tất Thành (Hồ Chí Minh), Phan Văn Trường, Phân Châu Trinh, and Nguyễn Thế Truyền.

In another article of titled “Why were so many Vietnamese sailor-workers and

students arrested in Paris?” Thạch Lan explained the political and social atmosphere in the months building up to the 22 May 1930 protests of the Yen Bay rebels executions.


published within the series titled “Letters Sent from France,” the article depicted a world of political activity and a sense of public advocacy for issues in Indochina. Throughout Lan’s descriptions, Vietnamese activists, students, and workers from the North and South, Communists, and Trotskyists worked alongside countless locally based international associations.

World events such as the Russian Revolution in 1917, the exile and death of

Vietnamese leaders, the founding of Communist parties in France, China, and Russia shaped the political and intellectual leanings of Vietnamese intellectuals living in France, where the

                                                                                                                162 Ibid., p. 243. Les cinq dragons [“The Five Dragons”] for a brief period in 1919-1923 were centered in a small apartment in the 13th arrondisement of Paris. Inspired by Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points,” this group of colleagues wrote the famous petition for Vietnamese self-determination. 164 Thạch Lan, “Vì Sao Nhiêu Thợ-thuyền Và Học-sanh Annam Bị Bắt ở Paris,” Phụ Nữ Tân Văn no. 59, Bài Bên Paris Gởi Về (July 3, 1930), 11–12. 165 Thạch Lan lists the participation of associations such as Ủy-hội phẩn-đấu, and Bạn Đông Dương Xuất-Dượng ở Pháp, and Đông-Dương học-sanh tỗng-hội, and newspapers “Verité” and “Lutte des classes.” 70

interactions between individuals and ideas functioned as a “laboratory of political and cultural modernization of Vietnam.”

Furthermore, personal interactions amongst classmates and strangers also came to shape perspectives on the political and cultural space of France. Trotskyist Hồ Hữu Tường (19101980) described the transformative experience of studying abroad in Marseille and Lyon in the 1920s, and defined much of his experience around his interaction with other students such as the politically active Nguyễn Thế Truyền, Phan Văn Trường, Nguyễn Văn Tạo, and Phan Văn Chánh.

Many of Tường’s remarks on the generational identity of students revolved around a

student’s revolutionary potential and an ironically subversive academic accomplishment abroad. Tường portrayed Nguyễn An Ninh (1900-1943) as ‘another radicalized student’ protegy. Nguyễn An Ninh (1900-1943) was a well-known and talented scholar, journalist, and anti-colonialist. What struck Tường mostly about Ninh’s academic accomplishments was his ability to skillfully write in French, notably in his anti-colonial newspaper La cloche fêlée [The Cracked Bell] based in Saigon. According to this retelling, Ninh skillfully navigated the French degree structure, and earned the highest degree within only one year. Tường describes: “Through this symbolic act and accomplishment, wherever Ninh went, the colonizer French in Paris held Ninh in extremely high regard.”

In this way, Tường broadly defined his studies as a potential for social and

individual empowerment in the context of a colonizer-colonized relationship.                                                                                                                 166 Brocheux, “Une histoire croisée : l’immigration politique indochinoise en France, 19111945.” 167 While Hồ Hữu Tường’s autobiographical Bốn Mươi Mốt Năm Làm Báo [41 years of Working in the Newspaper Industry], had a propensity to blur the lines between recollection and creative embellishment, Tường’s description reveals the significant political undercurrents of student life in France. 168 Hồ Hữu Tường Hồ, Bốn Mươi Mốt Năm Làm Báo: Hồi Ký (Saigon: Trí Đăng, 1972). 71

In reality, study abroad in France did not automatically manifest itself into individualistic emancipation, political radicalism or nationalist ideology. The opportunity for socio-economic ascension, civic duty, as well as individual autonomy empowered some of these students, yet cultural and social expectations weighed heavily on these students as well. Feelings of cultural anomie and non-belonging, financial burdens, and expectations from family and community were among the many pressures of study abroad. Furthermore, the increasing political fervor of nationalist discourse in France and Vietnam generated idealistic demands from Vietnamese youth to fulfill not only their individual familial obligations but also a responsibility to the vague ‘greater good.’ The following sections convey the diverse experiences and complex ways in which individuals, such as Tùng Hương and Nhất Linh, negotiated different expectations, challenges, and new ideas through exploration of France.

France as Cultural and Generational Dystopia Son of a failed Confucian mandarin, Nguyễn Tường Tâm (1905-1963), more widely known as Nhất Linh, had a prolific and complex literary career as a writer and editor of multiple journals including of the first satirical journal in Vietnam, Phong Hóa [Customs] launched in 1932.

In 1935-36 Nhất Linh serialized the short story “Đi Tây” [Going West], which poked

fun at the social regality and blind confidence of Vietnamese intellectuals, who believed in the ideological and physical journey towards “civilization.”

Portrayed as a transformative

                                                                                                                169 Nhất Linh was also known as the founder and active contributor of the Self Reliance Literary Group in 1933. A cohort of intellectuals, the Group fought a socio-cultural war with words; their works encouraged socio-economic responsibility, rebuked Confucian traditions, and advocated a measure of modernization. 170 For more biographical information on Nhất Linh, see the Introduction to Lockhart and Lockhart, “Broken Journey: Nhất Linh’s ‘Going to France’.” 72

moment of self-validation, to “become civilized” was to “sáng mắt ra” [open one’s eyes] and functioned as the primary motivation for the life and journey to France of the protagonist of “Going West,” Lãng Du. One of the few literary works focused on the experience of study abroad, “Going West” is also argued to have been a semi-fictional account of Nhất Linh’s own three-year journey to France in 1927 to study journalism and receive a science degree.

Although largely a humorous caricature of Vietnamese students abroad, “Going West” sheds light upon the multifaceted emotional, cultural, and financial difficulties as well as the intricate of life abroad in France.

Figure 3-2 Cartoons that accompanied the series “Going West” Phong Hóa, 18 August 1932 as found in “Broken Journey: Nhất Linh’s ‘Going to France’,” translated by Gregory 172 Lockhart and Monique Lockhart. Lockharts’ translation of the ‘The return of the sophisticate’ (left image) caption reads: “Mother: My dear son, while you’ve been away studying for four years overseas, your father has died. I’ve been alone here dreaming all the time of your return. Son: Maman, chêre Maman, réjouis-to, me voici arrivé. Mother: Oh dear God! Has my son gone mad? Poor boy! This is your mother!” Right image: “Going West” of Lãng Du                                                                                                                 171 Ibid.

Ibid. 73

Through the wanderings and process of self-discovery of the protagonist “Lãng Du,” (whose name literally meant wandering) Nhất Linh voiced a sense of non-belonging as an intellectual caught between the romance of modernity and the social reality of urban life in France. In “Going West” and in many of his other works, Nhất Linh addressed how the clash of old and new, traditional and modern, emancipated many young individuals, like himself, from the chains of archaic social mores. The main protagonists of his stories such as Lãng Du, whose name meant wanderer, often drifted around as excluded vagabonds, in search of social, intellectual, and artistic fulfillment.

Lãng Du’s overt naiveté possibly reflected Nhất Linh’s

perceptions of Vietnam and his own imprisonment within what he described as the weight of backward cultural mores and expectations. As he traveled farther from Vietnam, Lãng Du finally realized the economic and social deficiencies of Vietnam. While his time in France offered a sense of intellectual and social fulfillment, Lãng Du felt that his race and cultural upbringing inhibited his attempts to assimilate within French society during his short stay in France. The France that Nhất Linh depicted carried a certain imagined dystopic quality—to fully escape and become “French” required the impossible rejection of the physical and cultural baggage of being “Vietnamese.” Furthermore, at the end of “Going West,” the social and emotional rejection that some students experienced was characterized by the forced return of Lãng Du back to Vietnam, on suspicion of anti-colonial activity. Concluding this travel narrative with the depressing awareness of his place in Vietnamese society, Nhất Linh described Lãng Du—a student migrant caught between reality, enlightened modernity, and social acceptance—as someone “…not dead, but…” something else. Assuming a language of modern romantic                                                                                                                 173 In another of Nhất Linh’s reflexive short stories, titled “A Dream of Tu Lam,” the two main characters abandon their unsatisfying administrative careers in search of a lost utopia, wandering the world as vagabonds. 74

desperation, but under the guise of tragic-comedy, Nhất Linh voiced the cultural and emotional struggles of student migrants placed between two worlds and ultimately trapped in a non-place, as a déclassé. In another of Nhất Linh’s short stories, the protagonist often expressed a disheartened feeling towards the ‘failures’ of education to deal with the realities of colonial society: “My years of study and work have all been for nothing. The law I have stuffed into my head is very half-baked in a society that has been created by the efforts of our ancestors and is still deeply influenced by their ways.”

“Going West” was embedded with the deep sense of

estrangement, depicting the liminal existence of students such as Nhất Linh who straddled the reality of anachronistic Vietnamese social expectations, an unsupportive and exploitative colonial structure, and a contradictory and socially excluded intellectual class. Further complicated by the ideological movement between colonial landscapes, these experiences and pursuits of social purpose left many students disheartened or detached—suspended between the ambiguous civilizational rhetoric and isolative reality of temporary student life. In contrast to Hồ Hữu Tường’s exuberant autobiography, many letters exchanged between students abroad and family, friends, and lovers back home depict the routine challenges of life abroad. These letters bring to the surface the challenge and necessity of maintaining migrant transnational kinship networks beyond emotional nostalgia — both social and economic expectations surrounded those family members to maintain emotional composure and financial stability. Thus, these personal sources shed light upon the significant influence of temporary or permanent migration upon family relationships, as well as the consequential adaptations, transformations, and methods of assistance within local and transnational networks.                                                                                                                 174 Gregory Lockhart and Monique Lockhart, trans., “A Dream of Tu Lam,” Heat 5 (1997), 51– 65, 64. 75

Some of these personal letters were selected and published on the pages of journals such as P.N.T.V. and Nam Phong [Southern Wind], which sought to provide news abroad and also doubly functioned as emotional vehicles to enlist financial support for students. Although letters chosen for publication often carried a journalistic purpose, published correspondence, such as the letters of Tùng Hương, also offered the reading public an almost sensational experience of life abroad. The letters of Hương’s journey to France from 16 July 1924 – 3 December 1931 were published years later in Nam Phong Tạp Chí throughout September 1932.

Although the

biographic information of ‘Tùng Hương’ is relatively limited, the emotional candor embedded within each letter home to Saigon provides valuable insight into how some Vietnamese students comprehended and depicted to others their study abroad experience. Hương introduced the series of published letters with a tone of humility and hesitancy: “I wrote these letters during my experience on a journey where I could not complete my university degree, thus I could not achieve the feat of making a name for myself for my country; therefore I did not want anyone to pay attention to me.” As revealed in this reluctant confession, a French degree received in the colonial métropole became a signifier of success in Vietnam. Nevertheless, in his disheartened introduction Hương explained that recovering these letters made him realize that these honest emotions, struggles, and journeys were nonexistent in other books. Thus, he felt compelled to share these emotional reflections, (regardless of his ‘sociocultural failure’ to return with le bac degree,) and to remember the significance of such “deeply

                                                                                                                175 Nam Phong Tạp Chí, no. 176 September 1932, republished in Tùng, Hương. “Trên Đường Nam Pháp (Mấy Đoạn Gia Thư).” in Nguyễn Hữu Sơn, Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 2, (Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 303–331. 76

affectionate phrases” such as “Through you, I am able to love and cherish the sound of my country.”

On 30 November 1924, Hương recounted his first experiences eating salade (xà lách) and melon, his difficulties adjusting to the cold weather, and the fascinating lectures and discussions in his classes. Following the pleasant recollections of student life, Hương listed in detail the increasing living costs and student fees, forcing him to decrease his budget on meals and clothing. Here and in other accounts, Hương represented his student life in France as well adjusted: he confided to his addressee the excitement, novelties, and daily events of his new life, but also tempered this romantic migrant experience with difficulties in finances, acculturation, and homesickness. These detailed daily expenses inherently reflected both the downtrodden life of many Vietnamese students and also the immense dependency of students on their families and sending communities for financial support. Hương’s letters and reflections also reveal how certain social expectations and political predilections influenced individual experiences and identity formation. For example, the widely assumed superiority of ‘French education’ and the ‘dedicated Vietnamese student’ played a substantial part in forming Hương’s first impressions of student life. In Hương’s first encounter with local Vietnamese students and his first classes in Marseille on October 18, 1924, he described his days as extremely regimented with designated times for eating, speaking, and studying. In contrast, after studying in Lyon at du Parc, Hương ruminated on the French style and quality of teaching, and concluded that the education did not differ from that in Saigon.

                                                                                                                176 “Nhờ anh mà em mới biết yêu quí tiếng nước nhà,” Hương, “Trên Đường Nam Pháp,” 303.

Journal entry dated 16 December 1924. Ibid. 77

He exclaimed, “I’ve already spent time and efforts to travel all the way here, only to find that this is exactly like home!”

Furthermore, in stark contrast to Hồ Hữu Tường’s fascination and full involvement with student associations and political activism, the archetype of the ‘radicalized Vietnamese student’ emerged very subtly in Hương’s letters. In a long letter on 2 September 1925, while describing in detail the various French national holidays and developed transportation system, Hương mentioned only in passing, the existence of French-led student strikes. He asks, “Do you know what a protest is?” and continued by explaining that anyone who held a measure of power, discontent with any issue, “could assemble with others, drag oneself outside, and shout throughout the streets.”

Describing only one example, Hương explained a recent protest

regarding Christianity and the involvement of a group of students at the University of Lyon. In a tone of surprise, Hương described that the students confronted the government building, sang songs in protest, and could not be dispersed by government soldiers on the basis that “Arrest would be illegal, since they were granted freedom (of assembly).” Here Hương used the word for freedom, “tự do,” in a manner influenced by the French concept of liberté that implied both individual and social freedom.

As swiftly as he introduced this topic, Hương nonchalantly

proceeded to explain other aspects of French life, such as strange holidays commemorating Cyatherine, Noel, and a description of a local Chinese restaurant. This short reference to student activism shows how political life was just another aspect of French life, and in Hương’s case, not                                                                                                                 178 “Đi xa đường mà như thế nảy thời cũng tiếc đó thay.” “Như ông nào cẩm quyền mà có làm điều gì bắt bình, thì họ hiệp đoàn nhau rồi kéo đi reo hò cùng hàng phố.” 180 Đào Duy Anh defines tự do [freedom] as following only one’s opinion, resistant to others’ constraints, (liberté). Du, Hán-Việt Từ-Điển. 78

particuarly interesting besides as an act of strange defiance. As evident by the immense detail of his routine life and expressions of nostalgia for his loved ones, these letters home functioned also as a medium to cope with the complex and isolative process of life abroad. Like a progression of emotions, the preponderance of self-doubt, curiosity, dislocation, and anomie within these entries illustrate how travelers encountered and constructed a spatial identity around their experience. In particular, through his experiences of French politics and culture Hương questioned the legitimacy of French political liberties as well as the value of a French degree. In this way, Hương’s published journal entries exmplify how the complex ways in which expectations of a spatial identity were tempered with the reality of the everyday and mundane.

Conclusion In recognizing the socio-political vestiges of their parents’ moral and educational upbringing, the Vietnamese youth who came of age between the 1910s and 1930s experienced a dramatic generational shift in education and worldviews. These ideas were shaped by certain Spencerian perspectives of Social Darwinism that offered new modes of identity focused on individualism, self-cultivation, and ideals of civilizational achievement. Travel to France embodied the pursuit of the ‘individual,’ a phenomenon that George Dutton explained to be younger urbanites’ ways of reimagining their lives that “gave precedent to their personal aspirations and desires, and that reduced their subordination to family interestes.”


Vietnamese newsprint debates, France embodied the zenith of civilization the realization of selfcultivation, social acceptance, cultural zenith, and for some, the emancipation of the individual. Within fundraising campaigns that promoted study and debates on travel, France also                                                                                                                 181 Dutton, “Advertising, Modernity, and Consumer Culture in Colonial Vietnam.” 79

represented a space where individuals could gain a Western education and ultimately contribute towards the modernization and self-strengthening of the imagined Vietnamese community. Both realms of socio-cultural significance reflect the grafting or localization of civilizational discourse, a re-inscription of definitions of modernity, individualism, and nation. Thạch Lan’s critique of students abroad and Tùng Hương and Nhất Linh’s experience of cultural anomie also reveal the limitations of France as a constructed figment of imperial grandeur. In this search for personal and collective expression in France, this politically and economically diverse generation navigated constructs of past and present, tradition and modern, social expectations and individual aspirations. This manifested in diverse visions of a future for ‘Vietnam,’ that ranged from modernization and self-strengthening, to national independence. David Marr emphasizes this yearning for self-expression as the intelligentsia’s search for “…a set of beliefs that both explained reality and provided the means to alter it.”

These internally

and socially constructed debates supersede one just between ‘self’ and ‘society,’ but also traverse constructs of history, memory, social responsibility, and generational differences. Thus, through examining reformulations of the spatial identity ‘France’ within Vietnamese travel stories, this chapter brings to light how the generation of youth constructed, rejected, and re-inscribed their own sense of personal identity against interpretations of ‘France’ and ‘Vietnam.’

                                                                                                                182 Marr, Vietnamese Tradition on Trial, 1920-1945, 329. 80

EPILOGUE MAKING SENSE OF NEW AND OLD SPACES: HUE AS A SITE OF CULTURE AND HERITAGE This thesis has focused on the formation of the spatial identities ‘Indochina’ and ‘France’ through the travel and translation of that experience within newsprint and literature. Embedded within these explorations, the writers often reflected upon a deeper sense of belonging to certain cultural spaces, and in that process articulated personal and collective identities of class, national, and political orientation. With new forms of mechanized movement, transportation routes, and regional tourism industries, Vietnamese travelers experienced the physical terrain and invented colonial entity of ‘Indochina.’ These textual representations of movement and space demonstrate how constructs of Western modernity, leisure, and privileged isolation influenced the formation of middle class identity. Stories of travel to France also shed light on the crafting of collective and individual identity in conjunction with the exploration of space. Idealized as the space of civilization, freedom, and personal expression, the spatial identity of France was formed in part through the association with phenomena of Vietnamese study abroad and political activism.


Described by Hue-Tam Ho-Tai as the ‘radicalism’ of urbanized and Westernized youth in pursuit of freedom, France embodied an ‘emancipation’ and separation from Vietnam.

In this way, travel and the construction of spatial identities were intertwined within the larger conversation on ‘modern’ practices, forms of social capital, as well as expressions of individual and social identity in the changing cultural and political landscape of the 20 century. Within this discursive exploration of cultural, political, collective identities, spaces were also measured by relational constructs of East and West, modern and traditional, rural and urban. Hue, the historic seat of the Nguyen dynasty, was symbolic of this tension between past and present, Confucian tradition and colonial modernity. Hue stood as a physical testament to a lost pre-colonial past, and in the intelligentsia’s yearning for new articulations of cultural and political identity, often harkened back to this sense of ‘lost heritage’ to understand the colonial reality. This epilogue will analyze the representation of Hue within travel stories as a site of lost heritage and cultural nostalgia.

Hue and the Invention of a Lost Past Like the polity of Vietnam unified by Emperor Gia Long in 1802, the imperial capital Hue was a relatively new construct and had wavering success maintaining a loyalty on the eve of Western encroachment. Built under the first Nguyễn emperor Gia Long (1802-1820) and modeled after the Chinese Forbidden City, Hue embodied the spirit of ‘nation-building’ during the Nguyen dynasty. In attempts to exert legitimacy and loyalty, Vietnamese leaders relied upon                                                                                                                 183 Hue-Tam Ho Tai describes Vietnamese ‘radicalized’ youth in the following way: “They saw asymmetry between the national struggle for independence from colonial rule and their own efforts to emancipate themselves from the oppressiveness of native social institutions and the deadweight of tradition.” Ho Tai Hue-Tam, Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), 4. 82

a Chinese political orthodoxy and Confucian classical philosophy as models of governance. Alexander Woodside explains that the Nguyễn rulers’ borrowing and re-appropriation of Chinese models of governance provided the ideological support for centralized government under the Vietnamese emperor.

This period of ‘Confucianization’ has been compared to historical

attempts to build Confucian legitimacy, such as in the Lê Thánh Tông era (1460-1497), but the extent to which Vietnam became Sino-Confucian—let alone a stable unified entity—was partial and superficial.

Although formally the capital throughout the colonial period, Hue did not develop into one of the primary Vietnamese urban centers for intellectual activity or trade such as Saigon-Chợ Lớn, Hải Phòng, and Hanoi. Hue served as the seat of the Vietnamese royalty, whose limited political power and adherence to rites and pomp symbolized an antiquated pre-colonial world. With the profound administrative and cultural changes in French colonialism, Vietnamese perception of Hue and its administration became increasingly antagonistic; the Nguyen administration received the blame for colonial conquest and was critiqued for its limited power and corrupt bureaucrats. By the death of Emperor Khai Dinh in 1925, the Resident Superior Pierre Pasquier officially transferred all remaining power from the Vietnamese royalty to the resident superior. Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery explain the perpetuation of the Nguyen dynasty throughout the colonial era as “Coupling its successive capitulations with an attitude of

                                                                                                                184 Alexander Woodside, Vietnam and the Chinese Model: A Comparative Study of Vietnamese and Chinese Government in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971). 185 Nola Cooke, “Nineteenth-Century Vietnamese Confucianization in Historical Perspective: Evidence from the Palace Examinations (1463-1883),” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 25, no. 2 (1994): 270–312. 83

historical awaiting composed of veiled reticence and murmured criticisms concerning the colonizers’ decisions, grounded in royal decrees.”

In these articulations of authority, Hue became a space of invented cultural and political heritage. The idea of ‘heritage’ was rooted within the ability of the capital city to use cultural elements to “tie the citizenry together into a more cohesive and cooperative entity.”


maintained a surface tribute to this sense of ‘Confucian Vietnamese’ heritage through the continuation of palace exams and rituals. The front page of the March 13, 1936 satirical journal Phong Hóa conveyed this dedication to ceremony in an image of three scholar-mandarins bicycling towards the finish line. The caption read “On the sporting track of Hue” and seemed to critque the spectacle of palace examinations and ceremony characteristic of the Vietnamese scholar-bureaucrat system. The humorous depiction of scholars in traditional garb, sweating and bicycling towards the finish line also emphasized the anachronistic event of scholar competitions.

                                                                                                                186 Pierre Brocheux and Daniel Hémery, Indochina: An Ambiguous Colonization, 1858-1954, From Indochina to Vietnam  : Revolution and War in a Global Perspective v. 2 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 106. 187 This study contextualizes the role of Hanoi and Hue within contemporary and historical definitions of heritage. William S. Logan, “The Cultural Role of Capital Cities: Hanoi and Hue, Vietnam,” Pacific Affairs 78, no. 4 (December 1, 2005): 559–575, 560. 84

Figure 4-1 Cover of Phong Hóa, 13 March 1936. Caption reads “On the field of Hue: After the presentation, the officials must go to Hue one last time to finalize their ranking. This competition was not reported by other newspapers, only Phong Hóa witnessed this event.” 85

Within travel stories to Hue, visitors would explore the palace and royal burial grounds as well as the mountains and landscape around the city. Scattered throughout the city was an amalgamation of old and new monuments and administration buildings from before and during the colonial period. In “Cuộc Đi Chơi Huế” [Traveling to Hue] published in December 1930, Phục Ba reflected upon the history, architecture, and current role of Hue, and compared that to his first visit to the imperial citadel 10 years earlier to study Giam.

Ba explained that in this

touristic trip with his friend, “everything had changed; even the changes had changed.” Within his ruminations of the history and culture of Hue, the travel story slipped into a nostalgic remembrance and wistful invention of the past. When coming to certain historic sites and contemporary administrative buildings, Ba rhetorically asked, Was this really where the scholar candidates camped out? Was this where mandarins would ride in to the citadel on their horses for royal ceremonies? Was this a garden where poets composed poetry, reflecting on the peaceful sounds of palace horns and 189 ceremony?

These questions show how travelers constructed places with affect culture, histories, and vivid narratives. Within these invented ‘recollections’ of a pre-colonial past was also the surreal overlap with the contemporary uses of the Hue capital. Ba provided a detailed portrayal of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the court behavior of mandarins and the emperor and also heightened the role of the emperor to introduce new literary arts to Vietnam. For example, the act composing poetry was a key component to Confucian literati culture, as “an authentic

                                                                                                                188 Phục Ba, “Cuộc Đi Chơi Huế,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 2, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 376–383. Originally published as No 157 12-1930 P.B. 189 Ibid. 86

presentation of a historical experience.”


Poetry in Confucian literati culture was both an

intellectual and metaphysical practice—writing poetry was not only a description of the physical world, but a response and conversation with the terrestrial: The material world influenced the poet’s thoughts and feelings, and when these thoughts and feelings were uttered, they took the form of poetry. Thus we can view the poetic process as constituting three distinct, but directly related parts. There was 1) some external stimulus which 2) stirred thoughts that were 3) expressed in the form of 191 poetry.

The sông Hương [Perfume River] also was an important site within travel stories to Hue and symbolized a flowing journey of contemplation. When traveling down a majestic river in the island of Phú Quốc, Mộng Tuyết recalled how other tourists at Trường An depicted the sông Hương river and the magical experience of riding along the river. Tuyết combined that dreamy image with her own experience on a different river, and was stirred to compose poetry; however Tuyết noted that the experience still lacked the famous voices of the Hue women singing along the river bend.

The gendered, utopic, and romantic connection of travelers to Hue also permeated Nguyễn Tiên Lãng’s travel story, “Lại tới thần kinh” [Visiting the imperial capital once again].

Even though he had visited Hue three times already, Lãng explained the metaphysical

quality of Hue to remain vividly within his mind and heart. On work assignment for Nam Phong                                                                                                                 190 With his extensive research and translations conducted at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan and the Han Nom Institute in Hanoi, Liam Kelly provides a unique and revelatory resource of envoy poetry. Liam C. Kelley, Beyond the Bronze Pillars: Envoy Poetry and the Sino-Vietnamese Relationship (Association for Asian Studies, 2005), 39. 191 Ibid. Mộng Tuyết, “Chơi Phú Quốc,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 1, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 382–395, 388. 193 Originally published as No. 200 July 1934 and No. 204 September 1934. The original travel story was dated 18 June 1934. 87

Tạp Chí, Lãng rode down by train from Hanoi but was frustrated at the inability to view anything outside of the train. To quell his anticipation on the journey to Hue, Lãng recalled a poem by the scholar Tản Đa about the endless beauty and mesmerizing magnificence of Hue.

Lãng used

the line from the poem “Yêu em anh cứ anh vô” to express his overwhelming love for Hue since the day they first ‘met’ when he was but a student at the Albert Sarraut School. Retreating into a dreamy romance Lãng continued to personify Hue with the feminine, mystical power to captivate visitors with her sights and sounds. In contrast to the dreamy allure of Hue as a place of history, culture, and ineffable beauty, some travel representations also depicted the hollowness of Hue under colonial rule. In the case of “Cuộc Đi Chơi Huế,” Ba’s emotional boat ride down the river demonstrates travelers’ awareness of the colonial situation, and the intensified sense of loss. Ba professed, “I hear the sound of Hue singing, a call of sorrowful resentment and loss of nation…is this what remains of the country of Xiem Thanh?” Similarly, Mẫu Sơn Mục N.X.H.’s journey down the sông Hương in “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn” also accentuated the colonial rupture. Paying close attention to the architectural landscape, Mục explained how one of the historic Vietnamese buildings had been ‘washed away’ in its re-appropriation into a colonial administration office.

Mục then continued to explain that the original Vietnamese Kỳ đài Ngọ

Môn could still be seen through ‘old eyes;’ but with ‘new eyes’ the overwhelming majesty of the historic site had disappeared. Mục continued to argue that throughout history Vietnamese art and                                                                                                                 194 Đường vô xứ Huế quanh quanh, Non xanh nước biếc như tranh họa đồ Yêu em anh cứ anh vô, Kệ truông nhà Hồ, mặc phá Tam Giang. 195 Mẫu Sơn Mục N.X.H., “Lược Ký Đi Đường Bộ Từ Hà Nội Vào Sài Gòn,” in Du Ký Việt Nam: Nam Phong Tạp Chí, 1917-1934, vol. 3, 3 vols. (Thành phô ́ Hô ̀ Chí Minh: Nhà Xuất Bản Trẻ, 2007), 25–44. 88

architecture had been subordinated to literature, and explained how under the social and political transformations of colonialism, Vietnamese art and architecture was once again pushed to the wayside. On returning to shore, Ba joined other travel companions to translate books based on the notion that “they had nothing better to do and did not want their journey to be futile.” Yet just as Phục Ba was becoming engrossed in his revisiting of old texts, he was forced to return home due to a family death. The story fades away in a bittersweet remembrance of Hue, a place that “he could not resign himself to forget.” At the end Phục Ba explained that the fate of the book project he was working on before his premature departure: his book was like a ‘frog in a well’ that nobody paid attention to; yet the contribution was a small accomplishment in itself towards the study of literature and society.

These conflicted renditions of Hue developed based on an imagined sense of ‘Vietnamese’ ancestry—intensified and essentialized further due to the colonial condition. The physical monuments, historic buildings, and even the river seemed to stand in stark contrast to the colonial administrative buildings, limited power of the royal family, and increasing corruption of the bureaucracy. In this way the cultural nostalgia and constructs of a pre-colonial past symbolize one of the many paths through which the Vietnamese intelligentsia searched for self-expression of the individual and collective.

                                                                                                                196 Ba, “Cuộc Đi Chơi Huế,” 383. Cho hay xem hội đến chùa, Rừng văn kho sách của vua thiếu gi. Nghĩ mình giếng ếch biết chi. Gọi là chát mực để ghi chuyện đời. 89




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