Remarkable and Singular Vietnamese and French Manuscript Map Illustrating the Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi and the Route Mandarine
This fascinating Vietnamese manuscript map on linen depicts the huyên or district of Nghĩa Hành, located in the rural South-Central Coast region of Vietnam.
This is the only known indigenous Vietnamese map to illustrate the Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi, one of the lost wonders of Southeast Asia.
The map is fascinating and offers much else of interest. It follows the course of the Song Vé River from its mouth to its intersection with the early-nineteenth century Route Mandarine, and to a great wall, also known as the Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi. The map identifies fourteen villages, some quite large, others little more than familial homesteads, and has notations on local taxation. The overlaying late nineteenth-century French text describes the situation of each village, how it can be reached, and notes that it is available for sale.
Vietnamese map with French annotation
This is a rare example of traditional Vietnamese cartography with later annotations in French. The original Vietnamese map was probably related to the Nguyễn Dynasty’s resurvey of this region for taxation purposes conducted between 1810 and 1818 (note that the wall was built in 1819).
Based upon the orientation of the Chữ Nôm (a Chinese logographic system of writing Vietnamese) characters, it is clear that the original map (in brownish ink) was most likely originally oriented north (at the top) - south (at the bottom), and seemingly reoriented by the French along a west (top) – east (bottom) direction later. Topography, map details, and the wall are all rendered in an Asian style derived from traditional Chinese landscape painting. Other cartography, including village territories, seem to exhibit Western cartographic influences, as would be expected in the early-nineteenth century.
A later hand, probably that of a late-nineteenth century French colonial official, has extensively annotated the map, reoriented it to the west, and identifying parcels of land ‘available’ for sale. Chữ Nôm has few readers in the modern world, but analysis by an expert in French exploration maps of Southeast Asia suggests that the French text is at least in part a translation of the original Chữ Nôm.
Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi
Often referred to as the Great Wall of Vietnam, the Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi was largely forgotten until being rediscovered by Andrew Hardy and a group of archeologists of the École Française d'Extrême-Orient in 2005. The scholarship reveals that the wall was built in 1819 by Lê Văn Duyệt, a high-ranking mandarin, under Emperor Gia Long, founder of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
The original purpose of the wall was to separate the Việt and Hrê minorities, who, despite very active trade relations, were frequently in conflict. Although written references to the wall today are exclusively in the Việt tradition, it is likely that the wall was a joint effort, constructed by both the Việt and Hrê peoples to create a secure, defined border of mutual benefit. The construction of the wall in the nineteenth century probably coincides with the construction of the Route Mandarine, which appears here just east of the wall, and was intended to safeguard the route.
The wall runs parallel to the Truong Son mountain range and extends through ten districts—Trà Bồng, Sơn Tịnh, Sơn Hà, Tư Nghĩa, Minh Long, Nghĩa Hành, Ba Tơ, Đức Phổ, Hoài Ân, and An Lão. It covers some 79 miles (127.4km) from Quảng Ngãi Province in the north to Binh Dinh Province in the south. There were multiple forts along the wall where it intersected with major rivers, as happens here with the Song Vé, and at these locations villages and markets were established.
The wall appears in some early European maps of Southeast Asia and was known to travelers in the early nineteenth century. However, it was abandoned in 1898, after which it was overgrown and, by the early twentieth century, forgotten. The first reference to the wall discovered in modern times was unearthed in 2005. The historian Andrew Hardy found a textual description of the wall in an 1885 Nguyễn Dynasty court document. This led directly to the modern rediscovery of the wall in the Nghĩa Hành region – as shown on the present map.
This is the only known example of indigenous Vietnamese cartography to illustrate the Long Wall of Quảng Ngãi and, as such, is of considerable cultural and historic importance.
The Route Mandarine
The Route Mandarine cuts through the middle of the map. Built in the nineteenth century under Emperor Gia Long, the road connected the south of Vietnam (Ca Mau, in the Mekong Delta) with Lang Son, in the north, near the Chinese border. The route connected the Vietnamese capital to its provinces.
Today, part of Vietnam Route 1 follows the original course surveyed for the Route Mandarine.
Dating the Map
The French text: The French text (brown) appears hastily written and is difficult to read, but it employs Vietnamese tax terminology, notes that the lands depicted are ‘available,’ and offers some description of the properties, how they can be accessed, and their resources. There can be little doubt that the French text was added well after the creation of the original map and the paleographic evidence points to a trained hand from the late-nineteenth century.
We believe the repurposing of the map by a French colonial official dates to that period, perhaps around 1897. At the time, the French politician Paul Doumer instituted a series of reforms in an attempt to monetize the colony, including raising taxes on Vietnamese farmers and the seizure and resale of Vietnamese communal rice production lands. Doumer's actions included seizure of Vietnamese rice production land and sale of said land to French nationals to ‘plantationize’ the country.
The French had declared Annam, now northern and central Vietnam, a protectorate in 1874, but this was proved only a nominal measure. Due to the strength of the Vietnamese near their imperial center at Hue, and in light of the fragility of French power in the region, they had not been able to extend their influence to Annam from Cochin China. With the Patenôtre Treaty/Treaty of Hue of 1884, however, the French moved to incorporate Annam into the Indochinese Union, a process completed in 1887. The Vietnamese people rebelled against French rule, a conflict now known as the Can Vuong. This map was part of the French effort to get to know their colony, however tenuously they held it, and could be considered a cadastral map, with the creation of a reliable taxation system as the goal.
The Vietnamese map: With no firm dates anywhere on the map, defining a specific date is challenging. We used the date circa 1819 for the Vietnamese work on the map (faded black ink), as it is most likely the result of taxation surveys in this region conducted between 1810 and 1818, early in the that the Nguyễn Dynasty. This is also consistent with the production of the map on cloth, as was common practice among surveyors, from the East and the West, well into the twentieth century. Cloth was more durable and available in field situations.
The completion of the tax surveys coincided with the construction of the Route Mandarine and the building of the Long Wall in 1819, hence the estimated date of 1819 for the initial creation of this item.
Rarity / Vietnamese Cartography
This map is a one-of-a-kind manuscript and an incredible survival.
In terms of Vietnamese cartography in general, there are no known cataloged examples of Vietnamese maps in institutional collections outside of Vietnam. Within Vietnam, surviving royal archives predating the Communist and French Colonial periods include manuscript maps as early as the seventeenth century, and references to maps dating as far back as the fifteenth.
Jointly owned with Geographicus Antique Maps. Description drawn from the work of Kevin Brown. Below is a translation of the French script from Olivier Schouteden, who also contributed research to the description.
Bottom right corner (in , what is outside the map but can be guessed from context): “Il existe dans le huyên [de Nghĩa] Hành une superficie approximati [ve de] 240 mâu de terrains domaniaux dont voici le détail:
Village de Hòa Vàng: 10 mâu
-------- Lâm Lòn : 50 mâu
-------- Ry Tho: 20 mâu
-------- Dai An: 30 mâu
-------- Xuai(/n?) Vang: 50 mâu
-------- An Son: 50 mâu
-------- Chû Tho: 5 mâu
-------- Binh Thu: 10 mâu
-------- Long Binh: 5 mâu
-------- Long Ban: 10 mâu
Total: 240 mâu”
Translation: “There is in the huyên [of Nghĩa] Hành a rough surface area [of] 240 mâu of state lands whose detail is as follows:
Village of Hòa Vàng: 10 mâu ….etc….”
“No 1 - Un lot de 30 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Bâu Lung. Il est borné: au Nord par le (sic) de xuân an au Sud par les terrains particuliers à l’Est par le (sic) de An thanh à l’Ouest par un sentier”
“No 2 - Un lot de 50 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Lien chiêu Il est borné: Au Nord par le terrain d’habitation Au Sud par le territoire du village de châu me thôn/m; à l’Est par le territoire du village de Hiep Chô à l’Ouest par les rizières particulières”
“No 3 - Un lot de 10 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Đô Đô. Il est borné au nord par les rizières particulières Au sud par les rizières particulières; à l’Est par une rivière; à l’ouest par une forêt.”
“No 4 - Un lot d(sic) terrains domaniaux (sic) est situé au xû (sic) Il est borné a(sic) le hameau de Hoa (sic) au sud par les riz(sic) ticulières, à l’est (sic) à l’ouest par (sic) particulières.”
“No 5 - Un (sic) de terrains domaniaux est situé au xû de (sic) Il est borné au (sic) rizières particulières; (sic) par les rizières (sic) l’Est par le hameau (sic); à l’ouest par (sic) de Ky Cho”
“No 6 - Un lot de (sic) terrains domaniaux dispo(sic) situé au xû de Dâu (sic) Il est borné au no(sic) le village de Vinh Thu; (sic) les rizières particulières; à (sic); à l’ouest par (sic); à l’Est par le territoire du (sic) Hoà Vang”
“No 7 - Un lot de 80 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de dà Sông Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par les rizières particulières; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par les montagnes”
“No 8 - Un lot de 20 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de dà Sông Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par les terrains d’habitation; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par les rizières particulières”
“No 9 - Un lot de 50 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de (sic) Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par (sic) vieux (sic); à l’Est par un (sic)/sentier?; à l’ouest par les rizières particulières”
“No 10 - Un lot de 10 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de (sic) Vang. Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par les montagnes; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par les montagnes”
“No 11 - Un lot de 2 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Dóng ai thương. Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par la muraille; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par les montagnes”
Above No12: “Village de Long Binh Trai”
“No12 - Un lot de 2 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Dóng ai thương. Il est borné au Nord par les rizières de culture (??), au sud par les rizières particulières; à l’Est par le terrain d’habitation; à l’ouest par la muraille”
“No13 - Un lot de 2 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de cân/u ky. Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par les rizières particulières; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par la muraille”
“No 14 - Un lot de 3 mâu de terrains domaniaux disponibles, est situé au xû de Go Tru. Il est borné au Nord par les rizières particulières; au sud par les rizières particulières; à l’Est par les rizières particulières; à l’ouest par la muraille”
Translation for each number (No) entry: “No __ - A section/parcel of ___ mâu of available state lands, is located in the xû of ____It is marked out/confined in the North by ____, in the South by _____, in the East by ___, and in the West by ____”