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Finely executed map of Saigon, on eve of Ernest Hebrard's grand revisions to Saigon's urban landscape in the early 1920s.

The map shows a European style colonial urban plan, including gardens, parks, wide boulevards and other public spaces, constructed across a swath of the Saigon River and between two smaller rivers.  At the south end, the Canal de Derivations can be seen, with the town of Cholon shown at the southwest corner, which would over time become a part of Saigon.

Centered on the original railway station built in 1885, the streets include European names, including a street named for Lord Kitchner.  The Legend divides the map by type of land, including:

  • Municipal lands
  • Proprietor owned lands
  • Lands of the state, colonial lands and local lands
  • Public lands

Within the map, the outlines of buildings can been seen in pink, yellow and green, which may indicate the type of building materials.  

At the top left, a list of 122 printed places is given, including police departments, theaters, markets, statues, casinos, churches, seminaries, banks, hotels, an Ice House and other points of public interest, with a school added in pencil as the 123rd landmark.

French Saigon

By the mid-1800s, Napoleon III began negotiating with the Vietnamese imperial court, recalling his troops in exchange for greater commercial and religious freedoms for France’s merchants and missionaries. In 1859, the French invaded under the command of Admiral Rigault de Genouilly, finally capturing and destroying Saigon two years later in 1861.  

Following the signing of the Treaty of Saigon, (June 1862),  France achieved its initial foothold on the Indochinese Peninsula.  Under the terms of the agreement, the French received Saigon and three of the southern provinces of Cochinchina, the opening of three ports to trade, freedom to conduct missionary activity, a vague protectorate roll in Vietnam’s foreign relations, and a large cash indemnity.  

The 1860s mark the beginning of the transformation of Saigon from a muddy settlement of wooden buildings to a city of paved boulevards with sidewalks and colonial architecture.   As noted in by Annette Kim in Messy Urbanism (p. 28-29):

By the 1880s the French had built five boulevards, thirty-nine streets, and three quays, for a combined length of more than thirty-seven kilometers. In 1913 the French further financed sidewalk construction through funds created by subdividing and selling land with road frontage . . .  The scale of the sidewalks was grand, and they were landscaped for promenading and socializing.  Riverfront sidewalks were built to be six meters wide, and main roads were four meters wide, both lined with two rows of trees.  Secondary roads had two-meter-wide sidewalks with one row of trees on each side (Bouchot 1927).

In 1923, Governor-General Maurice Long created the Urbanism Department of Indochina and hired Ernest Hébrard to be its director. Hébrard was a professional urbanist, and he created plans for all of Indochina’s major cities.


The map is extremely rare.  We were unable to locate another example.

Condition Description
Laid on linen, as issued. Toning, soiling, dampstaining and some abrasion at the bottom left corner.
Annette M. Kim: Messy Urbanism (Hong Kong Press, 2016).