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Selected Groups in the Republic of Vietnam

The Chinese

Image of the cover.


Ethnographic Study Series:

Selected Groups
in the Republic
of Vietnam
The Chinese

copy, subject to change - of a part of a larger study to be
published in a single volume. Reproduction in whole or in part is
permitted for any purpose of the United States Government.



The Special Operations Research Office (SORO) of The American University, operating under contract with the Department of the Army, conducts research on military problems in support of requirements stated by the Department of the Army. As another service SORO provides through the Counterinsurgency Information Analysis Center (CINFAC) rapid responses to queries from Department of Defense agencies, their contractors, and as directed, other governmental departments and agencies.

The contents of this report, including any conclusions or recommendations, reflect the work of SORO and are not to be construed as an official Department of the Army position, unless so designated by other authorized documents. This particular study was conducted in response to a request from the Directorate of Special Operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. 20310.

Using agencies are encouraged to submit additional questions and/or comments which will lead to clarification or correction of errors of fact and opinion; which fill gaps of information; or which suggest other changes as may be appropriate. Comments should be addressed to:

Directorate of Special Operations
Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations
Department of the Army
Washington., D.C., 20310


Director, Special Operations Research Office
The American University
5010 Wisconsin Avenue, N. W.
Washington, D.C., 20016

Reproduction in whole or in part is permitted for any purpose of the United States Government.

CAUTION: The information in this study should be considered as a point of departure to be checked against the current circumstances or conditions of the particular area in which the user is working.






The American University - 5010 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. - Washington, D.C. 20016

SORO/CINFAC/R-0132-65 * March 1966


SORO, in response to a request from the Directorate of Special Operations, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations, Department of the Army, is developing through CINFAC an ethnographic study of selected groups residing in or migrating through the Republic of Vietnam. The complete study will cover 24 groups.

The task of studying these groups is a complicated one. The country is undergoing crises of various types, in the course of which the groups are more and more coming into contact with modern civilization. It is always difficult to gauge the true depth and nature of social and cultural changes; it is particularly difficult to identify and assess those occurring because of contact with U.S. military and economic assistance programs. It does appear, however, that the groups selected for study are deeply involved in these changes. Finally, the available information is fragmentary and often biased or contradictory.

This working paper on the Chinese is the 24th of a prepublication series being distributed on a limited basis. It is a descriptive report based on secondary sources dealing with the Vietnamese society. Field research was not undertaken, although the comments of consultants and personnel recently returned from Vietnam have been incorporated. The final report will contain line drawings and illustrations.

It must be recognized, then, that this paper is not an exhaustive study. There are appreciable gaps in the information, and many discrepancies in the original sources were difficult to reconcile. Further, the information contained herein may be outdated even before it is published and is subject to modification in the light of new developments and information. Therefore, although it contains the latest information available, and the validity of this material has been checked as closely as possible, the user is cautioned to consider this study as a point of departure to be checked against the current circumstances or conditions of the particular area in which he is working.

Richard H. Moore
Manager, Counterinsurgency
Information Analysis Center









The Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam number between 500,000 and 1,200,000 and are scattered throughout the country, the largest concentration being in Saigon-Cholon. Their presence, since at least the third century B.C., has had a profound effect on virtually all aspects of Vietnamese culture. Although for centuries the Chinese intermarried with both Vietnamese and Cambodians, achieving some degree of assimilation in the process, in recent years the practice of intermarriage may have declined. In any case, assimilation has been retarded, to a certain extent, by Government decrees designed to force the Chinese to acculturate.

During the regime of President Ngo Dinh Diem, other decrees were formulated to break the Chinese stranglehold on the economy. Then, as now, the Chinese were engaged in practically every field of the economy, completely controlling some businesses, such as the rice trade. Because their mercantile interests have taken the Chinese into remote rural areas to serve as shopkeeper middlemen and as agents, they have established close contacts with the populace.

The religion of the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam is a synthesis of ancestor worship, animism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and, in some cases, Christianity and Mohammedanism. Folk beliefs play an important role in the Chinese religion as well as in all other aspects of Chinese culture.

Religion, especially Confucianism, is closely correlated with the family, the most powerful Chinese social unit. The Chinese family is generally patriarchal, descent is patrilineal, and residence, patrilocal. Women have traditionally held a decidedly inferior position, being barred from many activities and generally confined to the home.

To integrate the Chinese community into the Vietnamese body politic, in 1960 the Diem regime officially abolished the five congregations or mutual aid societies which had hitherto provided the Chinese with educational, medical, and legal services and which had been responsible for the actions of each Chinese immigrant. In addition, the Government decreed that Vietnamese would thereafter replace Chinese as the language of instruction in Chinese schools, and all Chinese born in Vietnam would be forced to become Vietnamese citizens.

Name of Group

The overseas Chinese are known by a variety of general names, such as: Hua Ch'iao - Chinese living abroad; Nanyang - literally, the "countries of the South Seas"; and Tun-Nanya - Chinese residing in Southeast Asia. 1 More specifically, the Chinese in Vietnam are simply called Chinese, with the exception of those known as Minh Huong (literally the


1. N. A. Simoniya, Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia - A Russian Study, translated by U.S. Joint Publications Research Service (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program, December 1961), p. 7.


"perfume of the Minhs" or supporters of the Ming dynasty). Formerly referring to all Chinese, the term Minh Huong is now applied only to the offspring of Sino-Vietnamese marriages, who are also known by the broader term metis, meaning halfbreed.

Size of Group

As noted, population estimates for the Chinese residing in the Republic of Vietnam range between 500,000 and 1,200,000. 2 The large discrepancy between these figures is explained by the absence of clearly defined criteria for determining who is actually Chinese. The terms "legal" and "ethnic" recur in discussions on the Chinese, but, in quoting population estimates, few statisticians indicate to which group they are referring. Legal Chinese are presumably those who have registered as citizens of Vietnam. It is more difficult to determine who are the ethnic Chinese. Is a person Chinese if born of two Chinese parents in Vietnam, of one Chinese parent in Vietnam, of Chinese parents in China but currently residing in Vietnam, or if Chinese is still spoken in the home?

This problem was presumably resolved by Ordinance Number 48 of August 21, 1956, which stated that all Chinese born in Vietnam of at least one Vietnamese parent were to be considered Vietnamese and were to become Vietnamese citizens.3 But as of the "final" deadline for taking out Vietnamese citizenship papers (August 10, 1957) less than 80,000 to 100,000 persons of Chinese origin had completed the formalities. Most of the Chinese disliked this decree, since it denied them the option of returning to their homeland and forced them to adopt citizenship.4 Obviously, the number of legal Chinese therefore represents only a small segment of the total population of Chinese ancestry. In addition, it is impossible to determine the number of Chinese who have become Vietnamized or acculturated over the past two thousand years, especially as many have adopted Vietnamese names and live with the Vietnamese outside the Chinese communities.

The Chinese population in the Republic of Vietnam, as in almost all the countries of Southeast Asia, is divided into dialect groups; those originating from the same province of China and speaking the same dialect generally belong to the same group. The Chinese, naturally gregarious and accustomed to belonging to various groups - family, class, etc. - in their homeland, formed mutual aid societies or charitable organizations, based on dialect divisions, to safeguard the interests of the individual members. These associations - named bangs by Emperor Gia Long in 1814, or "congregations," and later known by the French as Chinese Regional Administrative Groups - comprised individuals originating from five provinces of China: Canton, Teochiu, Hakka, Fukien, and Hainan. One source estimated in 1950 that the number of Chinese belonging to these dialect associations in Vietnam are: Cantonese, 337,500; Teochiu, 225,000; Hakka, 75,000; Fukienese, 60,000; and Hainanese, 30,000.5 (These figures include the Chinese in what is now North Vietnam.)


2. "Call to Chinese Residents," The New York Times, June 16, 1965, p. 6, col. 5; Seymour Topping, "Peking Pressing Overseas Chinese," The New York Times, July 10, 1965, p. 3, col. 2.

3. Col. Frank O. Blake, Interview, December 1965 (Former Chief of Foreign Broadcasting Information Service, Saigon).

4. Bernard B. Fall, "Commentary: Bernard B. Fall on Father De Jaegher," Viet-Nam: The First Five Years, ed. Richard W. Lindholm (East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1959), p. 116.

5. William G. Skinner, Report on the Chinese in Southeast Asia (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, Southeast Asia Program), December 1950, p. 80.


No demographic study of the Chinese population in Vietnam is complete without a discussion of the Minh Huong and Sino-Cambodians, especially as their legal status has always been a matter of controversy. Because many of the early male Chinese immigrants arrived unmarried, planning to settle in the country permanently, they frequently took Vietnamese wives. At first the offspring of these marriages were considered Chinese and were permitted to join their father's bang. However, as the number of halfbreeds steadily increased, the Vietnamese Government decreed these Minh Huong to be Vietnamese rather than Chinese. To assimilate the halfbreeds into Vietnamese society, the Government compelled them to adopt Vietnamese dress, took them out of their father's bangs, and placed them in their own groups or in special associations called Minh Huong Xa (village of Minh Huong).

The Minh Huong Xa were each led by a president who served as an intermediary between the group and the Government. The Minh Huong Xa were not territorial subdivisions, but merely administrative terms used to distinguish them from the Chinese bangs. Special tax provisions were accorded to these groups.

The French abolished the Minh Huong Xa in Cochin China in 1862 and thenceforth prohibited these individuals from forming groups distinguishable from the Vietnamese, for they were to be assimilated with the Vietnamese. 6 The largest number of Minh Huong were found in the area formerly known as the French Protectorate of Cochin China, where immigration was most intense. The Minh Huong population is presumably not included in the statistics relating to the pure Chinese. Early estimates of the number of Minh Huong living in Cochin China are: 64,500 in 1921; 73,000 in 1931; and 80,000 in 1944.7

Little information is available concerning the Sino-Cambodian metis (halfbreed). The Cambodians and the Vietnamese, however, are known to esteem Chinese men as mates for their daughters; they consider the Chinese industrious, thrifty, and of superior intelligence.8 In 1936 the number of Sino-Cambodians residing in Cochin China was estimated, by one source, at over 100,000.9

Another source claimed in 1961 that out of the total population of the Republic of Vietnam (14,000,000), the Chinese metis (both Sino-Vietnamese and Sino-Cambodian) numbered 150,000.10

Location of Group

With the exception of the Hakka and the Hainanese, who engage in agricultural pursuits throughout the country, most Chinese reside in urban areas where they engage in trade and commerce.11 Approximately 95 percent of the Chinese live in the area formerly known as Cochin China. 12 in the Republic of Vietnam, the twin cities of Saigon-Cholon contain the largest concentration of Chinese, having a joint population of about 570,000 Chinese in 1957. 13 Outside of Singapore, Cholon has the largest overseas Chinese population in Southeast Asia. Several other


6. Nguyen Quoc Dinh, Les Congregations chinoises en Indochine française, tr. by Claude Reed for Human Relations Area Files (Paris: Librairie de Recueil Sirey, 1941), pp. 41-42.

7. Victor Purcell, The Chinese in Southeast Asia (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 217; Olov R. T. Janse, The Peoples of French Indochina, Smithsonian Institution War Background Study No. 19 (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution, June 1944), p. 18.

8. Purcell, op. cit., p. 217.

9. H. C. Darby (ed.), Indo-China (Cambridge, England: Geographical Handbook Series, 1943), p. 254.

10. Bernard B. Fall, "Le Problème de l'administration des minorités ethniques au Cambodge, au Laos et dans les deux zones du Viet-Nam," Les Problèmes politiques des états poly-ethniques, P/PE/12, Paris, Cinquième Congrés Mondial, Association Internationale de Science Politique, September 26-30, 1961, p. 10.

11. Purcell, op. cit., p. 218.

12. Skinner, op. cit., p. 19.

13. Simoniya, op. cit., p. 37.


towns of the Republic of Vietnam boasting a sizeable number of Chinese are Da Nang, Soc Trang, Bac Lieu, Tra Vinh, My Tho, Can Tho, Rach Gia, Sa Dec, and Ha Tien.

In addition, smaller groups of Chinese have been reported in all the lowland provinces. Even the smallest villages usually have a Chinese shopkeeper or agent and sometimes a Chinese doctor. 14

Although one source claims that the Chinese live in separate communities, 15 it is generally reported that they live in close proximity to the Vietnamese in both urban and rural areas. Although they group themselves culturally, the Chinese participate in many of the same businesses and recreational activities as do the Vietnamese. Intermarriage between the Chinese and Vietnamese has been frequent. 16


14. George L. Harris, U.S. Army Area Handbook for Vietnam (Washington, D.C.: Special Operations Research Office, 1964), p. 77.

15. Shalini Pradham, "Chinese in South-east Asia," United Asia, XV, No. 1 (January 1963), p. 33.

16. Blake, op. cit.



Ethnic and Racial Origin

Nearly all overseas Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam emigrated from southern China; more specifically, from three provinces, Kwangtung, Kwangsi and Fukien.1 The Cantonese (in Chinese, "Kwang-fu") came from the southern and southeastern regions of Kwangtung and Kwangsi Provinces, particularly from the vicinity of Kwang-chou, Foshan, Wu-chou, as well as Hong Kong and Macao.2 The Fukienese (Hokkien) originated in the southern part of Fukien Province, especially from the vicinity of Amoy.3 Most Hainanese (Hailam) come from one of the centers of the western district of Wenching on the island of Hainan. The Teochiu emigrated from Trieu-chau district in northern Kwangtung Province, notably from Ch-ao-chou (or Chaochow) and Swatow. (The Teochiu are sometimes called the Swatow people.4) The origin of the Hakkas (in Chinese "K'o-chia") is a matter of controversy. Some sources believe the Hakkas came from the eastern area of Kwangtung Province in the region of Mei Hsien.5 Their traditions seem to place their origin in the far northeast, although some sources claim that Hakkas emigrated from Honan between the fourth and ninth centuries.6

The precise origin of the Chinese race as a whole is still undetermined.7


Chinese and its various dialects belong to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. The term dialect, although commonly used to designate these speech groups, is erroneous; the groups actually speak distinct languages each containing several dialects. The Chinese dialects of the coastal provinces of southern China, those spoken in the Republic of Vietnam, differ considerably from northern or Mandarin Chinese. According to some linguists, these dialects differ as much from one another as from the standard language and are, in fact, mutually unintelligible.8 Other linguists claim the differences between the dialects and variants of the same dialect have been greatly exaggerated.9 In any case, each speech group includes subdivisions comparable to regional differences.

At the close of World War II, the Chinese population in the Republic of Vietnam was divided in terms of dialects as follows: 45 percent or 450,000 spoke Cantonese; 8 percent or 75,000 spoke Hakka; 25 percent or 225,000 spoke Teochiu; and the rest spoke Hokkien or Hainanese.10 Since the last two dialects are frequently grouped together in the Fukien group, the ensuing discussion will concern three large dialect groups: Cantonese, Hakka, and Fukienese.


1. Douglas P. Murray, "Chinese Education in South-East Asia," The China Quarterly, XX (October-December 1964), p. 67; C. P. Fitzgerald, "Overseas Chinese in South East Asia," Australian Journal of Politics and History, VIII, No. 1 (May 1962), p. 68.

2. Simoniya, op. cit., pp. 7-8.

3. William G. Skinner, Chinese Society in Thailand: An Analytical History (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1957), p. 69.

4. Purcell, op. cit., p. 213; Skinner, Chinese Society, op. cit., p. 69.

5. Simoniya, op. cit., p. 7.

6. R. A. D. Forrest, The Chinese Language (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1948), p. 220.

7. Kenneth Scott Latourette, The Chinese: Their History and Culture (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1942), Part I, pp. 32-37; "China," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. V (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1965), p. 574.

8. Purcell, op. cit., pp. 673-74; Paul K. Benedict, "Languages and Literatures of Indochina," Far Eastern Quarterly, Special Number VI (August 1947), p. 383.

9. Skinner, Chinese Society, op. cit., p. 67.

10. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 69.


As the language of commerce, Cantonese has become the most important of the southern forms of Chinese; it is the principal language spoken in commercial centers such as Hong Kong, Canton, Fatshan, Macao, and Cholon. Furthermore, Cantonese is believed to be the oldest established form of Chinese, best preserving the essential traits of ancient Chinese in the southern provinces, for it has developed independently of the northern language since at least the 10th century. Retaining not only the full range of eight tones of ancient Chinese, Cantonese has also added a ninth by subdividing one of the others. Thus for every word there are nine tones, with the meaning of each word depending on the tone. Cantonese diverges from northern Chinese chiefly by preserving an older phase of the language, whereas its few independent innovations are in the matter of tones and vocalism.

Hakka is the second most widespread dialect of Kwangtung Province. In rural regions of China the Cantonese and Hakkas occupy separate villages in the same area; in urban districts Hakka gives way to Cantonese, bilinguals being mainly Hakkas. Since Hakka is not a language of commerce, few people feel they need to learn it.11 Hakka has affinities with both northern Chinese and Cantonese. Like Cantonese, Hakka is more archaic than northern Chinese, but less so than is Cantonese. In contrast with Cantonese, which retains at least one distinct tone corresponding to each of the ancient tones, Hakka has combined several tones. 12

For this discussion the Fukien group may be said to include the Hainanese (Hailam) speakers, since both have a common origin in an old stratum of Chinese spoken in Fukien Province. Fukienese dialects are characterized by a vocabulary peculiar to themselves. Several varieties of Fukien are spoken in the southern portion of Fukien Province; among these, Amoy, Swatow, and Ch-ao-chou. A double pronunciation of the vocabulary characterizes this group. Literary forms used in reading are gradually spreading into the colloquial languages and, in so doing, generally acquire slightly different meanings.13

The Hainanese dialects apparently originated in southern Fukien Province (as shown by their basis in the old dialect) and were imported by immigrants who settled the island in the distant past. Since their arrival the Hainanese dialects have evolved independently, each developing certain peculiarities of its own.

The differences between Fukienese variants are apparently considerable; for, according to one source, the regional dialect of one valley is unintelligible to inhabitants of a neighboring valley speaking a different dialect. Since the rural variants are mutually unintelligible, logically the speech of the urban educated is even less comprehensible to the rural peasant.

The written Chinese language, using the ideographic script, whereby characters represent an idea or a group of ideas, rather than single words, is uniform for all Chinese dialects.14 The foreigner finds it extremely difficult to learn this elaborate ideographic script, for it is based on a concept totally different from that of Western writing. While


11. Forrest, op. cit., p. 220.

12. Ibid., p. 221.

13. Purcell, op. cit., pp. 674-75.

14. Skinner, Chinese Society, op. cit., p. 69.


the Westerner expresses everything in abstract terms, the Chinese depicts his ideas in concrete fashion.

Legendary History

Like many other civilizations, the Chinese have an abundance of myths and legends to trace the origin of their race. Much of this lore is important not only because a number of the mythical heroes have passed from legend into history, but also because some of the same stories figure prominently in Chinese literature, mythology, and religion. Some personages and the inventions or actions attributed to them may have a basis in fact, others appear to be completely mythical.15 A number of these personalities appear and reappear in Chinese histories. One example is the Yellow Emperor, also known as Huang Ti, who was an outstanding figure in Taoism; Chinese chronology is said by some to have started with his accession to the throne. Among other things, he fought successfully against the barbarians, initiated official historiography, corrected the calendar by adding an intercalary month, and inaugurated the chronological system of reckoning by 60-year cycles.

Many other personalities appear to be strictly mythical. For example, P'an Ku is credited with separating the heavens and the earth, forming the moon, the sun, plants, and animals. Vu Ch'ao taught men the art of construction. Sui Jen invented fire making by boring one piece of wood with another. Fu Hsi taught men to fish with nets and to raise domestic animals; he invented musical instruments, pictograms and ideograms - the basis of the present system of writing - and the eight trigrams or Pa Kua used in divination. To Nu Kua devised the marriage regulations. Shen Nung, the "Divine Husbandman," was the father of agriculture and medicine. Shun, a later Emperor, standardized measures of length, capacity, and weight and divided the empire into 12 provinces. Yu, Shun's successor, founded the first dynasty, Hsia, and made the crown hereditary in his family.

Chinese beliefs in certain mythical creatures date from early historical times or perhaps even from prehistory. These creatures are of recognizable appearance, attend or foretell certain events, and are, at times, objects of worship. The hung or dragon is an amiable creature associated with yang,* rain, clouds, and water. The lung wang or dragon king is worshiped in special temples. The feng-huang (feng being the male and huang the female) resembles the English phoenix with "the head of a hen, the eye of a man, the neck of a serpent, the viscera of a locust, the brow of a swallow, the back of a tortoise, and a tail like that of a fish but with twelve feathers." 16 In the past, the feng-huang appeared to presage a political event. The ch'i-i-lin (ch'i being the male and lin the female), also a mixture of several creatures, has a single horn and


*See "Folk Beliefs", p. 31, for a discussion of the yin-yang philosophy of nature.

15. Latourette, op. cit., Part I, pp. 37-40.

16. Ibid., Part II, pp. 165-66.


resembles the English unicorn. It is a benevolent creature and, with the feng-huang, is believed to affect pregnancy and birth.17

Factual History

It is virtually impossible to determine exactly when the Chinese first entered Vietnam. By the third century B.C., the country was brought into the "orbit of imperial Chinese military and naval power and [was subjected] to the administrative system of the mandarinate."18 Chinese colonists - merchants and artisans - are believed to have begun settling in the country in the third century B. C. In 207 or 208 B.C., a Chinese general declared himself King of Nam Viet (Southern Land).

Although there had been river trade between China and Vietnam for some time, regular trade relations between the two countries were established in the second century B. C. Considerable cultural interchange took place; the Vietnamese adopted the Chinese language and script as the official language and script, greatly influencing the development of the Vietnamese language. During this time the Vietnamese also acquired from the Chinese certain agricultural implements and working animals.19 Although the Vietnamese feared and hated their Chinese overlords, they admired their civilization and welcomed the new methods and ideas which the Chinese brought.20

In 111 B. C., under the Han dynasty, Nam Viet was conquered and incorporated into imperial China as the Province of Giao Chi. For over a century Vietnam remained a "leniently governed protectorate of China." 21 During that time, Chinese merchants, scholars, soldiers, and political refugees continued to leave - especially in periods of crises - their native provinces of Kwangtung, Fukien, and Kwangsi for Vietnam.22

Vietnamese armed revolt, led by the Trung sisters, broke out against the Chinese in 39 A. D. The sisters ruled for two years over the three Vietnamese provinces extending south to Hue, until the Chinese reconquered the provinces. Since most of the Vietnamese feudal lords had been killed in the revolt, the Chinese then exercised direct control over the country, with only brief interruptions, for 900 years. During the early years of the first century A. D., when China was beset with economic crises, civil war, and changing political regimes, refugee intellectuals poured into Vietnam, penetrating further down the coast.23 Assimilation took place naturally; the immigrants, mostly male and unmarried, intermarried freely with the Vietnamese. During the first five centuries the greatest assimilation occurred among the elite of both peoples, producing a Sino-Vietnamese upper class. Although the Han dynasty collapsed in 220, the Chinese maintained their power in Vietnam. With the establishment of the T'ang dynasty in 618, Giao Chi became a Protectorate-General of China and was renamed Annam (Pacified South).

Until the early part of the tenth century, periodic Vietnamese revolts were instigated almost exclusively by the Sino-Vietnamese upper class. By 939, however, the lower classes had been sufficiently


17. Ibid.

18. Joseph Buttinger, The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of Vietnam (New York: Frederick A, Praeger, 1958), p. 92.

19. Simoniya, op. cit., p. 9.

20. Joseph Buttinger, "The Ethnic Minorities in the Republic of Vietnam," Problems of Freedom: South Vietnam Since Independence, ed. Wesley R. Fishel (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961), p. 113.

21. Buttinger, The Smaller Dragon, op. cit., p. 92.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid.


oppressed by the Chinese to oppose their domination; with this change, Vietnam finally achieved its independence: in 939 the Vietnamese drove out the Chinese. They renamed their newly independent state Dai Co Viet (Great Viet State), although the Chinese continued to call it Annam. Even after 939, Chinese immigrants continued to pour into the independent state in large groups after major Chinese political upheavals, as well as on an individual basis.24

The Mongol invasions and the overthrow of the Sung dynasty in China in the 13th century caused many Sung partisans - soldiers and civilians - to emigrate and settle in the regions of Giao Chi (Tonkin), Tenchen (South Annam), and in Tchenla (Cambodia).25

Not until the early part of the 15th century did the Chinese regain control of Vietnam, a rule which endured for only two decades. Although the Mongols had tried three times - in the 13th century - to reconquer Vietnam, they had failed. In 1406, after defeating the Mongols, the Ming dynasty sent an army to invade Vietnam. By 1407 the country was once more under Chinese domination. Economic exploitation of the population by the Chinese encouraged the development of a strong national resistance movement.26

In early 1427, Le Loi, the first of the Le dynasty - the Vietnamese dynasty which ruled the country until the late 18th century - forced the Chinese armies to evacuate Vietnam. A hundred years later the country was divided between two feudal families - the Trinh in the north and the Nguyen in the south - both descendants of the first Le. 27

The steady increase of Chinese immigrants into Vietnam during the 16th and early part of the 17th centuries led to the establishment of a Chinese commercial center in Faifo, south of Tourane (Da Nang), at the beginning of the 17th century. When the Manchus overthrew the Ming dynasty in 1644, 3,000 Ming supporters fled to Vietnam to seek refuge at the Nguyen court.28 Realizing that he could use these refugees to colonize the Mekong Delta, the astute Nguyen emperor established them in Bien Hoa, My Tho, and Ben Tre in lower Cochin China (and subsequently at Ha Tien).29 In 1663, the Chinese could be divided into two groups: the Minh Huong, who had married Vietnamese women, had assisted in developing the country and were settled permanently in Vietnam; and the Chinese who had emigrated under the Manchus, who were obliged to pay heavy taxes and to settle only in certain cities. The Minh Huong remained the privileged Chinese throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.30 In 1715 a Chinese, Mac Cuu, seized possession of Ha Tien and settled there with a thousand of his compatriots.

In an uprising lasting from 1776 to 1802, the Tay Son brothers, supported by the Vietnamese merchant class as well as by the peasants, attacked the Chinese in Vietnam in an effort to break Chinese control of the economy. To help protect the Chinese who were scattered in small communities throughout the south, the Nguyen court at Hue ordered them to settle three miles from Saigon. In 1778, threatened by the advancing Tay Son rebels, the Bien Hoa Chinese fled to this area and founded the


24. Wesley R. Fishel, "Problems of Democratic Growth in Free Vietnam," Problems of Freedom: South Vietnam Since Independence, ed. Wesley R. Fishel (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961), p. 13.

25. Purcell, op. cit., p. 221.

26. Buttinger, The Smaller Dragon, op. cit., pp. 153-57.

27. Ibid., p. 135.

28. Le Thanh Khoi, Le Viet-Nam: Histoire et civilisation (Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1955), p. 54.

29. Purcell, op. cit., p. 221; Father Raymond V. De Jaegher, "The Chinese in Viet-Nam," Viet-Nam: The First Five Years, ed. Richard W. Lindholm (East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1959), p. 107; Simoniya, op. cit., p. 12.

30. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 107.


commercial center called Taignon by the Chinese and later Cholon (Great Market).31 Four years later the rebel Tay Sons captured Saigon, destroyed the Chinese shops in Cholon, and massacred over 10,000 Chinese.32 The Tay Son revolt was put down by Nguyen Anh, who proclaimed himself Emperor Gia Long and changed the name of the country from Dai Co Viet to Vietnam.

The 19th century saw both a causative and a quantitative change in Chinese emigration. Until then the causes of emigration from China had been primarily political - wars, uprisings, and revolts; economic factors - droughts, famines, and relative overpopulation - had been secondary. Emigration had been haphazard and fairly limited in scale, but after the Opium War (1839-1842) it became a permanent phenomenon. The new era of increased capitalism reflected by the importation of foreign manufactured goods into China ruined Chinese industry, which had always depended on manual labor. Importation of agricultural goods also had a devastating effect upon the Chinese economy: millions of farmers were forced to move to the cities to seek a livelihood. Since industry was still underdeveloped, these rural inhabitants could not be accommodated in the cities; they were forced either to starve or to emigrate.

The plight of the Chinese emigrant was ameliorated to some degree by the need of the European colonizers for immigrant labor to develop the natural resources in most of the Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam. 33 The introduction of French techniques (such as dredging), extended rice cultivation into central and western Cochin China, thus offering the Chinese new commercial opportunities - in fact, within a very short time they monopolized the sale of rice. Of all the Indochinese provinces, therefore, Cochin China attracted the greatest number of Chinese. Situated between the Gulf of Siam and the China Sea, Cochin China also occupied an ideal position on the international maritime routes. The rich alluvial soil favorable to rice cultivation, accessible river communications, and a relatively well-developed domestic and foreign commerce appealed greatly to the Chinese with their primarily mercantile interests.34

In 1906 restrictions on immigration were imposed, and the French subsequently opposed the entry of the Chinese. However, prior to this time, the French had attempted to discourage immigration by imposing a series of regulations on the Chinese, including a head tax and an identification card system.35 Earlier, in the 1830's, Minh Mang (Gia Long's successor) had levied a military tax on rich and poor Chinese and had attempted to curb immigration by requiring that each arrival be fingerprinted and be accepted by the chief of his village and congregation.36

Between 1906 and 1921 the Chinese entering the country were either sent for by their families or by Chinese firms desiring Chinese employees.37 Immigration was, therefore, regulated by the demand for Chinese services. During the decade from 1921 to 1931, Vietnam was in the throes of economic development involving the expansion of trade, the construction of roads and railways, and the cultivation of virgin land.


31. Purcell, op. cit., pp. 221-23.

32. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 114.

33. Simoniya, op. cit., pp. 12-13.

34. Purcell, op. cit., p. 211.

35. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 108.

36. M. Verdeille, "Edits de Minh-Mang concernant les Chinois de Cochinchine" (introduction by P. Midan), Bulletin de la Société des Études Indochinoises, VIII, No. 4 (1933), p. 8.

37. Purcell, op. cit., p. 232.


This progress was accompanied by another influx of Chinese into Cochin China. The world trade depression reduced Chinese migration between China and Indochina; indeed, departures from Indochina outnumbered the new arrivals from China. By 1936, however, a net gain in Chinese immigration was once more reported in Indochina. 38 According to one source, the immigrants were 65 percent male during periods of high immigration and 37 percent during low years. The presence of a predominantly male immigrant population suggests that the majority of the Chinese were only temporarily established in the country and planned to return home when they had earned sufficient funds.39

The Japanese invasion of China in 1937 increased immigration from China to Vietnam to an estimated 400,000. In the years following World War II, illegal Chinese immigration, comprising both anti-Communist refugees and Communist infiltrators, rose sharply.40 From 1945 to 1948 the Chinese population in the principal cities doubled. Estimates at that time indicate 8,000 Chinese a month were reaching Cochin China from China as well as from North Vietnam.41 The inflow of Chinese remained relatively unchecked, partly due to the Franco-Chinese treaty of February 1946 - which "guaranteed to the Chinese their prewar rights of entry and departure and the most-favored-nation privileges of travel and residence" - and partly due to French preoccupation with the war effort.42

The Communist revolution in China necessitated the strict enforcement of immigration restrictions in Indochina. As of July 1949 "no Chinese could legally enter Indochina without a passport visaed by French consular officials at the foreign point of departure.43 The French High Commissioner was also free to "expel any foreigners whom he regarded as a threat to the security of French troops." 44 Despite these restrictive measures, according to one source, most of the Chinese living in North Vietnam migrated southward in 1954.45 In 1956, when the Republic of Vietnam required the Chinese born in Vietnam to accept Vietnamese citizenship and forbade foreigners to practice certain professions or to engage in commercial, industrial, or agricultural enterprises, a number of Chinese reportedly left the country.46

Settlement Patterns

Since World War II many Chinese are believed to have entered the Republic of Vietnam illegally both from China proper and from North Vietnam. Most of these immigrants have settled in the towns and cities, adding to the considerable strain on urban housing facilities.47 During the Indochina War and undoubtedly during the present hostilities, the rural Chinese have been flocking to the cities for protection. In 1956 when Diem issued a decree requiring that Vietnamese citizenship be assumed by all Chinese born in Vietnam of at least one Vietnamese parent, it is believed that between 2,000 and 3,000 Chinese chose to leave the country (for Taiwan), rather than be obliged to accept Vietnamese citizenship.48


38. Ibid., p. 216.

39. Ibid., p. 217.

40. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 59.

41. Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, Minority Problems in Southeast Asia (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1955), p. 56.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid., p. 57.

44. Ibid.

45. Bernard B. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," Far Eastern Survey, XXXVII, No. 5 (April 1958), p. 65.

46. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 60.

47. Purcell, op. cit., p. 699.

48. Blake, op. cit.; Bernard B. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 115.


Until 1960, the Chinese were administratively organized into dialect associations called bangs, congregations, or Regional Administrative Groups. Originally founded by individual Chinese to protect their interests, the congregation system was retained by the French as a convenient method to control the large Chinese populace. Functioning on the basis of group solidarity, the congregations were each led by an elected president and council, who served as liaison between the Central Government and the members of the group. The congregation provided newly arrived Chinese (who were obliged to join such a group) with food and housing until they could find their own. The immigrants were then subject, in all legal, economic, and educational matters, to the powers of the congregation. Infractions could result in dismissal from the congregation and, thus, automatic expulsion from the country.

In 1960, Diem dissolved the congregations, which had assumed responsibility for the Chinese in the country for nearly 150 years and which had provided the Chinese community with such services as schools, hospitals, financial support, and legal aid. The property of the congregations, as well as the administration of the Chinese population, officially reverted to the Central Government.

The Chinese tend to settle in groups when first reaching Vietnam. Eventually, having established themselves and found an occupation, the immigrants may settle away from the Chinese enclave, often among the Vietnamese, while retaining cultural ties with their own people.

The Chinese live, according to their economic situation, in the same manner as do their Vietnamese counterparts. The wealthy urban Chinese live in French-style villas surrounded by well-tended gardens. Their furnishings, like those of the occidental, are both European and Chinese. The middle class Chinese live more simply in smaller but well-furnished houses. The coolie Chinese live in packing-crate shacks, on barges, sampans (a boat no larger than 3 by 10 feet which may accommodate a whole family and even a few pigs) or in the street.49 No matter how poor the Chinese abode, it always contains "its dedication to the ancestors, its altar of the ancestors, and its incense sticks that burn day and night."50


49. Blake, op. cit.

50. Gontran de Poncins, From a Chinese City, translated by Bernard Frechtman (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1957), p. 94.



Physical Characteristics

The average Chinese is of medium height - between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 7 inches. He has a round or oval head, a flat, broad nose, straight, black hair and yellowish skin. The Mongolian fold around the eye is usually present. Obesity is frequent. Generally speaking, the Chinese have lighter skin, higher cheekbones, more protruding jaws, and a heavier build than the Vietnamese.1 The Hainanese exhibit marked physical differences from the other Chinese; they are more delicately built and show distinct cranial differences. 2


In mid-1962, the health and sanitary conditions among the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam, as among the rest of the population, were exceedingly poor. Potable water was frequently not available - even in larger cities. Overcrowded living conditions existed, especially in the towns. These factors contributed to the high incidence of malaria, tuberculosis, parasitic infestation, and such water-borne diseases as amoebic and bacillary dysentery and typhoid fever. 3 The plague, a rat-borne disease, has been common in the Chinese communities situated near grain stores, ships, and ports. Anti-plague vaccinations and anti-rat measures have been taken in rat-infested areas.4 Nutritional diseases, especially prevalent among the coolie class, are partially caused by the consumption of polished rice from which the outer layer, containing the vitamins, has been removed.

Chinese medicine is based on a mixture of faith healing and empiricism. When illness occurs, an appeal is first made to the supernatural forces through prayers and offerings to the ancestors; then home remedies made from medicinal plants are given to the patient.5 When no improvement results, the pharmacist is consulted. Chinese pharmacies sell patent medicines for such minor ailments as colds, headaches, or upset stomach, as well as innumerable traditional types of medicine. The pharmacists prepare both "northern" or Chinese medicine and "southern" or traditional Vietnamese drugs (which include remedies of northern and central Vietnamese, Cham, and Khmer origin). Cham medicines are considered especially potent. The Cham in south-central Vietnam still administer a powerful medicine for back ailments. Cham medicine vendors often visit My Tho, Ben Tre, and Can Tho to care for regular clients of the Chinese and Vietnamese pharmacists.

The pharmacists frequently diagnose ailments, administer medicine, or apply such manipulative techniques as pinching, bloodletting,


1. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 54.

2. Purcell, op. cit., p. 656.

3. Harris, op. cit., p. 177.

4. Darby, op. cit., p. 115.

5. V. R. Burkhardt, Chinese Creeds and Customs (Hong Kong: The South China Morning Post, Ltd., 1956), p. 140.


cauterizing, acupuncture, or suction with tubes.6 The Chinese physician is reputedly capable of diagnosing an illness on the basis of the pulse - the Chinese distinguish nine pulses in each wrist, each corresponding to a particular organ - and facial appearance. All the apertures of the head are considered windows. The physician also observes the patient's skin color, odors, skin exhalations, and the tone of the voice.7 Chinese medicine, learned through apprenticeship, is based on ancient Chinese medical lore, the effectiveness of which, in many instances, has been proven by scientific research. Western medicine and practices are employed, especially in the cities, as additional remedies for disease.8

In 1960 each of the dialect groups owned a hospital. The largest of the five hospitals, the Chung Cheng (140 beds), maintained an outpatient clinic and claimed to have a staff, facilities, and techniques "in the best traditions of Western medical science."9 The example set by this hospital apparently inspired the other four Chinese hospitals to break with Chinese medical tradition. By 1960 these hospitals offered the Chinese population medical care comparable to that offered by Saigon hospitals to the general Vietnamese population.10 According to one source, the property of the Chinese hospitals was appropriated by the Vietnamese Government,11 but the hospitals apparently continued to function with the Chinese staffs. Specific information pertaining to the inclusion of the Chinese hospitals in the Government public health program was not available at this writing. It is known, however, that by late 1961, the Department of Chinese Medicine was represented by a Chief responsible to the Ministry of Public Health.12

The Chinese are generally indefatigable and are capable of engaging in hard physical labor for long periods at a time with only a bowl of rice and minimal rest to sustain them.13

Psychological Characteristics

The Chinese are aggressively enterprising in business, as is shown by their presence in every branch of industry and agriculture.14 Indeed, until 1956, they controlled 90 percent of the retail trade and played a leading role in rice brokerage, lumbering, and transportation. 15

Generally, however, the Chinese are peaceful and apolitical; they are primarily interested in making money to improve their own personal lot (and, of course, that of their family) and are willing to work feverishly to this end. 16 Distinct psychological differences have been observed between the exceedingly active, keen-witted Cantonese and the slower moving Hokkien and Teochiu.17

Although they are exceedingly polite and make a sincere effort to make the foreigner feel at ease, they seldom, if ever, reveal their true thoughts. The average Chinese displays extreme patience and expects foreigners to do likewise.18 They despise being pushed (in the sense of being forced to do something), and even more, being pushed around.19


6. Gerald Cannon Hickey, Village in Vietnam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1964), p. 119.

7. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 51-52.

8. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 183.

9. Ly Y Ming, "The Chinese in Vietnam," Viet-My, V, No. 3 (August-1960) p. 14.

10. Ibid.

11. op. cit.

12. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 186.

13. Fitzgerald, op. cit., p. 71; Poncins, op. cit., pp. 178-80.

14. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 114; Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 12.

15. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 60.

16. P. Huard and A. Bigot, "Les Caractéristiques anthropo-biologiques des Indochinois," Travaux de l'Institut Anatomique de l'École Supérieure de Médecine de l'Indochine, IV (1938), pp. 28, 41.

17. Purcell, op. cit., p. 656.

18. Poncins, op. cit., p. 169.

19. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 113.


A foreigner's request is more likely to be fulfilled if he appears calm, patient, and unhurried.

The keystone of Chinese society is the family, which includes not only the immediate relatives but also the ancestors extending back for many generations. Indicative of this family-oriented culture are such customs as the retention of family patronyms from time immemorial, the presence in the Chinese home of an altar for practicing the cult of the ancestors, the traditional remittance of earnings to relatives in China, and a less developed sense of individualism than is usual in the West.20 Traditionally, decisions were made by the family, which has led observers to claim that "social determinism prevented any marked development of private conscience or of moral will."21 Devotion and loyalty to the family fostered nepotism in business and public office, often with detrimental results. Where weakening of family bonds has occurred, greater emphasis on individualism has usually resulted.22

The secondary loyalty of the Chinese is to the ethnic Chinese as a group.23 Extremely proud of their origin, the Chinese attempt to maintain their distinct cultural identity; even though there has been considerable intermarriage with the Vietnamese, the Chinese spouse tends to keep a "Chinese home." Vietnamese Government legislation designed to assimilate the Chinese into the Vietnamese body politic has had the contrary effect of strengthening the bond between members of the Chinese community. Bitter experience has shown the Chinese that strength lies only in unity. Indeed, this feeling of unity is reflected by the mutual aid which has contributed, in no small degree, to the penetration of the Chinese into practically every economic field and the achievement, by the group as a whole, of great commercial importance.24

Chinese loyalty toward the dialect group, although difficult to determine, doubtlessly exists, especially among first generation immigrants who still speak the dialects and engage in the occupations associated with the respective groups.* 25

General Attitude Toward Outsiders

The Chinese consider themselves superior in all respects to the non-Chinese, whom they regard as "barbarians." This feeling of cultural superiority, a matter of conviction, not arrogance, is demonstrated by their current resistance to assimilation.26 Indifferent to occidentals, the Chinese feel no need to mingle with them, since they consider the foreigner, as an outsider, to be less intelligent than themselves. The Chinese are exceedingly mistrustful and cautious in their dealings with foreigners. They will observe a foreigner and scrutinize his every gesture and facial expression, unbeknownst to him, for a considerable time before accepting him, if at all, as a friend.27


*See "Occupational Specialization by Dialect Group," p. 55.

20. Richard J. Coughlin, Double Identity: The Chinese in Modern Thailand (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960), p. 78.

21. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 195.

22. Ibid., Part II, p. 223.

23. Skinner, Chinese Society, op. cit., p. 315.

24. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 32.

25. Skinner, Chinese Society, op. cit., p. 315.

26. Poncins, op. cit., p. 50; Harris et al., op. cit., p. 60.

27. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 20, 30, 38.


Attitudes of the Ethnic Vietnamese Toward the Chinese

The Vietnamese attitude toward the Chinese has always been ambivalent. Although the two groups have similar religions, culture, and languages, they have been traditional enemies. The Chinese have attempted repeatedly to dominate the Vietnamese; for this reason, the Vietnamese fear them. The most recent period of domination occurred after World War II, when the Chinese occupied Indochina down to the 16th parallel, looted, exploited the local population, and sought to guide the Vietnamese national movement in a pro-Kuomintang direction. The Communist victory in China, and the consequent swing of a sizeable number of overseas Chinese in other parts of Southeast Asia to pro-Communist attitudes, gave the Vietnamese even greater cause for concern and accounted, to some extent, for the seemingly anti-Chinese policies of the Government. 28 The Vietnamese traditionally envied and resented the Chinese, partly because of Chinese cultural and economic superiority and, until recently, because of their "most-favored-nation" status and their reluctance to accept Vietnamese citizenship.29


28. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 84.

29. Ibid., p. 23.



The Chinese place great emphasis on social relationships. Their Confucianist philosophy advocates the establishment and maintenance of an "orderly society" and stresses "right relations among human beings." The import of this philosophy is manifested by the number of institutions and customs which the Chinese have developed to perpetuate society and give joint protection to the individual. The ensuing discussion will not necessarily apply to all Chinese communities, classes, or individuals in the Republic of Vietnam. In fact, even the hierarchy of importance of these selected social subgroupings is open to question.

Overseas Chinese society is organized, in descending order of importance, into family, clan, surname association, and dialect group (congregation).1

The family is the primary social unit and the keystone of Chinese society,2 for it has participated in "economic life, in social control, in moral education, and in government."3 The Chinese family has assumed responsibilities which are performed in occidental society by health and unemployment insurance, old age pensions, and life insurance. The entire family is also responsible for the actions of its individual members. In addition, the rituals to honor the ancestors have made the family a strong religious unit, for the welfare of both the dead and the living is believed to depend on these ceremonies. Finally, the family provides moral education by an appeal to the motives of family devotion, loyalty, and pride.

The cohesiveness of the family unit is partially explained by ethical concepts. Traditional moral standards, strengthened by Confucianism, emphasize five relationships - those between king and subject, father and son, older brother and younger brother, husband and wife, and friend and friend. Notably, of these five relationships, three concern the family. Filial piety (hsiao), according to Confucianist doctrine, is a cardinal virtue; the term hsiao implies, among other things, loyalty to one's parents and also to one's brothers. In purely practical terms, a strong, unified family is deemed necessary for mutual protection in a competitive and alien society.

The size and components of the family may vary considerably. The small family may comprise the husband, wife, and children. This group may also include a few servants and relatives. The larger family may actually comprise several smaller families living under one roof and sharing a common life. Such a family might embrace several generations, each with its own apartment within the house. Some degree of community life would then exist within the family; there would be a head of the whole unit and perhaps (though infrequently) a common budget.


1. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 182-83.

2. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 78.

3. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 83.


The Chinese family is patriarchal, the leadership passing either to the eldest or the most worthy son. Elders, even a widowed mother or grandmother, generally exert considerable influence. Residence is usually patrilocal, newlyweds generally residing with the family of the groom.4

Like the Chinese in South China, the Chinese immigrant belongs to a clan (tsu) or common-descent group. The tsu comprises individuals and families tracing their descent along the male line from a common male ancestor. The typical tsu in mainland China might include several thousand persons and hundreds of families, generally in one area. Tsu members bear the same surname and claim to be blood relatives. In Fukien and Kwangtung Provinces these bonds were traditionally especially strong; tsu activities were centered in the ancestral hall, where records of the deceased members were preserved. Male members of the clan honored the founder and the ancestors of the tsu periodically at rituals of tremendous religious significance. The ancestral hall itself symbolized the "corporate personality of the tsu and its authority over living members, and provided the setting for judicial, social, and philanthropic services." 5

The elders of the tsu were responsible to the local governments for offenses of tsu members - with the exception of failure to pay taxes. The elders acted as a law enforcement body, resolving disputes between members and expelling those who refused to comply with tsu regulations. The tsu also assumed such social and mutual aid responsibilities as the construction of schools, the distribution of medicine, and the provision of free education. Thus, the individual, backed by his family and his clan, had no need to call on outside help except in times of disaster.

Although the Chinese immigrant always remains a part of the clan, because there may be only a few other members of his own clan in his vicinity, his bond with the clan is weaker than it was in his homeland.

Surname associations were probably organized in an attempt to satisfy some of the needs once filled by the tsu. Members of the surname associations bear the same name, originate from the same dialect region of China, and may even be blood relatives. For example, in Thailand those bearing the name Ch'en and originating from Hainan Island form the Ch'en Chia She or Ch'en Family Association, which meets annually in the association's headquarters. The function of the surname associations is primarily social, whereas that of the tsu was essentially religious. The officials of the surname association are chosen on the basis of wealth and enthusiasm, rather than of age. Membership dues support the Chinese schools, hospitals, and temples. The essential purposes of the associations, however, are to permit the Chinese to socialize and to remind the immigrants of their ties with China.6

The dialect groups - Teochiu, Hakka, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hokkien - were, and may still be, among the most influential organizations within the Chinese community; membership in these groups numbered in the thousands. Comprised of individuals originating from the same dialect regions of southern China, these organizations were formed as mutual aid


4. Ibid., Part II, pp. 182-83.

5. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 37.

6. Ibid., pp. 38-40.


associations to safeguard the interests of the Chinese minority and to satisfy its basic needs, as well as to raise the money needed to perform certain services for the Chinese community. Membership dues and generous contributions from affluent Chinese enabled the dialect groups to build cemeteries, schools, temples, hospitals, and clinics. 7 In 1935, the dialect groups were given police and tax collecting functions as well. Thanks to these groups a Chinese immigrant arriving in Vietnam could be assured of assistance from Chinese speaking his own dialect and knowing his particular needs. The group would place him in contact with relatives and friends from his native village in China and give him food, lodging, and work. Once established, the immigrant could rely on his group whenever he needed assistance in any matter whatsoever. The Chinese called these groups "their family, their banker, their judges and their mandarin."8 In 1960, Diem officially abolished these groups and took steps to appropriate the land and buildings once held by them; therefore, the extent of present influence of these groups over the Chinese minority is uncertain.9

Kinship and Clan Structure

The Chinese kinship system is founded on the principles of lineage, generation, sex, and seniority. 10 Descent is patrilineal, and both lineal and collateral relatives of the same patronym are included in one "sib relation" group. Relatives by marriage, such as women of the same patronym who have married and moved away, form the "outside relation" group. The principle of generations divides these two groups horizontally into "successive generation strata." Sib and generation, at least in the derivative sense, also regulate marriage; a Chinese may not marry within his own patronymic sib, and if the couple are in any way related, they must be of the same generation. Exceptions to these regulations, which date back to the Confucianist canon (first millennium B.C.),* are becoming increasingly common.11 Although kinship terms themselves, once clear and distinct, have merged, the Chinese still recognize a larger number of kinship terms (and therefore relationships), than do occidentals. The accuracy and inclusiveness of these terms enable the Chinese, who have always been interested in the kinship system, to describe the exact relationship of individuals without using numerative phrases.


*Ancient Chinese literature, especially the Confucianist Canon, includes almost all the relationship terms in current use, with the exception of colloquial terms. The Erh y a, one work of the canon, contains a whole section on relationship terms.

7. Nguyen Quoc Dinh, op. cit., pp. 125-26.

8. Ibid., pp. 25-27.

9. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 60.

10. Francis L. K. Hsu, Under the Ancestors' Shadow: Chinese Culture and Personality (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948), p. 58.

11. H. Y. Feng, "Teknonymy as a Formative Factor in the Chinese Kinship System," American Anthropologist, XXXVIII (1936), pp. 56-60.


Basic Kinship Terms12
Fu - father Hsuing - older brother
Mu - mother Ti - younger brother
Tzu - son (also child) Tzu - older sister
Nu - daughter Mei - younger sister
Tsu - grandparent (specifically father's father)
Sun - grandchild (specifically son's son)
Po - father's older brother (also older brother, husband's older brother)
Shu - father's younger brother (also husband's younger brother)
Ku - father's sister (also husband's mother)
Chin - mother's brother (also husband's father, wife's brother)
Yi - mother's sister (also wife's sister)
Chih - sibling's children (since A. D. 265-419; before: woman's brother's daughter)
Sheng - sister's son, daughter's husband
Fu - husband
Ch'i - wife
Hsu - daughter's husband
Fu - son's wife
Sao - older brother's wife

By combining these terms - which indicate sex and generation of the connecting sibling - with one another or with certain metaphorical extensions (non-kinship terms), specific and descriptive kinship meanings are established.13 Such metaphorical terms include:

Wai - "outside, foreign "denotes relationship through female.
Tsu - "thrice venerated" denotes third parallel cousins in the male line.
Fu - husband, adult male, for males of one's own or younger generation, whether connected
by blood or marriage; son's wife, woman, for females, the same as for male; father,
for males of any older generation, whether connected by blood or marriage.
T'ang - "hall" denotes first parallel cousins in the male line, that is, the children of brothers.

When the above terms are combined with the basic kinship terms, words are formed which describe both the relationship and its meaning:14

Tsu fu - father's father: literally "grand parent - par excellence old male."
Wai tsu fu - mother's father: "outside grand parent, old male."
T'ang ti - father's brother's son younger than oneself.


12. A. L. Kroeber, "Process in the Chinese Kinship System," American Anthropologist, XXXV (1933), pp. 151-52.

13. Ibid.

14. Ibid., pp. 153-54.


To express the above relationships in occidental terms would necessitate enumeration of the steps of kinship, both up and down, from a common ancestor*15

Clans are unilateral descent groups. Lineage is determined through the male line, including all those who trace their origin to a common male ancestor.16

Class Structure

Although social stratification exists in Chinese society, class lines are flexible and considerable social mobility is possible. Intermarriage between socioeconomic classes is not unknown. Theoretically, education, wealth, occupation, and possibly dialect group determine class distinction. A poor but cultivated man is as respected as a richer but less educated man.

Particular occupational groups generally fall into specific classes. The upper class includes presidents and directors of organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and rice mills. 17 Men of letters are also at the top of the social hierarchy.18 The middle class comprises junior-grade officers in large businesses and partners in individual firms, pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, nightclubs, and gambling concessions. The rural middle class is almost exclusively concerned with commerce and is usually composed of village shopkeepers or agents. The lower class is largely composed of servants, coolies, and probably small farmers.19

Place of Men, Women, and Children in the Society

The dominant role of men in Chinese society is correlated with the position they hold in the family. At home, the Chinese man is the unquestioned head of the household and the link between the living and the dead. In this latter capacity, the man assumes the role of priest in conducting the ceremonies in honor of the ancestors. The man is also essential to the family for economic reasons. While the girl marries and leaves home, the man continues to support the family throughout his life. The high esteem for the man is also attributed to the ancient Chinese philosophy of nature known as yin-yang. Yin is female and represents all the evil and darkness in the universe; yang is male and symbolizes all that is good and desirable. Confucianism accords to the man not only direction of the ancestral rites, but also a separate and free social existence. For this reason the Chinese man has been more prone to learn dialects other than his own and to adopt Western modes of dress and


*For a more detailed study of Chinese relationship terms, see T. S. Chen and J. K. Shryock, "Chinese Relationship Terms," American Anthropologist, New Series, XXXIV (1932), pp. 623-64.

15. Ibid., p. 156.

16. Hsu, op. cit., p. 122.

17. Blake, op. cit.

18. Huard and Bigot, op. cit., p. 23.

19. Blake, op. cit.


customs of eating than has the Chinese woman, whose role is still defined by tradition.

The woman's position in Chinese society is generally considered to be inferior to that of the man, although one source claims that while man and woman have specific roles, neither is treated as inferior or superior. 20 Since girls are considered less desirable than boys and are thought to be of little interest to evil spirits, a girl's name is frequently given to a boy to prevent the evil spirits from harming him. Traditionally, girls received no formal education; they learned, either from their mothers or from hard experience, how to manage the household and what duties a wife owed her husband and in-laws. The Chinese wife had no property of her own; even that given her by her family was destined for the support of her children and passed to them at her death.21

Traditionally, a woman was considered valuable not so much as a wife but as a mother.22 In fact, before the birth of her first child, the wife received little consideration from her new family. She gained respect by bearing a son and eventually by becoming a mother-in-law and grandmother. After her death, the woman was revered, like her husband, through the ancestral rites conducted by her son. Failure to bear a son incurred reproach from her husband and family and, frequently, no provisions were made for her old age.23

No woman, according to one source, has ever risen to a position of importance in the Chinese community. 24 Traditionally, Chinese women neither took jobs outside the home nor participated in community activities. Women marketed, visited the temple, attended movies, festivals and fairs, and participated in family celebrations for the aged outside the home. Because of her traditional seclusion, the Chinese woman generally knew little Vietnamese and retained her traditional hair style and form of dress. 25 In the past, the enforced idleness of the upper class Chinese women had, in some instances, caused them to turn to gambling, opium smoking, and prostitution. 26 However, the traditional status of Chinese women has doubtlessly been, and will continue to be, modified by contact with other cultures and exposure of the women to formal education.

The Chinese desire to have many children, especially sons. If they are not fortunate enough to have sons, the more affluent Chinese may adopt a son, who then enjoys the same social status as a natural son. Girls are sometimes adopted by the wealthy to relieve the mistress of the house of such duties as cooking and cleaning. Among the poorer Chinese, the adopted daughters may become the wives of the sons.27 When very young, children are taught to respect their parents, as filial piety is considered a cardinal virtue. In deference to the family elders, children and other relatives speak their parents' dialect in the home, although they may have learned other dialects or languages in school or through business contacts. Children also defer to their parents' wishes in matters of education, vocation, courtship, and marriage.28


20. Poncins, op. cit., p. 216.

21. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 196-98.

22. T. S. Chen and J. K. Shryock, "Chinese Relationship Terms," American Anthropologist, New Series, XXXIV (1932), p. 630.

23. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 198.

24. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 72-74.

25. Ibid.

26. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 198.

27. Ta Chen, Emigrant Communities in South China: A Study of Overseas Migration and Its Influence on Standards of Living and Social Change, ed. Bruno Lasker (New York: Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1940), p. 132.

28. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 67-72.



Marriage is extremely important in Chinese society. Since sons are essential for continuing the family line and maintaining the honors due the ancestors, failure to have a son is a major offense against filial piety. For this reason, almost all Chinese marry - the exceptions are the very poor, Buddhist monks, nuns, and Taoist ascetics. Since marriage is so important to the family, the parents are responsible for finding suitable partners for their children, for making the first overtures, and for the final marriage arrangements. Traditionally, the prospective bride and groom had no voice in the arrangements and did not see one another until the wedding ceremony. In recent years, however, young people, especially those who have received a Western education, tend to prefer to choose their own partners.

Betrothals, almost as binding as the marriage ceremony itself, are negotiated by intermediaries who make contracts to provide for property - the gifts to be exchanged by the two families and the amount of the bride's trousseau. The groom's family usually sends gifts to help provide for the latter. If the bride's family is wealthy, her father may not accept the groom's gifts, but instead may give property to the bride to be managed by her husband for the support of the children and for their inheritance. A poor girl might be sent to her prospective husband's home to work as a servant, relieving her parents of the responsibility for her support.29

During the betrothal the two families exchange "eight-character notes" which give complete information about the future spouses. Diviners study the notes and the horoscope to see if a harmonious match is possible. The young man then sends the first gifts. If these are well received, the marriage day is officially registered in red (the color of happiness), gifts are exchanged, and the trousseau sent.30

Presumably parents may choose a spouse from the entire Chinese minority with the exception of those having the same surname. Sometimes marriages are arranged with Chinese in neighboring countries of Southeast Asia, but now brides are rarely brought from China, a practice that was once common. Parents usually try to select a spouse from their own dialect group, but cross-dialect marriages are not condemned. Since the marriage is meant to benefit the families involved, selection of a spouse is made from an equal or superior socioeconomic group.31 Marriages between Chinese and non-Chinese, although not ideal from the Chinese viewpoint, have been frequent, particularly with the Vietnamese and Cambodians.

The marriage ceremony itself must take place in two stages during the waxing of the moon. The first stage, at the bride's home, "consecrates the breaking of the bonds uniting the bride with her parents."32 The relatives and friends of the bridegroom then "kidnap" the bride and lead her to her future home. The second stage, the consecration of the marriage, takes place in the entrance hall of the groom's house. The


29. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 188-89.

30. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 74; Poncins, op. cit., p. 126.

31. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 74-75.

32. Poncins, op. cit., p. 127.


bride's parents are not present during this ceremony, for they do not belong in the groom's house. Wearing a red veil to hide her face, the bride carries a red silk sachet embroidered with lotus flowers (defense against the possible maledictions of her mother-in-law).

After the marriage ceremony, all present partake of a large feast. Several days later, the bride makes a ceremonial visit to her parents' home to ask their forgiveness for being kidnaped.33 The bride is now a member of her husband's family and will revere their ancestors as well as her own. If she is especially maltreated by her new family, the bride's own family may bring pressure on them. The bride is the charge of her mother-in-law, who will guide and control her and will serve as arbiter in disputes involving wives of several sons living under the same roof.

Although not highly regarded by Chinese society, divorce is possible. A husband may divorce his wife for not bearing him a son, for neglecting his parents, committing adultery, stealing, being a shrew, having an incurable disease, or showing jealousy. A divorced husband may remarry, but a divorced wife can rarely do so. Widows and widowers may remarry, but it is considered virtuous for a widow not to do so. Since she is especially esteemed by her husband's family and exerts much influence in the household, a widow usually does not choose to remarry.

In the past, concubinage was legal and was prevalent among the wealthy Chinese. A man generally took a concubine for specific reasons: his wife's failure to bear him a son, the death of his wife's sons, the absence of love in his relationship with his wife, or the personal attractiveness of the concubine. When she entered the household, the concubine assumed an inferior position in the family, submitting to the legal wife in all matters. Generally, each woman had her own apartment within the house, or the concubine might have had an altogether separate establishment. If still practiced, concubinage is doubtlessly less important in overseas Chinese society today, particularly among those with Western education. In addition, for financial reasons, in the recent past adultery seems to have become more common than concubinage.34

Pregnancy and Birth

From before his birth until after his death, innumerable precautions accompany the evolution of the life of a Chinese. As soon as the mother is pregnant, the family begins calling on the divinities to ask their protection and favor. Among those divinities who might be solicited are the Taoist goddess and her acolytes who govern fecundity, confinement, and posterity. Koei-sing (God of Literature) and Lin Tong Pong (Immortal of the Scholars) are both responsible for bringing intelligent children. If the mother suffers a painful confinement, the shelf (see p. 40) of the Goddess of Delivery is brought to the home, with much ritual. Often the monks make amulets and talismans to paste on the woman's body so that delivery will occur.35


33. Ibid.

34. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 189-91.

35. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 124-25.


When the child is born, the family summons the diviners to study his horoscope. Traditionally, during his early childhood, the child had to wear certain items to protect him from the spirits, from fear, from enemies, and to insure health, wealth, and happiness. When the child was older, the parents took care not to rejoice in the fact that he was grown, for fear of arousing the jealousy of the gods. The child was given a cognomen: either the name of an animal, so that the gods would not know he was human; or that of a girl, to mislead the gods, who are interested only in males. Above all, a definite name could not be assigned the child before he reached puberty.36

Child-Rearing Practices

The Chinese are generally very fond of their children, taking great pride in their achievements. The value the Chinese place on children is evident by the number of children who wear amulets to defend them against the evil spirits. Such amulets might include: silver dog collars to deceive the spirits, silver charms in the shape of a lock, a chicken's leg, a bell, and jade or silver anklets. Children are not punished for such acts as risking their lives by dashing in front of oncoming vehicles; instead they are heartily congratulated by their parents - the closer the escape from danger, the more one's bad luck is cut off and transferred to another individual. Chinese children accompany their parents everywhere and are permitted to stay up until all hours.

Traditionally, when infants under the age of 3 died, they were not buried for fear of causing the death of another member of the family. Consequently, their bodies were left exposed near cemeteries or were committed to the river. According to one report, this is the source of the myth that infanticide is common among the Chinese. 37

Educational System

Until the 20th century, when overseas Chinese parents wanted their children to attend Chinese schools, they were obliged to send them to Hong Kong, Canton, or Shanghai. At the turn of the century, Chinese schools began to appear throughout Vietnam. (As used in this discussion, the term Chinese school refers to schools in which Chinese was either the language of instruction or the second language.) By 1931, at least 127 Chinese schools had been built to accommodate 214 teachers and over 7,000 students.38 These educational facilities were autonomous, self-supporting, private institutions presided over by a board of education chosen by the Chinese congregations. The various operating groups included the congregations, private individuals, syndicates of business men, surname associations, and Chinese Chambers of Commerce. 39

The Chinese educational system, resembling that of the United States more than it does the Vietnamese system, consists of 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle school, and 3 years of high school. The


36. Ibid.

37. Burkhardt, op. cit., pp. 173-76.

38. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 13.

39. Murray, op. cit., p. 84.


two secondary levels are becoming known as junior and senior high school, respectively, as opposed to the Vietnamese lycee.40 These schools were, therefore, intended to educate the child entirely within the bounds of Chinese society from the beginning through secondary school.41

The French favored the Chinese congregation system, for it enabled them to supervise Chinese education and the activities of Chinese students. Thus, the French checked Communist activities, which were strongest in the schools, by closing some schools, placing others under surveillance, and by refusing permission to students for study in Red China. 42 Interestingly, after 1956, Communist China stopped encouraging overseas Chinese students from studying in mainland China, for it was argued, "Overseas longer had the same value for China while she followed her United Front policy with Southeast Asia. They were not wanted as potential communist organizers in their own countries."43

On several occasions Chinese students who staged anti-French demonstrations were arrested and harshly treated, creating general displeasure among the Chinese.44 At that time the three largest congregations, located in Saigon-Cholon, maintained the only Chinese schools in southern Vietnam and Cambodia. The language of instruction was kuo-yu or Mandarin Chinese, while English and French were taught as foreign languages.

This school system persisted until 1956 or 1957,45 when the Vietnamese Government placed all Chinese schools under its supervision as part of its campaign to assimilate the Chinese. The Government restricted the curriculum and administration of Chinese schools, requiring Chinese secondary schools to use Vietnamese as the basic language of instruction and to accept Vietnamese principals and teachers. Consequently, the schools were closed for 6 months until a compromise solution - which allowed the appointment of local-born Chinese principals - was reached. At that time 47,709 Chinese students were officially enrolled in 180 Chinese elementary schools, and 12 Chinese secondary schools were located in the Saigon-Cholon area. 46

Execution of the Government program proved very difficult; most Chinese teachers could neither read nor write Vietnamese, and most Chinese students could not understand the language. When members of the Department of National Education realized that the abrupt change was unfeasible and that immediate integration of Chinese and Vietnamese students in the same school was impossible, they agreed to a less radical solution. In 1958 a period of transition began, during which Vietnamese was taught first in the elementary grades in the Saigon-Cholon area, gradually extending to the higher levels.47

By the end of 1960, 400 teachers of Chinese origin had graduated from a special 6-month course in Vietnamese, under the auspices of the Viet-Nam-China Association, and Vietnamese was being taught in all Chinese schools in the Saigon-Cholon area.48 Vietnamese educators reportedly still felt, however, that until the Chinese students enrolled in Vietnamese secondary schools they would not


40. Elon E. Hildreth, "The Challenge in Education," Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium, ed. Richard W. Lindholm (East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1959) p. 156.

41. Murray, op. cit., p. 84.

42. Thompson and Adloff, op. cit., p. 58.

43. Lois Mitchison, The Overseas Chinese: A Background Book (Chester Springs, Pa.: Dufour Editions, 1961), p. 69.

44. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 21.

45. Murray, op. cit., p. 84; Hildreth, op. cit., p. 156.

46. Murray, op. cit., p. 84.

47. Hildreth, op. cit., p. 156.

48. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 13.


be qualified to enter the national universities, the civil service, or Parliament.49

An indication of the trends in Chinese education - the number of schools accommodating primarily Chinese students and the size of their enrollment - is provided by the following compilation of both official and private statistics:50

1957 - 180 Chinese primary schools enrolled 77,709 students; 12 secondary schools were operating in the Saigon-Cholon area (official).
1958 - 174 Chinese schools of all types enrolled 47,100 students (official).
1959 - 1,034 Chinese private elementary schools under Vietnamese Government control enrolled 43,510 students (private); a New China News Agency press report, however, claimed that Chinese high schools had all but closed.
1960 - 228 Chinese schools in the Republic of Vietnam enrolled 60,000 to 75,000 students; 120 of these schools, in the Saigon-Cholon area, enrolled 60,000 students and the rest, in the provinces, served 10,000 to 15,000 (official); 228 Chinese schools probably served no more than 60,000 students, or 7 percent of the Republic of Vietnam's Chinese population (private). The latter figures suggest, according to the same source, that "large numbers of Chinese youth were either avoiding school altogether; terminating early; studying outside the country; combining Chinese primary schools with an English/French/vernacular secondary education; or using non-Chinese schools exclusively." 51

In 1963 Vietnamese educators announced to 15 Chinese primary and middle school principals in Saigon that, as of August 1, all Chinese schools would be obliged to "order their students to wear government specified uniforms during school hours; limit teaching of the Chinese language to six hours a week; step up instruction in the Vietnamese language. Primary school students failing to pass government sponsored language tests would be denied the opportunity to study in middle schools." 52 It is uncertain whether these requirements were enforced; reportedly in 1959 similar demands were made and ignored.53

A number of problems relating to the education of the Chinese are still unresolved. Children forced to follow a nationalized curriculum are obviously under greater pressure to acculturate than are those attending all-Chinese schools. The effect of this pressure is presently uncertain, for such ponderables still exist as "the effects of a nationalized curriculum on students' 'Chineseness'; how many years of Chinese training tend to produce what degree of Chinese identity; and what percentage of second, third, and subsequent generation Chinese children actually are using Chinese schools." 54 A more fundamental problem concerns the scarcity


49. Edgar N. Pike, "Problems of Education in Vietnam," Problems of Freedom: South Vietnam Since Independence, ed. Wesley R. Fishel (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961), p. 96.

50. Murray, op. cit., pp. 85-94.

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid., pp. 84-85.

53. Ibid.

54. Ibid., pp. 94-95.


of instructional materials in Chinese. Although suggestions have been made to romanize the language, the Chinese continue to use their traditional form of written and printed characters. Since the Vietnamese cannot produce these instructional materials, the Chinese must depend on Free China to provide textbooks on a minimum fee basis, or on Communist China, which can smuggle in books filled with propaganda at no cost to the Chinese community. Although the Vietnamese Government guards against the latter possibility, the threat is nevertheless present. 55

Death and Burial

Customs relating to death and funerals seem to vary somewhat even within the same city. When a death occurs, two large black and white Chinese lanterns are hung on either side of the door and the name of the deceased is written on a piece of paper and posted on the wall as symbols of death. Inside the house, people gather to view the dead person. Before his death, the sick man is taken from his bed (to prevent its being haunted by his ghost later on) and is made to lie on the floor without a pillow, so that he may die peacefully (p'ing means "flat" and "peace"). The deceased is dressed in his finest garments, which must have no buttons "so that the soul does not get hooked as it departs," and must not be made of animal hair, lest the deceased be reincarnated as an animal.56 When the man dies, someone walks around the house calling the name of the deceased to make certain his soul has been released. The soul is then led to the temple and entrusted to the "celestial policeman", who has authority over the area in which the man died and will guard it temporarily.57

The body of the dead man remains in the house (traditionally for 49 days), lying in a coffin beneath a canopy on which are embroidered a dragon and a crane, for the chain is still unbroken; that is, the deceased depends on the living who insure his survival; and they, in turn, count on him to bestow blessings and prosperity on them. A huge color photograph of the deceased is sometimes placed against the coffin. Then an oilwick lamp is placed at the foot of the coffin, and incense sticks burn throughout the period of exhibition. Small heaps of ashes lying about the room are kept until the eve of the burial, when they are scattered along the path the deceased will follow. Depending on the family's persuasion, officiants may be monks or priestesses who recite prayers and intermittently strike a gong, while musicians play solemn music on the Chinese flute. Friends and relatives, in ordinary clothes with a white (the color of mourning) harness tied at the waist and topped with a hood covering half the face, stand around chatting about unrelated matters. 58

On the eve of the funeral, the family not only sprinkles the ashes but also lights small oil torches along the processional route to please the evil spirits who like to lick up the oil. In the lengthy funeral procession is a sedan chair, "to convey the soul to the nether regions," containing a photograph of the deceased and paper clothing (imitations of his own real clothing) for his life in the next world. After the burial the chair is


55. Hildreth, op. cit., pp. 156-57.

56. Poncins, op. cit., p. 129.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid., p. 130.


burned, lest it be haunted, as are the clothes - "the cremation of an object [ensuring] supernatural life." 59 During the processions, the eldest son, wearing a crown and carrying a white stick indicating his role as the new head of the family unit and the link between the dead and the living, leads the family of the deceased. Delegates from the societies of which the departed had been a member also participate in the procession. 60

The burial ceremony is elaborate and indicative of the Chinese concept of the soul. According to the Chinese, each person has two separate souls - the "animal" soul which remains in the body after death and is capable of attacking the living, and the "spiritual" soul which goes to hell, then returns to the home of the deceased, taking its place on the shelf of the ancestors. The latter soul returns on two occasions - the 3rd day after burial and between the 9th and the 19th day of the month of decease. In anticipation of the second visit - when the soul returns with other starving souls - the family summons the monks, who prepare a meal for the "visitors" and then swing sabers of wood or paper around the room to expel the souls.61 Rites for the dead are conducted during each lunar month; at the Festival of the Wandering Souls, on the 15th day of the 7th moon, lotus-shaped lanterns are set on the water and allowed to drift, to light the way for souls seeking reincarnation. 62

All these ceremonies of transition from one state of being to another have a dual significance for the Chinese: some are admittedly superstitious, while others are social ceremonies destined to "relieve emotional strain and give the participants a sense of increased social security."63 In either case, all ceremonies are manifestations of the Chinese belief that all things are linked; "for Chinese philosophy, Heaven and Earth, the unfolding of the universe, and the life of mankind, ethics and the normal course of nature, form a closed and single system."64 Man is not, according to the Chinese, opposed to nature but rather part of it; he is "an extension of the soil from which he derives his force and knowledge."65

Property Ownership and Inheritance Customs

The household head controls the family property - even that given the bride by her father on her wedding day. Traditionally, inheritance was closely correlated with the social status of each member within the family. For example, if the householder had two sons, a daughter, and an estate valued at $300,000, he might allocate one-third of his estate for his living expenses, for his wife, for his concubine, his old age, his funeral, and the subsequent commemoratory rites. He would set aside perhaps $10,000 or $20,000 for his daughter's dowry; the rest he would divide between his two sons. The son of the wife would receive two shares, while the son of the concubine would receive one.

A tendency toward a more equitable division of property among family members has been noted in the recent past, especially among the overseas Chinese. Now the wife, the concubine, the wife's son, the wife's daughter, the concubine's son and the concubine's daughter often receive equal shares of the inheritance.66


59. Ibid., p. 132.

60. Ibid., p. 133.

61. Ibid., p. 134.

62. Ibid., p. 135.

63. Maria Leach (ed.), Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1949-1950), p. 225.

64. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 135-36.

65. Ibid.

66. Ta Chen, op. cit., pp. 132-34.




Chinese dress varies according to class and region. For the most part, the wealthier, more worldly men have adopted Western suits; they seem to prefer light gray suits rather than those of white sharkskin worn by the Vietnamese upper class. Wealthy Chinese women wear the traditional formfitting dresses or cheong sang of expensive Chinese or French silk. Like their Vietnamese counterparts, these women wear high-heeled shoes and fine jewelry and carry handbags.

Middle-class women wear either the cheong sang or black, calf-length trousers with a short blouse, another traditional form of dress. For formal occasions they wear blouses and trousers of matching fabric and color. The men wear either suits or white shirts, gray or black tailored trousers, and dark-colored ties.

Lower class women generally wear white, short, Chinese-type blouses or light-colored fitted jackets and black or white calf-length trousers for domestic work. For more formal occasions they wear the same type of matched suits as the middle-class women, made of flashier and cheaper fabrics. Their hair is frequently worn in the traditional queue, although short, bobbed hair is becoming increasingly popular among all classes. The men wear high buttoned jackets and white trousers for work and short-sleeved sport shirts and light-colored pants for dress.

Coolies wear black, khaki, or striped shorts, a hat (Tonkinese, American, etc.), and go barefoot or wear wooden clogs. Black cotton or calico pajamas, sandals, clogs or bare feet are standard dress for coolie women.1

Folk Beliefs

The Chinese have countless folk beliefs relating to every phase of their existence. Although no information specific to the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam was available, the following beliefs and systems of thought may apply to them.

To the Chinese, all of the universe - moral, physical, social, visible and invisible - is an integral whole, the balance of which can be easily upset by a thoughtless act. Since everything is so tightly interrelated, even the most minor misdeed can set off a chain reaction and quickly produce cataclysmic results. To prevent such a catastrophe, the Chinese conceived the Calendar of Rites to serve as a guide to regulate Chinese life down to the most trivial act, to enumerate protective measures, to advise what days and hours are lucky and unlucky for doing certain things.

This concept is based on a Chinese system - dating from 2800 B.C. - of summating the universe by means of symbols. Basic to the system was


1. Blake, op. cit.


the belief that the world is composed of two elements - the yang or positive male principle and the yin or negative female principle. Thus, for example, yang would represent the sun, light, fire, south, goodness, and the male sex; while yin would symbolize the moon, darkness, cold, north, evil, and the female sex. Implicit in these elements of the dualism which pervades all of nature is the idea of alternation, rhythm, fluctuation. "The Yang calls, the Yin replies. There is the opposition of the sexes, then their fusion, creating a rhythmic movement. It is also the alternate triumph of now one, now the other. In winter the Yang withdraws into the depths and the Yin dominates: there is dampness, darkness, and cold. In the spring the Yang reemerges and bursts forth; it is the torrent that flows after the melting snow, it is the rising wheat."2

In 2800 B. C. the Chinese used the principles of yang and yin as points of departure to establish their first notation of the universe. Each of eight elements - heaven, river, earth, mountain, water, wind, fire and thunder - were composed of both yang (represented by a long unbroken line) and yin (represented by two short lines). One dissenting source claims the symbols were hexagrams and that from the yin and yang sprang the five elements - fire, water, earth, wood, metal - of the physical world. 3 When grouped around the universe - a circle divided into two interpenetrating, undulatory drops representing the mingling of two forces or the symbol of creation - the eight elements represented by eight trigrams or the Pa Kua could form 64 combinations - a complete cosmogony and cosmology. Divination was practiced by interpreting these symbols or trigrams.4

Trigram symbols
Trigram symbols

Moreover, each individual bears within himself both yin - in the form of kuei or evil spirits - and yang in the guise of shen or gods. One theory is that at death the shen rise to the heavens whereas the kuei remain on earth. Consequently, the kuei, both visible and invisible portents of evil, must be repelled in a variety of ways: by summoning a Buddhist monk to exorcise them; by carrying the images of yang gods through the streets; by beating gongs and lighting firecrackers; by displaying pictures of strong and virtuous men or officials (both of whom embody the yang); by doing good deeds; and by reciting passages from the classics. Charms may also be used; a paper inscribed with magic symbols may be affixed to a door or the same paper may be burned, the ashes mixed with water and drunk.5 (The Chinese believe that burning an object imbues it with supernatural power. Even the slightest piece of writing must be burned.


2. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 118-19.

3. Latourette, op. cit., Part I, p. 66; Part II, p. 262.

4. Poncins, op. cit., p. 120.

5. Latourette, Part II, pp. 164-65.


The ashes are then deposited in special pagodas, "pagodas of compassion to characters.")6 Similarly, amulets made from the pit or wood of the peach (one of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring, and especially potent with the yang element) may be carried to keep the kuei at bay. Mirrors worn on the forehead are also effective in frightening away the kuei who, seeing his own repulsive face, forgets his evil designs. Many more customs associated with the kuei still figure to a greater or lesser extent among the popular Chinese folk beliefs.7

Belief in feng shui (literally, the influences of wind and water), a pseudoscientific system of thought, may still exist among some Chinese, although the influx of Western theoretical and applied science has doubtlessly reduced its import. Essentially a personal doctrine which could also be discussed as a religion, feng shui is founded on the concept that, "in every locality forces exist which act on graves, buildings, cities, and towns, either for the welfare or the ill of the quick and the dead. The object of feng shui, therefore, is to discover the sites where the beneficent influences predominate, or so to alter, by artificial means, the surroundings of existing sites that the same happy results may be achieved.8 Specialists in feng shui are summoned to advise on ways of reaching these ends.

With the help of a lo-pan (a combination of a graduated astrolabe or early sextant and a compass) 9 the specialist considers such factors as "the yang and the yin; the ch'i (sometimes translated breath) pervading the universe and of which there may be two divisions, the t'ien ch'i, or ch'i of heaven, and the ti ch'i, or ch'i of earth; the four creatures - the azure dragon, the white tiger, the black tortoise, and the red bird associated with the four quarters of the heaven; wind (bearing water or drought); and the five traditional elements (metal, earth, fire, water, and wood), especially water."10

Although specialists may differ on the suitability of a particular site, they recognize certain ideal conditions: protection of the site from the north (the origin of the yin), exposure to the south (the yang), the presence of a natural feature such as a hill in the direction of the dragon (east), the existence of flowing water nearby but not leading directly away from the site (thereby draining off the beneficent influences).11 Straight roads and railroads are also baneful, as malevolent influences move only in straight lines and draw away good influences.12 If a site is considered inauspicious, the adverse influences may be neutralized by such artifices as a pool, a hill, a pagoda, a charm, or the image of a dragon on a mirror bearing the sign of a trigram.13

Feng shui is especially useful in selecting burial plots. The difference between a propitious feng shui of an ancestral grave and an unfavorable one may mean the difference between prosperity and ruin for the survivors of the deceased. Likewise the fortune of a whole city can be improved by the judicious construction of a temple, while the erection of a high building or tower can bring misfortune. 14


6. Poncins, op. cit., p. 213.

7. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 165.

8. Ibid., Part II, p. 167.

9. Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 167.

10. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 168.

11. Ibid.

12. Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 167.

13. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 168; Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 167.

14. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 168.


Divination, the revelation of lucky and unlucky incidents, and fortune-telling also play an integral part in Chinese life. Each person's fate is at least partially determined by the year, month, day, and hour of his birth. The six or eight characters resulting from the examination of each of these in the light of the ten "heavenly stems" and the twelve "earthly branches" are consulted by the diviner to determine lucky times for such matters as betrothal. Lucky and unlucky days are established on the basis of the five elements, the twelve animals of the earthly branches, the eight trigrams (Pa Kua), and the Calendar of Rites. Fortunetelling is done in many ways: by the examination of the physiognomy in terms of 14 animal types, by the interpretation of magic characters by a soothsayer, and by the casting of lots.15

Numbers fascinate the Chinese. In fact, they have devised a numerical system for analyzing the universe. The number five is particularly sacred, for it represents, among other things, the five geographical divisions of the earth, the five seasons, the five elements, the five tastes, and the five musical notes, as indicated in the following table.

Seasons Elements Tastes Musical
North Winter Water Salty 4th Note
South Summer Fire Bitter 2nd Note
East Spring Wood Acid 5th Note
West Autumn Metal Tart 3rd Note
Center Center Earth Sweet 1st Note

The Chinese calendar comprises lunar months, "big months," of 30 days and solar months, "small months," of 29 days; the two are corrected by the addition of an intercalary month (a month added to make the year come out even). Years follow 12-year cycles or "earthly branches," each corresponding to a particular animal:

Sheep Pig Hare
Monkey Rat Dragon
Cock Ox Snake
Dog Tiger Horse

Before a couple is betrothed, the diviner compares, among other things, the signs under which the two are born. Certain signs do not combine well, for example:

The horse is averse to the ox.
The rat is averse to the sheep.

The union of a man born under the sign of the rat with a girl born under the sign of the sheep would, therefore, be inauspicious. 16


15. Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 93; Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 169.

16. Poncins, op. cit., pp. 121-22.



The Chinese have an infinite number of taboos, some of which are of an admittedly superstitious nature. Great emphasis is placed on names. A son never calls his father by his personal name nor does a wife use her husband's name. It is theoretically taboo for a marriage to occur between two people bearing the same patronym.17

On feast days, if something is dropped or broken, bad luck will result unless one says sui-sui p'ing-an, meaning "peace for many years." A broken mirror also brings bad luck but not for as long as 7 years - the Western superstition. On feast days extra places at the table are set for absent friends, to bring good fortune to the family.

Many taboos and folk beliefs are associated with children. For example, they must not open an umbrella indoors or put on two hats for fear of retarding their growth.18

Eating and Drinking Customs

Food and eating are of great importance for the Chinese. When calling on a friend, the Chinese often takes a gift of food to his host. In greeting a friend on the street, he may inquire as to whether he has eaten; a negative reply may break off the conversation.

In eating, the Chinese generally use porcelain spoons and what the Chinese call "nimble brothers" and foreigners call chopsticks. Among the upper classes and those who have been exposed to Western influence, knives and forks are becoming more common. In the past, accustomed to having food served in easily edible portions, the Chinese were appalled by the Western custom of dismantling large chunks of meat at the table. It is customary among some Chinese to spit, even before guests, and to remove from their teeth, with the help of chopsticks, pieces of bone or other food and place these on the tablecloth.19

Although rice is a basic part of the Chinese diet, a multitude of fruits and vegetables are also eaten. The main meats are pork, chicken, duck, and fish. These are usually eaten in their entirety, the innards being considered prized morsels. Other delicacies include the nest of a certain sea swallow from the Indonesian Archipelago, "hundred-year-old-eggs" that have been preserved in ammonia or lye, seaweed, sharks' fins, and sea slugs.

Tea is the favorite beverage, even among the very poor. Rice brandy is a traditional drink frequently served before a meal. Beer and wine are also popular. Wine of a brownish-yellow color is usually of low alcoholic content, whereas the clear variety may be 60 percent alcohol. Generally, wine is drunk hot from small stemless receptacles. In drinking wine with a group of friends, the Chinese may challenge one another in certain games. During a game of "fingers out," one contestant holds out a certain number of fingers; if the opponent does not display the right complement he must drink a cup of wine. Until the host gives the sign for "no


17. Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 169.

18. Ibid., pp. 169-70.

19. Poncins, op. cit., p. 33; Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 214-15.


heel taps" (the Western "bottoms up") the guests may "drink at ease." At the signal everyone must display the bottom of his cup, proving that he has emptied it. Each guest toasts his neighbor and refills the cups. Fishermen do not engage in this custom of toasting, for an empty glass foretells empty nets.

A number of taboos are associated with eating and drinking. Since rice is traditionally regarded as the staff of life, it is an insult to the host not to finish it. Chopsticks are never laid down across the rice bowl - to do so would be a breach of good manners and a portent of bad fortune. After a heavy meal and before drinking tea, each guest rinses his mouth, otherwise he would be insulting good tea. Where tea is served, the spout of the tea pot should not be left pointing at anyone or a quarrel will ensue. 20

Customs Related to Entertainment

The Chinese have innumerable forms of entertainment, many of which were traditionally closed to women. Unlike the West, where athletics are greatly esteemed and are associated with military prowess, the Chinese have traditionally scorned sports. This attitude is explained by the fact that in mainland China, the aristocracy, which always set the standard, was scholarly rather than military; scholars were obviously more concerned with developing the intellect than the body. Over the past 20 or 30 years, however, the Chinese, as a result of Western influence, have begun to participate in sports, their favorites being tennis, soccer, basketball, and swimming.

Games of chance and wit are favorite forms of diversion among the Chinese. Gambling is common among all classes and takes many forms. Among these is fan-tan, a game in which beans, coins, or other small objects are placed in a bowl, and the players bet on the number that will remain after the banker counts off a handful in fours. Mah-jongg is an ancient Chinese game played with tiles and is similar to dominoes. Each player draws and discards tiles in an attempt to acquire four complete combinations of three tiles each, plus one pair. Various card games exist as well as a type of chess.

Extremely gregarious and fond of conversation, the Chinese gather frequently to exchange bits of gossip with their neighbors over a cup of tea. Professional storytellers may circulate from teashop to teashop, entertaining the customers with amusing narratives or historical romances, often accompanying their recitals with a musical instrument. Through these minstrel-narrators much Chinese folklore has been passed on from generation to generation.

Opium smoking has always been popular with the Chinese, providing an escape much as alcoholic beverages do for many other peoples. The Chinese also smoke tobacco, usually in a pipe with a small bowl which holds only enough tobacco for one or two puffs. In the past, both men and women spent hour after hour filling, lighting, and smoking their pipes.


20. Burkhardt, op. cit., pp. 113-17, 169; Poncins, op. cit., p. 49; Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 214-15.


Other forms of entertainment and recreation include participation in festivals,* watching jugglers and marionette shows, and attending plays. From early historical, and perhaps prehistorical, times the Chinese have been fascinated by the theater, which was originally developed as a means of commemorating ancestral deeds. Unlike the West where the theater is the province of the upper and middle classes, their drama is accessible to Chinese of all strata of society. In fact, by presenting semifictionalized versions of Chinese history and by praising the moral life, the theater has provided even the illiterate with informal instruction. 21

Customs Related to Animals

From time immemorial the Chinese have raised animals - pigs, dogs, and fowl. The Chinese introduced draught animals -water buffaloes - to Vietnam and taught the people to use them for agricultural purposes. Animals play a significant part in Chinese folk beliefs, divination, and in the exchange of gifts; some animals are considered fortuitous; others, inauspicious. The following examples indicate the types of beliefs and customs associated with individual animals:

Bats: The Chinese are not repelled by the bat, as are many Westerners. The design of the Five Bats which appears frequently in Chinese art symbolizes happiness and the Five Blessings - old age, health, wealth, love of virtue, and natural death. 22
Butterfly: The butterfly symbolizes longevity. A gift with the design of a butterfly expresses the wish that the recipient reach the age of 70 or 80; when the design includes a cat, the wish is for a life prolonged to 90.23
Carp: This fish symbolizes success through endeavor, and is a stimulus to students to pass their examinations. By swimming upstream against the rapids, the carp was elevated to the state of a dragon - a kindly, benevolent creature. 24
Crane: The crane escorts the soul to immortality; thus, the symbol of a crane appears frequently in funeral processions.25
Dog: The arrival of a strange dog at a house presages approaching prosperity. When a dog is sick, owners frequently make sacrifices at the altar of Erh Lang, nephew of the heavenly king, and his dog. They burn incense and make the dog swallow the ashes. A dog is taken from the litter if it has a white tip on its tail, a symbol of mourning. Dogs are not permitted to dig, for this foreshadows the preparation of a grave. The second day of the year is dedicated to dogs.26
Monkey: This animal is celebrated by Taoists and Buddhists for having stolen the peaches of longevity from the queen's garden in the Taoist Heaven. Since he was already considered immortal, Buddha had to be called in to deal with the monkey. Consequently, he was imprisoned until his sin could be propitiated; when this occurred, he was canonized as the "Great Sage Equal to Heaven." The monkey's image appears in Taoist and Buddhist temples; it is considered meritorious to honor him at almost any season to keep imps and hobgoblins away.27

*See "Principal Holidays and Festivals," p. 46-48.


21. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 215-24.

22. Burkhardt, op. cit., pp. 168-220.

23. Ibid., p. 111.

24. Ibid., p. 6.

25. Ibid., p. 112.

26. Ibid., pp. 6, 168, 170.

27. Ibid., pp. 8, 121, 162, 166.


Customs Related to Warfare

Traditionally, fighting and physical violence were not esteemed by the Chinese. Such sports as dueling, boxing, and fencing were considered forms of exercise rather than actual fighting. It was offensive for a person to lay a hand on another with the intention of harming him. People might engage in violent arguments, but they seldom came to blows. Suicide was honorable, however, and could bring malediction on one's enemy.28

Despite this prejudice, the Chinese maintained armies and navies and developed weapons, the evolution of which has paralleled that of the West. On the basis of archaeological evidence, for example, it is known that the Chinese were using spears, halberds, bows and arrows by at least the age of the Shang dynasty (1766 to 1123 B. C.); during the Sung dynasty, between the 10th and 12th centuries, the Chinese began using such weapons as flamethrowers, bombs, grenades, protomuskets and cannons.29 Weapons currently used by the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam have been supplied by the Vietnamese Government.

Customs Relating to Outsiders

Chinese custom requires that an outsider be made to feel at ease and that he be shown politeness and consideration. Skilled in the art of diplomacy, a Chinese may greet the outsider with extreme courtesy, declare himself delighted to see the stranger and shower him with compliments, all the while remaining inexplicably elusive. At the end of the interview, therefore, the outsider may feel he has given completely of himself while his host has given nothing. Generally speaking, this barrier remains until the Chinese has had sufficient time to observe the visitor's every action and decide whether or not the individual is worthy of his friendship. At that point, which rarely occurs, he will suddenly become friendly and will do almost anything for the outsider.

The Chinese tend to group themselves culturally but intermingle freely, with some exceptions, with other ethnic groups. Although they consider themselves superior to the Vietnamese, the Chinese "often follow


28. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 211-12.

29. "China", op. cit., pp. 575, 581.


the same businesses, attend the same cinemas, eat at the same restaurants, belong to the same social organizations, attend the same temples and fortunetellers..." as the Vietnamese.30

Since the Chinese usually engage in commerce and their very livelihood depends on selling goods and services to the public, it is improbable that in daily encounters they reveal any enmities they might harbor toward other groups. However, the hiring practices of Chinese businessmen reflect how ingrown the Chinese really are. So strong is the family unit, that few Chinese businesses will hire nonrelatives, including other Chinese as well as Vietnamese. Consequently, local people often complain that they are unable to acquire certain skills because the Chinese, whose workshops provide the only places for learning these skills, refuse to teach them.31 These practices, coupled with the fact that the Chinese completely control certain branches of economic activity, add to Vietnamese resentment toward the Chinese.32

Concept of Etiquette

The Chinese are noted for their elaborate and complex rules of etiquette, developed to facilitate social intercourse. Although conventions have been altered as a result of Western influence, many still remain. Underlying the conventions are principles set forth by the Confucianist school. Among the classics most esteemed for their emphasis on religious ceremony and social convention were the Li Chi or Book of Rites, the I Li, and the Chou Li. Moral significance was attached to performing the Li with both proper motives and correct form. Westerners have traditionally ignored the value placed on the Li and the mental attitude engendered by it.33

Another all-important principle is that of saving "face," which stems in part from the intense pride and sensitivity of the Chinese. They are willing to make various compromises to prevent an individual from suffering hurt feelings, public humiliation, or loss of reputation. For this reason, when disputes develop, an effort is made to keep the argument out of court by using private intermediaries as peacemakers.34

The ideal Chinese gentleman is expected to conduct himself in a dignified manner by walking slowly, speaking in a soft tone, and avoiding violent or abusive language. He is neither blunt nor abrupt and avoids making direct requests. When offended, he should not show his anger openly, but he may do so in a roundabout way - that is, returning an insult through an obtuse literary allusion. Unless they themselves have become Westernized, the Chinese are shocked by the direct, hurried manner of the occidental. 35

In greeting a stranger the Chinese traditionally spoke deprecatingly of himself while praising the other. He would, for example, inquire as to the "honorable name" of the outsider and in return give his "unworthy name." In the past it was considered polite for a person to remove his spectacles when greeting a superior or an older person. Instead of


30. Blake, op. cit.

31. Mitchison, op. cit., p. 26.

32. Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff, The Left Wing in Southeast Asia (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1950), p. 65.

33. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 208-209.

34. Ibid., Part II, pp. 209-11.

35. Ibid., Part II, pp. 212-13.


shaking hands, he would clasp his own hands, perhaps shake them, and bow. In accepting a gift, he would do so with both hands. When offered the place of honor, to the left of the host, the guest would refuse several times, then take it after declaring himself unworthy. 36 Since evil spirits move only in straight lines, the guest was placed farthest from the door, and the host sat nearest the door to ward off the spirits.37 When the host requested him to drink his tea, the guest knew that it was the signal for him to leave. Traditionally, it was considered acceptable to inquire of a person his age and income. When passing a friend in the street who was mounted in a sedan chair, it was considered good form to ignore him - otherwise, custom required his stopping, dismounting, and bowing according to convention. In exchanging gifts, custom dictated what present should be given, when, and how much of it could be accepted. Formerly, servants and those who had helped a person in some way expected to receive gratuities. 38


36. Ibid., Part II, p. 214.

37. Poncins, op. cit., p. 49.

38. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 214-15.



Chinese religion - a syncretism of ancestor worship, animism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and in some cases, Christianity and Islam - touches on virtually every aspect of Chinese life and culture. In fact, Chinese religion is a way of life: Confucianism praises filial piety, loyalty, righteousness, and good faith; Buddhism extols compassion, kindness to all creatures, and protestation against all evil actions; Taoism advocates patience, simplicity, contentment, and harmony.1 Each religion is marked by certain common characteristics - eclecticism, tolerance, optimism, morality, ritualism, worldliness, superstition, and social and individual emphasis - which are best understood by a brief discussion of each religion.2

Ancestor Worship and Household Deities

Ancestor worship is perhaps the most widespread of the above-mentioned religions. The importance assumed by the cult of the dead is largely attributed to Confucianism. Many rituals associated with death, mourning, and burial were established by classics of the Confucianist school. According to Confucianism, for example, it is the filial duty of the eldest son to conduct the ancestral rites to perpetuate the memory of the deceased and to provide for the deceased after their death. Underlying this practice is the belief that the dead have the same needs as the living, which only the living can fulfill. The behavior of the descendants is believed to affect the welfare of the dead and, conversely, the dead may, through their conduct in the spiritual world, affect the future of the living. 3

Ceremonies in honor of the ancestors are conducted for a variety of reasons: to help unite the family and the clan; to show sincere affection for the dead; fear; to win social approval; and to reap benefits from the deceased, who will intercede in favor of the living. 4

Moreover, many practices are associated with the cult of the dead.* In the Chinese home, for example, may be an ancestor shelf - a small shelf attached to an inside wall (generally in a room which opens onto the street), on which are placed offerings of food and incense. Above the shelf may be a piece of red paper about a foot long on which are inscribed black or gold characters giving the surname of the family, the number of generations it has existed, and the names of all the close relatives who have died. 5

The ancestors are honored during the New Year and other major festivals, especially Ch'ing Ming (Spring Festival), on the anniversaries


*For example, see "Death and Burial," pp. 28-29.

1. "Taoism," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. XXI (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1965), p. 797.

2. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 124-30.

3. "China," op. cit., p. 569.

4. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 144.

5. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 103.


of their birth and death, and on the 1st and the 15th days of each lunar month.6

In addition to rites performed in honor of the ancestors, the Chinese family recognizes and pays homage to certain household deities. Among these are the God of the Earth, God of the House, God of the Kitchen, and God of the Sky - not to mention a host of other lesser spirits. Each deity is represented by a particular image. The God of the Earth is a rectangular piece of paper, about 8 by 3 inches, bearing the Chinese characters for the god; this paper is posted near the threshold on the outside of the street door or on the outer wall of the house.

The God of the House consists of a piece of red paper, about 10 by 12 inches, bearing the Chinese characters for "God of the House." It is pasted near the floor on an inner wall near the street door. A box effect is sometimes created by a frame fitted around the paper or a table placed above it. The offerings are placed on the bottom shelf or on the floor, and the receptacles for making the offerings are stored on the top of the frame or table.

The God of the Kitchen is represented by a rectangular piece of red paper inscribed with characters, in black, meaning "Sure Luck Kitchen Master." This image is attached to the wall of the kitchen above the stove. In the past this god was said to return to the spirit world before the New Year to report on the conduct of the family. As a parting gesture meant to assure a favorable report, the family smeared the god's lips with molasses or jam. This ritual may be dying out among the Chinese in Vietnam.

The God of the Sky consists of a rectangular piece of paper inscribed with the god's name. It is pasted on the rear outside wall of the house or on one wall of an open court.

In place of all these gods, a general god may be represented by a piece of red paper bearing the Chinese characters for god and some honorific phrases. This paper is attached to an inner wall of the house above head level, and offerings are periodically made to it.

Every Chinese home contains images of at least one of the previously mentioned gods. The number and variety are determined by each family. Dialect differences seem to account for some of the variation. Some families devote more attention to their shrines than do others; in fact, some Chinese neglect them entirely. In any case, the religious responsibility rests on the wife, who honors the spirits by burning incense in the home and even outside on the sidewalk. On the 1st and the 15th days of the lunar month and during the principal Chinese festivals, before eating their first meal of the day, the family makes offerings to the spirits. The god papers are replaced with fresh ones at each New Year.7

These ancestral and household gods form part of a tremendous hierarchy of gods headed by the Supreme Ruler of Heaven, whom some say is entirely personal; and others, that he is impersonal. Included in this panoply of deities are Confucius and his followers, Lao-Tzu - alleged founder of Taoism - Buddha and, in some cases, Mohammed and Jesus Christ.8


6. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 148.

7. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 101-103.

8. "China," op. cit., p. 569.



Animism, interrelated with ancestor worship, survives in many forms: water, peach trees, and jade, for example, are considered to be imbued with supernatural powers. The strength of Chinese animistic belief is demonstrated by the importance placed on feng-shui,* a pseudo-scientific study of the physical environment of a grave or house and the most beneficial conditions which can exist. It is associated with the magico-religious power of certain animistic spirits. Taoism also adopted many of the vague spirits identified with animism, concretized them and included them in the Taoist heaven.9


Taoism (Tao means "the way"), originally both a philosophy (Tao-chia) and a religion (Tao-chiao), gradually became a handmaid to Buddhism. From the latter, Taoism acquired its priesthood, its canon, and its belief in the idea of transmigration and of karma (force determining destiny in one's next existence). Yet Taoism still exerts great influence over Chinese life and culture, particularly because of its acceptance of popular superstition. From the very beginning - approximately the first century, B. C. - Taoism was a "conglomeration of sorcery, arts of priest-magicians and the philosophy of the yin-yang school, e.g., all things are products of cosmic negative and positive forces."10

The Taoist pantheon contains a multiplicity of gods; there are deities for animate and inanimate objects, for stars, even for parts of the body.11 Some contend that the highest of these is "The Jade Emperor" (Yu Huang), the supreme god of the whole universe. The Taoists have a trinity, "The Three Pure Ones" (San Chi'ing), although the individual members may vary - Lao Tzu, Yu Huang, and the mythical ruler P'an Ku** are one combination. The "Three Rulers" (San Kuan) is another trinity sometimes believed to comprise Heaven, Earth, and Water and the three (perhaps legendary) rulers Yao, Shun, and Yu. Temples are frequently erected to gods who are actually personified ideas, mythical beings, and deified human beings. 12 There are three types of Taoist heavens - ten "Heavenly Grottoes," thirty-six subsidiary "Heavenly Grottoes," and seventy-two "Blessed Places" - ruled by immortals.

Among the primary objectives of Taoism are happiness, wealth, health, the bearing of children, and longevity. Those who truly wanted to follow the Tao, that is, to realize the Three Original Principles of Taoism - Essence, Vital Force, and Spirit, 13 adhered to a regimen which included "meditation on Taoist truths, the cultivation of such Taoist


*See "Folk Beliefs" for a more detailed discussion. pp. 30-33.

9. L. H. Dudley Buxton, China: The Land and the People (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929), pp. 176-77.

10. "Taoism," op. cit., p. 796; Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 159.

11. Ibid.

12. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 162.

13. "Taoism," op. cit., p. 797.


attitudes as inaction and placidity...carefully regulated breathing, diet, discipline, moral living, and partaking of substances supposed to prolong life, such as seeds and resin of evergreens, ...products of such in plants as the plum, and certain minerals and jewels - gold, jade, and the pearl."14

Alchemy and astrology are integral parts of Taoism. The true Taoist seeks to achieve immortality by means of magical practices and drugs. Not only are these drugs believed capable of prolonging life for centuries, but they rejuvenate the body and enable the immortal to walk through fire unharmed, walk on water without sinking, rise into the air, control the spirits, and revive the dead. 15

Superstitions are also an important part of Taoism, as is shown by the belief in geomancy (divination by means of figures or lines), fortune-telling, divination, and the use of charms and amulets.16 Traditionally, Chinese scholars and the more educated classes scorned Taoism as the "superstitious cult of the 'stupid people.'"17 They also associated medicine with Taoism, and as a result neglected it. Science was considered the province of the "ignorant and lowly" and was therefore left to the Taoist priests. 18

Taoist professionals are called tao shih. The tao shih are recluses seeking immortality by meditating and leading ascetic lives; celibates living in monasteries; or married people living at home but earning a livelihood by officiating at burials, writing charms, exorcizing evil spirits, or communicating with the dead. A devotee of Taoism enters the professional ranks through an apprenticeship.19

In the past, Taoist belief was associated with secret societies which were instrumental in overthrowing Chinese dynasties. In Communist China, the Taoists have been persecuted as counterrevolutionaries.20


Confucianism is largely a Western term applied to the system of thought set forth by the sage Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and his followers. The Chinese generally call this body of thought K'ung Chiao ("Confucian Teaching") or Ju Chiao ("Teaching of the Learned"). Confucianism is frequently considered to be a philosophy, since much Confucianist thought concerns the organization of the state, of society, and the relationships between men. But Confucianism also contains religious elements which are viewed by the Chinese as a form of chiao meaning "to educate." 21

Religion, according to the Confucianists, is primarily moral cultivation, but spiritual overtones and practices are also present. Confucius did not concern himself with spirits and the afterlife except to say that spirits should be respected but kept at a distance. That is, men should learn to direct their own destinies instead of placing themselves at the mercy of the spirits. Confucius taught his followers to believe in a heaven but only as the source of all moral law and principles. Heaven, according to Confucius, "is not anthropomorphic and 'he does not speak,'


14. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 161.

15. C. P. Fitzgerald, China: A Short Cultural History (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1961), p. 269.

16. "Taoism," op. cit., p. 797.

17. Fitzgerald, China, pp. 273-74.

18. Ibid.

19. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 159-60.

20. "China," op. cit., p. 569.

21. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 133.


but he is superhuman, purposive, the source of truth and goodness, completely overwhelming and mysterious." 22 For this reason the "Confucianists call their Way the 'Way of Heaven' and their Principle the 'Principle of Heaven.'"23

Placing great emphasis on the practice of religious ritual, Confucianism has always promoted such ancient rites as the worship of heaven, homage to ancestors, and the commemoration of great men. In the past, the Emperor, representing the people, performed annual rites at the Altar of Heaven to ensure cooperation between man and the universe, to give thanks, and to pray for a good year. Confucianism advocates the sincere performance of rites of ancestor worship, not because ancestors have power over the living, but rather to unify the dead and the living and so strengthen the family unit. To show respect for great men, Confucianists, as a matter of tradition, built temples in their honor and performed seasonal rites to them. The most respected of these was and is, of course, Confucius; temples in his honor have been erected in nearly all Vietnamese provinces. In general, however, Confucius has not been deified but has been given such titles as duke, king, "Great Perfection, Ultimate Sage and Foremost Teacher." 24

Confucianism is not an institutional religion with a sacred scripture, clergy, or creed; it is, however, religious in its observance of traditional rites and in its philosophy. Confucianism does not teach immortality in the sense of the existence of a heaven and hell; it does teach immortality in the humanistic sense of virtue, wisdom, and achievement. Good and evil ensure their own consequences.25

Confucianist temples, located in the major towns of the Republic of Vietnam, contain only altars, honorary tablets, and maxims from Confucius carved on panels. Traditionally, Vietnamese, and perhaps the Chinese, Confucianists celebrated the festival of Confucius in the autumn, on a day designated by the astrologers. Offerings of flowers and rice wine were placed on the maxim altars and an invocation read before each one. The ritual was repeated before the altars of the four philosophers, the altars of the parents of Confucius, and the 72 tablets of the eminent scholars. Instead of temples of Confucius, villages have altars to the Master of Philosophy; larger villages might group together three altars in one enclosure, whereas smaller villages would have only one. 26

Confucianism has had a profound effect on the economic organization of Chinese society. Coupled with the cult of the ancestors, Confucianism stresses the importance of family, the creation of a true kinship society, and the procreation of male heirs, essential to the perpetuation of the clan. Largely due to Confucianist teaching, the Chinese family forms a tight economic unit, an affluent member often providing for all. A consequence of Confucianism has been the tendency to avoid risk unless the interests of the family are at stake.27


22. "Confucianism," Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. VI (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1965), pp. 308-309.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Gustave Dumoutier, Les Cultes annamites, translated for Human Relations Area Files by Mr. Thompson (Hanoi: H. F. Schneider, 1907), pp. 1-2.

27. News From Vietnam, VI (1960), pp. 18-20.



The Chinese have been deeply influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, which is intertwined with Taoist and Confucianist elements.28 By winning the favor of Buddhist divinities, the Chinese hope to dispel the evil and receive the good of this life; by doing charitable works, supporting the temple and monastery, saying prayers, and following a vegetarian regimen, the Buddhist can acquire merit which may be useful in the life beyond the grave.

The vast Buddhist pantheon includes both foreign (Indian) and indigenous gods. Mahayana Buddhists revere innumerable Buddhas, including Gautama and especially Amitabha Buddha. At death, those of the faith of Amitabha Buddha allegedly enter the Pure Land (paradise) or "Western Heaven." In addition, Buddhists worship bodhisattvas as deities (persons, living or dead, who refrain from entering Nirvana in order to save others). Among the most widely worshiped bodhisattvas are Kuan-yin, Goddess of Mercy, who is reputed to deliver the believer from danger and to grant children; Ti Tsang (called God of Hell); and Wen-Shu, the embodiment of wisdom. 29

The true Buddhists are mainly the professionals - the monks (ho shang), the teachers of Buddhist law (fa shih), and the nuns. A man desiring to become a monk enters the monastery as a novice, and at that time takes 10 vows, including promises not to steal, take life, be unchaste, lie, or drink alcohol. A monk tutors the novice in the sacred writings and in the ritual. The majority of the monks know only a small part of the ritual and may not even comprehend the meaning of the little they know. A small group of monks are, however, extremely learned, having spent their lives meditating.

With the completion of his novitiate, the candidate enters the state of lohan, when he is seeking his own salvation. Lastly, he takes the vows of a bodhisattva to seek salvation for others as well as for himself.

The monk abides by certain rules of conduct. He must remain celibate, serve as a monk for life, eat no flesh, and continue to adhere to his earlier vows.30 The Chinese monk wears grey, brown, or saffron-yellow garments consisting of a loose-fitting, long-sleeved jacket and trousers. Chinese monks are rarely called by the Chinese except in times of misfortune and death; they are invited into the Chinese home only to conduct funeral services. When the gods are favorable there is no need for the monks' services.31

Chinese Temples

Chinese temples combine Buddhist, Taoist, Confucianist, and animistic elements. Designed along traditional Chinese lines, the temples are made of brick or stucco with tile roofs and dragons under the eaves. Taoist gods and Mahayana Buddhist images are often present in the temple. In some areas the temples are in disrepair, indicating a decline


28. Coughlin, op. cit., p. 92.

29. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 154-55.

30. Ibid., Part II, p. 150.

31. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 96-97.


in the influence of the temple in the Chinese community. The temples depend on public support, for in Chinese temples no collections are taken - the very idea is offensive - but money is acquired through the sale of incense, candles, and votive papers. In addition, the temples receive money through the services of votaries (fortunetellers), donations, and fees for the services of the monks.32

There is no congregation in the Chinese temple. The laity consists of those wishing to worship in any temple at any time. Worshipers may attend a certain temple until the gods there no longer benefit them, at which point they may choose another. Most worshipers visit the temple only on the 1st and 15th days of each lunar month and during religious festivals. On these occasions the temples are filled to capacity with worshipers and their offerings. Worship is on the individual basis and consists of bowing, praying, burning incense and candles, or offering food, drink, and paper money to a certain god. The monks do not as a rule take part in the rituals. 33

Principal Holidays and Festivals

Most Chinese holidays and festivals have an underlying religious significance, although the social and recreational aspects are sometimes more evident. Some holidays are observed only within the home; others, by the whole community. Not all festivals are of equal significance, and the importance of each may vary according to the community. Among the principal Chinese holidays are: the New Year, Lantern Day, Ch'ing Ming, Fifth Month Festival, Chung-yuan, Mid-Autumn Festival, and the Winter Festival.

The most important Chinese holiday of these is the New Year, which begins on the first lunar month, and lasts for 3 to 5 days. Since the Chinese measure time by both the lunar and the solar month, with an intercalary month added in some years, the date of the New Year varies, the earliest being January 21 and the latest February 19. New Year preparations begin a week in advance, when people bearing elaborate offerings flock to the temples. Moreover, food is prepared in advance because, according to custom, no cutting implement may be used during the New Year festival, and nothing may be killed on the first day of the year. Gifts of money wrapped in red paper are given the children; god papers are renewed.34 A few days before the New Year, the Kitchen God is believed to return to heaven to notify the gods of the family's conduct since the last anniversary. The family signals his departure by burning the god's image and welcomes his return, on the eve of the New Year, by pasting a new image of him over the kitchen stove.35

The New Year is a time for paying debts, feasting, visiting friends and relatives, honoring the ancestors and exchanging gifts - usually of food. To accept all the contents of a gift basket is considered a breach of etiquette; a portion is usually returned to the sender as an indication that the gift is too generous. During the first 10 days of the New Year,


32. Ibid., pp. 94-96.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid., pp. 106-107; Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 5.

35. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 224.


all the gods are worshiped, the birthdays of all domestic animals celebrated, and all the stars are honored. With the advent of each new year, another year is added to the ages of all family members. During this festival the Chinese also celebrate birthdays, thus a child is 1 year old at birth and 2 years old after the first New Year.36

Lantern Day, on the 15th day of the first lunar month, is primarily a religious celebration. Traditionally in southern China, during this holiday marking the official end of the New Year festival, a procession displayed the image of Buddha, and lanterns were hung out at each home. In Thailand, the Chinese have no procession but give dinner parties at home and visit the temple to determine whether or not the gods will favor them in the coming year. This determination is made by casting on the floor two small pieces of wood or bei, each having one flat and one round side; the gods will be favorable if one flat side and one round side turn up. When this happens, the individual buys cakes and candy at the temple and promises to pay more, the interest on the debt increasing at each throw. The confections - replicas of temples and lions of hard white sugar - are taken home to the children. In the evening families again visit the temple to make offerings of oranges, noodles, incense, and candles.37 The Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam also use the bei, but whether the above ritual is observed is not certain.

The principal spring festival is Ming, celebrated at the end of the second or the beginning of the third moon, when the family visits the graves of the ancestors, cleans and repairs the tombstones, and makes offerings. When the ancestors were cremated, their remains were placed in tin boxes and stored in warehouses. During Ch'ing Ming, the family opens the boxes and makes the traditional offerings by burning incense and paper money and by presenting food and drink. Chinese musicians sometimes play on this occasion.38

The Fifth Month Festival, sometimes called the Dragon Boat Festival, falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. Originally boat races were held on this day, but today offerings are made to temple gods, animistic shrines, and household deities. Women prepare cakes of glutinous rice and nuts, offer them first, as a ritual, to the gods and then serve them to the family. This festival is mainly social and serves to break the daily routine.39

Chung-yuan, on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, is a time to commemorate the ancestors. Observance of this day varies according to the dialect group. In Thailand, the Cantonese, in lesser numbers than at Ch'ing Ming, visit the cemeteries, make offerings to the ancestral spirits, and clean the graves. The Teochiu observe the day at home, for they believe the spirits wander and may be dangerous if not appeased. Elaborate offerings of food and drink (whisky, Coca-Cola) are made, paper money burned, and coins and rice thrown around the shop or home. According to traditional belief, if the spirits are sufficiently tempted by these offerings, they will not molest the family. In the evening these offerings are consumed by the family.40


36. Ibid., Part II, p. 225.

37. Coughlin, op. cit., pp. 108-109.

38. Ibid., pp. 109-110.

39. Ibid., p. 110.

40. Ibid., p. 111.


The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival, on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, is almost as merry a celebration as the New Year. In the evening, shopkeepers set up richly decorated tables on the sidewalk and display all their wares, especially such things as cologne, face powder, and silks, as well as gold and silver paper which will be burned at the curb. Suspended above the displays are lanterns - shaped like fish, temples, and airplanes - as well as gas lamps. Until midnight, crowds of people stroll about the streets and watch actors perform on stages erected in the squares. Women turn out in great numbers, because the Moon Goddess is said to appear at this time to listen to and sometimes grant women's requests. Offerings are also made in the temples and homes. At midnight the family is supposed to sit beneath the full moon and eat moon cakes made of coconut and dates. This custom commemorates the Chinese rebellion against the Mongols, when the Chinese population read the announcement of the rebellion on slips of paper hidden in cakes. In addition, the festival is a time for strengthening the emotional ties of the Chinese with their homeland.

The Winter Festival, on the 25th day of the 11th month, is a time for integrating the family. Sweetened flour balls are presented to the household gods who are believed to return to heaven and report on the family. Eating these flour balls also assures the individual of good fortune during the coming year. On this day, all the family returns to the parental home and partakes of a feast. 41

Competition is so keen in the Chinese community that the Chinese generally work Saturdays and Sundays and take no more than 3 days a year for holidays - except for occasional weddings and funerals.

The various festivals, like the Chinese religion in general, give moral support and comfort to the individual in time of crises and misfortune. They also help to reinforce the solidarity, mutual aid, and cooperative characteristics of the Chinese and to strengthen their emotional ties with the homeland.42


To summarize, Chinese religion is essentially optimistic. Men, according to orthodox Confucianism, are naturally good; human life is worth preserving. Prosperity ensues from obedience to moral law, and disaster results from evil actions. Buddhism reinforces this optimism, teaching that good triumphs over evil. Chinese religion is also strongly ethical. Confucianism stresses man's duty to man and praises such virtues as filial piety, loyalty, and sincerity. Buddhism also emphasizes that suffering results from wantonness.

All Chinese religions, some more than others, emphasize ritual. In certain cases the stress on the performance of ritual is stronger than that on living an ethically good life. Confucianism, however, unites ethics and rituals in the belief that ritual is meaningless unless performed with a moral purpose; conversely the performance of ritual assists in moral development.


41. Ibid., pp. 112-13.

42. Ibid., p. 115.


Chinese religion is both utilitarian and nonutilitarian. The social aspects of religion were meant to facilitate relations between man and man and between man and the spirits. Taoism provides the means for attaining immortality on earth; according to Buddhism, man can aspire to a blessed afterlife by adhering to its doctrine. The superstition of the Chinese reinforces the utilitarian aspect of their religion. Offerings are made to obtain immediate protection or benefits. Lastly, Chinese religion has both a social and an individual facet; Confucianism teaches that religion is destined to save society, yet, together with Buddhism and Taoism, it also aims to perfect the individual.43


43. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, pp. 124-30.



The role of the Chinese in the economy of Vietnam has been compared with that of the "blood circulation system of a human body." 1 This indispensability is explained by the fact that the Chinese have penetrated virtually every field of economic activity, especially trade - four-fifths of Vietnamese trade was in Chinese hands in 1958 - banking, and commerce. The Chinese exert a tremendous influence over the country's agriculture; although few are directly engaged in farming, their loan and transportation facilities are of vital importance to Vietnamese farmers. Even in outlying regions, the Chinese are in close contact with the majority of the populace and have established a complex economic structure on the basis of trust and credit.2

To integrate the Chinese into the Vietnamese body politic and to loosen the Chinese stranglehold on the economy, Ngo Dinh Diem issued two ordinances - one primarily political and the other economic - specifically directed at the Chinese. 3 The first decree, Ordinance No. 48 of August 21, 1956, imposed Vietnamese citizenship on all Chinese born in Vietnam.4 The local-born Chinese (estimated to number about 500,000) were obliged to adopt Vietnamese names, pay taxes, and register for military service as Vietnamese citizens. All other Chinese were considered foreigners.5 The other ordinance, Decree No. 53 of September 6, 1956, prohibited foreigners - namely, Chinese nationals - from engaging in 11 professions: foreigners could not be fishmongers and butchers; retailers of products in common use (chap-pho); coal and firewood merchants; dealers in petroleum products; secondhand dealers; textile and silk merchants handling less than 10,000 meters; metal scrap dealers; cereal dealers; transporters of persons and merchandise by surface vehicle or boat; rice millers or processors; and commission agents.6Thus, no longer were Chinese allowed to be merchants exclusively. Those in the first seven professions were allowed 6 months in which to comply with the decree, while those in the last four were given 1 year to liquidate or turn their businesses over to Vietnamese.

Needless to say, the two decrees had far-reaching effects, causing civil disobedience and diplomatic reactions in Taiwan as well as in Saigon.7 The Chinese countered almost immediately with economic reprisals which nearly precipitated the collapse of the Vietnamese economy.8 They withdrew large sums of money from their banks, until almost a sixth of the country's currency - between 800 million and 1. 5 billion piasters - had been removed from circulation. In an earlier article, the author who cites these figures says the Chinese withdrew only 400 to 600 million piasters and "sat on it."9 The value of the Vietnamese piaster on the Hong Kong free market was temporarily depressed from the official 35 to $1 to 90, and to 105, and finally to 81 (the normal free rate being 75 to 80 to $1).10


1. Tsung To Way, "Overseas Chinese in Vietnam," Far Eastern Economic Review, XXIV, No. 1 (January 2, 1958), p. 20.

2. Ibid., pp. 20-21.

3. Tsung To Way, "Overseas Chinese," op. cit., pp. 20-21.

4. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 110.

5. Alice Tay Erh Soon, "The Chinese in South-East Asia," Race, IV, No. 1 (November 1962), p. 35.

6. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 121.

7. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op, cit., p. 67.

8. Tay Erh Soon, op. cit., p. 34.

9. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 68.

10. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 113.


Chinese in charge of the Hong Kong and Singapore markets were urged to boycott Vietnamese rice; as a result, the country's rice exports virtually ceased.11 Distribution problems resulted because of the insufficient number of Vietnamese willing to take over Chinese businesses; only 34 percent of the total businesses in the restricted categories found Vietnamese willing to assume ownership. In the Saigon area, for example, only 96 Vietnamese came forth to claim 1,013 chap-pho (grocery-general stores) vacated by the Chinese. By mid-July 1957, the number of unemployed Chinese had soared to 25, 000 in the Saigon area alone.

Repercussions from the Government decrees were also felt in remote rural areas. Chinese rice millers, who usually lent money to the Vietnamese farmers to help them through the lean months prior to the harvest, refused to lend money and the Chinese middlemen who generally transported the farmers' rice, pork, and other products to the mills and to market failed to do so. Consequently, farmers turned to barter for their needs, and products were sold on the spot at any price. 12

Only when the Chinese had partially withdrawn from economic activity was the extent of their economic power fully revealed. Due to their unusual system of credit and exchange and their elaborate commercial networks, the Chinese had frequently completed large business transactions on a small monetary base.13 These factors, coupled with the loss in tax revenue from the Chinese businesses, explained the depletion of Government funds and the consequent inability of the Government to pay customs and storage rates on consumer imports which were flooding the country. Consequently, tons of merchandise - which now had to be paid for in advance - stockpiled in the ports and deteriorated for want of proper storage facilities. 14

When the economic crisis failed to improve, despite capital aid from the Government and lowered bank rates, the Government in July 1957 relented and agreed to compromise. The Chinese were to be permitted to reopen their shops on the condition that they would take Vietnamese partners, or a Vietnamese wife in whose name the business could be placed, or that they become Vietnamese citizens. Refusal to comply with these conditions would result in deportation to Taiwan. Later events showed that the compromise had been a mere face-saving device for the Government, and the Vietnamization of the economy had been only nominally achieved. The nature of the compromise was revealed in partially secret testimony before the Foreign Relations Committee in March 1958:

The Vietnamese required that the second-generation (i.e., born in Vietnam) Chinese own at least 51 percent of the company. That enables them to say it is a Vietnamese company. Their parents, who retain Chinese nationality, own 49 percent. Of course it is all the same group of people, but it is a Vietnamese operation with Chinese support.15


11. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," p. 110; Tay Erh Soon, op. cit., p. 34.

12. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 114.

13. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 68.

14. Ibid., p. 69.

15. Ibid., p. 70.


By December 1957 most Vietnamese companies were believed to be of this type. According to a census of importers, producers, and end users, 677, or about 25 percent out of a total of 2,758 such enterprises, were still fully Chinese owned at the end of 1957.16 In 1961, the Chinese controlled more than 80 percent of all capital in retail trade17 75 percent of Vietnam's economic activities.18

Thus Decree No. 53 weakened the Vietnamese economy and aggravated the already strained relations between the Chinese community and the Vietnamese Government. Further alienation of the Chinese resulted when the Cholon police commissioner forced Chinese merchants and intellectuals to organize "wipe-out illiteracy" classes in which Vietnamese was to be the only language of instruction, to remove all Chinese signs from their shops, and to Vietnamize their names. The absence of free choice, not the principle behind these orders, annoyed the Chinese. In fact, it is precisely this failure on the part of the Government to allow the Chinese free exercise of their will which explains why the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam, contrary to those in other Southeast Asian countries, have fought so hard to preserve their Chinese citizenship.19

Predominant Occupations

The Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam are engaged in practically every occupation, from agriculture through banking and light industry, to wood carving and shoemaking.

Agriculture. Even prior to the arrival of the French, the Chinese had been especially active in the cultivation of pepper, mulberries, and tea, market gardening, and pigbreeding. Pepper is grown mainly in An Giang, Kien Giang, and on the island of Phu Quoc according to very exact, time-honored methods.20 In the past, Chinese landowners imported their own countrymen from Hainan to work in the pepper fields, and the Chinese owned most of the large market gardens adjoining the major towns, which provided the populace with local as well as Chinese vegetables. 21 Because the return on rice cultivation is meager, competition from native cultivators great, and because in the past the Chinese were barred by law from owning the best ricegrowing land, 22 the Chinese do not generally cultivate rice. There are, however, exceptions: in Ba Xuyen and An Xuyen Provinces most of the rice production is in Chinese hands. Most Chinese farmers are of Teochiu, Hakka, and Hainanese origin.23 In Da Lat, Baria, and other wooded areas throughout the country, the Chinese engage in small lumbering enterprises whose products are mainly destined for local markets. In 1957, there were 276 such enterprises, 160 of which had main offices in the Saigon-Cholon area.24

Rice Processing. Traditionally the rice trade has been controlled by the Chinese. In the past they dominated every phase of rice marketing, transportation, and processing; it was estimated that the Chinese owned 75 percent of Vietnam's 70 rice mills.25 Correlated with this were the operation of commissaries and grocery stores and the function of


16. Ibid.

17. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 111.

18. Tay Erh Soon, op. cit., p. 34.

19. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 71.

20. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 11.

21. Etienne Dennery, Asia's Teeming Millions and Its Problems for the West (London: Jonathan Cape, 1931), p. 137.

22. Mitchison, op. cit., p. 19.

23. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 20.

24. Simoniya, op. cit., p. 72; Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 11.

25. Tsung To Way, "A Survey of Chinese Occupations," Viet-Nam: The First Five Years, ed. Richard W. Lindholm (East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1959), p. 118.


moneylending between harvests.26 Rice milling is the most important industry operated by the Chinese, but since the world depression in the 1930's it has not thrived as it did a decade earlier, when Cholon's factories alone produced 8,090 tons of white rice every 24 hours. In 1948 the Viet Minh sabotaged 11 of the Chinese rice mills. Since then many large rice mills have been replaced by smaller mills dispersed in more rural areas.

Textile Manufacturing. Second in importance to rice production is the manufacture of thread and cloth. In 1959, more than 600 textile workshops were engaged in spinning and weaving. However, until 1959 most manufacturers were small family businesses, and Vietnam lacked a large textile mill.27 In July 1959, a Vietnamese-Chinese textile plant (VINATEXCO) was opened at Ba Quec in Gia Dinh Province. Built with private Chinese and Vietnamese capital and backed by a loan from the Industrial Development Center with the support of the American Aid Mission, the plant was scheduled to produce 10 tons of cotton yarn and 32,000 yards of fabric daily, satisfying one-quarter of the Republic of Vietnam's textile needs. 28

Other Light Industries. The most important of these is the manufacturing of candles and incense sticks used as offerings in most religions. Also significant is the manufacturing of rubber, stone, clay, and glass products, and wooden ships, used mainly for transporting rice along the inland waterways. Food and associated industries include sugar refining in the areas of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Bien Hoa, Gia Dinh, Thu Dau Mot and Cholon; the making of fish, soya and bean sauces; rice flour noodles; soya bean cheese; confectionaries; and coconut and peanut oil.29 There are many other small Chinese-operated industries too numerous to mention.

Nonmanufacturing Occupations. Retail trade is the most significant nonmanufacturing operation, for in 1959 it included 15 subcategories with 2,123 Chinese firms or authorized dealers (those having a Government franchise). The leading subcategory is no doubt the grocery, a combination of the American grocery, drug, and dime stores. Next in importance is the Chinese medicine shop which, in the absence of modern medical facilities, supplies the hinterland inhabitants with Chinese and Vietnamese medicinal herbs. The Chinese pharmacist is also called upon to diagnose and to treat patients in their homes. These two types of small businesses play a vital role in the domestic economy, for they are found in almost all areas, even the most remote. The nature of these businesses also seems to allow the Chinese to remain abreast of the ideas and activities of the populace.

Third in importance are rice shops and secondhand goods stalls, each of which had some 200 dealers in 1959. 30

Wholesale businesses consist of 30 subcategories which include 1,856 firms. The most important of these is the import-export business; in 1959 there were 350 import-export firms, most of which had been in existence since mid-1955. Prior to the imposition of a margin deposit of


26. Leonard Unger, "The Chinese in Southeast Asia," The Geographical Review, XXXIV (1944), p. 215.

27. Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., pp. 118-20.

28. "New Vietnamese-Chinese Textile Plant Producing One Fourth of Local Needs," News From Vietnam, VI, No. 12 (November 30, 1960), pp. 11-12.

29. Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., p. 118; Ly Y Ming, op. cit., pp. 111-12.

30. Tsung To Way, "Overseas Chinese," op. cit., p. 122.


350,000 piasters, more than 20,000 such firms existed in Saigon-Cholon alone. 31

That the scrap copper and iron business, mainly handled by the Fukienese, is of considerable importance is demonstrated by the recent shipment of 40,000 tons of iron scrap to Japan.

Next in importance is the bazaar trade, an expanded version of the grocery store. Textiles and agricultural products are equally important in the bazaars: in addition to rice and rubber, the latter category includes such surplus items as green beans, cattle hides, duck feathers, and dried fish. These items are also exported to Hong Kong and Singapore under a barter system. 32

Transportation. Transportation, comprising six subcategories and 165 dealers, is mainly in Chinese hands. Most products are transported from Saigon to the interior and back, and from village to village, along highways.33 In the Mekong Delta, however, transportation is principally by water, and the Chinese - private individuals, landowners, and shipping companies - own most of the junks and tugboats. The Chinese also own several small steamers (500 tons) which formerly sailed between Saigon and Haiphong, and Saigon and Da Nang. Since the Chinese have a monopoly in transportation, most farmers depend on them to carry their produce to market.34

Banking and Commercial Facilities. Five Chinese banks - one branch of the East Asia Bank, two of the China Bank, and two of the Bank of Communications - operate in the Saigon-Cholon area; in conformity with Government regulations, these banks give service to clients of all nationalities. Chinese pawnshops and moneylenders also play a significant role by extending credit to small firms and to members of the urban working classes and peasants.35

Service Industries. The Chinese firms or authorized dealers in both urban and rural areas totaled 15,748. 36

Chinese Economic Organizations

The most significant and powerful Chinese business association is the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, whose apparent function is to further Chinese business interests. Originally organized in 1903, it was officially incorporated in 1910. Until 1959, the membership comprised representatives of the five congregations and the leadership rotated among the Cantonese, Fukienese, and Teochiu, who held five votes each. The Hakka and Hainanese, with only three votes each, were not permitted to assume leadership. Since 1959 the Chamber has been reorganized - to reduce the influence of the dialect groups - and members are now selected from the trade associations. 37

There are 48 Chinese Trade Associations in the Republic of Vietnam, with a membership of 1,381 Chinese businesses - 1960 figures. The leading concerns are the medical association, 75 firms; the jewelry associations, 69 firms; and of lesser importance, the weaving association,


31. Ibid.

32. Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., p. 122.

33. Ibid.

34. Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., p. 123.

35. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 12; Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., p. 123.

36. Tsung To Way, "A Survey," op. cit., pp. 123-24.

37. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 12.


345 individual or family members; the teahouse association, 209 members; and the tailors' association, 200 members. 38

Occupational Specialization by Dialect Group

Traditionally, each dialect group or congregation specialized in a particular field of economic activity. In this way, each group maintained a more or less self-supporting, independent economy. In general, the five groups may be characterized as follows:

1. The Cantonese or Kwong-fu. This group consists mainly of laborers; that is, persons engaged in railway construction; handicrafts, such as sauce making, brewery, copper and iron utensils; tanneries; gold- and silver smithing; shoemaking; laundry; cooking; painting; and various service industries, such as department stores, hotels, and theaters. 39

2. The Fukienese or Hokkien. Although few in number - 8 percent of the Chinese population in 1950 40 - the Fukienese are the principal Chinese merchants (especially in rice) and are therefore generally the wealthiest.41 Their secondary activities include shipbuilding (junks), shipping, motorcar repairs, bicycle supply, exchange houses, and banking. They operate rubber goods, sugar refining, coconut oil pressing, pineapple packing, and confectionery. 42

3. The Teochiu. Especially concerned with good businesses, this group deals particularly with the production of rice, raw fish, dried salt fish, pepper, and vegetables. Associated with these businesses are such enterprises as rice milling, market gardening, wine making, and tobacco growing.43 Many Teochiu are also boatmen and cooks.44

4. The Hakka or Kheb. Like the Cantonese, the Hakka engage in handicrafts such as shoemaking, tailoring, gold- and silversmithing, and in such concerns as rice milling and iron founding. Some Hakka operate pawnshops and exchange houses, while others follow professions such as medicine and teaching. Few if any corporations are run by the Hakka group.45 They are also farmers and workmen.46

5. The Hainanese or Hailam. Lowest on the economic and social scales, this group is primarily engaged in domestic service, small restaurant and teashop businesses, fishing, junk shipping, and factory and coolie labor.47

Trade With Other Groups

The Chinese have established a complex trading system which neither the Vietnamese nor the Europeans have succeeded in duplicating. The preeminence in trade which the overseas Chinese have attained is explained partially by their ability to mingle easily with the local inhabitants of their adopted countries, their willingness to speculate and to serve as intermediaries, and their elaborate system of mutual assistance. To understand the intricacies of Chinese commerce, it is


38. Ibid., pp. 12-13.

39. N. Uchida, "Economic Activities of the Chinese in Southeast Asia," Far Eastern Economic Review, XXI, No. 19 (November 8, 1956), p. 591.

40. Purcell, op. cit., p. 699.

41. Ibid., p. 656.

42. Uchida, op. cit., p. 591.

43. Ibid.

44. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 20.

45. Uchida, op. cit., p. 592.

46. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 20.

47. Uchida, op. cit., p. 592.


necessary merely to examine the rice trade, which is characteristic of the Chinese business method.

Traditionally, Chinese rice merchants maintained rice mills to process the paddy for exporters. When they functioned in both capacities, they were called miller-exporters and were generally located in Cholon. The rice millers usually could not purchase paddy directly from the farmers, but had to use intermediaries or paddy merchants, who were organized into syndicates and who specialized in this phase of the trade. These merchants, operating through the intermediaries of agents and ramasseurs (literally gatherers or collectors), were also essential to most rice farmers, who needed them to provide transportation of their rice to the mill.48

The paddy merchants, situated in the urban areas, did not purchase the paddy themselves, but rather through their agents, located in the rice-growing districts and river ports, who in turn directed the activities of the ramasseurs. The agents, the second group of middlemen, often were also grocers. Occasionally large grocers avoided using the services of one middleman by purchasing paddy directly, transporting it to town themselves, and reselling it to the paddy merchants.

The agents, according to custom, dealt only with transactions of 10,000 gia (a Vietnamese measure equal to 40 liters). Their accountants handled business amounting to 5,000 to 10,000 gia; their subaccountants, quantities of 400 to 5,000 gia; transactions below 500 gia were handled by the ramasseurs.

The ramasseurs were actually in charge of buying the paddy in the village markets; in many cases the paddy had already been promised in payment of a loan made before the harvest.49 The ramasseurs bought the paddy with capital provided by the agents, who in turn received credit from the urban wholesale merchant. 50

The Chinese are frequently accused of usury, of exploiting the debt-ridden farmers, and of capitalizing on their improvidence. The Vietnamese generally do not save for the future, especially since the local Chinese grocer, known as Uncle, will nearly always give them credit, while at the same time securing rights on the crop. Uncle encourages the farmer to remain in his debt. "The Chinese is satisfied merely to threaten and prefers to remain on good terms with the debtor. After each of his visits, he takes something away with him, a measure of paddy, the daughter of the house for a concubine, or a new contract. He prefers goods to money down; he is a moneylender because he is a merchant, and is more concerned with the possible chances of a future sale than with immediate payment." 51

Recently these rice traders have been of positive assistance to the Vietnamese Government. In October 1965, the Government forces and the Communists were each preparing to seize the harvest, estimated at 220,000 tons, from the vicinity of Bac Lieu, an area mostly under Viet Cong domination. To prevent the Communists from getting the lion's share of the paddy, as they have been attempting to do each year, the


48. Purcell, op. cit., p. 238.

49. Ibid., p. 239.

50. Ibid., p. 240.

51. Dennery, op. cit., pp. 143-44.


Government sent out Chinese merchants to buy rice directly from the farmers. Because the Chinese are usually apolitical, they alone dare to enter such Communist-held areas without fear of reprisals. In addition to fanning out into the paddy areas, the Chinese reportedly maintain granaries in Bac Lieu which are dummy organizations designed to deceive the Communists. 52

According to an earlier report - July 1965 - Vietnamese resentment against the Chinese had increased because of a rise in the price of rice. The increase was attributed partly to Viet Cong interference with paddy shipments and partly to Chinese speculation. To curb speculation, Premier Nguyen Cao Ky threatened to shoot rice dealers convicted of hoarding and speculation. 53


52. Takashi Oka, "Vietnam Harvesttime: Rice Crop - Key Target," The Christian Science Monitor, October 30, 1965, p. 16.

53. Topping, op. cit., p. 3, col. 2.



For centuries the Chinese have played a dominant role in the economic activities of Vietnam while remaining politically separate. The Chinese lived in their own communities, operated their own trade-political associations, established and enforced their own laws, and considered themselves citizens of China.1

When the Chinese emigrated and settled in Vietnam, they grouped themselves, according to dialect or province of origin, into communities called bangs, which the state officially recognized in 1814. The leaders of these groups, bang truong, were chosen by the local authorities and were held responsible for the behavior of their people. The Chinese, at that time, enjoyed the same civil status as the Vietnamese and were subject neither to military service nor to the corvee (labor in lieu of taxes). 2 They could appeal to the local courts and own property, but they were not permitted to seek state employment.3 The precolonial Annamese regime did not attempt to limit the economic and social position of the Chinese, but rather enabled them to function smoothly as a community separate from the Vietnamese.4

The French colonial regime, on the other hand, subjected the Chinese to a series of regulations in an effort to establish and maintain an equilibrium between the Vietnamese and the Chinese.5 They imposed heavy poll taxes on the Chinese; subsequently, to avoid allegations of discrimination, poll taxes were extended to all Asiatics. To curb Chinese immigration, the French required all citizens to carry identity cards, permits of circulation, and temporary passes.6 The French also maintained a system, initiated by the Emperor of Annam, whereby immigrants were not permitted to settle in the country unless they were sponsored by the chief of a village or bang and had their names registered.7

The French continued the bangs (or congregations, as they called them), since these organizations provided an effective means to control a steadily multiplying Chinese population. They entrusted to the leaders of the congregations such functions as tax collection, immigration control, and the settling of disputes within the Chinese community. Eventually, the Chinese reacted against the oppressive and discriminatory powers of the congregation leaders, who they believed were collaborating with the French against the rest of the Chinese community; but Chinese protests went unheeded until 1930, when the government of China intervened in their behalf.8

Small concessions were gained in the Nanking Franco-Chinese agreement of 1935 when the Chinese were granted most-favored-nation privileges of travel and residence.9 However, they were not allowed to own the most fertile red lands on which rubber and other export crops were cultivated.10 In southern Annam, the Chinese were not permitted to lease


1. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 107.

2. Purcell, op. cit., p. 224.

3. Harley Farnsworth MacNair, The Chinese Abroad: Their Position and Protection: A Study in International Law and Relations (Shanghai, China: The Commercial Press, Ltd., 1924), p. 151.

4. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., p. 115.

5. MacNair, op. cit., p. 151.

6. Purcell, op. cit., p. 227.

7. Ibid., p. 230.

8. Ibid.

9. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 23.

10. Ta Chen, op. cit., p. 63.


the village fishing sites which were auctioned by the provincial governments each year.11 Finally, they were still barred from employment in the colonial government. 12 The Franco-Chinese treaty of Chungking (1946), signed when France was weak and China was one of the Big Four, granted the Chinese "tax status equal to that of Indochinese nationals and jural status equal to that of French nationals."13

The Franco-Chinese treaty of 1948 provided for modifications of the congregation system. To appease the Nationalist Chinese Government, which felt the congregations fostered the sectional allegiance of the Chinese at the expense of loyalty to China, the French renamed the congregations with the more anonymous term of Chinese Regional Administrative Groups; in addition, the Chinese consuls were given the right to veto the candidacy of Chinese for positions of leadership in the groups, although the colonial government retained the right of ultimate choice. These groups continued to provide their members with community and civil services such as schools, hospitals, and temples. The best temples and hospitals were maintained by the Cantonese group, the largest of the five.14 The Chinese could now transfer from one association to another at will. Furthermore, the Chinese were allowed free movement, free trade, acquisition of property, fishing in territorial waters, and participation in the coastal trade in navigable waters. The traditional Chinese personal and family status was retained; placed under the jurisdiction of French tribunals, they were allowed to own property in common. The Chinese were, however, subject to an oppressive fiscal policy, which forced them to pay a special personal capital tax, a measure aimed at excluding all but the economic elite from the country.15 In effect, the Chinese were to be treated as a separate national group within the country.16 They were in a unique position, for they had no contact with local authorities except through their own elected leaders. As a semiautonomous group, the Chinese developed no other loyalties than those to their own congregations and ultimately to their native country.17 Moreover, their privileged position enabled them to gain control of certain branches of the economy and much of the resentment of the Vietnamese for the Chinese was engendered at this time, when the Chinese were granted extraterritorial concessions.18

When he came to power, it was undoubtedly obvious to Ngo Dinh Diem that the status of the Chinese was incompatible with the sovereignty of an independent state. To eliminate the privileged status of the Chinese and to integrate them into the Vietnamese body politic, Diem promulgated Ordinance No. 48 on August 21, 1956, which provided that all Chinese born in Vietnam were automatically granted Vietnamese citizenship.* Those refusing to accept would be deported to Formosa. The Sino-Vietnamese (Minh Huong), however, were ineligible for repatriation.20


*According to one source the decree, formulated in December 1955, granted Vietnamese citizenship to all Chinese born in Vietnam who had one parent also born in Vietnam.19

11. Gustave Langrand, Vie sociale et religieuse en Annam: Monographic d'un village de la côte Sud-Annam (Lille: Editions Univers, 1945), pp. 33-34.

12. Ta Chen, op. cit., p. 63.

13. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 63.

14. Ibid., p. 21.

15. Purcell, op. cit., pp. 230-31.

16. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 108.

17. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 66.

18. Ibid., p. 65.

19. Blake, op. cit.


Significantly, the decree was retroactive: all Chinese born in the country in the past, an estimated 500,000, suddenly discovered a new citizenship forced on them.21 The old alien-identification cards of Chinese born in Vietnam were confiscated; new cards were issued attesting their Vietnamese citizenship. 22

To justify these measures, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Vietnam issued a communique which called the decree:"...a privilege that most countries deny foreigners born on their territory or at least grant under exacting conditions.... It should also be added that it is hardly conceivable that an important foreign colony can live and prosper in a state on the fringes of the national community without sharing the obligations which normally fall on its members...."23 In conjunction with his efforts to integrate the Chinese into the community, Diem issued a second decree two weeks later which banned foreigners from 11 professions.*

As anticipated, the Chinese strongly opposed these measures as being anti-Chinese, especially since they were allowed no free choice. They appealed to the Consul General of Nationalist China to intervene in their behalf. The Vietnamese Government rejected China's requests, seriously straining relations between the two countries for 6 months. 24

By August 1957, the third of the "final" deadlines, less than 80,000 to 100,000 Chinese had registered for naturalization. Over 50,000 Chinese had applied for evacuation when the Vietnamese authorities suddenly closed the registration list on July 19, 1957. At that time only 3,000 Chinese had actually completed the formalities for departure; these were airlifted to Taiwan in August; even this evacuation was complicated by such redtape procedures as the listing of all items in their possession, the limitation on cash currency carried, and the payment of a 500 piaster departure tax, when they were only allowed to carry 400 piasters (the airport authorities eventually rescinded the departure tax).25

Meanwhile, the Chinese retaliated with economic reprisals, severely crippling the Vietnamese economy. The Government finally agreed to a compromise whereby the Chinese could continue their important role in the economy, provided they were willing to join the national community. The official abolition of the congregations in 1960 marked, at least formally, the end of the social and legal separateness of the Chinese community. The sudden imposition of Vietnamese citizenship on the Chinese, however, did not necessarily assure their loyalty and cooperation as citizens.26

As of 1961, according to some sources, the Chinese were beginning to accept, though reluctantly, their new status. 27 This was partially explained by the new policy of the Chinese Nationalist Government which urged Chinese nationals in Southeast Asia to become loyal citizens of their countries of residence.


*See "Economic Organization," p. 50.

20. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 67.

21. "Chinoiseries in South Vietnam," The Economist, CLXXX (July-September 1956), p. 1064.

22. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 67.

23. Ibid., p. 66.

24. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 110.

25. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., pp. 115-16.

26. Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., pp. 111-12.

27. Fall, "Viet-Nam's Chinese Problem," op. cit., p. 72; Buttinger, "Ethnic Minorities," op. cit., pp. 111-12.


Political Consciousness and Opinion

The political consciousness and opinions of the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam are by no means homogeneous. Many Chinese are concerned solely with earning a living and are apolitical, except for political acts affecting them directly. However, the educated Chinese and the uneducated merchants take a very real interest in politics. The latter are anxious to enjoy the wealth they have amassed and are likely to support any policy which will assure this.28

Outwardly, most Chinese favor Nationalist China, mainly because Taiwan has the only Chinese diplomatic mission in the country. However, beneath the surface, Chinese political opinions are both diverse and ambivalent. The Chinese press, comprising seven publications, is almost wholly pro-Kuomintang and vehemently anti-Communist. In the past, this attitude was one of necessity and expressed fear rather than conviction; a newspaper showing independence or propagating the Communist line was immediately suppressed. 29 The press, therefore, is not an accurate reflection of Chinese public opinion.

The average Chinese is believed to be a neutralist with pro-Peking, but not necessarily pro-Communist, leanings. His ties are naturally with mainland China, the motherland and the home of his kin. This feeling is, of course, stronger in those residents born in China than with the local-born Chinese. The Chinese also admires Communist China for rising from its chaotic, backward state to its present position as a great power.30

Moreover, the Chinese realize that it would be advantageous for them to have the support of a strong China. Since Taiwan was unable to alleviate their plight in 1956, many Chinese hope that Communist China will be able to protect them in the future. Some Chinese express the feeling that a powerful China, such as Mao's, would have made certain that they retained their privileged status in Vietnam. 31 Yet the Communist ideology and way of life are anathema to the Chinese businessman, who is a capitalist in the fullest sense of the word. 32 Being both practical and prudent, many Chinese have elected to follow an ambivalent course, espousing neither communism nor democracy, until the outcome of the struggle between the two ideologies becomes more certain. Meanwhile, they will continue openly to back Taiwan while they follow the development of Communist China's power with great interest. 33

The one form of political activity which has always appealed to the Chinese is the secret society. One of the most powerful has been the Triad (Heaven and Earth) Society, founded in southern China in the 18th century for the purpose of overthrowing the Manchus. These societies later became mutual aid associations, relying on veiled threats, blackmail, and intimidation to influence the local government. Imported to Southeast Asian countries by immigrants from Kwangtung and Fukien Provinces, these societies became national institutions whose ties proved stronger than those of clan or dialect.34 By their very nature, these organizations remain cloaked in mystery. Members are obliged to make


28. Skinner, Report, op. cit., p. 86.

29. Ibid., p. 21.

30. Ibid., p. 88.

31. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 117.

32. Mitchison, op. cit., p. 48.

33. Fitzgerald, "Overseas Chinese," op. cit., pp. 76-77.

34. Ibid., p. 70.


solemn vows of brotherhood, to learn secret codes, and to obey the laws of the organization and the commands of their leaders.35 Since some of these societies, such as the Triad, maintain killer squads who specialize in murder and blackmail, strict discipline is generally maintained. The Dai Viet, Vietnam's closest equivalent to the Western political party, originally included a number of Triad members and employed a secret initiation ceremony, as well as a branch which functioned like the Triad killer squads.36

The powerful, active Triad gained control of Singapore, attempted to take Bangkok, and spread through Vietnam via Ha Tien Province which had been leased to the society. At one time the Triad in the Republic of Vietnam included thousands of Vietnamese as well as Chinese. Indeed, since political dissension was suppressed, anyone having political aspirations was obliged to belong to such a society. The Triad has played an influential role in politics and has been implicated, under various guises, in several rebellions. Many lay Buddhists fear that the militant Buddhist movement, led by Thich Tri Quang, is, in fact, more Triad than Buddhist, and that it may become a "vehicle by which South Vietnam may be delivered politically into the hands of the Vietcong." 37 Tri Quang has reportedly already used Buddhism to support the Peoples' Revolutionary Force, a political movement whose organizational aspects resemble those of the Triad. 38 Diem outlawed all secret societies, but the clandestine nature of their organization and activities permits them to continue covert operation.

Third Country Influence

In the past when the Chinese community was suppressed by the French and/or Vietnamese Governments through anti-Chinese legislation, the overseas Chinese leaders appealed to Nationalist China to intervene. Failure of the Vietnamese authorities to rescind such legislation, as occurred in 1956, greatly strained relations between the Republic of Vietnam and Taiwan. 39 Nationalist China was anxious to assure the proper treatment of the overseas Chinese, whom they still regarded as citizens of China and whose allegiance they were seeking to foster. When it became obvious that China might lose the respect of the Chinese residing in Vietnam, Taiwan upheld the principle of free choice between naturalization and repatriation, and was, in fact, adamant on this point until early in 1958. 40 Since then, relations between Saigon and Taiwan have improved considerably, and army delegations have been exchanged between the two countries.41

Until 1954, Communist China's stated policy was "to protect the special interests of overseas Chinese; to win their loyalty; and to profit materially, politically and strategically from their patriotism."42 The Commission of Overseas Chinese Affairs was established in Peking in 1949 especially to implement this policy. Three major appeals were made to win the maximum support and allegiance for Communist China:43


35. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 200.

36. Denis Warner, "Vietnam's Militant Buddhists," The Reporter, XXX, No. 10 (December 3, 1964), p. 30.

37. Ibid., p. 29.

38. Ibid., p. 30.

39. De Jaegher, op. cit., p. 110.

40. Fall, "Commentary," op. cit., p. 115.

41. Blake, op. cit.

42. G. William Skinner, "Overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia," The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, CCCXXI (January 1959), p. 136.

43. Ibid., p. 144.


  1. Communist China's protection of the interests and welfare of Chinese overseas through diplomatic means and the deterrent effect of Communist power;
  2. Its right as the legitimate government of China to patriotic loyalty and appeal to pride in China's new international stature and internal accomplishments;
  3. The special privileges, services, and amenities extended by Communist China to overseas Chinese and their dependents in China.

The propaganda was promoted through the Chinese schools, the Chinese press, radio broadcasts, free visits to mainland China, and cultural missions. A measure of the effectiveness of this program was the steady flow of remittances from overseas Chinese to dependents in mainland China and the investment of overseas Chinese capital in reconstruction and development corporations on the mainland.44

Subsequent to 1954, according to one authority, the Communist Chinese reversed their policy for a variety of reasons. 45 Their earlier appeals to the overseas Chinese were, by 1957, diametrically opposed to the programs of austerity and socialization. Whereas they had denounced all Southeast Asian governments during the years from 1949 to 1950, by 1959 the Communist Chinese found it expedient to solicit the good will of these countries. This they attempted to do by advocating that overseas Chinese be allowed to choose the nationality of their country of residence and then to be loyal to it. Even those electing to remain Chinese subjects were urged to abide by the laws of their resident countries and to respect the customs of the local people. Overseas Chinese were encouraged to invest their capital locally to help develop the economies of the local countries. Finally, the overseas Chinese were encouraged to learn the languages, geography, and history of their countries of domicile.46

Current news reports indicate that Communist China has once again changed its line. In July 1965, The New York Times reported that Peking was urging the overseas Chinese to "take a more active part in the Communist struggle for Southeast Asia," and to help overthrow the governments of their countries of residence.47 More specifically, the General Union of Chinese Residents in Vietnam, a Peking-controlled organization, called on the Chinese community to "join with the Communist Vietcong in the fight against the Saigon Government and its United States supporters." 48 This appeal reiterated an earlier plea for support made by the NLFSV. Although few Chinese had been identified as serving with the Viet Cong forces, U.S. officials in Saigon (July 19651 were increasingly fearful that the Chinese might become a source of trouble. At that time, many Chinese were being tried in Vietnamese courts for charges stemming from, according to foreign observers, Vietnamese xenophobia rather than serious infractions of the law. It was feared that the


44. Ibid., p. 145.

45. Ibid., p. 146.

46. Ibid.

47. Topping, op. cit., p. 3, col. 2.

48. Ibid.


resultant rise in tension in the Chinese community might be exploited by the Communists.49


49. Ibid.



Vulnerability to Subversion

Factors contributing to the vulnerability of the Chinese to subversion are their traditional desire to remain politically separate from the Vietnamese people and Government, their aversion to legislation compelling them to acculturate and to fulfill their citizenship obligations, and their resentment at arrests of Chinese on presumably spurious charges.

Subversive Influences

Recently, an increasing number of charges of usury, hoarding, and price raising have been leveled at the Chinese. It is difficult to determine what are the motives underlying these practices, which adversely affect all of the Vietnamese people and impede the progress of the Government's counterinsurgency effort. Do these practices indicate that the Chinese are actively supporting the Viet Cong, or do they merely exemplify the willingness of the Chinese to exploit any situation for personal gain? The answer is still ambiguous; whatever the case, the Government is now attempting to curb speculation and hoarding by arresting, putting on trial, and shooting repeated offenders.

Now illegal, but believed to be still in operation, secret societies are also potentially subversive and presumably have Chinese and Vietnamese members. Although the current objectives and activities of these societies are unknown, their implication in past rebellions makes them automatically suspect. Of all the societies, the Triad, also called the Hung Society or the Society of Heaven and Earth, has had the largest following, comprising thousands of Chinese and Vietnamese. Some believe the Triad is associated with the militant Buddhist movement and that, in that capacity, it may become a vehicle for the political takeover of the country by the Viet Cong.

Objectives and Methods of Subversion

Peking and the NLFSV have been working to win the allegiance and support of the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam in several ways. Press releases and radio broadcasts (the Liberation Radio broadcasts two programs in Chinese every day 1) carry daily propaganda messages to the Chinese community. Front organizations, such as the China-Vietnam Friendship Association, periodically issue statements congratulating the NLFSV on their victories. 2 Propaganda has ranged from subtle persuasion to blatantly communistic appeals.


1. Hanoi, Vietnamese News Agency, International Service, Press Release in English, December 21, 1965.

2. Hanoi, Vietnamese News Agency, International Service, Press Release in English, November 16, 1965.


In June 1965, the NLFSV sent a letter to the Chinese nationals in the Republic of Vietnam accusing the United States, Saigon, and Chiang Kai Shek of dissolving Chinese national groups, confiscating Chinese property, and exploiting Chinese skills and material wealth to implement the aggressive policies of the United States. The Chinese, the letter continues, have been terrorized, oppressed, robbed, and shelled by the imperialists and their lackeys. Moreover, the letter advocates the reopening of Chinese schools, but concedes that the Chinese should also learn Vietnamese. The letter concludes with a plea to the Chinese to avoid the draft and, failing that, to join the liberation forces.3

Recently the NLFSV has been stressing the solidarity of all nationalities, ages, and classes in the Republic of Vietnam, emphasizing that the Chinese and Vietnamese are brothers and that the Vietnamese struggle is also the Chinese struggle. To stress this point and to demonstrate their hatred of the United States, the Chinese Residents' Union encouraged the Chinese to cease all activity for one hour on October 15, 1965.4

Extent of Opposition to Subversive Elements

The Chinese newspapers express vehemently anti-Communist and consistently pro-United States and pro-Nationalist China views. However, these attitudes may not accurately reflect the opinions of the majority of the Chinese residing in the Republic of Vietnam. Bitter experience, prudence, and concern for their own self-interest have taught the Chinese not to commit themselves publicly until the victor is apparent.

However, one small group of Chinese led by Father Augustin Nguyen Lac Hoa, a refugee Chinese Roman Catholic priest and former officer in the Chinese National Army, has been actively engaged in fighting the Viet Cong in the Haiyen sector of the Camau Peninsula for more than 6 years. In July 1965, these "Sea Swallows," as they call themselves, numbered over 1,000 armed men. 5 Father Hoa's small army is composed mainly of Chinese recruited from Cholon, but one company of Vietnamese and a detachment of Nungs - a refugee tribal group from southern China who are excellent warriors - joined the group during the summer of 1965. These troops patrol an area 15 miles square known as Haiyen and Maintain, according to one source, the "best grass-roots intelligence network anywhere in Vietnam."6

Despite the fact that Father Hoa has been internationally acclaimed as a symbol of resistance, the status of the priest and his army is ambivalent. Most of the Saigon Government is opposed to the idea of allowing a private army to operate freely in the country. Moreover, Father Hoa is suspect for other reasons: he is Catholic, a former protege of Ngo Dinh Diem, he is Chinese, and he is a colonel turned priest. In an effort to integrate this army into the body politic, the Government appointed a Vietnamese National Army major as commander of the Haiyen sector, the position held - de facto - by Father Hoa. Instead of dealing with lesser ranking Vietnamese and United States officers,


3. Liberation Radio report in Vietnamese, 1000 GMT, May 28, 1965, on the NLFSV Central Committee Presidium release of letter, May 24, 1965.

4. Hanoi, Vietnamese News Agency, International Service, Press Release in English, October 14, 1965.

5. John Maffre, "Viet Critics Fail To End Priest's Private Army," The Washington Post, July 25, 1965, p. A-14.

6. Ibid.


Father Hoa contacted ranking men and talked with Prime Minister Ky and generals of the U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam. As a result, he is supplied with arms and other necessities by the Americans, and special advisers inform headquarters of his situation.



Since the Chinese live primarily in urban areas, they have access to radios, newspapers and other printed matter, and movies, all of which provide important means for disseminating information. However, no figures are available concerning the number of Chinese who actually own radios, attend movies, and read newspapers.

Estimates of the literacy rate among the Chinese in the Republic of Vietnam are unavailable at this writing. One 1950 source suggests that the literacy rate for the Chinese in Indochina was lower than that for any other Chinese community in Southeast Asia.1 By 1960, according to another source, every province of the Republic of Vietnam had at least one Chinese school.2 Considering the emphasis the Chinese place on education - they are generally willing to make large sacrifices so that their children may attend school - it is reasonable to assume that by now Chinese literacy is at least as high as that of the Vietnamese.3

In 1962 the Liberation Broadcasting Station was broadcasting in Cantonese on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, and in Teochiu on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In that year, the Voice of America was broadcasting 66.5 hours weekly in various Chinese dialects.4

Of all the minority language newspapers, Chinese papers have the widest circulation. As of October 29, 1965, the 14 Chinese newspapers in Cholon were amalgamated into seven, including five dailies and two evening papers, as shown below:

    Kien Quoc and Quoc Te became Kien Quoc Quoc te
    Thang Cong and Dai Ha became Thang Cong
    Yuan Tung and Sun Yueh became Yuan Tung
    Ah Chau and Van Quoc became Ah Chau Van Quoc
    Luan Zan Moi and Tieng Phong became Luan Zan Moi
    Viet Hoa and Shin Shun became Viet Hoa
    Sun Wun and Dien Dan became Sun Wun

Before publication, a Chinese employee of the Vietnamese Government censors the news to be printed in these papers. The news is either slanted in favor of the United States and Nationalist China or it is completely innocuous. International news is received from AP and UPI, while local news is reprinted from Vietnamese papers. The NLFSV maintains the Liberation Press Agency which issues special communiques to the Chinese community to encourage them to oppose the Saigon Government. 5

The United States Information Service maintains a small collection of books and periodicals in Chinese at its information centers in Saigon, Hue, and surrounding areas. They also distribute, for a fee, a Chinese-language periodical, World Today, published weekly in Manila.6


1. Murray, op. cit., p. 84.

2. Ly Y Ming, op. cit., p. 13.

3. Ta Chen, op. cit., pp. 152-53.

4. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 146.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid., p. 147.


Consideration might be given to providing more educational material in the Chinese language to Chinese students. In 1959, a dearth of free or inexpensive textbooks in Chinese was reported. It was feared that unless Nationalist China or the United States could print textbooks in Chinese, the Chinese community would be forced to accept propaganda-filled books from Communist China, who was all too eager to smuggle them into the country.7

With their penchant for dramatization, the Chinese have taken readily to movies, when they can afford them. 8 In 1960, there were 177 motion picture theaters in the Republic of Vietnam, 61 of which were in Saigon. The showing of free films in Chinese might serve as an excellent means for attracting the Chinese to propaganda sessions.9

Word-of-mouth communication is extremely important for disseminating information. The Chinese are naturally gregarious and love to gossip together in the local teashops. Storytelling minstrels often circulate among the teashops to entertain customers with their narratives, some of which may be factual.10 News and gossip are generated by Chinese merchants who fan out into the provinces to collect rice and other produce from the peasants. Every village is said to have its Chinese shopkeeper and often a Chinese pharmacist as well, who are able to glean and pass along information obtained through their dealings with the local people.


Music and drama form an integral part of Chinese life, in addition to providing opportunities for self-expression. Music accompanies worship - Buddhism has its own compositions - funeral processions, festivals, and theatrical performances. The Chinese are fond of singing, frequently accompanying themselves on various types of instruments, such as drums, flutes, reeds, various stringed instruments, metal bells, and resonant stones. The theater has been an effective agency for popular education; for everyone, literate and illiterate, can see a play and learn something from it. Dramatic performances have been presented in temples, at fairs, in the fields, and in theaters, principally as forms of diversion.11 Dancing, except in theatrical performances and in some religious ceremonies, is alien to the Chinese. European-style dancing, where men and women are in close physical contact, is considered vulgar and shocking, especially by the older, less Westernized Chinese.12

Chinese literature is the oldest in the world, dating from 2500 B. C. It includes the classics (ching) or canonical works of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, historical writings, philosophical works, poetry, drama, and fiction. Traditionally, in China anyone desiring to enter government service was required to pass an examination to test his knowledge of the classics - the guides for human behavior and morality. The Chinese still have the highest respect for scholars versed in Chinese literature. Traditionally, temples were built to the God of Literature and


7. Hildreth, op. cit., pp. 156-57.

8. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 238.

9. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 142.

10. Latourette, op. cit., Part II, p. 218.

11. Ibid., Part II, pp. 219-24.

12. Harris et al., op. cit., p. 105.


offerings were made to him before a birth to assure the family of an intelligent child.

Symbols and Colors

The Chinese place great emphasis on symbols and colors. The peony, for example, represents love, affection, feminine beauty, and spring. Chinese families often watch the peony to determine their fortune. A flower with full petals is an emblem of good fortune, while dry, faded flowers signify imminent poverty.13 The lotus flower symbolizes purity and summer. Frequently used as an emblem, the shape of the lotus flower is likened to the Buddhist Wheel of Life: the seed pod, blossom, and bud represent the past, present, and future; and the leaves and roots, offspring and steadfastness in the family.14 Of all the line symbols, the Pa Kua (eight trigrams) is the most common.* Each color has a distinct meaning: for example, red signifies happiness; white symbolizes mourning.


*See "Custom and Taboos," p. 30.

13. Burkhardt, op. cit., p. 18.

14. Ibid., p. 30.



Willingness To Accept Innovation

When the Chinese have not been subjected to racial discrimination, but have enjoyed the same privileges as the Vietnamese, they have readily adopted new ideas and accepted innovations.1

Possible Civic Action Programs

Any civic action program designed to improve urban conditions would probably interest the Chinese community. Such programs might include health improvement through rat control, vaccination, water purification, and education in modern medical practices; an increase in low-cost housing facilities; and the construction of more and better schools. The Chinese are, on the whole, anxious to improve their lot and would probably welcome assistance. But the Chinese are extremely proud, a factor which must be taken into account.


1. MacNair, op. cit., p. ix.




[Footnotes have been added to each individual page.]

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De Jaegher, Father Raymond V. "The Chinese in Viet-Nam," Viet-Nam: The First Five Years, ed. Richard W. Lindholm. East Lansing, Mich.: Michigan State University Press, 1959.

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Agriculture, 7, 52

Ancestor worship, 40-41, 44

Animals, customs with regard to, 36-37

Animism, 1, 40, 42, 45

Annam, 8, 9, 58


Chinese attitude toward outsiders, 15
Ethnic Vietnamese attitude toward Chinese, 16

Bangs; see Congregations

Birth, customs with regard to, 24-25

Buddhism, 1, 40, 45, 48, 49, 62, 69

Cambodia, 9, 26


Ancestor worship, 40-41, 44
Confucianism, 44


Child-rearing practices, 25
Importance of, 22, 23
Naming of, 25

China (Communist); see Communists

Christianity, 1, 40

Civic action considerations, 71

Cochin China, 3, 9, 10, 11

Communists, 11, 16, 26, 28, 43, 56, 57, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65

Concubinage, 24, 29

Confucianism, 1, 17, 19, 21, 40, 43-44, 45, 48, 49

Congregations (bangs or mutual aid societies), 1, 2, 3, 12, 25, 26, 54, 58, 60

Customs and taboos, 30-39

Animals, 36-37
Birth, 24-25
Death and burial, 28-29, 40
Dress, 30
Eating and drinking, 34-35
Folk beliefs, 30-33
Marriage, 23-24
Warfare, 37

Death and burial, customs with regard to, 28-29, 40

Dialect groups, 2, 5, 6, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 55, 58

Diet, 34

Divorce, 24

Dress, 30


Chinese control of, 1, 9, 10, 14, 38, 50, 52
Organization, 50-52, 54-55
Trade with other groups, 55-57

Education, 25-28

Chinese system, 25, 26, 27
French system, 26
Vietnamese system, 25


Conversation, 35
Gambling, 35
Opium smoking, 35


Sports, 35
Theater, 36

Etiquette, 38-39

Family, 1, 15, 17, 18, 19-21, 22, 29, 38

Folk beliefs, 30-33

French, 2, 10, 11, 12, 26, 52, 58, 59, 62


Diseases, 13
Efforts to improve, 14
General conditions, 13-14


Factual, 8-11
Legendary, 7-8

Holidays and festivals, 46-48

Indochina, 11, 16, 68

Indochina War, 11

Japanese, 11

Kinship system, 19-21


Chinese, 1, 5, 6, 8, 26, 27, 28
Classification, 5-7
Dialect groups, 2, 5, 6, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 55, 58
Vietnamese, 1, 8, 26, 27
Written Chinese, 6, 7, 28

Literature, Chinese, 69-70

Location of groups (Chinese), 3-4


Ceremonies, 23-24
Importance of, 23
Regulations, 7, 19

Medicine, 7, 13-14, 43

Minh Huong, 3, 9, 59

Mohammedanism, 1, 40

Music and drama, importance of, in Chinese cultural life, 36, 69-70


Importance of surname, 18
Naming of children, 25
Origin of group, 1, 2

Ngo Dinh Diem, 1, 11, 12, 19, 50, 59, 60, 66

Nguyen Cao Ky, 57, 67

North Vietnam, 2, 11

Occupations, predominant, 52-54

Agriculture, 52
Banking and commercial facilities, 54
Non-manufacturing occupations, 53-54
Other light industries, 53
Rice processing, 52-53
Service industries, 54
Textile manufacturing, 53
Transportation, 54

Opium War, 10

Origin of groups (Chinese), 5


Attitude of Chinese toward, 15


Customs with regard to, 37-38

Physical characteristics, 13

Political consciousness and opinion, 61-62

Political organization, 58-64

Population, 1, 2, 3

Property and inheritance, 29

Psychological characteristics, 14-15

Psychological operations considerations, 68-70

Publications, 68-69

Newspapers, 68
Textbooks, 69
U.S. Information Service, 68

Religion, 1, 40-49

Ancestor worship, 1, 40-41
Animism, 1, 40, 42, 45
Buddhism, 1, 40, 45, 48, 49, 62, 69
Christianity, 1, 40
Confucianism, 1, 17, 19, 21, 40, 43-44, 45, 48, 49
Mohammedanism, 1, 40
Taoism, 1, 7, 40, 42-43, 45, 49

Settlement patterns, 11-12

Social structure, 17-19, 21-22

Subversion, 65-67

Objectives and methods of, 65-66
Subversive influences, 65
Vulnerability to, 65

Symbols and color, Chinese appreciation of, 70

Taoism, 1, 7, 40, 42-43, 45, 49

Temples, 44, 45-46, 59

Thailand, 18, 47

Third country influence, 62- 64

Trade, 8, 55-57

U.S. Foreign Relations Committee, 51

U. S. Information Service, 68

Viet Cong; see Communists

Vietnam, Republic of, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 26, 27, 30, 37, 44, 47, 52, 54, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 66, 68

Vietnam and Vietnamese; see Vietnam, Republic of

Warfare, customs with regard to, 37

Weapons, 37

Women, position in society, 1, 21-22

World War II, 5, 11, 16



Published: Mon Jul 24 15:22:49 EDT 2017