SAIGON – La Cochinchine

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I. Physical Geography


     The port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] is situated on the Saigon river, a tributary of the Donai [Đồng Nai], 43 miles distant from the sea.


    In the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] the tide acts in a very striking manner. There are two tides in 24 hours. The highest point of the tide is 3,60m at very high tides. The currents of the water level are maintained, although they are decreasing little by little during one hour and a half to two hours after high tide, that is to say: the flood current is only completely levelled one and a half hours to two hours after the high tide of the sea, and the ebb current levels itself in the same space of time after the low tide of the sea.

    The ebb currents are more rapid that those of the flood tide, and last somewhat longer, chiefly from June to November.

II. Economical and administrative Geography


    The port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] has a stone quay of about 1km. In length, the landing stage of the “Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes”. Moreover, ships entering the port in order to take a cargo of rice on board, and cargo which arrives by junks, have at their disposal 14 anchoring buoys in the river, and 21 fixing posts, which are rammed in along the river down towards the town.


    By a degree of the 2nd January 1914 autonomy was given to the port, and it is administered by a council elected by the governor and chosen from the representatives of the administration, of the manufacturers, of the ship-owners, and of the merchants and farmers.


    A vast programme of Public Works has been elaborated by the Administrative Council. This is being realised with the aid of local resources and taxes, as well as the loan of two million piastres, which the administration is allowed to issue.

    The principal works which have to be undertaken are: The extension of the quays, by the management of the existing quays, and of the quays or landing places still to be built; by the construction of railways (normal railways and Deauville railways), which are to be constructed alongside these quays; by the building of warehouses and the establishment of sheds for the storage of goods; the erection of storage-houses and of general warehouses; the installation of a coal depot furnished with all modem apparatus for loading and unloading; finally the installation of revolving cranes for unloading goods as well as for storing in warehouses.

    With regard to the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn], the eration of a lighter service for the acceleration of the transport of rice between Cho Lon [Chợ Lớn] and Saigon [Sài Gòn] is also considered.


    The port controls a special police corps, placed at its disposal by the governor of Cochin-China, and assures security on land as well as on the navigable roads which belong to the domain of the port.


    The budget of the port which is surpassing, one million of piastres is balanced by entering-fees and expenses without any subvention of the other budgets.


    The yearly tonnage of the steamers anchoring in the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] amounts at present to nearly 1.600.000 tons comprising more than 800 ships without the coasting-ships.

    The import and export values in 1922 with regard to sea-vessels have been 280.000.000 piastres, and those of the coasting ships 48.000.000 piastres.

    The princibal agricultural produce, exported from the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn], is rice, the exportation of which is annually increasing, even when taking into consideration mediocre harvests. The maximum was reached in 1921 with 1.517.000 tons of exported rice.

    Other produce, exported from the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn], are pepper, cotton, india-rubber, copra, salt- fish, vegetable oils and fats and fish-greases, etc. All agricultural produces of Cochin-China are rapidly increasing from year to year and the traffic of the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] is extending annually. This increase is about a year.


    A the commencement of 1921.

    The population of the city of Saigon [Sài Gòn] amounted to:

Europeans: 8.444
Annamites: 50.086
Cambodians: 151
People of Tonking: 3.956
Chinese: 23.244
Minh-IIuong: 143
Of different parts: 3.178
Total: 89.202

    The City of Cho Lon [Chợ Lớn] contains:

Europeans: 572
Annamites: 85.725
Cambodians: 810
Chinese: 98.123
Minh-IIuong: 9.800
Of different parts: 751
Total: 195.781

III. History

    The origin of the town of Saigon [Sài Gòn] is very ancient (…). The town is built on an elevation, or “giong”, In the delta there are many of these “giongs” rising above the alluvium of great rivers. Contrary to the other tributaries which flow through Cochin-China, the Saigon [Sài Gòn] and Danoi [Đồng Nai] rivers are navigable at all times for the largest steamers.

    …Saigon [Sài Gòn] became early the rice-market of Cochin-China, and from 1680 Chinese junks came from Canton in order to take provisions on board. From that time date the first settlements of Chinese in Cochin-China.

    The latter were not long in settling in the neighbourhood of the Annamite town which extended then between the Grand Canal, which has been filled up in 1886 and forms now the Boulevard Chamer and the “Fort du Sud”. The Chinese settled 6 kms distant from Saigon and founded a market place (Cho Lon [Chợ Lớn]).

    The town of Cho Lon [Chợ Lớn] expanded greatly at the end of the XVIIIth century, and very rapidly became the export-centre of rice for the ports of the southern part of China. The Chinese had nearly absorbed the whole export-trade in rice.

    In 1860 the port of Saigon [Sài Gòn] was declared a “Free-Port” by the French who at that time had established themselves there, and Saigon [Sài Gòn] remained a Free Port till 1887, when the French monetary- law and the Custom fees were introduced in Cochin-China. They began to collect the custom duties of the general tariff for town taxes.

     These taxes have since been modified several times, and at present the Indo-Chinese custom duties are collected.

12 /2019

1: Hoạ sĩ Marcel Georges Bernanoise (1884-1952) sinh ra ở Valenciennes – vùng cực Bắc nước Pháp. Tóm tắt cuộc đời và sự nghiệp:
+ 1905-1920: Làm việc ở Đông Dương và phụ trách truyền giáo cho Thống đốc Đông Dương;
+ 1910: Làm giáo viên ở Trường Viễn Đông của Pháp;
+ 1913: Nghiên cứu nghệ thuật bản địa và xuất bản một số bài báo học thuật;
+ 1920: Ông trở về Pháp và tổ chức triển lãm nghệ thuật ở Nancy (1928), Paris (1929) – các bức tranh phong cảnh về Lorraine, Pyrenees, Paris, Midi, Villefranche-sur-mer, Saint-Tropez, Ytalia, cũng như một số đồ lưu niệm từ Viễn Đông;
+ 1922: Xuất bản sách về Nghệ thuật trang trí ở Bắc Kỳ, Đông dương;
+ 1925: Đạt được giải thưởng lớn tại Triển lãm thuộc địa ở Marseille, và hợp tác với kiến ​​trúc sư của Pavillon de l’Indochine tạo ra một bộ vật dụng nội thất;
+ 1952: Qua đời ở tuổi 68 và để lại một số lớn các tác phẩm tranh, ảnh;
+ 2017: Xưởng tranh của ông đã được phát mãi thành công bởi hậu duệ của ông.

◊ Book “LA COCHINCHINE” – Marcel Bernanoise – Hong Duc [Hồng Đức] Publishers, Hanoi, 2018.
◊ Bold and italicized Vietnamese words are enclosed inside quotation marks – set by Ban Tu Thu.

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