Mapping the Dragon: Vietnam through the eyes of the Dutch mapmakers

Relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands date back from the time of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and even before the establishment of the VOC, maps that show the coast of Vietnam were produced in the Low Countries. On western maps, the region of what is now Vietnam, was regularly indicated as ‘Tonkin’, referring to the northern region, and ‘Cochinchina’ or ‘Quinam', referring to the southern region of Vietnam. Also the names ‘Champa’ or ‘Tsiompa’ appear to indicate the southern region on older maps.

Although the Vietnamese coasts were not among the most important regions for the Dutch overseas trade, there were two trading posts in Vietnam. In 1630 the VOC signed an agreement with the kingdom of Tonkin, known as Đàng Ngoài under Trịnh lords’ control and opened a trading post at Phố Hiến, near Hanoi. The post was maintained until 1699. In 1637 a second trading post was opened at Faifo (Hội An nowadays) in Quinam, ruled by The Nguyễn lords of Đàng Trong. This short-lived trading post was only maintained until 1652. In 1887, the central region was established and called ‘Annam’ or Trung Kỳ as a part of French Indochina along with two other regions. ‘Cochinchina’ or Nam Kỳ was then used for the southern part and Tonkin or Bắc Kỳ for the northern part of Vietnam. Actually in


1862 the Lower Cochinchina became already a French colony. The name of Tonkin was used from 1884 to 1945 for the French protectorate in the north. Over time the French territory grew and was named ‘Indochina’. It consisted of modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Vietnam declared independence in 1945, Laos and Cambodia in 1954.

This exhibition is made in collaboration with the Dutch embassy in Hanoi to mark 50 years of bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands and more than 400 years of people to people contacts. Various kinds of maps were produced over the centuries. From nautical charts for navigation purposes to atlas maps. The maps reflect the changing political and geographical situation of the region. Most maps in this exhibition show a larger region than Vietnam. They give insight in the relation between Vietnam and the surrounding regions. In the course of time some of the maps and atlases that were published tend to be more comprehensive and detailed. This exhibition focusses on maps of Vietnam that are produced in the Netherlands and that are part of the cartographic collections of Leiden University Libraries.