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Vietnam's Ethnic and Religious Minorities:

A Historical Perspective

Edited By Jörg Thomas Engelbert

The book deals with Vietnam’s ethnic and religious minorities in a historical perspective. The time frame stretches from the pre-colonial era to contemporary times. Except for one paper on the situation of the Vietnam-China border area, the authors focus on South or Southern Central Vietnam. The Chinese, the Cham and the Bahnar represent three different categories of ethnic minorities: the so-called Foreign Asians, the highly developed nationalities and the former tribal populations, who once lived at the margins. The Vietnamese and Highland Catholics as well as the French Protestants are two prominent religious minorities. The aim of this book is to contribute to a discussion about common features, categories and tasks, which transcend regional, ethnic or religious particularities and the familiar lowland-highland divide.

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Li Tana Saigon’s Rice Exports and Chinese Rice Merchants from Hong Kong, 1870s-1920s

For the entire 19th century and most part of the 20th century, rice trade was the keystone of business and the index of prosperity of Chinese trade in Cochinchina. Curiously we have little idea about who the rice merchants were. One of the puzzling anomalies connected to the Cochinchina rice trade was that certain important ancillary elements of rice exports like shipping companies formed no part of the business interests of Chinese rice merchants based in Saigon-Cholon, from the 19th century to as late as the 1910s. This contrasts sharply to Chinese shipping in Siam or in Singapore. Even more striking in Vietnam is the absence of insurance companies, a crucial sector for the long and risky shipping of the commodity. Banks were even further away from the local Chinese capacity.

This article tries to look across the South China Sea to Hong Kong where some leading companies and elite accumulated their wealth from Saigon rice trade which formed the foundation of their prominent position in the Hong Kong society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so as to start piecing the fragments together and reconstructing the lost history of the Chinese rice merchants in Vietnam.

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