On a nomenclature coming from the combination of

On the one hand the primary motivation for colonialism, the system by
which colonies are maintained, was economic use Indochinese faced economic oppression, for instance high
taxes and controls on trade on
the other hand, the formation of new diverse routines, attitudes and additional
foreign knowledge produced new cultures and mentalities in Indochina.

 

However, this essay is focused on the influence of French Colonialism in Indochinese culture. Before to start it must be clarified what culture is. The definition of defines by the Anthropologist Edward B. Taylor in his work Primitive Culture: “Culture or civilization is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, and other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society(…)”. In addition, culture ties people of a community together and somewhat serves as the founding principles of one’s. In relation to France who determined to civilized the people of Indochina and influenced the Southeast Asians Western by culture, religion, and language.

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The Indochinese Union
was created by the French government in 1887 to unite French rule over Vietnam,
Laos and Cambodia until 1954. Indochina – or “Indochine”, in the French
language – is a nomenclature coming from the combination of India and China,
acknowledging the proximity of and the significant cultural influence they had
on the countries in question.

At the beginning, in
Vietnam, the French had to fight against a well-prepared opposition who were
helped by the Chinese empire. At that time Vietnam had limited technical and
military modernization, so we must admit that here we see one possible positive
impact of colonialism.

 As stated
above, before missionaries came to Vietnam there were the two common religions:
Confucianism and Buddhism. Beginning in the mid-16th century Roman Catholicism
was introduced by Portuguese missionaries. As the French increases influence in
Indochina, the Jesuit priest Alexandre de Rhodes established a mission and increased
numerous converts. By 1841, the Catholic Church reported a total of 450,000
converts and six percent of the Vietnamese population remain Roman
Catholic to this day.

However, one can say
that the French modernized the countries of Indochina because they began
infrastructure projects to help transport goods for trade and drained lands in
the Mekong delta to increase cultivation. In addition, they developed a good
sewage system for the whole area.

Moreover, French
colonial powers tried to reconstruct some areas in Indochina, for instance,
colonial architecture and monuments which can still be found in the cities of
the area. Some popular examples of French architecture in Vietnam are the Post
Office in Ho Chi Min city and the National Library in Phnom Penh.

Besides French
influences on Cambodian and Vietnamese cuisine are evident. Much of the
Vietnamese food that we enjoy today has been affected by French colonialism in
Indochina. New flavors, ingredients and combinations that have given a new
taste to traditional Vietnamese food. The most popular food item that the
French introduced to Indochina is the baguette.

Above all the most
famous colonial-time school that the French established for the Vietnamese was
called the Tonkin Free School which provided a western style of education
unlike most Vietnamese schools which were influenced very much by Chinese-style
education. In the classroom the French tried to change when it comes to the
impact of values and societal norms. This style of education was important from
a social and political point of view because it created a middle class and a
working class in the minds of the Vietnamese.

During the colonial
period the French influenced many “loanwords” in the Khmer language, mainly
words in science, technology, mathematics and law or some names of countries
said with a French pronunciation. The Vietnamese language has strongly changed
since French colonialism. Alexandre de Rhodes introduced a new French-based
transcription of the Quoc ngu, and since that time a Latin alphabet has been
used. The nom system based on Chinese was no longer used and French was taught
in all Indochinese schools. The growth of Quoc ngu spread out from education to
journals and books. French literature also influenced Indochinese writing
through the reading of the text in French. Furthermore, young men and women of
the middle class began to have interest in sports such as swimming and tennis
caused by modern French activities. Following this, the first public swimming
pool opened in Saigon in 1937.

Nevertheless, Indochina
had its own societies and cultures before colonialism. All these countries had
prior historical expansions. To understand this, it is important to understand
the formation along historical and geographical aspects. For thousands of years
Laos and Cambodia were dominated by the Khmer Empire which was controlled by
the Thais. This was one of the major early culture influences in Cambodia and
Laos. As a result, in these countries the predominant religion today is
Theravada Buddhism and the language of the Cambodians and Laotians has thus
been affected by India. In this context the written language is in the Sanskrit
script in Cambodia and the Pali script in Laos. In other words, Indian culture,
philosophies and religion was a great influence on the Khmer people.

In contrast to Laos and
Cambodia Vietnamese were strongly influenced by the Chinese. They became
independent  in the middle of the tenth
century. Almost ninety percent
of Vietnam’s people are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh), closely related to the
Chinese. Over eighty percent of the Vietnamese language is composed of Chinese
loanwords. Their native writing system, Chu Nom, is also Chinese-derived, but
that has been replaced by Latin characters since French colonialism. Most
Vietnamese follow Confucianism beliefs and values and Mahayana Buddhism. Also, for
a thousand years, the architecture was Chinese-influenced. These language,
religious and philosophical systems practiced are mainly Chinese and Indian in
origin, although differing in form.

To sum up, the three
countries were profoundly influenced by the French since colonialism, but they
still retain their own values and cultures.

To conclude, the French
had the idea of enacting a civilizing mission. On the one hand the French
claimed that they would introduce civilized culture, beliefs and life to the
people in Indochina but on the other hand the French needed the colonies to
supply natural resources and other essential goods such as for opium, salt, rice, tea, rice, coffee, pepper, and coal,
zinc the French economy. But above all one must not forget that this
colonialism destroyed local cultures, religions and traditions. This process
continued until the end of the colonial period when the dream of the
Indochinese Union failed. Cambodia and Laos were declared independent states on
the ninth of March 1945.In Vietnam one year later the first Indochina war
begins until 1954.