John Rutherford Shortland.

The persecutions of Annam; a history of Christianity in Cochin China and Tonking online

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Portman Street and Paternoster Row.








The privilege you have allowed me of dedicating
this book to you is one that I highly value. In many ways
I owe you more than I owe to any one else, and an expres-
sion of grateful feeling is to me most pleasant. It was my
most happy lot to be at Oxford when you Avere there, and
you did for me what you were doing for so many others
removed the veil of prejudice which quite shut out from view
the Church of all nations, and made me capable of seeing her
as she really is. It was you, too, who in later years brought
her before me in all her beauty and dignity, and taught me
to recognise in her the great Teacher of God in the world.

This book is a record of the way in which that holy teach-
ing is carried on in distant heathen lands, of the virtues, the
successes, the sufferings of her missionaries. In dedicating
it to you I do not simply satisfy my feelings, but I know
that I am greatly benefitting myself by placing it under the
sanction of your name.

With many thanks for long-continued kindnesses,

I am, my dear Dr. Newman,

Gratefully and affectionately yours,



THE missionary work of the Catholic Church, grand and
important as it is, is very little known. It is carried
on in a great variety of countries in all quarters of the
globe, and accounts of the proceedings of the mission-
aries are annually published and disseminated in the
Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. But, mixed up
as these details are, it requires no little time and labour
to draw out a connected history of what is done in any
one place or country. And yet, when the labour is un-
dertaken it meets with ample reward ; and as we con-
template the virtues of these missionaries, their love of
souls, their patience, their faith, their activity and en-
durance, the wish arises to bring them out of their ob-
scurity, and to place them in the view of others who
may profit by their example.

The country that I have chosen, in order to furnish
examples of this kind, is one that for centuries has been
shut out from European intercourse, and into the in-
terior of which the only strangers who have penetrated
have been the Catholic missionaries, who have done so
at the risk of their lives. The work that they have ac-

vi Preface.

complished has been very extensive, and has been going
on for as much as two hundred and fifty years ; and it
has cost them an amount of privation and suffering that
will strike with wonder such as have learnt nothing of
it before. It has, however, in our own times been talked
of, and occasionally news has been brought of havoc and
destruction which, while it has shocked the hearers, has
been very imperfectly understood.

All that has been here narrated rests on the autho-
rity of the missionaries themselves. The chief sources
of information have been the Annals of the Propagation
of the Faith and the Lettres Edifiantes, which preceded
them. Use also has been made of some special accounts
drawn up by particular missionaries, FF. Borri, Alex-
ander of Rhodes, and Tissanier, respecting the earlier
times, and of some lives of the more eminent mission-
aries that have been published. A great portion of
what has been told, as will be seen, is simply a trans-
lation of original letters, of which the names of the
writers are given, and in the translations, although some
freedom has been allowed, great care has been taken not
to infringe on the sense of the authors.

Besides the making known the wonderful and in-
structive events which have passed in these remote
countries, and which have drawn so little attention, a
further object of the present publication is to excite
a sympathy for that great Association for the Propaga-
tion of the Faith which has been and is the instrument

Preface. vii

of providing funds for the missionaries. It is a work in
which all ought to have sympathy, and the expression
of sympathy which is asked is so easy, that none
could refuse it who have any sympathy at all. One
halfpenny a week, with a daily short prayer, is the full
demand. More may be given by those who please, but
this is enough. And yet how small is the number of
those who hear the request that have been led to do even

One country, and one country alone, France, seems
to have really recognised and carried out this high duty.
She gives, and she gives freely, her sons and her alms.
And so here, as in other missionary records, the pro-
minent actors are French bishops and French priests.

In France large sums are collected in the various
dioceses ; in France there is created in the minds of the
young an enthusiasm for missionary work which urges
them to leave homes and friends and the comforts of
life, that they may go away to hard labour and much
suffering and the prospect of an early death ; in France
there is the school where these missionaries are trained
and formed, where they hear read the records of their
predecessors, where they see around them their relics,
the instruments of their torture, the chains they have
worn, prompting them, stimulating them, bracing them
with the resolution that makes them confessors and
martyrs in their turn.

If our own missionary work is mostly to be done in

viii Preface.

England, if we are ourselves (as we are) recipients of
missionary bounty, the more reason is there that the
small pecuniary aid which is individually asked should
be more generally extended. And certainly when one
contemplates the grand objects on which this money is
bestowed, the vast result which these contributions pro-
duce, the disasters which they remedy, the sorrows
which they remove, the multiplicity of good which they
effect, it can be given with a satisfaction and a pleasure
that brings its reward at once ; and many a one will not
be content with the donation of the small trifle that is
asked, but will give with a liberality more suited to the
object itself.

I might add a third purpose which has really been
in my mind. The missionary work of the Church is
one of the great proofs of her own mission. The Catho-
lic Church, the Church of all nations, must be doing,
must show herself able to do what her name indicates.
I confine myself to a single country ; there is a long list
of others that might be produced. Is it not a glorious
work that is here seen to be done ? Do not these men
look like successors of the Apostles ? Have they not a
true love of Christ ? Have they not a true love of souls?
How grand and noble are some of the figures ! the
Bishop of Adran or Monsignor Borie. How simple
and earnest, how detached from the world, how full of
faith are others ! the humble priest F. Royer, or the self-
denying Monsignor Piguel, or that holy Bishop Guerard,

Preface. ix

whose letters portray his piety and his zeal. How
touchingly beautiful is devotion like that of M. Venard,
inflamed with a love of suffering for Christ, that never
wavers in its constancy, or is appalled hy the sight of
danger ! And then look at the Christians that have
grown up in these countries the crown of the mis-
sionary labours ; sec their warm piety, their intelligent
faith, their dauntless courage ; see the immensity of the
woes they have borne in proof of their fidelity. Thou-
sands and hundreds of thousands have been converted
to the faith ; and hundreds and thousands have died
rather than be false to it.



i. INTRODUCTORY . . . . . . i


in. THE BISHOP OP ADHAN . . . . .28



vi. M. LA PAVEO 90

vn. M. GUKRARD 1 06



x. THE DUNGEONS OP lick ..... 207






xvi. CONCLUSION 4 2 5

A Horthem. Vicanaif
B . Central, Vuariate
C SotithfmVicanatf-





AMONGST the various countries on the extreme east of
Asia into which Christianity has forced an entrance,
the empire of Annam is one where it has secured a
most firm and permanent footing. But it has not done
this without many a desperate struggle. Again and
again the rulers have treated it with a savage vio-
lence, and have exerted their utmost strength to
exterminate it ; but, however violent or however pro-
longed the persecution, it has always survived, and,
as years have gone on, it has still multiplied.

The empire of Annam comprises the two countries
of Tonking and Cochin China, with some adjoining
territory that has been annexed, stretching down
for several hundreds of miles from the south of China
along the eastern coasts of Asia; in the portion
forming Tonking, towards the north, spreading into

some considerable breadth, then in Cochin China


2 The Persecutions of Annam.

tapering away into a narrowness of even less than a
hundred miles, till in the extreme south, where it has
been increased by conquests from Camboia, the width
is again enlarged.

Cochin China and Tonking from a very remote
period have formed a single kingdom, and for some
centuries the supreme title was maintained in regular
succession in the old regal line. But, though the
title was retained, the authority was eventually lost.
Both in Tonking and in Cochin China this had been
usurped by ambitious ministers, and so completely
that it passed on from father to son in as secure and
regular a manner as if they had been the real kings.
Such was the state of things when the missionaries
first entered the country. To them Cochin China
and Tonking were two separate kingdoms; for
though the old Voua, as he was called, slumbered on
in Tonking, occupied his palace, and retained certain
emblems of his ancestral dignity, the whole power
rested with the two Chouas, who ruled with an equal
independence, as if they did not in name acknowledge
a superior. But towards the end of the last century
a series of revolutions occurred, which resulted in the
establishment of the present line of rulers, and in the
concentration in their hands of the authority over
both countries.

The present rulers are descendants of the Chouas
or kings of Cochin China. In the year 1765 the king,
Vu-Vuong, died, and out of affection for a favourite
concubine he put aside the legitimate heir, and set
up in his place a young boy unfitted to govern.

Introductory. 3

This was the cause of dissatisfaction and of civil
disturbances. There sprang up war between the
brothers, and this gave opportunity for the entrance
on the scene of a new claimant, who was able to use
the occasion for his own advantage. He was a bold
adventurer, named Nhac, who, at the head of a hardy
body of followers, the famous Taysons, came down
from the mountains, and, seeming at first to side
with one of the brothers, soon made his way to the
front, and seized the kingdom for himself. All fell
before him, and he became the acknowledged ruler,
assuming the title of emperor.

But he did not stop here. He fell upon Tonking
also, and with an ease and rapidity quite unexpected
reduced it even more completely than he had con-
quered Cochin China ; for in Cochin China resistance
was not quite at an end. In the wars, the two
brothers who had contended for the government
had both perished, but there survived a son of the
elder brother ; and he, although with a scanty fol-
lowing, and in a corner of the kingdom, still asserted
his rights. Gradually he gathered strength, and
pushed his way on further and further, till Nhac,
aroused by these successes, came down upon him
with renewed vigour, and appeared to have crushed
him. The unfortunate young prince was driven out
altogether, and for a time his situation was most
forlorn and desperate. From the beginning he had
had one friend, who had stood by him and proved
most useful to him. He had given him shelter when
he had no home ; he had consoled him, advised him,

4 The Persecutions of Annam.

and sustained his courage. He had helped to rally-
around him the followers to whom he had owed his
first successes, and now in his fresh sorrows his
friendship proved no less valuable. This friend was
a Christian, a Christian bishop, the Bishop of Adran,
a name long renowned in this country, the name of
one with whom the fortunes of this young prince
were long and intimately connected. But more of
him by and by.



IT was not long after the Chouas of Cochin China
set up for themselves that Christianity made its way
into the country. Portuguese traders had before
brought some slight knowledge of it, but it was not
till the Jesuit father, Francis Buzomi, came over
from Macao that any real impression was made.
This was in 1615. His preaching presently drew
attention, and several converts one of them a rich
female, whom they name Johanna were the result.
The king, the son of the first independent Choua,
was favourable, and threw no obstacle in the way of
the missionaries. But still the work was soon
stopped by the jealousy and hostility of the pagan
priests. They began to murmur against the new
worship, and to cry out that the gods were angry ;
and they used the opportunity of a dearth to stir
up a flame of indignation which the king could not
withstand. The missionaries were ordered away, and
would have gone had not contrary winds detained
them. It was when he was in sickness and poverty
that F. Buzomi drew towards himself the notice of a
new friend, the great governor of Pulo-cambi, who
having come up to the capital, and chanced to see
the missionary, viewed him with an extreme interest
and affection. He took him back with him to

6 The Persecutions of Annam.

Pulo-cambi, which is the country in the vicinity
of Quin-hon, treating him with great honour, and
delighting to pour out on him the proofs of his
high admiration and love. He urged his subjects
to listen to the preaching of the father, and made
them sensible that nothing would please him more
than that they should embrace the religion he
taught. One of the governor's first works was
to build them a church, and there is something so
quaint in the account of the missionary respecting
this proceeding, that we will give it in his own
words. ' Turning to us,' says F. Borri, a companion
of F. Buzomi, ' the governor again desired that we
would determine a place for the church, that he might
give orders for setting it up. We showed him a
place that seemed convenient enough, and he, approv-
ing it, went away to his palace. Before three days
were over news was brought us that the church was
coming; we went out with great joy, and no less
curiosity, to see how a church should come; for
though we knew it was to be made of wood, as had
been agreed, yet it could not be other than a great
pile standing on ample pillars. On a sudden, in the
field we saw above a thousand men, all loaded with
materials for the fabric. Every pillar was carried by
thirty lusty men ; others carried the beams, others the
planks, some the capitals, some the bases, one one
thing, one another ; and so all of them went in order
to our house. . . . The architect came, and taking
out a line, viewed the ground, marked out the dis-
tances, and calling those that carried the pillars,

First Missionary Work. 7

fixed them in their places. This done, he called for
one part after another, that every man might render
in what he brought, and go his way ; and thus, all
proceeding regularly, and every man labouring his
best, all that great pile was set up in one day.'

This kind mandarin seemed never tired of the
good offices he could do to the fathers, and whatever
request they made to him he was forward to gratify.
He came one day to their house, and, as a mark of
honour, held a public audience in the court. Two
criminals were sentenced to death. The fathers in-
terceded for them, and he pardoned them. ' To
these holy men,' said he, addressing the bystanders,
'I can refuse nothing. I am longing to get rid
of the hindrances that prevent my being baptised,
and receiving their holy faith. It is what you all
ought to do, if you wish to please me.' And yet,
notwithstanding these good dispositions, this man-
darin died without baptism. He fell sick after a
day's hunting, in which he got over-heated, and in
three days he was dead. The fathers visited him,
and proposed baptism ; but he was not aware of his
danger, and delayed it, and it was too late.

Soon after, when the fathers were suffering from
the loss of this friend, help reached them from
another quarter. One day there was seen at the
door of their house a grand cavalcade elephants,
numerous attendants, with a female of high rank, the
wife of the ambassador to the King of Camboia.
She had come to ask the fathers to baptise her. She
had heard some of the truths of the Christian reli-

8 The Persecutions of Annam.

gion, and they had moved her greatly, especially the
ideas of heaven and hell, and she had a great fear
that she might die and be lost. The fathers kept
her under instruction, and quickly prepared her.
And when she began to know ' Jesus Christ, true
God made man, and humbled for the sake of man,'
her heart was more moved than ever. Then she
tried to imitate something of that humility which so
touched her ; so when she visited the fathers to hear
their lessons she ceased to come in her first grand
state, mounted on an elephant, but she walked with
naked feet through dirt and over stones, obliging
her attendants to do the same, though the distance
was considerable.

Her husband, too, followed her example. He
paused a moment when he heard that he must give
up his many wives, but he made the sacrifice, and,
as the missionary tells the story, the simple honesty
and resolute will of the man are conspicuous.*

Another convert to be noticed is a pagan priest.
What won over this man was the doctrine of our
Lord's resurrection. His residence was near the
missionaries', and he frequently conversed with them.
What they told him made him more curious, and
more eager for instruction. And when he heard of
our Lord's resurrection, and that He rose that we
might all rise with Him at the last day, he was ex-
ceedingly touched. He eagerly asked for baptism,
and he and all his family were baptised. The man
was full of devotion. He was on his knees all night,
* All this is taken from Father Borri, a missionary of the time.

First Missionary Work. 9

repeating over and over again the words, * Tuii ciam
biet,' ' I knew you not ;' or, as the good father inter-
prets it, ' Forgive me, my God, for till now I never
knew You.' ' This man,' adds F. Borri, ' had but one
wife, and had lived about thirty years, which was
his age, so strictly up to the law of nature, that he
had never, as he said, up to that time knowingly
deviated in any matter of consequence from what
was just and upright ; and his adoring idols was
because he thought it contrary to reason not to adore
them. He is a proof of what divines say, that God
never fails to have baptism administered, either by
the hands of men or angels, to a heathen who lives
a moral life, according to the dictates of reason and
the law of nature.'

In 1639 F. Buzomi died, and his work was taken
up by that great missionary of these parts, Alexander
of Rhodes. Conversions proceeded rapidly; from
twelve to fifteen hundred every year. By the middle
of the century there were fifty thousand Christians,
and before it had closed they had risen to eighty
thousand. There were frequent persecutions, and
several martyrs. The first martyr was the catQchist
Andrew, a young man only nineteen, but full of
fervour and resolution. Alexander of Rhodes was
by his side at his execution. He died 1644 ; and the
next year two other catechists, Ignatius and Vincent.
In 1661 there was a more serious persecution, and it
continued some years. It was in the reign of Hien-
Vuong. Peter Dang was one of the martyrs of this
date. He was a soldier, and with three companions

io The Perseciitions of Annam.

was led up before the king to receive sentence. The
others were greatly terrified, but Peter had no fear
at all. ' Prince,' said he to the king, ' I am, in the
first place, the subject and servant of the King who
is supreme Lord of heaven and earth, and, after that,
I am your majesty's.' The king at first did not seem
to notice what he said, and he repeated it ; when the
king, much enraged, exclaimed, ' I am supreme in my
own kingdom, and govern it as I please ; and I de-
pend not on any Lord of heaven and earth.' And
Peter was ordered out to execution.

In 1665 the king gave the order that all the
Christians should be forced to trample on the cross,
and that those who refused should lose their heads
or be thrown to the elephants. There were in prison
some Christians, who were now brought out to make
their final choice, and when asked to trample on the
cross, ' No ! ' they exclaimed ; ' our resolution is un-
changed ; gladly do we offer our lives to God, and if
we had a thousand we would do so.' Amongst these
martyrs were two brothers, Raphael and Stephen,
one sixteen, the other only twelve, and none were
more forward in offering their lives. Raphael, speak-
ing for himself and his little brother, said, ' We are
orphans, and we beg of you to send us to heaven,
where our Father is.' ' Who is your father 1 ?' asked
one of the judges. ' God,' he replied, ' the Lord and
Creator of heaven and earth.' Another of these mar-
tyrs was a young girl named Jane. She had come
herself, full of enthusiasm, and acknowledged herself
a Christian, and asked to die for her faith. Driven

First Missionary Work. 1 1

back, she returned, and, refusing to profane the sacred
image, was added to the company. They were
twelve in number, full of joy and courage. With
equal fortitude they laid down their necks for the
sword or faced the elephants. Jane, Raphael, and
Stephen were chosen out for the latter fate. It was
thought that they would never dare to stand up be-
fore the formidable beasts. But they did not shrink.
While they stood waiting, a young girl named Lucy
rushed in, and threw herself at the feet of Raphael
to kiss them. The boy, thinking that she wished to
turn him from his purpose, said, 'Grieve not, my
sister ; we are going to heaven ;' and little Stephen,
turning to those around; added^ * We are glad to
suffer ; it is for the faith we love. We wish to go to
our Father in heaven.! The boys suffered last. They
saw their companions despatched by the great beasts,
but they were not frightened. They made the sign
of the cross, and presently they too were trampled
under the feet of the elephants.

Lucy was the daughter of Peter Ki, who had
died for his religion shortly before. He was a man-
darin of rank, but degraded to a common soldier on
account of his being Christian, for which he in the
end forfeited his life. Lucy was full of his spirit,
and wished also to be a martyr. A little while after,
she stood by when four more bold confessors were
witnessing for their faith. The mandarin reproached
them for leaving the religion of their country to em-
brace that of the Portuguese, and Thomas, one of
the party, defended himself. ' It is not the religion

1 2 The Persecutions of Annam.

of the Portuguese,' he said, 'nor of any one nation,
but the law which the Lord of heaven and earth has
given to the whole world. Just as the sun which
shines on Cochin China is not the sun of this king-
dom alone, but is equally the sun of other countries,
so the religion of the Portuguese, being a religion
coming from God, is not a religion for them only, but
for the whole world also.' A proof of which was seen,
he said, in the fact that it was not only the Portu-
guese who brought it to them, but Italians and
French, and also Japanese. ' It has too,' he added,
'the stamp of truth and holiness ; so that there are no
people, however little reason they may have, that will

Online LibraryJohn Rutherford ShortlandThe persecutions of Annam; a history of Christianity in Cochin China and Tonking → online text (page 1 of 28)