Edict of the Emperor Minh Mang: Hostility to Christianity (1833)
I, Minh Mang, the king, speak thus. For many years men from the Occident have been preaching the religion of [Christianity] and deceiving the public, teaching them that there is a mansion of supreme bliss and a dungeon of dreadful misery. They have no respect for the God Phat [Buddha] and no reverence for ancestors. That is great blasphemy indeed. Moreover, they build houses of worship where they receive a large number of people, without discriminating between the sexes, in order to seduce the women and young girls; they also extract the pupils from the eyes of sick people. Can anything more contrary to reason and custom be imagined?
Last year we punished two villages steeped in this depraved doctrine. In so doing we intended to make our will known, so that people would shun this crime and come to their senses.
No then, this is our decision: although many people have already taken the wrong path through ignorance, it doesn't take much intelligence to perceive what is proper and what is not; they can still be taught and corrected easily. Initially they must be given instruction and warnings, and then, if they remain intractable, punishment and pain.
Thus we order all followers of this religion, from the mandarin to the least of the people, to abandon it sincerely, if they acknowledge and fear our power. We wish the mandarins to check carefully to see if the Christians in their territory are prepared to obey our orders, and to force them, if their presence, to trample the cross underfoot. After this they are to pardon them for the time being. As for the houses of worship and houses of the priests, they must see that these are completely razed and, henceforth, if any of our subjects is known to be guilty of these abominable customs, he will be punished with the last degree of severity, so that this depraved religion may be extirpated.
This is our will. Execute it. Twelfth day of the eleventh [lunar] month, thirteenth year of our reign. [the royal seal]
Secret Annex to the Edict
The religion of Jesus deserves all our hatred, but our foolish and stupid people throughout the kingdom embrace it en masse and without examination. We must not allow this abuse to spread. Therefore we have deigned to post a paternal edict, to teach them how they must correct themselves.
The people who follow this doctrine blindly are nonetheless our people; they cannot be turned away from error in a moment. If the law were followed strictly, it would require countless executions. This measure would cost our people dear, and many who would be willing to mend their ways would be caught up in the proscription of the guilty. Moreover, this matter should be handled with discretion, following the [Confucian] maxim, which states: "If you want to destroy a bad habit, do so with order and patience," and continues: "If you wish to root out an evil breed, take the hatchet and cut the root."
We order all the provincial governors and all others who govern:
- Carefully to attend to the instruction of their inferiors, mandarins, soldiers, or populace, so that they may mend their ways and abandon this religion;
- To obtain accurate information about the churches and homes of missionaries, and to destroy them without delay.
- To arrest the missionaries, taking care, in doing so, to use guile rather than violence; if the missionaries are French, they should be sent promptly to the capital, under the pretext of being employed by us to translate letters. If they are indigenous, you are to detain them in the headquarters of the province, so that they may not be in communications with the people and thus maintain them in error. Take care lest your inferiors profit from this opportunity by arresting Christians indiscriminately and imprudently, which would cause trouble everywhere. For this you would be held guilty.
You, provincial prefects, act with caution and prudence, do not stir up trouble; thus you will make yourselves worthy of our favor. We forbid this edict to be published, for fear that its publication might cause trouble. As soon as it reaches you, you alone are to acknowledge it. Obey.
Minh Mang, Emperor of Vietnam. "Edict Against Christianity." In Georges Taboulet, La Geste Francaise en Indochine. 2 vols. Paris: 1955-56.