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a region encompassing the southern third of present-day Vietnam
Cochinchina is bounded on the northeast by the part of central Vietnam that the French called Amman, on the southeast by the South China Sea, on the southwest by the Gulf of Thailand, and on the northwest by Cambodia. The majority of the region is an alluvial plain formed by the deltas of the Mekong and other smaller rivers. Its chief city is Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).
For centuries divided between the Champa and Khmer kingdoms, the region came under Vietnamese rule during the reign of Emperor Le Than Tong (reigned 1460-1497). The French conquered Saigon and three southern provinces in 1859, and Vietnam was forced to cede the territories to France in 1862. In 1864 all the French territories in southern Vietnam were declared to be the new French Colony of Cochinchina.
Under French rule, Cochinchina was united in 1887 with Cambodia, Annam, and Tonkin as the Union of French Indochina. Laos was added to the Union in 1893, and the leased Chinese territory of Guangzhouwan was added in 1893. While all of the other regions were administered as protectorates with limited self-government, Cochinchina continued to be administered as a colony ruled directly by the French.
Much of French Indochina was occupied by Japan during World War II. Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina became the nation of Vietnam shortly after the war ended, but France refused to give up its claim to Cochinchina and continued to administer the region as an overseas territory. This "arrangement" continued until 1949, when Cochinchina became the "independent" State of Vietnam. In 1954, the southern half of Annam was merged with Cochinchina to form what became known as South Vietnam; the northern half of Annam and Tonkin became North Vietnam.
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This page was last updated on April 12, 2017.