encompassing the northernmost 40,340 square miles
of present-day Vietnam
"Tonkin" is a Western corruption of Dong
Kinh, the name of Hanoi (the largest city in
the region) during the Le Dynasty. Locally, the
region is known as Bac Ky, meaning
"Northern Region." The name
"Tonkin" was later used for the
protectorate established by France in the 19th
Many rivers enter Tonkin from the Chinese
province of Yunan, including the Red and Noire.
Both empty into the Gulf of Tonkin through a
number of deltaic streams. The region is
mountainous in the north and west, the greatest
height rising to 10,310 feet. Much of the region
is covered by forests. Rainfall over the region
varies from 60 to 100 inches a year, with most of
it falling between May and January.
Previously loosely associated with Annam,
Tonkin became a province of that empire in 1801.
In 1873 French forces captured Hanoi, giving as a
reason the interference of Tonkinese and Chinese
rebels with the dispatch of military stores to
Yunnan. Tonkin officially came under French
protection in 1884, and became part of the Union
of French Indochina in 1887. In 1897 the viceroy
of the Annamese Emperor was withdrawn from
Tonkin, and French rule became virtually
complete. In 1902 the capital of French Indochina
was moved from Saigon to Hanoi.
occupied Tonkin during World
War II, France continued to administer the
region as its colony. The region became a
stronghold for Communist-backed nationalists
(Viet Minh) after the war, and conflict between
the Viet Minh and France broke out into the First
Indochina War. Tonkin came under the formal
authority of the State of Vietnam in 1949. In
1954, Tonkin and the northern half of Annam
became the communist state of North Vietnam.
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