From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search
  • Other Names: 塘外 (V: Đàng Ngoài)
  • Vietnamese/Japanese/Chinese: 東京 (Đông Kinh / Tonkin / Dōngjīng)

Tonkin, from the Vietnamese Đông Kinh, meaning "eastern capital," refers either to the city of Hanoi, seat of the Trinh lords in the 16th-18th centuries, or to the Trinh domain as a whole, which encompassed much of northern Vietnam.

A major site of silk production in the early modern period, Tonkin and its neighboring port of Pho Hien saw much Dutch and Chinese mercantile activity; silks from the Tonkin region accounted for roughly one-third of Dutch profits made in selling goods in Nagasaki.[1]

Japanese ships also came regularly to Tonkin in the 1590s-1630s. However, in contrast to the active Nihonmachi (Japantown) in Hoi An, within Nguyen lands to the south, there was no significant Japanese community resident in Tonkin. This was due, chiefly, to two factors. One, the Trinh lords actively discouraged the formation of any such community, as they feared the destabilizing impact of Japanese mercenaries and weapons traders who might settle or find refuge in such a community. Two, the Nguyen lords had a stronger relationship with the Tokugawa shogunate than the Trinh, and explicitly asked the Tokugawa to limit or sever relations with the Trinh north. Still, there was enough of a local community that Japanese Christians established a church in Tonkin in 1626.

Some number of Japanese still actively engaged in trade in the port, however. Wada Rizaemon is one example of such a figure. A prominent merchant in the port, he invested as well in Chinese and Dutch commercial ventures, and enjoyed a formal appointment in the staff of the Le Dynasty Imperial court, even playing a role in the negotiation of a treaty between Tonkin and Manila in 1654. His wife Ursula served as an intermediary and interpreter between Portuguese and Vietnamese traders.[2] The prominent red seal ship merchants Suminokura Ryôi and his son Suminokura Sôan also actively traded at Tonkin, and served as messengers, carrying and delivering official communications between Japanese and Southeast Asian authorities.[3]

Fighting between the Trinh lords of Tonkin, and the Nguyen lords of Quang Nam, to the south, who the Trinh saw as separatists and rebels, continued through the entire mid-17th century, from 1633 to 1673.

By the mid-18th century, Tonkin was a major site of Chinese mining. Taxes levied on Chinese mining operations accounted for roughly half of Trinh revenues in the 1760s.[4]


  1. William Wray, “The Seventeenth-century Japanese Diaspora: Questions of Boundary and Policy,” in Ina Baghdiantz McCabe et al (eds.), Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks, Oxford: Berg (2005), 84.
  2. Wray, 79-89.
  3. Jansen, Marius. China in the Tokugawa World. Harvard University Press, 1992. p22.
  4. Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 78-79.