|modern Chinese temple in Chợ Lợn, Hô Chi Minh City|
|street in old Hội An|
|Chinese assembly hall in Hội An|
|Chinese temple courtyard, Hội An|
|Hà Tiên harbor|
Nominally, the Delta was part of Cambodia, but it was largely swamp back then, with most Khmer settlements near the mouth of the Mekong, too far for direct government control and so autonomous from the beginning. Moreover, instability at the Cambodian Court was the norm, as royal factions fought each other for power. Too weak to prevail on their own they sought allies from Siam or Vietnam. In 1679 a pro-Vietnamese king ruled in Udong, Cambodia’s capital, so getting permission to settle the Chinese in Biên Hoà and Mỹ Tho was no problem.
|Chinese temple in Hà Tiên|
|imported deity--the Jade Emperor, Hô Chí Minh City|
|Tuê Thánh Chinese temple, Hô Chí Minh City|
|temple interior, Chợ Lợn|
|herbal medicine ship, Chợ Lợn|
|residential neighborhood, Chợ Lợn|
The Mekong Delta continued to lure immigrants in the 18th century. Chinese set up shops in other towns, like Sóc Trăng, Trà Vinh and Cần Thơ, while Vietnamese continued to migrate from Central Vietnam to drain swamps, build canals and clear new farmland. They did not attempt to displace the Khmer, just moved into vacant land in their vicinity. The Khmer were still the largest community in the Delta, but they had always been autonomous, self-contained communities. Even when the Nguyễn took administrative control of the Khmer areas the Court left them pretty much as they were.
|local commerce on the Saigon Rive|
By allying with Cambodian royal factions in the endless succession quarrels, the Nguyễn regime could extract greater territorial concessions whenever their side won the contest. But it never established the direct authority in the Delta that it enjoyed in central Vietnam. Subject to its own palace intrigues, the Nguyễn system began collapsing in mid-century. In 1771 the Tây Sơn Revolt commenced, named after the village in Bình Định province that was home to the three brothers who commanded it—Nguyen Nhạc, Nguyen Huệ and Nguyen Lữ.
|modern architecture in Hô Chí Minh City|
|skyscrapers dominate Hô Chí Minh City|
|the Chinese-built Clay Pagoda in Sóc Trăng|
|Chinese temple in Trà Vinh|
|opera performers, Hô Chí Minh City|
They thrived in their new locations, thanks to French favoritism, and continued to dominate business and commerce with the creation of South Vietnam. With the northern conquest in 1975 and the imposition of a state-run economy, the Chinese community suffered enough to lead many of them to try to escape, like the ‘boat people’, especially after the Vietnam-China War in 1979, when all Chinese residents’ loyalty to Vietnam was under suspicion.
|Chinese opera performance, New Year in Hô Chí Minh City|
|Chợ Lợn Market, Hô Chí Minh City|