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The geopolitics - military factors of Chau Doc within the defense strategy on the southwestern border of The Nguyen dynasty period 1802 – 1867

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AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

PERIOD 1802 – 1867
Duong The Hien1

An Giang University, VNU - HCM

Received: 24/07/2019
Accepted: 24/07/2019
Published: 11/2019
Nguyen Dynasty, Chau Doc,
geopolitics, military,
Southwestern border


After the Nguyen Dynasty was established (1802), the issue of protecting the
Southwestern border became the focus of this dynasty's defensive policy
under the invading conspiracy of Chenla and Siam. With a geopolitical and
military position, connecting many important defensive positions of
Southern Vietnam, Chau Doc was quickly chosen by the Nguyen Dynasty to
become the center of defense in the strategy to protect the Southwestern
border. The Nguyen Dynasty made efforts to build Chau Doc as a military
and administrative center, and the most important traffic location and
military transshipment on the Southwestern border line. All of the above

affirmed the important role and strategic significance of the land of Chau
Doc in the cause of protecting the Southwestern border of the country.

the Vietnamese people living on the An Giang
border. In that system, Chau Doc emerged as a
special location in geopolitical – military
perspective within the defense strategy in the
Southwestern border of the Nguyen Dynasty.


Chau Doc has been merged officially on Dai
Viet since 1757 when the monarch of Chenla
(ancient Cambodia) was Outey II (1739 - 1777)
(the other name is Ang Ton or Nak Ong Ton)
consecrated Tam Phong Long area to Nguyen
Lords. This is the first land of An Giang
province that holds a very important position in
the defensive strategy. King Gia Long said
“Chau Doc, Ha Tien confines is no less
important than Bac Thanh” (National History of
Nguyen Dynasty [NHOND], 2007a), and in
1833, King Minh Mang continued to identify:
“An Giang province (including Chau Doc) was
very important land” and noted that: “Soldiers
must build strongholds to protect the border”
(NHOND, 2007b). All of the above had set
urgent requirements for the national defense of

On more difficult and complex land, the

Nguyen Dynasty has shown a positive point
with defense policy accurately and firmly. The
Nguyen Dynasty had continuously developed
the military buildings, stationed since the
Nguyen Lords and the civil war with Tay Son
Army in the land of An Giang to underpin
defense strategy, with the great role of Chau
Doc Tan Cuong(1) area.
In the Southwestern border defense policy, in
order to stand against the conspiracy invasive of
Chenla (Cambodia) and Siam (Thailand), the
Nguyen Dynasty had created a defensive line


AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

stretching from Tay Ninh to Ha Tien. In that
line of defense, Chau Doc was the most
important defensive center with an ability to
determine victory or defeat in the Patriotic war
of Vietnamese people against foreign invaders
during the period 1802 – 1867.

Chau Doc, Tan Chau, Hung Ngu, Thong Binh
(NHOND, 2007d) and Tay Ninh (Duong The
Hien, 2014). Therein, the An Giang - Ha Tien
region was specially focused to establish a
defensive system with five military centers: Tan

Chau, Chau Doc, That Son, Ha Tien and Rach
Gia. These centers have a close relationship
with each other. The strongholds immediately
in front of the border are backed largely from a
stronghold system behind.

2.1 Chau Doc - gateway to connect many
political and military factors in the
Southwestern border

From the defensive center in Chau Doc,
crossing Vinh An canal, it would connect and
closely link with the stronghold system along
the Tien river including: Tan Chau (National
History of Nguyen Dynasty [NHOND], 2006),
Hung Ngu, Tien An, Nhan Hoi (NHOND,
2006), Vinh Thanh, An Lac (NHOND, 2007a),
Thu Chien Sai(2) (NHOND, 2007b), Sa Dec
(NHOND, 2006). These centres were arranged
as defensive forces to keep security and support
each other if there were wars. On the other
hand, they were also able to support other
provinces quickly such as Vinh Long, Dinh
Tuong and Gia Dinh.

Chau Doc was a special strategic location in the
context of the Nguyen Dynasty. This is the
heartland of the defensive system on the
southwest border of the Nguyen Dynasty. King

Minh Mang had enacted to remind Nguyen Van
Thoai when he decided that defense at here
“Chau Doc was crucial, and that you (Nguyen
Van Thoai) must be very skillful in all cases,
reassure and console local people. Firstly, you
must recruit traders, build villages, make men
and households increasingly, the farmland was
further exploited. Secondly, the border issues
must be carefully planned.” (Son Nam, 2004, p.
83). As an important border area, Chau Doc
became a political and defensive center linked
closely with other centers by both the
waterways and roads. This was a geopolitical military factor that was not everywhere else in
southern Vietnam.

On the Hau river route, Chau Doc connected
closely with the stronghold system including:
Binh Di, Binh Thien (NHOND, 2007a), Da
Phuc (Cabinet of Nguyen Dynasty [COND],
1993a), Tran Di, Tran Giang, Mi Thanh, Dong
Xuyen, Thuan Tan, Nang Gu, Can Thang, Chau
Giang, (NHOND, 2006) Con Muon, Tai Suat,
An Chau, Cuong Thang, Cuong Thanh, Cuong
Uy (COND, 1993b).

With north-south and east-west waterway
systems across Southern Vietnam, the Nguyen
army could to all of the important defensive
center from its Chau Doc headquarters. Internal
waterway elements made the connectivity and

command role of Chau Doc all the more
obvious. Chau Doc was the only and shortest
place from which to communicate, support
defenses and attack in two dimensions with the
base defense in the Southwestern border area.

On the Vinh Te canal route, the Nguyen
Dynasty had set an important defensive system
stretching from Chau Doc to Ha Tien including:
Vinh Nguon, Vinh Te (NHOND, 2007c), Vinh
Gia (COND, 1993b), Vinh Dieu, Nhon Hoi
(NHOND, 2006), Tien An, Giang Nong
(COND, 1993a).

During the Nguyen Dynasty, the defense policy
in the Southwestern border area was set up with
a stronghold system from Ha Tien to That Son,

In addition, Thoai Ha canal is also a waterway
route to support Chau Doc actively for
communications, operationsof troops and


AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

internal political stability. Thoai Ha canal
(1818) and Vinh Te canal (1819-1824) were
built and created a defensive strategic

quadrangle that included: Chau Doc – Ha Tien
– Rach Gia – Dong Xuyen, and the majestic
That Son mountains, where “strike hard, defend
easily” formed a defensive system in which
“mountains and rivers were integratedd” very
solidly. All of above created a defensive shield
in the Southwest border of the country in which
Chau Doc was a command center for the
defensive system not only in the ancient An
Giang province but also in the Southwest

3.56km long, 2.3m high, 6m wide, a 12m
footway. It required 4,400 people, working for
seven months (NHOND, 2007c; Le Thanh
Khoi, 2000; United Nations, 1996). This project
was both a traffic route and a high levee to
enable travel in the flood season. Besides, it
also served effectively for people’s lives and
served as a defensive work of the Nguyen
After “Tan lo kieu luong” was built, the
Nguyen Dynasty continuously mobilized
human resources to build some other traffic
routes, both dykes and roads, by the army and
the people. It had connected Chau Doc with
other constructions to strengthen national
defense and economic development. Dai Nam
nhat thong chi noted that besides this levee
there were also 3 other levees:

In contrast to the North, to expand the border of
Vietnam in the Nguyen Dynasty, from Chau
Doc to Chenla along the Mekong river lines, the
Nguyen Army established a defensive system
by a group of strongholds including Tran Tay(3)
(NHOND, 2007a), Thi Dam, Vinh Bich, Tam
Bon, Ba Nam, Thiet Thang (NHOND, 2007d)
as outposts to prevent enemies from outside the

A road was the old levee started from the
big road to the road which was built by
Nguyen Van Thoai in the past with a mile(4)
and one hundred thirty two meters of length,
five point eight meters of height, its surface
was four meters of width, its foot was
twelve meters of width. Another levee was
mentioned: A road from Vinh Te road to
Sam Mount, two miles and one hundred thirty seven meters of length, six point five
meters of height, its surface was four meters
of width, its foot was twelve meters of
width. Finally, a side road from the old
levee to Vinh Te fort, ten miles and one
hundred and eight meters of length, three
meters of height, its surface was four meters
of width, its foot was six meters of width at
Tay Xuyen district, it was built in the Minh
Mang time.

On the road route, although An Giang province
is newly reclaimed in this period, road traffic
remains difficult but to defense of the country
and people was very important, so the Nguyen
Dynasty tried to establish roads to connect the
defensive centers in the Southwest border. Chau
Doc Tan Cuong region, with the advantage of
flat land, became the home of many roads.
From Chau Doc to the boundary line of Vinh
Long had a road more than 105.2 km, long; a
road to Ha Tien that started from Giang Phuc
station more than – 98 km;, a road to Tran Tay
from Vinh Te canal more than 19.6 km
(NHOND, 2007c; Le Thanh Khoi, 2000; United
Nations, 1996); and a road to That Son by “Tan
lo kieu luong” road.

(NHOND, 2006, Vol. 5, p. 224-225; Le
Thanh Khoi, 2000; United Nations, 1996).

When Thoai Ngoc Hau returned to defend An
Giang, he built “Tan lo kieu luong” road to
connect Chau Doc with the strongholds of That
Son and Ha Tien. “Tan lo kieu luong” road was

The road system from Chau Doc was an
important proof that showed the role and
significant strategy of Chau Doc in the cause of
national defense and renovation and


AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

establishment of villages in the Nguyen
Dynasty erea

continuous defensive system involving
waterways and roads in the Southern region.

The road traffic system that came from
Chau Doc to the South West region, not
only served effectively for renovation and
establishment of villages, but also the
important marching route of the Nguyen
Army to control the That Son border region,
in addition to
transport of food and
agricultural products to and from Chau Doc
(Duong The Hien,
2014, p. 144-162).

All strongholds and barracks were continuously
built, from Chau Doc to Ha Tien by the Nguyen
Dynasty, with the combination of infantry and
sailor. They were very mobile and skilled in
combat. The Chau Doc region was not only
favorable for defense against invaders but also
the important place to ensure the command and

support of each element of the Southwest
defensive system of the Nguyen Lords and the
Nguyen Dynasty.

It could be said that these military and
economic constructions have great significance
in protecting and developing the An Giang
border area during the Nguyen Dynasty.

In the Nguyen Dynasty, Chau Doc region was
highly appreciated by Nguyen Dynasty when it
came to building the command post of both An
Giang and Ha Tien:

Because Chau Doc had a great influence on the
defense policy of the Nguyen Dynasty,
therefore, establishing a system of both security
and border defense was an important part of
national defense in the Southwest border in
general and An Giang in particular.

In terms of shape, although My Duc (Chau
Doc) was narrow but it could control the
Phu Cu, Kim Du (Ha Tien). It looked like
the lap or the throat of the mountains and
the sea. It was really the important land
defensively. As the Tien river, and Hau river
of An Giang province originated from
Phnom Penh, he left of the Hau river was
inhabited by Kinh people, the land was flat,

and had convenient transportation. When the
country was first founded, the King set up a
fort here (Chau Doc old fort). Nowadays (in
1850), it was Dong Phu fort. This land was
the important place to control Chenla. Long
Son was located on the Tien Giang River,
and. King Tu Duc agree that it was not as
important as Dong Phu

2.2 Chau Doc – a national defensive center
on the Southwest border in the Nguyen
In the Nguyen Dynasty, when it came to the
strategic location of the An Giang region,
military experts were always highly
appreciative of the role of Chau Doc. It met the
requirements to become a center for political,
military and economic factors in many periods.
Chau Doc was considered a complex border
region, exploit later, but the strategic location
“to lean mountain, to view river”, “before three
rivers, after seven mountains”, barricading of
both waterways and roads from Chenla came
down Vietnam. From the Nguyen Lords to the
Nguyen Dynasty, this was the place where they
concentrated many important strongholds and
barracks in a strategic role in the Southwest
defensive system from Chau Doc to That Sơn,
and Ha Tien. All these strongholds created a

(NHOND, 2007, Vol 7,
In the defensive strategy of the Nguyen
Dynasty in An Giang, Chau Doc was
considered the hub with many forts,
strongholds, and citadels, and played the role of
commander in the defensive system. The
Nguyen Dynasty soon realized the strategic
importance of Chau Doc that few other places


AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

had. Dai Nam Nhat Thong Chi wrote, “Chau
Doc is located 203 miles to the West of Ha Tien
province, 244.5 miles in the North of Phnom
Penh (the capital of Chenla), it was really the
important place” (NHOND, 2006, p. 216).

commander was changed annually. The king
ordered 40 cast iron guns and and gunpowder to
be placed there (NHOND, 2007a, p. 946). Chau
Doc fort was located opposite Tan Chau fort
32.5 miles east of the Tien river, while to the
west Ha Tien fort was more than 203 miles
away, and in the north Phnom Penh citadel was
240.5 miles. Therefore, Chau Doc fort was a
strategic defense region (NHOND, 2006, p.

216). It is considered an important military base
to protect the Southwest border or control
Chenla or prevent the Siamese Army.

In the waterways, Chau Doc was accessible to
all important waterways within the Southern
region as well as to the East Sea (South China
Sea) and the West Sea (Gulf of Thailand),
possibly to Chenla, Siam, Ai Lao (Laos). On
the land Chau Doc had a road that went to Vinh
Long, Ha Tien, Tran Tay (Chenla) and That
Son regions. Thus, combining the waterways
and roads, Chau Doc was well-placed to ensure
transport and communication. Those were very
important factors in the defensive work.

During the Nguyen Dynasty, on the
Southwestern border from Chau Đoc to Ha
Tien, the command base of the governor An Ha was in Chau Doc. Therefore, Chau Doc
became the command center of the Chau Doc Ha Tien region. In the mechanism of
administrative organization and decentralization
of the local administrative system, An Giang
and Ha Tien were two big provinces adjacent to
each other, and the
Nguyen Dynasty
dispatched an An - Ha Director general to
govern it from his headquarters in the An Giang

On the other hand, in the defense strategic of

the Nguyen Dynasty on the Southwestern
border, Chau Doc was the most important front
- line, showing the huge impact of this land on
the national security and many important
military bases were built.
An important work built in the 14th year of Gia
Long (1815) was Chau Doc fort. This fort was
built by the proconsul Vinh Thanh Luu Phuoc
Tuong, who commanded a total of about seven
thousand soldiers (NHOND, 2007a, p. 917941). Chau Doc fort was built in the shape of a
hexagon, surrounded by trenches through the
Hau river, from the front to the rear 488m long,
7m high, the walls were 24m thick, its back
toward the Northwest(5), its face toward the
Southeast(6), contiguous on the front to the Hau
river, trenches were 80m wide and 11m deep on
the rear, right and left. Inside, there were
military buildings and storage (NHOND, 2006,
p. 216).

In Chau Doc, the An Giang citadel is an
important place. It was built with a perimeter of
1.048km, 9m high, and three doors in the front,
left and right sides. Bamboo was planted on the
outer surface, the trenches were dug six meters
deep, around the outside of the trenches dikes
2.7m deep called the Ho Ha dike. Previously, it
was Chau Doc fort built from the 15th year of
Gia Long (1816) and the 13th year of Minh
Mang (1832), when it was then capital of An

Giang province (NHOND, 2006, p.192-193).
In 1835, An Giang citadel was granted: a Thao
Nghich cannon, a Vo Cong cannon, twenty Qua
Son cannons. Chau Doc fort was granted: ten
Hồng Y cannons, two Phach Son cannons, ten
Qua Son cannons. Chau Giang fort was
granted: two Hong Y cannons, six Qua Son
cannons. (NHOND, 2007a, p. 827)

In 1817, when Chau Doc fort was completed,
king Gia Long dispatched 100 soldiers from
four other townships, 500 soldiers from Uy
Vien fort, at the same time, and selected many
good commanders to protect it. The soldiers
were changed every three months, and the


AGU International Journal of Sciences – 2019, Vol. 7 (1), 35 – 41

Chau Giang fort was repaired on the base of
ancient Chau Doc fort in the period of Nguyen
Lords in Dong Xuyen district (on par with Chau
Doc fort). In 1818, king Gia Long ordered the
proconsul of Vinh Thanh Nguyen Van Xuan to
rebuild it at the upstream area about a mile
away from the old place. The new fort was built
on land with two facades, one facing north, the
other facing south. The center of the gazebo

was built sharp like an octagon. (NHOND,
2006, p. 217)

activities of organizing the Southwestern border
defense of the Nguyen Dynasty in the Chau
Doc area allows us to affirm the special role
and strategic significance of this land in the
cause of national defense not only this stage but
also the next stages. From 1867, when the
French colonized the southwestern provinces,
Chau Doc's strategic position in the defense
policy of the Nguyen dynasty completely
disappeared to start a new role during the
French colonial period.

Chau Doc fort and Doc Tin warehouse had a
team of soldiers to keep the warehouse. Each
team had a captain and a deputy captain. The
source of soldiers holding warehouses was the
men who lived in communes and villages near
the citadel. (COND, 1993a, p. 452)


Chau Doc Tan Cuong was named by king
Gia Long in 1805, meaning the newly
reclaimed land of the country.

Thu Chien Sai was a fort that located on the
West of Tra Thon river in Cho Moi district, An
Giang province today. (Son Nam, 1988, p. 11)

With many important military projects, Chau
Doc became a defensive center on the
Southwest border as part of the defense strategy
of the Nguyen Dynasty.


Tran Tay or Tran Tay Thanh is the territory
of Southeastern Cambodia today. From 1835 to
1841, it was ruled by the Nguyen Dynasty.



One mile was four hundred and forty five
meters in the Nguyen Dynasty (Le Thanh Khoi,

With an overall view of defensive posture in the
Southwest border, the Nguyen Dynasty had
determinedly created a solid defensive system
to beat all invasions from Chenla and Siam in
the border area from An Giang to Ha Tien. In
that defensive system, Chau Doc with its
importance in both geopolitically and militarily

area determined the success or failure of the
whole system. Chau Doc was built by the
Nguyen Dynasty into a perfect command,
communication and connection center. The
convenience of both waterways and roads
turned this defensive center into an organic
linking factor with other defensive systems
such as Ha Tien, Dinh Tuong, Vinh Long and
Gia Dinh, as well as keeping in close contact
with the capital in Hue.


Kien direction in Feng Shui


Ton direction in Feng Shui

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