I was reading the Khâm Định Việt Sử Thông Giám Cương Mục and found some interesting entries in the year 1663. In the seventh lunar month of that year the court announced certain “doctrinal tenets” [教條, giáo điều] to the people of the kingdom.

What were these doctrinal tenets? They were that officials must be loyal, sons must be filial, brothers must live in harmony, husbands and wives must love and respect each other, and friends must interact with trust, etc.

In other words, these doctrinal tenets were basic Confucian moral ideas, and the court wanted these ideas to be made known to the people.

Then in the tenth lunar month the court issued a ban on the “false way [左道, tả đạo] of the Catholics.” This passage indicated that “Holland barbarians” [花郎夷, Hoa Lang di] had earlier come and seduced ignorant people into believing this “alien teaching” [異道, di đạo], and that previously an order banning it had been issued, but people had continued to follow it.

Finally, in between these two passages is one which I find interesting. It is as follows:

“In the eighth lunar month [the court] ordered that Qing people [Thanh nhân] who have come to reside be distinguished.

At that time many Qing people had come to settle among the people, leading customs to become mixed. The managing official [not sure how to translate 承司] of each area was thereupon ordered to inspect the area under his jurisdiction and if there were visitors [客人, khách nhân] from the Qing kingdom residing in the area, they were to handle the matter as they saw fit in order to separate the differing customs [殊俗, thù tục].”

The Vietnamese translation of this passage that I have renders “differing customs” as “customs of a foreign country” [phong tục nước ngoài]. However, “thù tục” doesn’t necessarily have that connotation. Within a kingdom there could be “thù tục,” and that is how the term appears to have been used in Chinese writings.

The more important issue, however, is what were these “differing customs” and why was the court nervous about them “mixing” with local customs? Clearly something “bad” was happening, as the term for “mixing” here does have negative connotations of making things “confused.”

It would be easy to say that they were “Chinese” customs which did not fit with “Vietnamese” ones. But one month before the court expressed its concern about this mixing of the customs of the Qing people with those of local people, it urged those same local people to be loyal to the monarch, filial to their parents. . . that is, to follow the same Confucian teachings that “Qing people” did.

Further, not long after the court ordered its local officials to separate Qing people from local people, it banned everyone from following the “alien teaching” of the “Holland barbarians.”

So in the seventeenth-century Catholicism was “alien,” whereas Confucian ideas like filial piety were not. What then were these “differing customs” of the “Qing people”? And what was the problem with them?

Was it that they were “customs of a foreign country” [phong tục nước ngoài]? That doesn’t seem to make sense here.

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Tháng 7, mùa thu. Ban bố rõ giáo điều cho trong nước.

Đại lược giáo điều nói: Làm bầy tôi phải hết lòng trung với vua; làm con phải giữ đạo hiếu; anh em hòa thuận với nhau; vợ chồng kính yêu lẫn nhau; bè bạn giữ lòng tin thực. . .

Tháng 8. Hạ lệnh: phân biệt đối xử với những người nhà Thanh đến trú ngụ.

Bấy giờ người nhà Thanh phần nhiều đến trú ngụ ở dân gian, làm cho phong tục hỗn độn. Triều đình bèn hạ lệnh cho ty Thừa chính các xứ xét trong hạt mình, nếu có khách trú ngụ là người nhà Thanh thì phải tùy tiện đối xử, để phân biệt phong tục nước ngoài.

Tháng 10, mùa đông. Nhắc rõ lệnh cấm người theo tả đạo Gia tô.

Trước đây, có người Tây Dương gọi là Hoa lang di, vào ở trong nước ta đem đạo dị đoan [actually, the Hán text has “di đạo”] của Gia tô lừa dối dụ dỗ làm ngu muội dân chúng, những người quê mùa nông nổi phần nhiều tin mộ đạo ấy, họ lập tòa giảng nghe giảng đạo, sự mê hoặc đắm đuối mỗi ngày càng sâu rộng. Trước đã hạ lệnh đuổi người truyền đạo ấy đi, nhưng còn bọn tiểu nhân thấm sâu vào tập tục ấy chưa thay đổi được, nên đến nay lại hạ lệnh cấm.