Annam & Tonkin (1883 – 1887)

ALBUM – view my Annam and Tonkin Album

Fast Facts

Region: Far East
Group: Southeast Asia
Classification: Occupation (France)
Prior Regime: Tributary to China
Key Dates:
  1883, Aug 25 – Annam and Tonkin declared French protectorates
  1884, Aug – Sino French War begins
  1885, Jun 9 – China renounces it’s rights over Annam and Tonkin
  1886, Jan 29 – French Protectorate of Annum & Tonkin established
  1887, Oct 17 – French Indochina formed (Cambodia, Annam, Tonkin, Cochin-China, and later Laos)
Following Regime: French Indochina
Scott Catalogue: (Annum and Tonkin) #1-3, 7-9
Pick Catalogue: none


French officers and Tonkinese riflemen in Tonkin, 1884
French officers and Tonkinese riflemen in Tonkin, 1884
Annam and Tonkin are located in the northern part of Vietnam and were incorporated as provinces of the overall French Colonial area of southeast Asia  In the late 1800s,  China and France competed for control of this part of Asia for trade purposes.

After several clashes between the Vietnamese and the French,  France sent substantial reinforcements  in June of 1883.  This set up an armed conflict called the Tonkin Campaign.  The French were fighting on my fronts against  the Vietnamese, Liu Yongfu’s Black Flag Army, and the Chinese Guangxi & Yunnan armies with the purpose of setting up a French protectorate in Tonkin. The campaign was complicated in August 1884 with the outbreak of the Sino-French War and in July 1885 the Can Vuong nationalist uprising in Annam.  The multiple conflicts required the diversion of large numbers of French troops aptly named the Tonkin Expeditionary Corps , supported by the gunboats of the Tonkin Flotilla. The campaign officially ended in April 1886, when the Expeditionary Corps was reduced in size to a division of occupation, but Tonkin was not effectively pacified until 1896.
FE - French Indochina Map
After the Sino-French War , Tonkin came under French sovereignty and essentially all of Vietnam was considered a French Protectorate.  During the French colonial administration,  Vietnam was administratively divided by the French into three different territories:  Tonkin protectorate (in the North), Annam protectorate (in the center), and the colony of Cochin-China (in the south).  Together with Laos and Cambodia, these areas ultimately became known as French Indochina.


Only one set of stamps was issued for Annam and Tonkin. The stamps wereoverprinted on French Colony issues with “A & T” or “A – T” as an abbreviation for Annam and Tonkin and a denomination.   These surcharges have different types of numerals and letters. There are various errors in the placement of the surcharges, including double 1 inverted, double both inverted, double 1 sideways and  without surcharge.

The stamps were issued in 1888.  By 1892, stamps of French Indochina were used throughout the region. The stamp issue of 1888 was the only issue for the two protectorates.


No Banknotes were issued for Annam and Tonkin


Annam and Tonkin from Stamps of Distinction
Map from Sandafayre On Line Atlas
Sino-French War at Wikipedia


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