2018 New History
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Who Will Achieve Prosperity? The Observations and Writings of
Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese Fairgoers to the Hanoi Exposition of 1902

Ching-wen Luo

Department of Chinese Literature, National Sun Yat-sen University

France, which occupied a significant position in the history of the modern exposition, held the only fair outside its territory in 1902, the Hanoi Exposition. In addition to France and its colony in Indochina, several East Asian countries and their colonies also participated in this exhibition. Each participant held different purposes and expectation from the others. The French colonists wanted to show their power by this exposition. However, the fairgoers from China and Japan castigated the French for the failure of their colonial policy and revealed their real ambition in holding the fair. Le Van Ngu, the Vietnamese intellectual, on the one hand upheld and praised the French colonists, while on the other hand was clearly aware of the reality of Vietnam’s colonized situation. As a result, he had mixed feelings about the French colonists. Meanwhile, in addition to placing emphasis on the relationship between France and Vietnam, the competition between China and Japan was also revealed through their participation in the Hanoi Exposition. Through the documentation from each country, this article analyses the different layers of experience and attitudes toward the exposition in the frameworks of Western knowledge, technological structures, symbols of civilization, and colonial situations. This article further highlights the issues of identity recognition and imagined homeland of each country in East Asia, and between East Asian and Western countries.


Keywords: exposition, Hanoi, colonial, exhibition and gaze, Le Van Ngu