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Cochinchina at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1889

The Palais de la Cochinchine is not a slavish reproduction of an existing monument, but the quintessence of what our rich colony can give from the architectural point of view. In a word, it is the summary of the most beautiful motifs of the religious and domestic art of this part of Indo-China.

An entrance door, supported by four columns of Dau wood and remarkable for the finesse, good taste and variety of its sculptures, gives access to an inner courtyard.
This courtyard, an obligatory complement to all the houses of the Annamites, these skilled fish farmers, corresponds to the atrium of Roman houses and contains a basin with rockeries, furnished with aquatic plants.

Around it are vases of Cochinchina porcelain decorated with indigenous shrubs and earthenware dragons.

This door is flanked on the right and left by stepped porticoes that lead visitors into the side wings of the Palace and allow for covered circulation. At the end of the courtyard, in line with the door, a five-step staircase decorated with two faience lions, gives access to the peristyle entrance to the great hall. The aediculae flanking this staircase are an exact reproduction of those in front of the Pagoda of Illustrious Men, located on the road between Saigon and Cholon.

No less than the artists, the visitors will stop in front of the sculptures which decorate the trusses of the peristyle, and of the big room.

The wooden supports that support the trusses represent the main scenes of Annamite life or the legends that abound in the history of this people, animals whose bizarre assembly, shapes and strange attitudes will not fail to excite the astonishment of people who are not very familiar with Far Eastern art.

The three entrance doors of this hall are also remarkable for the purity of their lines and the finesse of their sculptures.

The architecture of the side galleries is of the purest Annamite and the method of assembling the trusses of the framework is remarkably simple, despite the tormented forms of the crossbeams.

Let us also mention as a real marvel the earthenware crest which surmounts the central part of this palace and which was executed in Cholon, near Saigon. This crest, 20 metres long and 3 metres high, is interesting, not only from the point of view of its manufacture, which is a real tour de force, but also for its happy shape, the diversity of the details it contains and the harmony of the colours.

In another genre, the motifs in grey bricks that decorate the ends of the forecourts are very interesting to study.

The pictorial decoration was executed by twenty Annamite artists sent by Cochinchina and Tonkin, chosen from among the most skilful, and whom all of Paris took pleasure in seeing work before the opening of the Exhibition.
The Palais de la Cochinchine is divided into three parts:
In the centre of the pagoda are the objects of worship, some very beautiful furniture, the decorative part of the indigenous art. To the right and left are exhibited the products of the soil, interspersed with curious objects to avoid monotony and enhance the picturesque dryness inevitable of such an exhibition.

The visitor can start on either side. The main thing is that he should not omit anything he needs to see, i.e. weapons, musical instruments, gongs, drums and tambourines, beds - marvels - bronzes, terracottas, costumes and silks. The latter, represented by beautiful specimens and accompanied by a history of manufacture from the unwinding of the cocoons to weaving, will arrest the visitors as much as the women.

Many of the objects on display will appeal to the ladies, including a collection of school books and handicrafts by the French teachers of the colony. And then there are the theatrical costumes, bamboo and its thousand and one industrial or domestic applications, lacquered wood, mother-of-pearl inlays, rattan seats, scales, models of houses, boats, carts, etc.

The products of the soil may not be of interest to the general public, but they are no less eloquent. Let us mention the rice - Cochinchina is one of the largest rice-producing countries, the main food of three-fifths of the Asians - the fruits, starches, tobacco, peanuts, coffee, indigo, honey, etc.
The curious and the specialists alike can obtain information on these products at the pavilion of the Trade Information Service.

© Guide Bleu du Figaro et du Petit Journal 1889