I. The attraction of the East
For a Westerner, the attraction of the Orient could become a lifetime adventure. The missionary found the divine will to open the
door of distant lands to The Holy Book. It was with this fervor that in 1624, Father Alexandre de Rhodes and other priests of the (French)
Missions Etrangères joined Portuguese Jesuit fathers Buzomi and Pina in the ambitious task of Christianizing Cochin-china
(South Viet-Nam) and Tonkin (North Viet-Nam). They continued the job started by another missionary, named I-nê-khu-translation
of Ignacio or Inigo?-who had preached in the northern part of modern Vietnam around 1553. Still others followed their footsteps like
the Bishop of Adran Pigneau de Béhaine who, in the later part of the 18th century, recruited a group of mercenaries to intervene
in a dynastic conflict. The bishop harbored political and economic ambitions and wished to create
"A French establishment in Cochin-china (which) would give a mean to counterbalance the English influence over the government of India
(...), to dominate over Chinese seas (...) and to become master of the trade in this part of the world."
Rhodes is recognized as the inventor of the modern (Romanized) Vietnamese script while Béhaine received the honorary title of "Column
of the Empire."
Other adventurers went after personal wealth. Jean de la Croix, once chief of a Cambodian province, ended up as the Chief Caster for the
Chua (Lords) of South-Việt-Nam. "He produced great pieces of artillery that the Lord appreciated very much," reported Louis Chevreuil,
the first representative of the Missions Etrangères in Cochin-china. De la Croix received a pension of five hundred golden coins;
he traveled in a palanquin with four bearers while his wife had only two bearers. Jean Dupuis organized his mercenary group and wanted
to open the Red River as an access route to China. Dupuis assisted Francis Garnier in his attack on the Hà-nội Citadel. A long
street in the city bore the name of Jean Dupuis until 1945 when the French administration was replaced by the Japanese.