Annam, an 'empire' on the east coast of the Indo-Chinese peninsula, has since 1885 been a French protectorate and part of French Indo-China, which comprises, besides Annam, Tong-king or Tonquin in the north (once a province of Annam), French Cochin-China in the south, and Cambodia on both sides of the lower Mekong. Before the French controversy with Siam in 1893, the western boundary of Annam was generally understood to be the main mountain ranges between the Mekong and the sea. But in 1893 France insisted that the Mekong should be regarded as the frontier; and this demand was, under protest, conceded from Cambodia north to the Laos country, or about 18° N. lat. The area of Annam, as now extended (but without Tonquin or other divisions of Indo-China), is some 50,000 sq. m.; the population, Annamites on the coast, and Mois and Laos in the hills and west of them, is variously stated at from 5,000,000 to 10,000,000.
Annam lies wholly in the torrid zone, yet even during the hot and rainy season, extending over the six months from April to September, the thermometer seldom mounts from a minimum of 70° to beyond 100° F. On account of the moisture, however, the heats in June and July are sometimes almost intolerable. The country, save on the coast and along the Mekong, is mountainous; minerals are believed to abound; coal is worked near Turane. The mountains are covered with valuable timber, and the lower lands are extremely fertile. The chief productions are, besides rice and other cereals, cotton, cinnamon, sugar, tea, coffee, and tobacco. The chief ports are Turane (wholly under French control), Qui-Nhon, and Xuan-Day: Hue is the capital. The principal imports are rice, cotton cloths and yarns, opium, and paper, for the most part from China and Japan.
The Annamese are mainly of Mongoloid stock. The inhabitants of the mountains are taller, fairer, and stronger than the inhabitants of the plain. The latter are small of stature but well proportioned, indolent but expert. The speech of the Annamese is monosyllabic, like Chinese, from which they have borrowed many words. The mass of the people worship tutelary spirits; Confucianism is in vogue with the more cultivated; the remainder adhere to Buddhism. There are besides about 420,000 Roman Catholics, descendants of immigrants from Macao and Japan (1624), and of Portuguese fugitives from Malacca.
The native prince is retained on the throne, and the interior administration - on the Chinese pattern - is in the hands of Annamite officials, though the French, through the superior council of Indo-China, have supreme authority, and French troops occupy part of the citadel of Hue.