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Playboy, bon vivant and the last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai chafed at his role as France’s puppet

[ndlr] Un article sur le destin de Bao Dai, le dernier empereur du Viêt-Nam décédé il y a vingt ans à Paris.

While Bao Dai, who died 20 years ago this week, enjoyed the high life in Hong Kong and elsewhere, he did try to play his part during Vietnam’s most violent and troubled years amid the two Indochina wars.

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the last emperor of Vietnam died peacefully and without ceremony in a military hospital in Paris, aged 83.

Bao Dai, or the “keeper of greatness”, was the 13th and last monarch of the Nguyen dynasty, and more famous for his lurid and extra­vagant lifestyle – he was exiled in Hong Kong for several years – than for his statesmanship during some of the most turbulent and bloody years in his nation’s history, the years of the liberation war against the French and civil war between north and south.

“He became far better known for his leisure activities,” is how the New York Times put it in his obituary.

Born in 1913, within the walls of the magnificent Imperial Palace in the city of Hue, on the banks of the Perfume River, Bao Dai was educated in France and quickly developed a reputation as an adventurer, philanderer, hunter, movie fan, gambler and playboy.

[…]

“I’m not so sure the ‘playboy’ angle is the best one for Bao Dai,” says historian Dr Christopher Goscha, author of The Penguin History of Modern Vietnam, published last year, pointing out that Bao Dai had a central role in the develop­ment of Vietnam during the faltering days of colonial rule.

Lire la suite : South China Morning Post, 30/07/2017.

Image « à la une » : Manifestation en faveur de Bao Dai en 1947.