In 1335, Fu Ruojin (1303-1342) went to Annam for a diplomatic mission. Along his way, he documented the customs and landscape of his destination through a series of poems. At the same time, Lê Tắc (ca. 1260s-1340s), an official who once served the Tran Dynasty and eventually submitted to the Yuan Dynasty, attempted to shed light on the Sino-Viet relationship by compiling Annan zhilue (A Brief History of Annam). Examining the two accounts in juxtaposition as well as the biographical information of Fu and Lê, one could locate certain discrepancies between the narratives, including how they conceptualize the territories and the connections between the two regimes.
Against the backdrop of political confrontations, this paper argues that Fu’s poetic discourse strategically highlights the friendship between the two countries while naturalizing the exotic world. The rhetorical choice represents a veiled intention to project Annam as a tributary subject finally submitted to the empire. Contrasting Fu’s work with Lê Tắc’s, this paper concludes by explaining how representations of Annam varies with different political stances, while revealing how personal choices and political circumstances alter the representation of cultural others during the Mongol-Yuan dynasty.