Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens – VnExpress International


By Mai Nhat  &nbspSeptember 14, 2020 | 08:40 am GMT+7

French lensman Pierre Dieulefils captured images of daily life in Vietnam in the 1880s.

At the end of the 19th century, southern women preferred ao ngu than (five-part ao dai) with beaded jewelry. According to Vietnamese designer Sy Hoang, rich women in this period of time used to wear this type of ao dai, with the four layers representing the parents of both the wife and husband. The fifth layer represents the wearer. The clothing also has five buttons, symbolic of the five qualities every one should have - nhan (kindness), le(decorum), nghia(uprightness), tri(wisdom) and tin (faithfulness). These photos are in Indo-Chine Pittoresque & Monumentale: Annam – Tonkin book, which includes a collection of photos taken by French lensman Pierre Dieulefils, who was a soldier in Indochina before returning to Vietnam  in 1988 to follow his passion for photography.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International phu nu nam ky 2 1276 159973161 6394 1455 1600046732

At the end of the 19th century southern women preferred “ao ngu than” (five-piece ao dai) and beaded jewelry. According to designer Sy Hoang, rich women used to wear this type of “ao dai”, with four layers representing the parents of the wife and husband and the fifth, the wearer. The tunic also had five buttons, symbolic of the five qualities everyone should have – “nhan” (kindness), “le”(decorum), “nghia”(uprightness), “tri”(wisdom) and “tin” (faithfulness).
These photos are in a book called “Indo-Chine Pittoresque & Monumentale: Annam – Tonkin”, by Dieulefils, who was a soldier in Indochina before returning to Vietnam in 1888 to follow his passion for photography.

Southern women gather for a daily meal. Urbanites who are rich used to wear ao dai to differentiate themselves with poorer ones. These ao ngu than had been popular until the early 20th century, when another type of ao dai with Westernized featured was introduced.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International phu nu nam ky 6582 1599731616 4186 1782 1600046732

Southern women eat a daily meal. Rich urban people used to wear the “ao dai” to differentiate themselves from poorer ones. The “ao ngu than” was popular until the early 20th century, when another kind of “ao dai” with westernized features was introduced.

An official in Saigon and his long nails, symbolizing the intellectual’s traditional exemption from manual labor. Many Confucians used to believe that their bodies are gifted by their parents, so they have to keep it as much as possible.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International quan chuc sai gon 4698 1599731 6331 2886 1599796790

A Saigon official with long nails symbolizing intellectuals’ traditional exemption from manual labor. Many Confucians also believed that since their bodies were a gift from their parents, they had to keep it as unchanged as possible.

Members of the Chinese ethnic community (Hoa people) in Saigons Cho Lon area prepare ducks.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International nguoi hoa lam thit vit cho lon 9955 5530 1600046732

Members of the ethnic Chinese community (Hoa) in Saigon’s Cho Lon area prepare ducks for cooking.

Cho Lon was formed from the 17th to 19th century when Chinese and their offsprings settled down and built a bustling area. When the French dominated the country, Cho Lon was a separated town from Saigon. The two were combined in 1956. Currently, Cho Lon is Ho Chi Minh Citys Districts 5 and 6.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International cho lon 9368 1599738545 2335 1 1309 2714 1600046732

Cho Lon was formed between the 17th and 19th centuries when ethnic Chinese and their offspring settled here and built a bustling area. When the French dominated the country, Cho Lon was a town distinct from Saigon. The two were combined in 1956. Currently it is Ho Chi Minh City’s Districts 5 and 6.

Funeral of a rich person in the south.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International dam ma nha giau nam ky 9798 15 5404 1329 1600046732

Funeral of a rich person in the south.

Father and son in northern Vietnam. Ao dai with band collars were popular, together with the traditional turban, the set appeared at important occasions such as funerals, weddings, etc. These ao dai have five buttons, usually made of ivory, bones, gold, silver or bronze, depending on the social class of wearers.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International cha va con 6363 1599731616 969 3333 2756 1600046732

Father and son in northern Vietnam. “Ao dai” with banded collars were worn along with the traditional turban especially at important occasions such as funerals, weddings, etc. These “ao dai” had five buttons, usually made of ivory, bones, gold, silver, or bronze, depending on the social class of the wearer.

Family of an official in the north.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International gia dinh mot vien quan 9087 15 9600 5028 1600046733

Family of an official in the north.

Officials used to travel by horses with their servants carrying parasols and stuff.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International quan chuc bac ky 5107 15997316 1824 5709 1600046733

Officials used to travel on horseback with their attendants carrying parasols and other stuff.

King Duy Tan sits on a litter in Hue Imperial City. His original name was Nguyen Phuc Vinh San (1899-1945), emperor of Vietnam from 1907 to 1916. According to the Vua Dua Tan (King Duy Tan) book written by Hoang Hien and published in 1995, the king was confident talking with foreigners and could speak French fluently.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International vua duy tan 9869 1599731617 80 2980 1923 1600046733

King Duy Tan sits on a palanquin in central Hue Town. His original name was Nguyen Phuc Vinh San (1899-1945), and he ruled Vietnam from 1907 to 1916. According to “Vua Dua Tan” (King Duy Tan), a book written by Hoang Hien and published in 1995, the king was confident in dealing with foreigners and could speak French fluently despite his tender age.

Women of the Lo Lo ethnic community in the mountainous areas of northern Vietnam, near Chinas Yunnan Province. Their traditional outfits include colorful turbans, long-sleeve shirt with square collars.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International phu nu lo lo 6135 1599731616 2 3242 2152 1600046733

Women of the Lo Lo ethnic community in the northern mountains near China’s Yunnan Province. Their traditional outfits include colorful turbans and long-sleeved shirts with square collars.

Members of the ethnic Tho community in Dong Dang District of northern Lang Son Province.  Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens - VnExpress International phu nu nguoi tho 9289 15997316 8553 6357 1600046733

Members of the ethnic Tho community in Dong Dang District, northern Lang Son Province.

Photos by Pierre Dieulefils

e.VnExpress

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Vietnam in the late 19th century through a French lens – VnExpress International

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