Asian and African studies blog

9 posts from October 2015

29 October 2015

Till death us do part – or not?

The highlight of most wedding ceremonies is two people making their vows to each other by promising to be true to each other ‘for better, for worse … till death us do part’. But what happens when they die? Where does all the eternal love sworn by innumerable couples go? We first explored the subject in East Asian ghoulish images & stories last year; this year we concentrate on one particular story to investigage the possibilities of love after death.

A lover heading for an assignation escorted by a maid holding a peony lantern. Taisō, Yoshitoshi 大蘇芳年.  “Botandōrō ほたむとうろう” from the series Shinkei Sanjūrokkaisen 新形三十六怪撰 Tōkyō: Matsuki Heikichi東京 : 松木平吉, 1889 - 1898. Nishikie print. National Diet Library
Otogibōko 伽婢子 (1666) by Asai Ryōi 浅井了意 , a pioneering early modern Japanese work of terror and wonder, contains 68 stories mainly inspired by ghost and supernatural stories from the Asian mainland. Not only did the author translate the story lines into Japanese, but he localised situations to meet the expectations of Japanese popular fiction readers in the early Edo era.  Although a number of episodes in Otogibōko fired the imaginations of later authors, perhaps the most loved story is ‘The Peony Lantern’ (Botandōrō 牡丹灯籠), which originated in China as Mudan deng ji牡丹燈記as a part of ‘New stories told while trimming the wick’(Jian deng xin hua 剪燈新話).
Volumes 1-3 of a 16-volume set of Otogibōko.  Asai Ryōi 浅井了意. Otogibōko 伽婢子. Kyōto: Nishizawa Tahē 京都:西澤太兵衛, 1666. British Library, 16107.c.45 Noc

This is the story of a young widower, Shinnojō新之丞, who re-encounters his beautiful beloved without realising that she has in fact already died. His neighbour hears the young couple cheerfully chatting and laughing, and accidentally sees that Shinnojō is with a skeleton. He warns Shinnojō that he is in danger, and strongly urges him to find out the true identity of the woman he believes to be his newfound love. In the end, Shinnojō finds the grave of his lover and faces the shocking truth that she is indeed a ghost, and realises that he must not contact her any more.
Shinnojō and his lover, who is actually a skeleton. Otogibōko. British Library, 16107.c.45, vol. 3, f. 16r Noc

Shinnojō is given a talisman (ofuda お札) by a Buddhist monk in order to protect his house from the dead. After about fifty quiet nights have passed, Shinnojō goes to see the monk to thank him for his protection. He thinks he is safe, but on his way back home he passes close by the woman’s grave and starts thinking of her again. Suddenly she appears and captures the unprotected Shinnojō whom she blames for betraying all her devotion and true love.  Later his body is found with the skeleton in her grave.
His ghost lover captures Shinnojō. Otogibōko. British Library, 16107.c.45, vol. 3, f. 21r Noc

San'yūtei Enchō I 三遊亭 圓朝 (1839-1900) wrote a rakugo 落語 version of this story and titled it Kaidan Botandōrō 怪談牡丹燈籠. Rakugo is a highly distinctive genre of comic monologue performed by professional storytellers, rakugo-ka 落語家. Enchō I added more episodes which extended the story lines of the Botandōrō , renaming the hero as Shinzaburō新三郎 and the ghost heroine as Otsuyu お露 and relocating the setting from Kyōto to Edo. Enchō I’s adaptation was later translated by Lafcadio Hearn as ‘A Passion of Karma’ in his book In Ghostly Japan.
One of the added highlights of Enchō I’s version is ‘The scene of removing the protective charms’, ofuda-hagashi お札はがし. After Otsuyu’s true identity as a dead woman is revealed, Shinzaburō barricades his house with the talisman or ofuda and constantly keeps his protective golden statue of the Buddha close to him. Otsuyu continues grieving over her separation from Shinzaburō because of the ofuda and becomes very angry. Otsuyu plots against Shinzaburō by bribing a pair of his servants to swap his golden statue of the Buddha for a copper one, and removing the ofuda from his house. As soon as all Shinzaburō’s protections were removed, Otsuyu merrily slips into the house and takes Shinzaburō to the world where they will never be separated again – by ending his life.
The ofuda is removed by the servant (seen in his right hand), and the ghosts of Otsuyu and her maid slip into the house to embrace her lover, Shinzaburō. San'yūtei, Enchō三遊亭円朝, and Suzuki Kōzō 鈴木行三 (eds.). Enchō Zenshū: 2 円朝全集 : 第2巻. Tōkyō: Shun'yōdō 東京 : 春陽堂, 1928. National Diet Library

An interesting difference between the two versions is the way in which the hero is captured by the ghostly woman.  In the earlier version, the ofuda is not removed, and as long as the hero stays inside his house with the protection of the talisman, he is safe. In the later version however, the talisman is secretly removed by someone else, allowing the ghost to slip into the house.

Ofuda of Tsuno Daishi角大師, one of a collection of approximately 300 Japanese ofuda in 5 albums. Early Meiji period (ca. 19th century). British Library, 16007.d.1 Noc

Shown above is an example of a famous talisman or ofuda to protect people within a house by sticking it on the outside of the entrance door, and thus preventing all evil spirits from entering the house. This figure, called Tsuno Daishi角大師, meaning the Horned Master, is an avatar of Ryōgen 良源. Ryōgen was a high-ranking Buddhist monk in the 10th century. In the legend of Tsuno Daishi, Ryōgen dared to transform himself into a powerful demon in order to defeat evil spirits by scaring them off.  Tsuno Daishi protects people as if he is fighting in the front line in the war between Good and Evil. Therefore the ofuda used in the Shinzaburō’s house could well have been of Tsuno Daishi.
It is said that true love never dies. However, it could cost the lover’s own life as well….
The graves of Otsuyu and her maid with their peony lantern. Lafcadio Hearn,  In Ghostly Japan. Boston: Little, Brown and Co, 1899. British Library, 08631.f.6. Noc


General information on Rakugo:
Shinji, N. "Rakugo: Japan's Talking Art." Japan Echo, 31 (2004): 51-56.

How to place ofuda:
Gofu 護符 Kawagoe Daishi Kitain 川越大師 喜多院

About Ryōgen & Tsuno Daishi:
Hazama, Jikō 硲慈弘. Densetsu no Hieizan 伝説の比叡山. Kyōto: Ōmiya Shoten 京都: 近江屋書店, 1928, pp 67-69. National Diet Library

Yasuyo Ohtsuka, curator for Japanese  Ccownwork

26 October 2015

Oracle bones: genuine and fake

Today's guest post is by Sarah Allan, Burlington Northern Foundation Professor of Asian Studies at Dartmouth College, Chair of the Society for the Study of Early China and Editor of the Society’s journal, Early China. Professor Allan worked extensively on the Couling-Chalfant collection of oracle bones at the British Library and, together with Li Xueqin and Qi Wenxin, compiled a catalogue of the oracle bones collections in Great Britain.

Some oracle bones from the Couling-Chalfant collection are now on display in the Library’s Treasures Gallery until January, as part of the exhibit Beyond Paper: 3000 Years of Chinese Writing.

(Sara Chiesura, East Asian Collections)

The Couling-Chalfant collection or oracle bones and its fakes

In 1899, a Chinese scholar, Wang Yirong 王懿荣 was examining the “dragon bones” in his medical prescription before they were pounded into powder and noticed that they had what seemed to be an ancient form of writing on them. Within a few years, a few Chinese scholars had begun to collect these inscribed bones. By 1904, the Western missionaries, Frank Chalfant (1862-1914), and Samuel Couling (1859-1922) began to collect them too. The sellers refused to divulge where the bones were found, but in 1914, the source was traced to Yinxu 殷墟, “the Remains of Yin,” near Anyang in Henan Province. Yin is another name for Shang, an ancient Chinese dynasty, and when the site was finally excavated in 1928, the last capital of that dynasty was discovered. Current archaeological evidence suggests that the Shang ruled from this site from about 1300 to 1050 BC, so the name of the site reflected a cultural memory that had lasted some 3,000 years.

The inscribed “dragon bones” include turtle shells (primarily the undershells) as well as bones (primarily ox scapula), as the Chinese name, jiagu 甲骨denotes. The English popular name, “oracle bones” reflects the fact that they are primarily divinations intended to ensure that the ancestors were satisfied by the offerings made by the Shang king and would favor the activities of him and his people. The writing is the direct antecedent of modern Chinese characters and it was already a fully developed system, using the same principles of character formation as later characters. Nevertheless, it was not easy to decipher.

Blog 1 (left)Blog 1 (right)
Oracle bone (turtle plastron) from the Couling-Chalfant collection. All characters appear to be genuine (British Library Or. 7964/1509 recto and verso, Ying 597)

The divinations usually start with two characters that denote a day in a cycle of sixty. This cycle is made up by correlating a cycle of ten characters, later known as “heavenly stems” and a cycle of twelve characters, later called “earthly branches.” I have hypothesized that these were the names of the ten suns and twelve moons in Shang mythology. The names used to designate the royal ancestors also included one of the ten sun-names and offerings were made to them on the corresponding day, with the most ancient ancestor listed first. Thus, once these characters were deciphered, it was possible to establish a genealogy of the royal ancestors and these ancestors corresponded generally to the list of Shang kings found in the transmitted histories.

Part of the Couling-Chalfant collection was acquired by the British Library in 1911. At that time, the writing was still in the early stages of decipherment. Fake inscriptions began to be produced very soon after people began to purchase the bones. About 90% of Shang oracle bones are blanks: a divination was made by applying a hot poker to a prepared hollow, which produced a crack on the opposite side, but no writing was engraved on the shell or bone. Other bones had empty spaces. Since the price was calculated by the number of characters, the peasant who found it or seller often added characters. An example, is Or.7694/1517 (Ying 英 600). This bone has at least two genuine characters that are written very faintly, a common notation on cracked bones that is not well understood but means something like “two reports” (er gao 二告). It also has one line that makes sense and may be genuine. This is the fifth line from the left in the main block of characters. It says, “if the king goes to inspect the region of (name), he will receive [divine favour]. The other characters are copies of ones found on genuine oracle bones, but because the forgers did not understand the script, they don’t make sense.

Blog 3
Oracle bone from the Couling-Chalfant collection with both genuine and fake inscriptions (British Library Or. 7964/1517recto, Ying 600)

Blog 4
Another example of oracle bone from the Couling-Chalfant collection with both genuine (at the top) and fake (at the bottom) inscriptions (British Library Or. 7964/1759 recto, Ying 1861)

Further reading:

Sarah Allan, The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art and Cosmos in Early China (State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1991)
Sarah Allan (Ai Lan 艾兰), Li Xueqin 李學勤, and Qi Wenxin齊文心Oracle Bone Collections in Great Britain (Chinese title: Yingguo suocang jiagu ji  英國所藏甲骨集), Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, 1985 (Part I, 2 volumes) and 1991 (Part II, 2 volumes).   

Sarah Allan, Dartmouth College

22 October 2015

Marking the Aftermath of the Massacre at Karbala: New manuscripts of the Mukhtarnamah

Muḥarram is the first month of the Islamic lunar Hijrī calendar and considered, along with Ramaz̤ān (the ninth month) and others, to be one of the sacred months marked for pious observances. Culminating with the day of ʿāshūrāʾ (literally, the ‘tenth’ day – this year falling on Friday, 23 October 2015), the first ten days of Muḥarram hold particular significance. This period coincides with remembrances of the military confrontation between two rival factions claiming legitimacy over the political succession and moral leadership of the early Islamic community.

Muharram festival. Gouache on mica. Benares or Patna style, 1830-40 (British Library Add.Or.401)

Two important figures in the Arabian peninsula, 1) Imām Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, the grandson of the Prophet Muḥammad, and 2) ʿAbd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr (d. 73/692), a distant relative, refused to submit to the authority of Yazīd ibn Muʿāviyah (d. 64/683), the newly succeeding Umayyad caliph ruling in Damascus. Angered by this, Yazīd dispatched southward a large force to eliminate all rebels. Invited to take power in Kufa in place of Yazīd’s appointed governor, Ḥusayn, his extended family, and a small military contingent departed Medina via Mecca, but were confronted en route at Karbala, then a desolate and arid desert location. On the tenth day of Muḥarram or ʿāshūrāʾ, Ḥusayn and his companions were massacred (10 Muḥarram 61/10 October 680), leaving only a few survivors.

Celebrating the exploits of Amīr Abū Isḥāq Mukhtār ibn Abū ʿUbaydah ibn Masʿūd al-Thaqafī (d. 67/687), an early rebel leader of the southern Iraqi city of Kufa, a previously unknown version of the Mukhtārnāmah has recently come to light. Read for its narrative of events connecting to ʿāshūrāʾ commemorations, the Mukhtārnāmah’s importance extends beyond pure biography to encompass political, religious, and ethical themes of perennial interest to Muslim communities across the world.

The Mukhtārnāmah records how, learning of the atrocities while in Kufa, Mukhtār joined the wave of revulsion reverberating through the region. He later came to challenge competing Umayyad and Zubayrid claims for the caliphate by ruling Kufa and other parts of Iraq as an independent emirate, while pursuing revenge against the named perpetrators of atrocities against Ḥusayn and his family. Although his rebellion did not last long, Mukhtār’s doomed stand against tyranny and reverence for the Prophet Muḥammad’s family were admired by contemporaries and preserved in various literary forms for later generations to honour as part of annual ʿāshūrāʾ commemorations.

BL IO Islamic 3716_f1v
Opening page from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah  dating from the early nineteenth century. Though decorated with an illuminated headpiece and interlinear gilding, the slightly awkward scribal quality of the nastaʿlīq hand continues throughout (British Library IO Islamic 3716, f. 1v)

The recently discovered manuscript of the Mukhtārnāmah (IO Islamic 3716) is an anonymous version in simple prose, completed by Aṣghar ʿAlī Bayg known as Sangī Bayg for Mirzā Khudā Bakhsh Bayg Khān, 19 Muḥarram 1228/22 January 1813. Though it lacks a preface or introduction, the narrative is arranged into several majālis or gatherings, which help contextualise the work’s recitation in ʿāshūrāʾ-related gatherings in mosques and imāmbārahs.

The British Library holds another older copy (Or.10948), also in prose, dated 1[0]96/1684-5, the text of which is similarly arranged into majālis. Crucially, its narrative differs from IO Islamic 3716 in style and occasionally in points of detail, as well as unsatisfactorily beginning without the first complete majlis (singular of majālis). The later Mukhtārnāmah (IO Islamic 3716) presents a more complete narrative and deserves to be studied closely.

BL Or 10948 ff1v2r_1500
Opening from the earlier Mukhtārnāmah , showing the original late-seventeenth-century illuminated text transcribed in naskh on the left (f. 2r), and a simpler near-contemporary replacement folio, also in naskh, on the right (f. 1v). Though both versions are in prose, the content of this version differs from the recently discovered Mukhtārnāmah (above) (British Library Or.10948, ff. 1v-2r)

Sâqib Bâburî, Asian and African Studies


19 October 2015

The Cat and the Rat: a popular Persian fable

Stories about animals have universal appeal, as demonstrated in our current exhibition Animal Tales. In the West the best known are probably Æsop’s fables. Less well known are the Fables of Bidpai, a collection which can perhaps be regarded as Æsop’s distant cousin several times removed, first published in English in 1570 as The Morall Philosophie of Doni [1].

Fig 1
The story of the lion and the rat, from Esbatement moral des animaux. Anvers, [1578] (British Library C.125.d.23, f12)  noc

On display is the story of the lion and the rat from Esbatement moral des animaux, a 16th century retelling of one of Aesop's best known fables. The story tells how a mouse (or rat) was caught by a lion, but allowed to escape. Later, the lion was trapped by hunters. Hearing its roars, the mouse repaid the lion’s good turn and set it free by gnawing through the net, the moral being that a small creature can help a greater and that mercy brings its own reward.

In this post I will look at some parallel examples in Persian literature which are related to the Fables of Bidpai, stories told within a frame narrative by the brahmin Bidpai to the king Dabashlim. Although they owe their origin to India where they are best known as the Panchatantra, it is largely through the Arabic translation by Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ (died c. 757) of a lost Middle Persian (Pahlavi) version that they have become known in the West. The story, as told in the Arabic and Persian versions, describes how the Sasanian king Anushirvan (Khusraw I, r. 531-579) heard of a book treasured by the kings of India which had been compiled

from the speech of animals and brutes and birds and reptiles and savage beasts; and all that befits a king in the matter of government and vigilance, and is useful for princes in the observance of king-craft, is exhibited in the folds of its leaves, and men regard it  as the stock of all advice and the medium of advantage. (Kāshifī, via Eastwick, p. 6)

Anushirvan sent his physician Burzuyah on a mission to India to discover the book and Burzuyah returned with a copy which he translated into Pahlavi. The stories were re-translated into Arabic and Syriac, and then from Arabic into Persian and other languages.

Burzuyah presents King Anushirvan with the book of Bidpai. Mughal, ca. 1605 (Add.18759, f. 6r).  noc

Naṣr Allāh Munshī’s
Kalīlah va Dimnah
Apart from a few single verses of a translation by Rūdakī (d. ca. 941) which survive as quotations, and a single copy of a 12th century translation by Muḥammad ibn ʻAbd Allāh Bukhārī (De Blois, p. 5), the earliest extant Persian version is by Naṣr Allāh Munshī which he completed around 1144. It became sufficiently popular that 12 illustrated copies survive from the 14th century alone (O’Kane, pp. 41-3) including Or.13506, illustrated below, which dates from AH 707 (1307/8).

The story of the rat and the cat was “the most commonly illustrated scene in all pre-fifteenth-century Kalila and Dimnas” (O’Kane, p. 193), perhaps because it is one of the shortest chapters without any extra interpolated sub-stories. The plot and the moral are somewhat different from Æsop’s. A cat (gurbah) was trapped by bait in a hunter’s net. A rat (or mouse mush) emerging from his hole also looking for food, at first rejoiced to see the cat ensnared but then noticed an owl (būm) and a weasel (rāsū) waiting to pounce. In return for the cat’s protection he offered to set the cat free. His plan was successful: as soon as the owl and weasel saw the cat and rat joining forces, they made off. The rat then began to gnaw his way through the net, but slowly, as he wondered what would prevent the cat from eating him up once freed. After a lot of deliberation and discussion between the two, the rat decided to postpone the final bite until such time as the cat might be so distracted as to allow a safe escape. Shortly afterwards the hunter returned. The rat bit through the last cord and bolted down his hole in the ground while the cat shot up a tree.

After the hunter had left empty-handed, the cat returned and attempted, without success, to convince the rat of his friendly intentions. The very modern moral is that while it can be advantageous to form alliances with one’s enemies when expedient, it’s not a good idea when the danger has passed!

The rat approaches the trapped cat. Watching, ready to pounce, are an owl and a weasel. From Naṣr Allāh Munshī’s Kalīlah va Dimnah, Shiraz? AH 707 (1307/8) (British Library Or.13506, f. 143v)  noc

Or. 13163, f. 169r (1)
In this copy of Naṣr Allāh Munshī’s Kalīlah va Dimnah, the rat emerges halfway from his hole to release the cat from the snare. Early 15th century South Provincial/Timurid style (British Library Or. 13163, f. 169r)  noc

Ḥusayn Vāʻiz̤ Kāshifī’s Anvār-i Suḥaylī
A feature of Naṣr Allāh’s translation was his extensive use of Arabic poetry and quotations from the Qu’rān. By the end of the 15th century, it was regarded as old-fashioned if not incomprehensible on account of its general long-windedness and the Timurid Sultan Ḥusayn Mīrza Bāyqarā (r.1469-1506) asked Ḥusayn Vāʻiz̤ Kāshifī to produce a more convenient (āsān ‘convenient’ as suggested by Christine van Ruymbeke below, rather than ‘easy’ as normally interpreted) version. Kāshifi eliminated most of the Arabic but added a lot more stories - still quite florid nevertheless! - and it was this version which subsequently became the most popular.

Kāshifī’s version of the story of the cat and the rat remains the same except that the owl (būm) becomes a crow (zāgh) and two extra stories are inserted.

The hunter returns to find his net empty, the cat up the tree and the rat disappearing down his hole. From Kāshifī’s Anvār-i Suḥaylī. Ahmedabad, Gujarat, AH 1009 (1600/1) (British Library Or.6317, f. 152v)  noc

Abū'l-Fal’s  ʻIyār-i dānish
Kāshifī’s Anvār-i Suḥaylī was particularly popular at the Mughal court. Under Mughal patronage several imperial copies were made including Add.18579 (see above) which was copied for Jahāngīr and completed in AH 1019 (1610/11). Evidently, however, Kāshifī’s ‘convenient’ but florid style was still difficult to understand because Akbar commissioned his chief minister Abu’l-Faz̤l ʿAllāmi (d. 1602) to write yet another version which though written in a simplified style included even more stories.

The British Library has two illustrated copies of Abū’l-Faz̤l’s version, both of which include paintings of the story of the cat and the rat. The paintings, however, although they occur in an identical context, have a very tenuous connection with the text which clearly mentions cats and mice/rats!

Two illustrations from different copies of Abu’l-Faz̤l’s ʻIyār-i dānish Illustrating the story of the cat and the rat (Left: British Library Or.477, f. 239v; right IO Islamic 1403, f. 168v)  noc

The large number of illustrated and unillustrated manuscript copies of Anvār-i Suḥaylī and ʻIyār-i dānish is proof of their continuing popularity. The British Library has more than 30 dating from the 16th century until the advent of printing in the 19th century, at which time they were adopted as set texts for examination in the Indian Civil Service. These manuscripts range from luxury productions to very ordinary copies. Originally presented as guidance for good kingship, they had a double function: to educate the wise and to amuse the ignorant while being both easy to teach and to remember (Kāshifī, via Eastwick, p 4). They thus served a pedagogical purpose as a kind of general pre-modern citizenship manual.

Illustrated Arabic and Persian copies of Kalilah and Dimnah in the British Library
Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ (died c. 756/759): Kalīlah wa Dimnah (Arabic)

  • Add.24350: Egypt or Syria, mid-14th century. Unillustrated but spaces left for 90 miniatures.
  • Or.4044: 15th century. Profusely illustrated, mostly in the margins.

Marginal illustration from the story of the cat and the rat in the Arabic translation by Ibn al-Muqaffaʻ (British Library Or.4044, f. 97v)  noc

Abū’l-Maʻālī Naṣr Allāh Munshī: Kalīlah va Dimnah (Persian), composed ca. 1145

  • Or.13506: Shiraz? AH 707 (1307/8). Includes one double-page and 66 smaller illustrations. This copy has been fully digitized (follow this link).
  • Or.13163: South Provincial/Timurid style, early 15th century. 37 miniatures.

Ḥusayn Vāʻiz̤ Kāshifī (d. ca. AH 910/1504-5): Anvār-i Suḥaylī (Persian)

  • Or.2799: Later Herat/Timurid style, AH 908 (1502/3). 16 miniatures.
  • Or.6317: Provincial Mughal (Gujarat). Copied in Ahmedabad, AH 1009 (1600/1). 43 miniatures.
  • Add.18579: Mughal. Copied for Jahāngīr and completed in AH 1019 (1610/11). 36 miniatures, two dated AH 1013 (1604/5). This copy has been fully digitized  (follow this link).

Abū'l-Faz̤l (d. 1602): ʻIyār-i dānish (Persian)

  • Or.477: Provincial Mughal, dated 19 Ram AH 1217 (13 Jan 1803). 37 miniatures.
  • IO Islamic 1403: 18th century. 40 illustrations from an earlier manuscript pasted in. Many blanks.
  • Johnson Album 54: 46 now separately mounted leaves; 12 are from a Mughal manuscript of c.1600, and the remainder are additions made for Richard Johnson at Lucknow c.1780.

Our current exhibition, Animal Tales, is open until 1 November 2015 in the Entrance Hall Gallery at the British Library. Entry is free. A full list of exhibits is available on our American Collections blog and you can read about some further examples in the Western medieval tradition on our Medieval Manuscripts blog.

Further reading:

Eastwick , Edward B. The Anvár-i Suhailí, or the Lights of Canopus: Being the Persian Version of the Fables of Pilpay, or the Book “Kalílah Und Damnah”. Hertford: Austin, 1854.

Wollaston, Arthur N. The Anwár-i-Suhailí; Or, Lights of Canopus, Commonly Known As Kalílah and Damnah. London: W.H. Allen & Co, 1877.

O'Kane, Bernard. Early Persian Painting: Kalila and Dimna Manuscripts of the Late Fourteenth Century. London: I.B. Tauris, 2003.

Waley, P. and Norah Titley. “An illustrated Persian text of Kalīla and Dimna dated 707/1307-8”, The British Library Journal 1 (1975), pp. 42-61.

De Blois, François. Burzōy's Voyage to India and the Origin of the Book of Kalīlah Wa Dimnah. London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1990.

van Ruymbeke, Christine. “Kashifi's Forgotten Masterpiece: Why Rediscover the Anvār-i Suhaylī?” Iranian Studies 36 (Dec., 2003), pp. 571-88.

Fables for Princes: Illustrated Versions of the Kabilah Wa Dimnah, Anvar-Isuhayli, Iyar-I Danish, and Humayun Nameh. Bombay: J.J. Bhabha for Marg Publ, 1991. Print.

Articles in Encyclopædia Iranica on line: Kalila wa Demna and Anwār-e Sohaylī

Ursula Sims-Williams, Asian and African Studies


[1] Doni, Anton Francesco, and Thomas North. The Morall Philosophie of Doni: Drawne Out of the Auncient Writers. A Worke First Compiled in the Indian Tongue, and Afterwardes Reduced into Diuers Other Languages. Imprinted at London: By Henry Denham, 1570.


15 October 2015

West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

The British Library’s major autumn exhibition, ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’, opens to the public on Friday 16 October. The exhibition showcases writing, literature and music from this hugely creative and dynamic region, grounding the story in a millennium of history and bringing it right up to the present.

Illuminated loose leaf Qur’an, carried in its leather bag. The Qur’an is typical of those of an area including northern Nigeria and southern Niger
British Library Or.16751
Late 18th/early 19th century

Africa is often thought of as the continent of the voice, with a literature, or rather orature, dominated by oral history and traditions. One of our concerns in curating this exhibition is to show a different picture, bringing to light histories of writing and scholarship that go back at least 1,500 years in West Africa. The manuscript cultures rooted in Islam, for example, date back at least to the 11th century, and flourished right across the region, from Mauritania in the north-west to Nigeria and Cameroon in the south-east. West Africa also has a very rich tradition of graphic and other symbolic systems such as adinkra (Ghana) and nsibidi (Nigeria).

Seated griot low res
Postcard showing a griot (musician and story-teller) with his kora (calabash harp). It was taken by Edmond Fortier, a French photographer active in Senegal in the early part of the 20th century
c. 1904
Courtesy of Daniela Moreau/Acervo África/São Paulo-Brazil. Digitisation by Jorge Bastos

At the same time, it’s important that orature is not seen as somehow secondary to written literature, to be replaced in the inevitable march of progress. The exhibition, in which visitors can hear and see numerous sound and film recordings, demonstrates some of the complexity and sophistication of an oral literature composed across many genres, which has ancient roots and still flourishes today.

The exhibition is packed with over two hundred beautiful, remarkable and sometimes surprising objects. They include books, manuscripts and sound and film recordings as well as artworks, masks and colourful textiles. We start with a glimpse of the history of the last millennium, and go on to show something of the different religious traditions of the region and the literatures they have produced. Sections on more recent history – the transatlantic slave trade and the colonial and post-colonial periods – look at how West Africans have used literature, and culture more broadly, to both resist and reflect upon historical circumstance. The exhibition finishes with post-independence literature and story-telling, concluding with a poem released on Twitter by Ben Okri.

Printed cloth with portrait of Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001), president of Senegal, poet and intellectual
Collet collection, 1975
We have been unable to locate the copyright holder for the original print designer of the Senghor cloth. Please contact with any information you have regarding this item

‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ has been in the making for four years, and has been curated by Dr Marion Wallace (Lead Curator, African Collections) and Dr Janet Topp Fargion (Lead Curator, World and Traditional Music), advised by Dr Gus Casely-Hayford (SOAS and King’s College London). We have consulted very widely with people with expertise in and links to West Africa and the Caribbean, and for the last year we have been working with an Advisory Panel.

As the exhibition launches, it’s accompanied by a programme of fascinating and fun events including musical performances, films, talks and debates. On Friday 16 October, a Felabration marks the birthday of the late Nigerian singer and activist Fela Kuti. The Felabration is fully booked but is being streamed live.

West_africa_gold_weight_sankofa bird_british_museum
Gold-weight from Ghana in the form of a Sankofa bird – a bird looking backwards. This is a popular symbol in Ghana, indicating the importance of history and of learning from the past. Gold-weights, made of brass, were used for weighing gold dust
18th-20th century
Copyright and item held by British Museum

The exhibition is ideal for families as well as adults – children under 18 go free and you can pick up a family trail leaflet on arrival – and there is an extensive Learning programme for schools. Concessions include a generous group rate – £5 per person for groups of six or more. For more details please go to our booking page.

‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ offers a visual and aural feast at the same time as revealing many little-known stories of the people of West Africa. It runs from 16 October 2015 to 16 February 2016.

For more on ‘West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song’ go to our exhibition web pages.  An accompanying book West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song by Gus Casely-Hayford, Janet Topp Fargion and Marion Wallace is available in our bookshop.

Marion Wallace, African Collections, Asian and African Studies


12 October 2015

Problems in Deccani and Mughal drawings: a marbled ox fight and the Virgin of the Apocalypse

This blog continues my recent series of posts on the Library’s Deccani collections with one on Deccani drawings and specifically Deccani Christian subjects from Richard Johnson’s collection.  At least that was the original intention, given that there are ten drawings of Christian subjects described as Deccani from the mid-17th century in the Falk and Archer catalogue of 1981 in need of further examination, but as I looked at the drawings it seemed harder and harder to justify describing some of them as Deccani rather than Mughal.  This is a difficult area for absolute certainty of attribution, given that we are dealing in most cases with later versions of earlier drawings.   Johnson’s postings are of no help: he was in Lucknow 1780-82 and in Hyderabad 1784-85, but Deccani paintings were freely available in Lucknow also.  This blog will look at two of the drawings, reserving others for a further post.

Our first page, undoubtedly Deccani, unfortunately damaged but still superlatively interesting, is an example of abri or marbled paper used to create drawings combined with blank and painted areas of the paper.  The damaged outer portions and frame of the page have not been included here.

Two oxen fighting.  Deccan, probably Bijapur, early 17th century.  Marbled paper, wash and gold.  100 by 130 mm (page 190 x 295 mm).  British Library J.53, 3 (detail).
Two oxen fighting.  Deccan, probably Bijapur, early 17th century.  Marbled paper, wash and gold.  100 by 130 mm (page 190 x 295 mm).  British Library J.53, 3 (detail).  noc

Two superbly drawn oxen silhouetted in marbled paper against plain paper are locking horns.  One ox is outlined in black, and the other in gold, and they each contain other animals including lions, deer, a jackal and rabbits.  The gold outlining round the animals is continued in the loose tethers as well as in the integral marbled frame, which has the owner's seal of Hajji(?) Muhammad Mu‘min.  Although it is from the Richard Johnson Collection put together in India in the 1780s, the drawing was catalogued originally by B.W. Robinson as Persian (Qazwin style) or possibly Turkish, from the second half of the sixteenth century, and so was not included in the Falk and Archer catalogue. The art of marbling was introduced into India from Iran in the 16th century, but this type of drawing comprising one or more marbled figures against a plain ground seems in fact peculiarly Deccani.  The recent Metropolitan Museum exhibition on Deccani arts brought together several examples, including the famous ascetic riding a marbled emaciated nag outlined in gold from the Museum and its counterpoint from the Morgan Library of the drawn nag outlined in black silhouetted against a dramatically marbled page (Haidar and Sardar 2015, nos. 73, 74).  Our drawing combines the two ideas with its delicate gold and black lines outlining the two fighting oxen.  Some kind of resist technique similar to the dyed kalamkaris of the Deccan has had to be employed to produce these drawings, and here two adjacent areas have been juxtaposed with differently coloured marbled paper. More than that, within each ox, areas have been left free for other animals to be delicately washed in nim qalam: a jackal chases deer and hares in the darker ox, and in the lighter one a magnificently prancing lioness (her rear end unfortunately tampered with) sniffs the air with her lion cub outlined in gold within her, while a hare has taken refuge curled up just within the ox’s head.  This conceit is unlike composite drawings in which the animal’s outline is totally filled with other creatures contorted to fill the space.  Another Deccani version of this composition, also in marbled paper, is in a New York private collection (Pal 1983, no. D1).

Two oxen fighting.  Deccan, early 17th century.  Marbled paper, wash and gold.  90 x 120 mm.  Private collection, New York.
Two oxen fighting.  Deccan, early 17th century.  Marbled paper, wash and gold.  90 x 120 mm.  Private collection, New York.  noc

One of Johnson’s specific interests was in Mughal or Deccani paintings and drawings of Christian subjects, which were normally based on European engravings.  These were brought to Mughal India by the Jesuits in particular, who aimed to use such images to help in the conversion of the peoples of Asia.  Akbar’s and Jahangir’s artists painted over and copied such prints as aids in their quest for command of recession and volume and enlarged upon them in various ways without a care for the original iconography. While these types of drawings from the Mughal period are well known, those from the Deccan are less so.  Although there do not seem to have been any missions sent from Goa to the relatively near Ahmadnagar or Bijapur courts, Christian prints undoubtedly found their way into the hands of these Deccani artists, as evidenced by two drawings in the Freer Gallery (Zebrowski 1983, nos. 83 and 146).  They are clearly different from Mughal treatments of Christian subjects, having a certain angularity and awkwardness about them offset by their calligraphic line or sumptuous colour, which seems typical of what to expect from such material.

One of the finest Christian subjects in Johnson’s collection, unfortunately slightly rubbed, is a wash drawing of the Virgin of the Apocalypse, its iconography based on St. John’s description of the Woman clothed with the Sun from that text.  The Virgin holding the Christ Child in her arms and surrounded by a flaming glory representing the sun stands on a crescent moon and crushes the serpent, representing Satan, beneath her foot.  Two angels bring her a crown while two more hover at her side.  The Christ Child is offering his mother a fruit.

The Virgin of the Apocalypse.  Mughal, c. 1600.  Brush drawing, wash and gold.  136 x 70 mm.  British Library, J.14, 9.  noc

While catalogued by Falk and Archer as Deccani c. 1640-60 (1981, no. 443), it is in fact difficult to see in the drawing any of the specifically Deccani traits mentioned above, especially as another version, undoubtedly Mughal also from around 1600, now in the Freer/Sackler Gallery in Washington (Beach 2012, no. 43), is virtually identical in iconography if not in technique. 

The Virgin of the Apocalypse.  Mughal, c. 1600.  Brush drawing in ink.  129 x 94 mm. Freer/Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, S.1990.57. Smithsonian Institution
The Virgin of the Apocalypse.  Mughal, c. 1600.  Brush drawing in ink.  129 x 94 mm. Freer/Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, S.1990.57. Smithsonian Institution Creative Commons License

The Sackler version is drawn in such a way as to imitate the European engraving on which it is based, for its shading is achieved either by closely grouped parallel lines or cross-hatching, all drawn in ink with a brush.  The Johnson artist has, as is more usually the case in such drawings, converted the engraved lines into wash, here beautifully modelled and shaded, to produce his three-dimensional effects, and enhanced the effect with gold – gold striations on the garments and gold crown, nimbuses and jewellery.

Virgin and Child crowned by Angels.  Engraving by Martin Schongauer, 1469-73.  174 x 110 mm.  British Museum, 1845,0809.257. Trustees of the British Museum
Virgin and Child crowned by Angels.  Engraving by Martin Schongauer, 1469-73.  174 x 110 mm.  British Museum, 1845,0809.257. Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons License


Our drawing has a wonderful softness of the modelling, which in its way is as effective as the original print by Martin Schongauer on which like the Sackler drawing it has been thought to be based.  Schongauer’s original engraving is actually only a half length with the Virgin’s body cut off by the crescent moon while two angels crown the Virgin above.  A full length version as in our drawing is not among the 116 engravings actually by Schongauer.  Other artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Lucas van Leyden also made use of a similar iconography in their engravings showing the Virgin, full length, with or without the Christ Child standing on the crescent moon within a glory, and in the case of van Leyden with four angels, all of which were much copied, but the only print that has yet been found that has all the requisite details of our drawings is contained in a prayer book composed of prints by German engravers from early in the 16th century:  this has the crown, the four angels, the glory, the crescent moon and the serpent, while the Christ Child is also offering a fruit to his mother.

The Virgin of the Apocalypse.  Hand-coloured engraving by Monogrammist M, 1500-25, page from a prayer book of religious prints with Flemish manuscript text.  Page 97 x 65 mm. British Museum, 1868,1114.72. Trustees of the British Museum
The Virgin of the Apocalypse.  Hand-coloured engraving by Monogrammist M, 1500-25, page from a prayer book of religious prints with Flemish manuscript text.  Page 97 x 65 mm. British Museum, 1868,1114.72. Trustees of the British Museum Creative Commons License

 This is by a relatively obscure print maker, Monogrammist M, that is very likely after an as yet undiscovered engraving.  The angels are in different positions from our two drawings, the Virgin’s robe is differently arranged and the serpent faces right instead of left.  On the other hand the Virgin’s hair is arranged closer to our drawings than in the Schongauer print while the child also offers his mother an apple.  A study of a version of this prayer-book in a German library (Andresen 1868) concluded that many of the engravings were after other masters such as Lucas van Leyden and Albrecht Dürer, but no such work from these masters actually conforms to all the elements of Monogrammist M’s work or of our Mughal drawings.

Such prints were certainly taken to India, since they also formed the basis of carvings in ivory in Sri Lanka, Goa and also China.  17th century ivory statuettes of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception (the same iconography but lacking the glory, crown and sometimes the Christ Child), both from Goa and Sri Lanka, show that this iconography was known in South Asia.

The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception standing on the crescent moon on top of a dragon.  Goa or Sri Lanka, mid-17th century.  Carved ivory, height 45 cm.  Victoria & Albert Museum, A. 60-1949.  Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception standing on the crescent moon on top of a dragon.  Goa or Sri Lanka, mid-17th century.  Carved ivory, height 45 cm.  Victoria & Albert Museum, A. 60-1949.  Victoria & Albert Museum, London.Creative Commons License

Other ivories from Sri Lanka and Goa are known with this same iconography (see Bailey et al. 2013, pp. 126-29, 188-89). A particularly fine example from China in a private Portuguese collection is an ivory plaque carved in low relief with the subject of the print on which our drawing is based, including the Virgin standing on the crescent moon with four supporting angels but without the Christ Child, crown and serpent (ibid., p. 271).


Further Reading:

Andresen, A., ‘Beiträge zur ältern niederdeutschen Kupferstichkunde des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts, in Archiv für die zeichnenden Künste, XIV, 1868, pp. 1-56

Bailey, G.A., The Jesuits and the Grand Mogul: Renaissance Art at the Imperial Court of India, 1580-1630, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., 1998, Occasional Papers 1998, vol. 2

Bailey, G.A., Massing, J.M., and Vassallo e Silva, N., Ivories in the Portuguese Empire. Scribe, Lisboa, 2013

Beach, M.C., The Imperial Image:  Paintings for the Mughal Court, revised and expanded edition, Freer/Sackler, Washington, Mapin Publishing, Ahmedabad, 2012

Falk, T., and Archer, M., Indian Miniatures in the India Office Library, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1981, pp. 238-39

Haidar, N. and Sardar, M.,  Sultans of Deccan India 1500-1700: Opulence and Fantasy, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2015, especially pp. 157-69 on abri drawings

Pal, P., Court Paintings of India, 16th-19th Centuries, Navin Kumar, New York, 1983

Zebrowski, M., Deccani Painting, Sotheby Publications, University of California Press, London and Los Angeles, 1983


J.P. Losty, Curator of Visual Arts (Emeritus) ccownwork

09 October 2015

Chinese collections opened up by Libcrowds

The Chinese collections at the British Library consist of more than 100,000 printed books and 2,500 periodical titles. The material has been acquired or donated to the British Library since the Department of Printed Books in the British Museum was founded in 1753, the year of the foundation of the Museum itself. The earliest acquisitions of Chinese material were from the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, and nowadays we continue to acquire both rare books and contemporary publications on topics such as the humanities and social sciences from the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

1 cabinets
Card catalogues cabinets in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room (photo ©Jon Ellis)

During more than 250 years of collection history, the library’s librarians and curators have been working extensively to catalogue and document the Chinese language material, in order to make it available to readers. Before the era of computers and the internet, the collection was catalogued on cards that provided essential information for each book, such as the title, the author, the physical description (dimensions, number of pages, images and so on), the subject and a “shelfmark”, which linked to the location of the item. This data is still the basis of the electronic records produced and used today in libraries and archives around the world.

2 shelves
Shelves of recently acquired material in Chinese, kept in the Chinese section for cataloguing and processing

The catalogues for Chinese material which entered the British Library before 1993 are divided into two main categories. Firstly, acquisitions made before 1966 were catalogued using the Wade-Giles transliteration system for Chinese, and they are available in microfiche format in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room. A project focussing on their conversion from microfiche to electronic format is ongoing.

3 WGiles example
Example of a catalogue card in Wade-Giles transliteration with its corresponding collection item

After 1966, the Pinyin transliteration system was introduced, and has been used for Romanising Chinese metadata ever since. Material acquired continued to be catalogued on cards until 1993, when records started to be input electronically. The cards include records for about 50,000 items held in the Chinese collections which were acquired between 1966 and 1993.

In association with British Library Labs we recently launched LibCrowds, a platform that hosts experimental crowd-sourcing projects focused on enhancing access to British Library collections. The first project series, Convert-a-Card, is dedicated to the retro-conversion of Chinese and Indonesian printed card catalogues into electronic records, in order to make them available to a worldwide audience via our ExploreBL catalogue. This means that our readers will no longer need to come to the Asian and African Studies Reading Room to search holdings of Chinese items using the card catalogue and will instead be able to pre-order items online. We are currently using LibCrowds to derive metadata for printed material published after 1949 and catalogued using Pinyin Romanisation. You can read more about how the platform  works here. 4a pinyin card example4b pinyin corresponding item
Example of scanned card in Pinyin drawer 1 of Libcrowds, and the cover page of the corresponding collection item

At the time of writing, Convert-a-card has received 18,434 contributions by volunteers based in 27 different countries. However, there is still a long way to go and new contributors are always welcome, whether they are anonymous, or registered members of the LibCrowds community!

You can help us to uncover more and more Chinese items by contributing here.

5 pinyin drawer
Example of  Convert-a-Card project on Libcrowds for the retroconversion of Pinyin drawer number 3


Sara Chiesura with Emma Goodliffe, Curators, Chinese collection

With thanks to Alex Mendes and Nora McGregor for developing LibCrowds
Follow us on Twitter

06 October 2015

Women and the Vietnam War

Surprisingly, a large number of women were directly engaged in the Vietnam War. On the American side, there is no precise figure for how many women were involved but it is estimated that between 5,000 and 11,000 took part in the war. The majority worked as nurses, whilst the rest had mostly clerical roles, or were involved in war journalism. However Vietnamese women took a much more active role in the war than their American counterparts and a good number were members of armed units and engaged in direct action against their enemy. All the images shown below are photographs of paintings which were reproduced in the journal Việt Nam, published in Hanoi in the 1960s, which is held in the British Library as SU216 (English version) and SU216(2) (Vietnamese version).

Traditionally, Vietnamese women were supposed to follow Confucian teachings. They were expected to observe chastity, to practise three submissions and obey three masters, namely their father, their husband and their eldest son. These obligations were followed by a long list of feminine ‘do’s and don’ts’. In work, they were expected to master cookery, sewing and embroidery but would not normally engage in reading and writing. In their physical appearance they were expected to dress in such a way that made them attractive to their husbands but not enticing to others ( Marr 1984: 192) – not an easy balance to strike.

The Girl and the Lotus Flower, 1943, oil painting by Tô Ngọc Văn (1906-1954).  The artist, who trained during the French colonial period, was the director of the School of Fine Arts in Hanoi under the Vietnamese Communist Party’s regime after 1945. He subsequently trained artists during the war against the French before he was killed by the French bombing in 1954. Việt Nam, 4(43), 1961, p.[12]. British Library, SU216

Mother and Son, 1957, silk painting by Nguyễn Phan Chanh. Nguyễn Phan Chanh abandoned silk painting during the Resistance War against the French and produced posters to support war efforts. He returned to his traditional painting after the Resistance War. Việt Nam, 7(46), 1961, p.[12]. British Library, SU216

However, these traditional dogmas for women were challenged from the beginning of the twentieth century. During this period women were recognised as part of the national polity, at least in theory, and concrete proposals were made for expanding their educational opportunities (Marr 1984: 200). From the 1920s women’s organisations were formed, and debates on women’s roles - both traditional and modern aspects - were discussed in the media and in literature. While the Vietnamese struggle against French colonialism increased in the 1930s, Nhat Linh, one of the leading intelligentsia and progressives, gave a new definition of filial piety. It no longer needed to signify blind obedience to one’s elders or the self-pursuit of family interests; it was more reasoned and noble and could serve as the wellspring of patriotism. (Ho Tai 1992: 254). On the other hand, non-Marxist attitudes toward women moved even further towards the right, and they glorified the ‘Heaven-determined function’ of women within the family (Marr 1984: 233).

Caught between these controversial arguments, the efforts of the Vietnamese Communist Party to reach out to women and recruit them into its auxiliary groups continued to be hampered by women’s dual burden at home and in society (Ho Tai 1992: 253). Nevertheless, they were successful in recruiting women to join the Party. As Mary Ann Tétreault (1996: 39) points out, ‘… Vietnamese revolutionaries did more than use gender as a code through which to discuss the penetration of their society by the French. They appealed directly to women to participate in the struggle to liberate their country, promising them in return equal political, social, and economic rights and status under a new regime. These appeals attracted women who felt oppressed by the old regime….  Vietnamese women seeking equality found revolutionaries to be the only group in their society willing to commit themselves to achieving it. It is not surprising that so many responded by joining the movement.’

During the Vietnam War years, Vietnamese women had to perform both traditional and new wartime roles as required by the Party. Hô Chí Minh himself encouraged Vietnamese women to extend their roles during wartime. He encouraged and praised women in the South who fought  against the US-supported regime and the US. Meanwhile, he urged women in the North to take part in fighting against the US  in order to save the country and to build socialism (Dương Thoa 1982: 38).

Produce and prepare to fight the war (Sản xuất và sẵn sàng chiến đầu) by Huy Oánh. Việt Nam, 101 (2), 1966, p[13]. British Library, SU216(2)

Reports war victory to the North (Báo tin chiến thắng ra mền Bắc). Việt Nam,  95(8), 1965, p[10]. British Library, SU216(2)

When the war was intensified after direct American involvement in the 1960s, Hanoi adopted the “three readies” policy  (ba  sẵn sàng) and asked the entire population to be ready to fight, to join the army and to go anywhere required by the Fatherland (60 years 2005: 149). Women actively took part in this policy and the “three undertakings movement” (Ba đảm đang). According to official figures, by the end of May, 1965, over 1.7 million women had signed up for the title of “Three Undertakings Woman” (60 years 2005: 151). They took up a wide range of tasks, from domestic roles to working in production in farming and in factories, in order to allow men to go to fight at the front line. They also took part in fighting as armed guerrillas or in the self-defence militia. Hô Chí Minh personally sent commendations to mothers who lost their sons in the war or made awards to women who fought the enemies.

After patrolling in the alert unit (Sau giờ trực chiến) by Phạm Văn Đôn. Việt Nam,  124 (1), 1968, 124 [18]. British Library, SU216(2)

Protect the Fatherland’s Sky (Bảo vệ bầu trơi tổ quốc) by Quang Phòng and Mai Văn Hiến. Việt Nam,  114 (3), 1967, p.9. British Library, SU216(2)

By the 1960s, Vietnamese women were shouldering a dual burden, at home and for the fatherland. They were commended by Hô Chí Minh on 20 October 1966 on the occasion of the anniversary of Women’s Association: “Vietnamese women bravely fight against the US ... from past to present, from the South to the North, from young to old, Vietnamese women are genuine heroes” (Dương Thoa 1982: 38).

Heart and barrel (Trái tim và nòng súng) by Huỳnh Văn. Việt Nam,  100 (1), 1966, [pp.15-16]. British Library, SU216(2)

Comrade Nguyễn Thị Định (Đồng chĩ Nguyễn Thị Định) by Huỳnh Phương Đông. Nguyễn Thị Định (15 March 1920-26 August 1992) arguably epitomised Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War. She was born into a peasant family in southern Vietnam. She joined the Viet Minh and was involved in the revolutionary movement and the fight against French colonialism in the 1940s. She was a founder member of the National Liberation Front, the first female major general to serve in the Vietnam’s People Army and one of the Deputy Chairmen of the Council of State from 1987 until her death. Việt Nam, 130 (7), 1968, front cover. British Library, SU216(2)

Further reading:

Việt Nam. Hanoi: Thông tấn xã, BL shelf mark: SU216, SU216(2)
Dương Thoa. Bác Hồ với phong trào phụ nữ Việt Nam. Hà Nội :Phụ nữ, 1982. (BL shelf mark:16651.e.24)
David G Marr. Vietnamese Tradition on Trial 1920-1945. Berkley: University of California Press, 1984.
60 years of the Vietnamese government 1945-2005.  Hanoi: VNA Publishing House, 2005. (BL shelf mark: OIJ 59704).
Hue Tam Ho Tai. Radicalism and the Origins of the Vietnamese Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1992.
Mary Ann Tétreault. ‘Women and Revolution in Vietnam’ in Kathleen Barry, ed. Vietnam’s Women in Transition. London: Macmillan Press, 1996.

Sud Chonchirdsin, curator for Vietnamese   ccownwork