Asian and African studies blog

28 posts categorized "Vietnamese"

21 April 2016

Mythical creatures in Vietnamese culture

Like other East and South East Asian peoples, the Vietnamese believe in mythical and sacred animals, the most significant being the dragon, the phoenix, the turtle or tortoise, and the unicorn. These four sacred animals, which all represent auspicious blessings such as longevity and happiness, can be found on various objects in Vietnam ranging from imperial edicts and paintings, decorative figures in palaces and temples, to clothes and utensils. The four sacred animals illustrated below are depicted on two early 20th-century imperial Vietnamese illuminated scrolls held in the British Library.

Dragon (rồng)
The Vietnamese believe they are descendants of a dragon, and the birth of the first kingdom of the nation was closely related to this animal; therefore this mythical creature is probably the most important figure among the four sacred creatures (Quê Me 1988: 8). Legend has it that Lạc Long Quân, king of the dragons who lived in the water, married Âu Cơ, a fairy from the bird kingdom. She gave birth to 100 sons and the first-born son became King Hùng Vương of Lạc Việt, the first dynasty of  Vietnam. Hence there is a proverb saying the Vietnamese are “con rồng cháu tiên” or “children of the dragon and grandchildren of the fairy”.

To the Vietnamese, the dragon symbolises power, nobility and immortality. Since it represents power, it is a special symbol of the Vietnamese emperors. The dragon with five claws was reserved for imperial use, while one with four claws was for the use of royal dignitaries and high ranking court officials. For commoners, their dragons could only have three claws.

The Vietnamese dragon combines features of the crocodile, snake, cat, rat and bird. There are many Vietnamese legends or tales which are related to dragons; for example, the world-famous natural heritage site, Hạ Long Bay in northern Vietnam, is believed to be a creation of a dragon. Thăng Long, the former name of Hà Nội, also means “rising from a dragon”. Legend has it that in 1010, a golden dragon appeared alongside Emperor Lý Thái Tổ’s boat while he was visitting Đại La, and hence the place’s name was changed to Thăng Long.  

Dragon, on Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1917. British Library, Or. 14631
Dragon, on Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1917. British Library, Or. 14631 Noc

Phoenix (Phượng Hoàng)
Whereas the dragon represents the emperor, a phoenix is used to represent the empress. Vietnamese folklore describes the phoenix as having the neck of a snake, the breast of a swallow, the back of a tortoise, and the tail of a fish. The phoenix’s song includes all the five notes of the pentatonic musical scale and its feathers include the five fundamental colors: black, white, red, green, and yellow. This elegant mythical bird symbolises grace, nobility, virtue and pride. According to myth, the phoenix burnt its nest and days later rose again from the ashes, and it therefore symbolises rebirth, regeneration and survival. It normally hides itself in time of trouble and appears only in calm and prosperous times, hence it also symbolises peace. During the Vietnam War, the CIA launched  Operation Phoenix in South Vietnam from 1968 to 1972, with the aim of eradicating the Việt Công.

Phoenix, illuminatd on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924.British Library, Or. 14665
Phoenix, illuminatd on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924.British Library, Or. 14665 Noc

Turtle (rùa)
The turtle has a special place in Vietnamese culture and history. It symbolises longevity, strength and intelligence and is also closely related to the independence of Vietnam in the 15th century. Legend has it that Lê Lời, who led the Vietnamese to fight against the Chinese invaders in the 15th century, borrowed a sword from the dragon king. After he defeated the Chinese, he returned the sacred sword to the king via the latter’s disciple, a turtle which lived in a jade water lake. The Vietnamese, especially the Hanoians, believe that this lake is the Hoàn Kiếm Lake (Returned or Restored Sword Lake) in the middle of the city. Until recently, there was a highly revered resident, an old soft-shell turtle, named locally as Cụ Rùa (Grandfather Turtle) living in the lake. Cụ Rùa, who was actually female, was one of only four turtles of this breed known to survive in the world and it was believed that she was over a hundred years old. Sadly, on 19th January 2016, her lifeless body was found floating in the lake. The cause of her death is unknown and some Vietnamese have interpreted it as an inauspicious omen.

At the Temple of Literature (Văn Miếu) in Hà Nội, there are 82 figures of stone turtles with steles of doctoral graduates on the turtles’ backs. This was a mark of honour for those who achieved the highest degree of education in traditional Vietnamese society during the Lê dynasty. It also signified the importance of education in the society.

Turtle, illuminated on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924. British Library, Or. 14665
Turtle, illuminated on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924. British Library, Or. 14665 Noc

Unicorn (Kỳ lân)
The unicorn symbolises peace, mercy and good fortune. Some also believe that it represents intelligence and goodness, and that the creature only appears on very special occasions. The unicorn is a composite creature combining elements of the horse, buffalo and dragon. The Vietnamese believe that it is a very strong and faithful creature, and therefore suitable for guarding temples and places of worship.

Unicorn, illuminated on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924.British Library, Or. 14665
Unicorn, illuminated on the reverse of Emperor Khải Định’s scroll, 1924.British Library, Or. 14665 Noc

Further reading:
Ai Hoa.” Năm thìn kể chuyện Rông” in Quê Me. Số 88-89, 1988, pp.7-8. (BL shelf mark: 16641.e.6)
Hà Y. “Rồng : vật tổ của dân Việt”. In  Quê Me. Số 88-89, 1988, pp.9-10. (BL shelf mark: 16641.e.6)
Sacred animals in Vietnamese culture and architecture, July 12, 2013.
Cu Rua: Vietnam mourns revered Hanoi turtle, BBC News, 20 January 2016

Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese Ccownwork

14 March 2016

More than a Book: a new display of Southeast Asian manuscripts

Visitors to the British Library building at St Pancras will recently have noticed a new display in the Southeast Asian exhibition case by the entrance to the Asian and African Studies Reading Room on the third floor. ‘More than a Book’ presents examples of writing from Southeast Asia in a range of unusual formats and materials, with texts incised on bamboo and gold, painted on paper with a brush, written on gilded wood, printed on silk, and even woven into cotton binding tapes to be wound around a book of palm leaves.

More than a Book: a new display of writing from Southeast Asia, at the British Library
More than a Book: a new display of writing from Southeast Asia, at the British Library Noc

In pride of place is the Burmese 'Butterfly Book’ (Or. 16052), as we have named what is actually a printed petition presented to a colonial official.  No government officer could ever have received a more beautiful document than this formal address, created in around 1907 on the occasion of the first visit to Mergui of the British Governor of Burma. Mergui (Myeik) is a coastal town on the Tenasserim Coast (the present-day Taninthayi Division), the southernmost district of Lower Burma (Myanmar). Technically this is not a hand-written manuscript, for the Burmese words have been typeset and printed onto ‘wings’ of silk, and bound within a large oyster shell.  In the petition, local residents offer sincere thanks to the Government for the construction of roads, and express their belief that the expansion of transport networks will bring more benefit to the region. Included in their long ‘shopping list’ is a request for a marine ferry to ply between adjacent coastal towns, a telegraph office, and aid in building a new hospital.

Burmese 'Butterfly Book', printed petition of 1907 from the residents of Mergui presented to the visiting British Governor of Burma. British Library, Or. 16052
Burmese 'Butterfly Book', printed petition of 1907 from the residents of Mergui presented to the visiting British Governor of Burma. British Library, Or. 16052 Noc

Also from Burma are two sazigyo, or woven binding tapes for winding around sacred texts.  Among the ways in which Burmese Buddhists believe that merit can be gained is by commissioning and donating a sazigyo to a Buddhist monastery. There are many types of sazigyo: some are purely decorative but others are woven with texts recording the names of the donors, their titles and distinctions, and their deeds of merit. The donors usually call on devas and humans to applaud their meritorious deeds.

The larger red sazigyo is from a manuscript of Pacitʿ Pāli, a canonical text of Theravāda Buddhist monastic rules (Or. 4846). The text on the sazigyo is in verse, and begins with the word Zeyatu which means ‘success’. The donors call upon the universe to hear the news of their donation of the scripture of the Buddha’s glorious teaching, and express their hope that by the merit of this donation they may swiftly and directly reach the cessation of afflictions (Nirvana).  The inscription on the smaller yellow sazigyo (Or.15949/2) suggests that both the manuscript and the binding tape were donated to the Sayadaw (Abbot) of Bangyi monastery.

Two sazigyo, manuscript binding tapes woven with Burmese texts. British Library, Or. 4846 and Or. 15946/2
Two sazigyo, manuscript binding tapes woven with Burmese texts. British Library, Or. 4846 and Or. 15946/2 Noc

From northern Thailand come two wooden title indicators, written in Thai in Dhamma script, decorated with red lacquer and gold leaf. The titles of the palm leaf manuscripts to which the title indicators were attached with a cord are incised on the gold background, together with the names of donors and honoured persons. The small title indicator was made for a manuscript containing the Vessantara Jataka copied in 1925 (Or.14528), while the larger one belonged to a text from the Abhidhamma dated 1930 (Or.14529). These title indicators were used to help retrieve manuscripts when they were stored in large chests or cabinets at Buddhist temple libraries.

On the lower shelf is an imperial Vietnamese scroll (Or. 14817/A). In 1793 a British embassy to China led by Lord Macartney ran into a storm while off the coast of central Vietnam, and issued a plea for help. In response, the Tây Sơn ruler of Vietnam, Emperor Cảnh Thịnh (1792-1802), sent a welcoming party to the British delegation, with food supplies and this beautiful scroll.  The scroll is written in Han Nom characters on orange paper decorated with a large dragon, and bears the royal seal stamped in red ink.

Vietnamese imperial scroll, 1793. British Library, Or. 14817/A
Vietnamese imperial scroll, 1793. British Library, Or. 14817/A

At the back of the case is an example of Batak writing on bamboo (MSS Batak 1), from north-east Sumatra. In 1823, at the request of his British visitor John Anderson, the King of Bunto Pane wrote on this piece of bamboo the Batak numbers one to ten, and a reminder to Anderson to send him two dogs once he had returned to Penang. In the bamboo container are found a knife – which may have been used to inscribe the Batak letters – and four poison-tipped blow-pipe darts.

Lastly, but catching all eyes at the top of the display, is a letter written on a sheet of pure gold, from Bali (Egerton 765). This letter in Balinese was sent in 1768 from the princes of Badung and Mengwi to the Dutch Resident of Semarang, on the north coast of Java.  Inscribed in Balinese language and script with a sharp stylus on a piece of gold in the  shape of a palm leaf – the usual writing material in Bali – the princes affirm their friendship with the Dutch East India Company.

Annabel Gallop, San San May, Jana Igunma, Sud Chonchirdsin Ccownwork
Southeast Asia section

24 February 2016

The Vietnam War: Children at War

Ho Chi Minh: “The Working Youth Union members and our young people are in general good; they are ready to come forward, fearless of difficulties and eager for progress. The Party must foster their revolutionary virtues and train them to be our successors ...” 
Việt Nam, commemorative issue on the death of Ho Chi Minh, October 1969, p.11. British Library, SU216

The Vietnam War affected all walks of life in Vietnam and children were not spared from the cruelty of this war. The physical suffering from heavy battles and bombardment of highly toxic chemical weapons are still felt even today. During the war years life for children was very hard, in both the North and the South of Vietnam. Houses and schools were bombed and destroyed. Many children became homeless and their schools had to be moved around or lessons had to take place after dark to avoid being targeted by heavy bombings. For example, one school in a liberated area in the South had to move site three times in four months due to the American air raids. Wherever they stopped, teachers and pupils built bamboo and palm leaf cottages in the midst of forests as their school (Việt Nam, no.132, 9, 1968, p. 10).

'Going to school at night' (Đi học đêm) by Phi Tiến Sơn, 12 years old. Việt Nam, no.154, 1971 p. [14]. British Library, SU 216(2)
'Going to school at night' (Đi học đêm) by Phi Tiến Sơn, 12 years old. Việt Nam, no.154, 1971 p. [14]. British Library, SU 216(2)

'Reinforcing the wall to protect our classrooms' by Phương Quốc Thanh, 14 years old. Việt Nam, no.141, 6,1969 p. 18. British Library, SU 216(2)
'Reinforcing the wall to protect our classrooms' by Phương Quốc Thanh, 14 years old. Việt Nam, no.141, 6,1969 p. 18. British Library, SU 216(2)

In the face of these hardships, the fighting spirit of the children was heavily fortified by the Vietnamese Communist Party and the National Liberation Front, and these institutions made children very aware of foreign enemies and their duty to serve their country. The attempts of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the National Liberation Front to inspire young minds to fight the enemy are illustrated by the glorification of Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, a young electrician and a Viet Minh member in the South. Trỗi was sentenced to death and executed by a firing sqad in Saigon in front of the press on 15 October 1964 for the attempted assassination of Robert McNamara, the US Secretary of Defence, who was visiting South Vietnam in May 1963. When the shots were fired at Trỗi, he shouted “Down with the U.S. Imperialists, Long Live Vietnam, Long Live Hồ  Chí Minh”.

Execution of Nguyễn Văn Trỗi. Việt Nam, no.149, 1970 p. 31. British Library, SU216(2)
Execution of Nguyễn Văn Trỗi. Việt Nam, no.149, 1970 p. 31. British Library, SU216(2)

Hanoi treated Trỗi as a martyr and renamed many schools, prize awards and other revolutionary activities after him. In the liberated zones in South Vietnam, revolutionary schools named after him were set up to teach children about “learning for victory over the Yanks”.

According to one Hanoi publication: “…A system of revolutionary education has taken shape and is fast growing. With this the innocent and unstained minds of the children can absorb the cream of the sound and rich national culture very early, and the children will work their way to become good sons and daughters, excellent pupils and young activists. In the “small deeds, great significance” movement, apart from learning, they enthusiastically join their efforts with those of their parents and brothers in fighting the enemy and defending their villages and hamlets …” (Việt Nam, no.141 6, 1969, p.[29]).

'Tiny guerrilla' (Du kích tý hon) by Lưư Công Nhân. Việt Nam,  no.106,  7, 1966, p. 106. British Library, SU216
'Tiny guerrilla' (Du kích tý hon) by Lưư Công Nhân. Việt Nam,  no.106,  7, 1966, p. 106. British Library, SU216

Nguyễn Công Phi, 'Tiny guerrilla in the Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Youth Group in Quảng Nam province'. Việt Nam, no.141, 6, 1969 p. 29. British Library, SU216
Nguyễn Công Phi, 'Tiny guerrilla in the Nguyễn Văn Trỗi Youth Group in Quảng Nam province'. Việt Nam, no.141, 6, 1969 p. 29. British Library, SU216

Against this background, children as young as 13 and 14 were involved in the armed struggle, learning guerrilla warfare tactics and killing both American and South Vietnamese soldiers. Some were trained to be informants. Many of them were decorated with awards and “glorious titles” such as “Iron Fort Children” or “Valiant Destroyer of the Yanks” (Việt Nam, No.141, 6,1969, p.[29]). Others were involved in other war-related activities, such as making hats for soldiers, constructing strategic roads to reach the South, barricading or fortifying their schools and even just giving moral support to members of their families before they left home to fight in the front line. In the North the Party organised activities to keep young minds aware of the on-going war and its horrible repercussions on their life. For example, painting competitions for young people on war themes were organised by some newspapers and cinemas. In the South a campaign to enlist support from the youth was launched by the Provisional Revolutionary Government. They were encouraged to engage in “five volunteer movements”, i.e., volunteer to destroy as much of the enemy’s manpower as possible, to join the army, to wage political struggle, to serve the frontline and to boost agricultural production (Việt Nam, no.150, 1970 p.[14]).

'We weave straw hats to fight the US' (Chúng em tết mũ rom chống Mỹ) by Bùi  Quang Trường, 13 years old. Việt Nam, no. 141, pp.18-19. British Library, SU216(2)
'We weave straw hats to fight the US' (Chúng em tết mũ rom chống Mỹ) by Bùi  Quang Trường, 13 years old. Việt Nam, no. 141, pp.18-19. British Library, SU216(2)

'See our brother off to join the army' (Tiễn anh đi bộ đội) by Đoàn Thị Hương, 13 years old. Việt Nam, 6,1968, p[17]. British Library, SU216(2)
'See our brother off to join the army' (Tiễn anh đi bộ đội) by Đoàn Thị Hương, 13 years old. Việt Nam, 6,1968, p[17]. British Library, SU216(2)

In the South, a new group of children was brought into the world as a result of wartime relationships between American soldiers and local women. These thousands of mixed race children, or Amerasians, faced many hardships in life both during and especially after the war, as they were regarded as outcasts by the Vietnamese. They were referred to as “bụi đời” or the “dust of life”. When, in 1987, the US government eventually set up a programme to allow these Amerasians to settle in the USA, some of them were able to leave Vietnam and to be reunited with their paternal families in the USA.

Curator’s note: As the British Library collection of Vietnamese serials comes mainly from North Vietnam, the nature of content for this blog post therefore only reflects information from the North, especially as found in the periodical Việt Nam published in Hanoi.

Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese

28 December 2015

Tuồng/Hát Bồi in Vietnamese Theatre

Traditional Vietnamese theatre can be divided into two main genres: chèo and tuồng or hát bội. Chèo is probably the oldest form of Vietnamese theatrical performance and can be dated back to the tenth century. It is believed that it originated from a boating song performed at popular festivals, hence the name chèo or “song of oars”. This traditional performance was popular in the north of Vietnam and was closely associated with peasants or commoners because of the simple and basic way it was performed. Initially, it did not even require a stage, and the artists simply wore their everyday clothes. There were no written texts, and the accompanying songs were closely related to folk songs. This form of performance was meant to be a funny and light-hearted entertainment.

Chiếu chèo, a very basic play performed on a mat. Sân Khấu, Hanoi : Báo Quân Đội, no.184 (8-1996), p.42. British Library, 16671.c.4Chiếu chèo, a very basic play performed on a mat. Sân Khấu, Hanoi : Báo Quân Đội, no.184 (8-1996), p.42. British Library, 16671.c.4

Phường chèo đóng đường: chèo performed at a funeral. Gustave Dumoutier, Le Rituel Funéraire des Annamites.  Hanoi: F.H. Schneider, 1904; plate 6 bis. British Library,11100.f.22
Phường chèo đóng đường: chèo performed at a funeral. Gustave Dumoutier, Le Rituel Funéraire des Annamites.  Hanoi: F.H. Schneider, 1904; plate 6 bis. British Library,11100.f.22

If chèo was originally a popular entertainment for peasants, tuồng (in the North) or hát bội (in the South) stood traditionally at the other end of the performance genre. Tuồng, which could be translated as “classical theatre”, was believed to have originated in a royal court of the Trần dynasty (1225-1400 AD). Most scholars agree that there was a Chinese impulse to the birth of Vietnamese classical theatre (Mackerras 1987: 3). Legend has it that in 1285, a Chinese opera troupe was captured during a Vietnamese military campaign against the invading Mongols. Emperor Trần Nhân Tông (1279-1293), the third emperor of the Trần dynasty, was so impressed by the operatic and theatrical knowledge of the captives that he had the leader of the troupe train young Vietnamese in the performing art in exchange for his life. Under the patronage of subsequent emperors, tuồng developed to suit Vietnamese taste, and new plays were written, some based on Vietnamese, rather than Chinese, history (Brandon 1967: 73-4). In the 16th century tuồng spread to the South and by the 18th century it was popular throughout the country and among all classes, from emperors to peasants (Mackerras 1987: 3).

Tuồng play. Pierre Huard et Maurice Durand, Connaissance du Việt Nam (1954), p. 265. British Library, X.800/281 0332
Tuồng play. Pierre Huard et Maurice Durand, Connaissance du Việt Nam (1954), p. 265. British Library, X.800/281 0332

Tuồng reached its apogee under the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). Emperors and high-ranking mandarins became patrons of troupes and had performances given in their private chambers. The first special theatre was built in the imperial palace of Emperor Gia Long (1802-1820).  Emperor Tự Đức (1847-1883) encouraged court poets to write opera, and he brought into his court the Chinese actor Kang Koung Heou and maintained 150 female performers (Brandon 1967: 73). During the Nguyễn dynasty, tuồng was very similar to Beijing opera in terms of costumes, stagecraft and makeup.

It was under these conditions that a large number of tuồng play scripts were created, written in Hán-Nôm (Sino-Vietnamese script) or Hán (Chinese script). One Vietnamese scholar reports that in Vietnam nowadays there are still four to five hundred compositions, some of which run to as many as a dozen volumes. Most traditional tuồng are based on Chinese history or literary works, but there are others which dramatised events in Vietnamese history or literature. Themes include struggles at court between an evil courtier and the emperor, loyalty, filial piety and the virtues of patriotism (Mackerras 1987: 4).

Sadly, tuồng declined in the 20th century because it lost royal court support. Former glamorous court performers had to earn their living after they retired by taking their troupes to travel around and perform wherever people were willing to pay them. However, the decline in court performances eventually led to a new genre of theatre known as cải lương, which was an adaptation of this classical performance.

Title page of the first play in the manuscript, Tống Từ Minh truyện. British Library, Or. 8218, Vol. 1, f. 1.r
Title page of the first play in the manuscript, Tống Từ Minh truyện. British Library, Or. 8218, Vol. 1, f. 1.r Noc

A ten-volume set of tuồng plays (Or. 8218) held in the British Library is very likely the product of the popularity of this performing art form in the mid-19th century under the Nguyễn dynasty.  Or. 8218 comprises a collection of forty six plays and legends, possibly from Hue, the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyễn dynasty. Most do not include the author’s name, date and place except for one piece, Sự tích ra tuồng, which has a line which could be translated into modern Vietnamese as ‘làm vào ngày tháng tốt năm Tự Đức 3’. According to Trần Nghĩa, a Vietnamese specialist in Hán-Nôm who researched the manuscripts at the British Library back in 1995, this note indicates that the play was written in 1850 during the reign of Emperor Tự Đức (1847-1883).  The complete ten-volume set of manuscripts (Or. 8218/1-10), containing over 6,800 pages, has been now fully digitised thanks to the legacy of Henry Ginsburg, and may be accessed through the Digitised Manuscripts website with the search term 'Vietnam'.

Further reading:
Colin Mackerras, ‘Theatre in Vietnam’, Asian Theatre Journal, Vol.4, No. 1 (Spring 1987), pp.1-28.
James R. Brandon, Theatre in Southeast Asia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1967.
Pierre Huard et Maurice Durand, Connaissance du Viet-Nam. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1954.
Trần Nghĩa, “Sách Hán-Nôm tại thư viện vương quốc Anh” (Books in Sino-Vietnamese at the British Library), Tạp chí Hán-Nôm, 3(24),1995, pp. 3-14.

Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese Ccownwork

30 November 2015

Laos and the Vietnam War

For a significant part of the twentieth century Laos was embroiled in armed conflict. The country had been a French protectorate from 1893, following more than a century of Siamese suzerainty. During World War II it was briefly occupied by the Japanese. After World War II, Laos became involved in the regional fight for independence, known as the French Indochina War, which officially ended in 1954. Although Laos gained independence from France in 1953, political instability saw the country descend into civil war, in which foreign parties played significant roles as a result of the regional and world-wide struggles for power during the Cold War era.

Declaration on the neutrality of Laos, signed by representatives of Burma, DR Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Canada, China, Poland, Republic of Vietnam, Soviet Union, Great Britain, USA, Thailand, and France on 23 July 1962. British Library, LP.31.b.467
Declaration on the neutrality of Laos, signed by representatives of Burma, DR Vietnam, India, Cambodia, Canada, China, Poland, Republic of Vietnam, Soviet Union, Great Britain, USA, Thailand, and France on 23 July 1962. British Library, LP.31.b.467

Despite its neutral status after the French Indochina War, Laos became entangled in the Second Indochina War, also known as the Vietnam War (1964 to 1975). The ongoing civil war in Laos, essentially between Royalist, Neutralist and the Communist (Pathet Lao) forces, became part of the greater conflict. By the late 1950s, a large area of eastern Laos was controlled by the Pathet Lao, along with North Vietnamese forces who had crossed the border to lend support. For almost nine years Laos was a battlefield in the armed conflict between neighbouring North Vietnam and the United States.

Rains in the jungle, a collection of short stories by Lao authors translated into English and published in 1967 by the Neo Lao Haksat (Lao Patriotic Front), the political wing of the Pathet Lao, for external propaganda. British Library, YA.1996.a.2640
Rains in the jungle, a collection of short stories by Lao authors translated into English and published in 1967 by the Neo Lao Haksat (Lao Patriotic Front), the political wing of the Pathet Lao, for external propaganda. British Library, YA.1996.a.2640

Les gars du 97, a novel by Phou Louang on the patriotism of the soldiers of a Pathet Lao military unit, translated from Lao into French and published by the Neo Lao Haksat in 1971. British Library, ORW.1986.a.3486
Les gars du 97, a novel by Phou Louang on the patriotism of the soldiers of a Pathet Lao military unit, translated from Lao into French and published by the Neo Lao Haksat in 1971. British Library, ORW.1986.a.3486

During the war, US forces flew over 500,000 aerial bombing raids over Laos, which were said to aim at gaining control of the Trường Sơn Strategic Supply Route (also known as Ho Chi Minh trail). This logistical system was of crucial relevance in the Vietnam War since it was the only connection between the People’s Army of Vietnam (North Vietnamese Army) and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam.  More than two million tons of explosive ordnance was dropped on the country, even in areas which were hundreds of kilometres away from the Ho Chi Minh trail. Altogether, more tonnage fell on Laos than was used during the whole of World War II. As a result of this war, Laos remains the most heavily bombed country in human history. Although the war in Laos officially ended in 1973, and subsequently the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was founded on 2 December 1975, the country is still affected by unexploded ordnance and the long-term effects of the use of chemical weapons.

Luksao khong phak (The daughter of the party), a post-war novel in two volumes by S. Bupphanuvong describing the efforts of rebuilding the country after the war. The book was published by the Lao State Publishing House, Vientiane, in 1982. British Library, YP.2006.a.6100
Luksao khong phak (The daughter of the party), a post-war novel in two volumes by S. Bupphanuvong describing the efforts of rebuilding the country after the war. The book was published by the Lao State Publishing House, Vientiane, in 1982. British Library, YP.2006.a.6100

Further reading
Branfman, Fred. Voices from the Plain of Jars: life under an air war. Madison, Wisconsin : The University of Wisconsin Press, [2013]
Impact of the UXO problem. Lao National Unexploded Ordnance Programme (retrieved 17.11.2015)
Stuart-Fox, Martin. A history of Laos. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997
Sutton, Sean and Thongloun Sisoulith et al. Laos, legacy of a secret. Stockport : Dewi Lewis, 2010

Bombing missions in Laos 1965-1973

 

 

 

 

Jana Igunma, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian  Ccownwork

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, SU216The 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
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Heart and barrel (Trái tim và nòng súng) by Huỳnh Văn. Việt Nam,  100 (1), 1966, [pp.15-16]. British Library, SU216(2)

Việt Nam, 130 (7), 1968, front cover. 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

22 May 2015

40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War

30 April 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. On 30 April 1975, the Vietnam War, or the Resistance War against America as it is known by the Vietnamese, came to an end when North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon just before mid-day and President Dương Văn Minh of South Vietnam surrendered at the Presidential Palace in Saigon.  One of the most iconic images which marks the end of the war is that of a North Vietnamese tank storming into the front gate of the Presidential Palace. Following the Paris Peace Accord of 27 January 1973, Hanoi had started a final push under the Ho Chi Minh Campaign with the aim of seizing Saigon by 1975. The capture of Saigon brought jubilation to many Vietnamese, who were exhausted from the long war.

The Vietnamese press took the opportunity to capture the public mood by depicting their cheerful and celebratory emotions in a variety of formats. Articles, poetry, songs, paintings and drawings about the historic victory over the Americans and the unification of North and South Vietnam were widely published. The long and painful history of the war is probably best summed up by just a few frames of drawings from Tiền Phong (Vanguard), a weekly newspaper from Hanoi, in its 6th May 1975 issue. These illustrate the history of American involvement in the Vietnam conflict, from when the U.S. refused to sign or acknowledge the Geneva Accord in 1954 and decided to support Ngô Đình Diệm as the leader of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). This was followed by a military escalation under the Johnson administration in 1965, the Têt Offensive in 1968, the Nixon Doctrine and Vietnamisation in 1972 when President Richard Nixon decided to withdraw the American military from the war, and eventually the victory of Hanoi in 1975.

Tiền Phong, No.18, 6 May 1975, p.15. British Library, SU224/2
Tiền Phong, No.18, 6 May 1975, p.15. British Library, SU224/2

Hanoi’s successes in driving out the Americans and their allies from Vietnam and the reunification of the country have been immortalised in repeated images of the events. Tiền Phong (No.18, 6 May 1975, p.5) published a drawing of the Americans being swept out from the country. The front cover of this issue also depicted an event of the communist forces capturing Tan Son Nhat airport. Twenty years later, in its issue 437 (May 1995), Báo Ảnh Việt Nam celebrated the 20th anniversary of the end of the war by publishing a photo of Vietnamese children having fun with a tank from the war era.

The Americans being swept away, Tiền Phong, no.18, 6 May 1975, p.5. British Library, SU224/2
The Americans being swept away, Tiền Phong, no.18, 6 May 1975, p.5. British Library, SU224/2

Capturing Tan Son Nhat airport, Tiền Phong, no.18, 6 May 1975, front cover. British Library, SU224/2
Capturing Tan Son Nhat airport, Tiền Phong, no.18, 6 May 1975, front cover. British Library, SU224/2

DSCN0226
20th anniversary of the end of the War, Báo Ảnh Việt Nam, no.437, May 1995, front cover. British Library, 1863.105000

Not only did Vietnamese artists capture images of individual moments. They also gave accounts of key events and campaigns during the war. On its cover of No.2, 1987, Mỹ Thuật, a Vietnamese journal  for art reviews, reproduced a lacquer painting by Quách Phong, entitled Tiền  về Sài Gòn (Forward to Saigon), depicting Vietnamese communist guerrillas heading to the former capital of the South for a reunification battle.

Tiền  về Sài Gòn by Quách Phong in Mỹ Thuật, no.2, 1987. British Library, 16671.c.2
Tiền  về Sài Gòn by Quách Phong in Mỹ Thuật, no.2, 1987. British Library, 16671.c.2

However, not every Vietnamese embraced the Hanoi victory of April 1975. The anti-communist Vietnamese who managed to leave the country and settled abroad, especially in the United States, Canada and France, organised resistance movements in attempts to bring down the communist government in Vietnam. One of the most active movements was the National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (Mặt Trận Thống Nhất Giải Phóng Việt Nam), founded  by Vice Admiral Hoàng Cơ Minh on 30 April 1980 in California. Key members of this Front were former military officers or government employees of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). For a large number of overseas Vietnamese, 30 April brought back bitter memories and they normally had different reasons to commemorate the day, the aim being to fight against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. The resistance movement against Hanoi among overseas Vietnamese was most active in the 1980’s and 1990’s. There were attempts to recruit the Vietnamese abroad for military training and sent them back to operate in Vietnam. These activities also brought about diplomatic tension between Vietnam and Thailand since some of these movements used Thai territory as their operation bases.

Overseas Vietnamese publications, especially in the United States and Canada, lent support to the resistance movements. There were articles dedicated to reporting the movements and normally on the anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War (April or May issues), they published special issues to remind themselves of the bitter experiences of the war time, their nostalgia  and determination to fight against the communist regime with a bellicose approach.

Lửa Vệt, Toronto, no.53, April, 1985, front cover. British Library, 16641.e.2
Lửa Vệt, Toronto, no.53, April, 1985, front cover. British Library, 16641.e.2

Làng Văn, Toronto, no.69, May, 1990, front cover. British Library, 16641.e.13
Làng Văn, Toronto, no.69, May, 1990, front cover. British Library, 16641.e.13

However, after more than two decades of unsuccessful action by the resistance movements, together with the economic changes introduced by Hanoi, known as Đổi Mới (Economic Renovation) towards the end of the 1980’s, Vietnam appeared eventually achieve what the country had fought for: unification and peace.

Ngày hội chiến thắng (Celebration of Victory), engraving of a painting by Xu Man, Văn hóa nghệ thuật, no.51, November 1975. British Library, S.U.225 (1)
Ngày hội chiến thắng (Celebration of Victory), engraving of a painting by Xu Man, Văn hóa nghệ thuật, no.51, November 1975. British Library, S.U.225 (1)

References:
Báo Ảnh Việt Nam.  British Library pressmark: 1863.105000
Làng Văn.  British Library pressmark: 16641.e.13
Lửa Vệt. British Library pressmark: 16641.e.2
Mỹ Thuật . British Library pressmark: 16671.c.2
Văn hóa nghệ thuật.  British Library pressmark: S.U.225 (1)

Vietnam war art

War cartoons and propaganda from North Vietnam

Sud Chonchirdsin, Curator for Vietnamese

13 February 2015

Southeast Asian manuscripts digitised through the Ginsburg Legacy

The world of scholarship has been revolutionised by numerous digitisation programmes undertaken in libraries throughout the world. Now, instead of having to travel thousands of miles for expensive and extensive visits to cities where unique historical sources are housed, it is ever more possible to make a detailed study of a manuscript from one’s own home, in any country, via the internet. Digitisation programmes are usually shaped both by the interests of patrons and the strengths of an institution’s collections, and among the exciting projects to digitise material from the Asian and African collections of the British Library are those of Malay manuscripts in collaboration with the National Library of Singapore supported by William and Judith Bollinger, Thai manuscripts funded by the Royal Thai government, Persian manuscripts in partnership with the Iran Heritage Foundation, and Hebrew manuscripts with the Polonsky Foundation. However, with the emphasis on large projects, it is not always easy to prioritise the digitisation of other important manuscripts from smaller language groups, or from regions for which funding proves difficult to source.

Note in the Bugis language and script, from the diary of the king of Bone, south Sulawesi, 1775. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 2r (detail).
Note in the Bugis language and script, from the diary of the king of Bone, south Sulawesi, 1775. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 2r (detail).

The Southeast Asia section of the British Library is fortunate in that a legacy from the estate of the late Henry D. Ginsburg (1940-2007), who was for over thirty years the Library’s curator for Thai, Lao and Cambodian collections, has enabled the digitisation of a small number of significant manuscripts, some representing writing traditions rarely accessible on the internet. In 2013, seven of the most important illuminated and illustrated manuscripts in Vietnamese, Burmese and Javanese were digitised. In 2014 we completed the digitisation of a further 15 manuscripts from Southeast Asia, in Vietnamese, Burmese, Shan, Khamti, Lao, Thai, Bugis, Javanese and Arabic, which this month have been made accessible through the Digitised Manuscripts website.

Artistically, the highlights are probably six Burmese folding book (parabaik) manuscripts, all lavishly and exquisitely illustrated. Three of the manuscripts depict scenes from the Life of the Buddha (Or. 4762, Or. 5757 and Or. 14197) while the other three contain Jataka stories (Or. 13538, Or. 4542A and Or. 4542B, and MSS Burmese 202).

The Jātaka stories about the previous lives of the Gautama Buddha are preserved in all branches of Buddhism. These stories show how he gradually acquired greater strength and moral stature as his soul passed from one incarnation to the other. Shown above is a scene from the Latukika Jataka. The Bodhisatta, the leader of the elephants (gilded) protects the offspring of a quail who had laid her eggs in the feeding ground of the elephants. British Library, Or. 13538, ff. 20-22
The Jātaka stories about the previous lives of the Gautama Buddha are preserved in all branches of Buddhism. These stories show how he gradually acquired greater strength and moral stature as his soul passed from one incarnation to the other. Shown above is a scene from the Latukika Jataka. The Bodhisatta, the leader of the elephants (gilded) protects the offspring of a quail who had laid her eggs in the feeding ground of the elephants. British Library, Or. 13538, ff. 20-22.

Also in folding book format is a lavishly decorated Buddhist manuscript, Buddhānussati, in Shan language (Or. 12040), a copy of Tamrā phichai songkhrām in Thai language (Or. 15760), and a rare Lao dictionary in three volumes from the 19th century (Add. 11624).

This Shan folding book (pap tup), dated 1885, with the title Buddhānussati contains a text on recollections of the Buddha, explaining mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as objects. The embossed gilded covers are studded with multi-coloured mirror glass for ornate floral decoration. British Library, Or.12040, front cover.
This Shan folding book (pap tup), dated 1885, with the title Buddhānussati contains a text on recollections of the Buddha, explaining mindfulness with the Buddha’s virtues as objects. The embossed gilded covers are studded with multi-coloured mirror glass for ornate floral decoration. British Library, Or.12040, front cover.

Folio 16 of the Tamrā phichai songkhrām, explaining various appearances of sun and how to interpret them. This Thai divination manual for the prediction of wars, conflicts and natural disasters also contains explanations of the shapes of clouds, the moon and planets. British Library, Or.15760, folio 16.
Folio 16 of the Tamrā phichai songkhrām, explaining various appearances of sun and how to interpret them. This Thai divination manual for the prediction of wars, conflicts and natural disasters also contains explanations of the shapes of clouds, the moon and planets. British Library, Or.15760, folio 16.

Another rarity that has been digitised in this project is a bound and scrolled paper book (pap kin) in Khamti Shan script, Kuasala Ainmakan (Or. 3494). The book, dated 1860, is sewn in a blue cotton wrapper with a white and pink braided cotton string. It contains the Mahāsupina Jātaka about the dreams of King Pasenadi, the King of Kosala.  

From the Vietnamese collection was selected ‘The Northwards Embassy by land and water’, a rare pictorial manuscript map, Bắc Sứ Thủy Lục Địa Đô (Or. 14907), illustrating the journey from Hanoi to Beijing in 1880. This manuscript is currently on display in the exhibition ‘Geo/Graphic: celebrating maps and their stories’, at the National Library of Singapore (16 January – 19 July 2015).

Tai Ping City , located by Gu Fang Mountain. The city was well fortified with a fortress and could be dated back to the Ming dynasty.British Library, Or. 14907, f. 11r.
Tai Ping City , located by Gu Fang Mountain. The city was well fortified with a fortress and could be dated back to the Ming dynasty.British Library, Or. 14907, f. 11r.

Two very different Javanese manuscripts were digitised. The first, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang (MSS Jav 24), contains ethical teachings of the royal house of Yogyakarta, with many fine examples of illumination. The other manuscript (Sloane 2645) is a work on Islamic law, Mukhtasar Ba Fadl or Muqaddimat al-Hadrami, here going under the title Masa'il al-ta'lim, written in Arabic with interlinear translation and marginal commentary in Javanese in Arabic (Pegon) script. The manuscript, which is dated 1623, is from the founding collections of Sir Hans Sloane, and may be one of the earliest dated examples of a Javanese manuscript in Pegon script, and written on Javanese paper dluwang) made from the bark of the mulberry tree.

Illuminated architectural section heading from a Javanese manuscript, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yoygyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav. 24, f. 22v.
Illuminated architectural section heading from a Javanese manuscript, Serat Jaya Lengkara Wulang, Yoygyakarta, 1803. British Library, MSS Jav. 24, f. 22v.

Start of a new chapter (bab) in Masa'il al-ta'lim, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese, 1623. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 34r (detail).
Start of a new chapter (bab) in Masa'il al-ta'lim, in Arabic with interlinear translation in Javanese, 1623. British Library, Sloane 2645, f. 34r (detail).

The final manuscript, also from Indonesia, is in the Bugis language and script (Add. 12354). This is the personal diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih Syamsuddin of Bone, in south Sulawesi, covering the years 1775-1795, and written in his own hand. The diary contains a wealth of detail on the social, political, economic and cultural life of Sulawesi in the late 18th century.

Entries for the first few days of August 1781, in the Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 52r (detail).
Entries for the first few days of August 1781, in the Bugis diary of Sultan Ahmad al-Salih. British Library, Add. 12354, f. 52r (detail).

Annabel Teh Gallop, San San May, Jana Igunma, Sud Chonchirdsin

Southeast Asia section curators