25/07/2013 8:38:39 SA
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Recently, Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities (that belongs to Hue Monuments Conservation Centre) has been supported in the cultural heritage preservation by different individuals. Especially, the Centre and the Museum could receive many antiquities donated by those individuals.


In the afternoon of July 18 2013, in Hue Museum of Royal Antiquities, there occurred a receiving and displaying ceremony on the book named “Technique du peuple Annamite” of Henri Oger offered by a French Vietnamese residence.
With the enthusiastic help of Mr. Nguyễn Văn Mễ (the former Chairman of Thừa Thiên Huế Provincial Committee), Hue Monuments Conservation Centre received the book “Technique du peuple Annamite” donated by Mrs. Bùi Thị Cẩm Hà and Mr. Lê Thái. It measurement is 44cm x 63cm, 348 pages made of paper.
“Technique du peuple Annamite” in French or “Mechanics and crafts of the people of Annam” is a the woodcut printed book, which includes 348 papers in big scale reflecting the daily activities of Vietnamese people for the research on the material civilization of the Northern plain in early 20th century.
This book was created by Henri Oger together with some artists, woodcut carvers and printers from 1908 till 1909 in Hanoi. For about 20 months, Henri together with some Vietnamese artists surveyed at many different places in the urban areas of Hanoi and around the 36 streets of Hanoi to draw more than 4200 pictures in various titles that they met and realized via their investigations. With careful observation, they could manage to get many small details of life honestly. Before sending the drawings to the wooden scupturers, Henri Orger had them examined by the local inhabitants. The drawings would be engraved whenever the local people agreed with them. Usually, each drawing consisted of the drawing and the Nôm characters as the notes.
Even though more than 4200 drawings had not been arranged, we may have the image stories on simple but culturally and spiritually potential elements of Vietnamese people if we connected the drawing topics. Those were stories about traditional trades such agricultures, paper making, sculpture, gastronomy, construction, fortune-telling, garment, paintings, folk medicines, commerce, and so forth or even the peddling.
In the “Technique du peuple Annamite”, we may understand more about the life, activity, trade manipulation, cultural custom of Vietnamese people in early 20th century. A Vietnamese society of early 20th century was seen vividly like being listed in details via simple drawings. From the wedding till the funeral, worshipping, lunar Tet festival, daily activity, and many kinds of entertainment such as shuttle cock kicking, card playing, Northern folk song singing, kite hanging, butterfly catching, and so on were reflected making the drawings become a special kind of document in researching a Vietnamese society of the time. Due to the financial limitation, Henri Orger had only 60 books printed at his publishing house in Hàng Gai street. After the French colonial time, only 3 versions of the book remain in Vietnam, in which the first that is incomplete has been  kept at the National Library in Hanoi; the second one is rather well preserved at the Archaeology Institute (under the Republic of Vietnam, which is the today’s General Science Library of Ho Chi Minh City); and the other one has been remained at the Consulate General of Holland in Hanoi. The book received and displayed this time is the complete original version, and might be the forth one that has been in Vietnam so far.


In 2009, L’ École française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) in Hanoi, the General Science Library of Ho Chi Minh City, Thế Giới Publishing House, and Nhã Nam Company cooperated to reprint this anthology in three volumes; each of which was 31.5x24 cm trilingually (Vietnamese-French-English). They were issued accompanied by 1000 DVD. This is a way of reassessing and appreciating this valuable work.

Hai Trung/Translated by Y Nhi