Category Archives: Photo Gallery

Vietnam in historic photographs

The National Overseas Archives in Aix-en-Provence have opened up to the public an online database called Ulysse, thereby making a variety of digitised materials from the Archives and their library available for research. Begun in 2002, this database contains individual photographs or albums, postcards, posters, drawings and maps.

These materials document on one side the history of French colonial empire, but on the other side they are a rich source for the study of Vietnamese traditions and everyday life in historical perspective. The materials mainly originate from public records (state secretariats and departments that managed colonies from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth century, general government offices, etc.) and private archives, but also from donations, purchases, and bequests.

A keyword seach for Vietnam returned almost 400 results, of which most were photographs from the 1940s. Interestingly, they do not only document Vietnamese traditions and everyday life scenery, but also the culture of ethnic minorities in Vietnam. The Cao Dai religion and their rituals are well presented in this collection, as well as the cultural traditions of the Tai in North Vietnam and the Chinese in Saigon. A selection of photographs from this wonderful online database can be found below.

Mobile barber shop at Camau

Mobile barber shop at Camau

Vietnamese children playing traditional games

Vietnamese children playing traditional games

Construction of a boat at Camau

Construction of a boat at Camau

Chinese funeral procession in Saigon

Chinese funeral procession in Saigon

Students exiting the Lycee Calmette in Saigon

Students exiting the Lycee Calmette in Saigon

Theravada Buddhist temple near Nguu Son

Theravada Buddhist temple near Nguu Son

Theravada monks at their temple near Nguu Son

Theravada monks at their temple near Nguu Son

Cao Dai temple interior in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai temple interior in Tay Ninh

Superior Pham Cong Tac in his ritual costume at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh

Superior Pham Cong Tac in his ritual costume at the Cao Dai temple in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai musical group in Tay Ninh

Cao Dai musical group in Tay Ninh

Tai princesses, the daughters of Deo Van Dai

Tai princesses, the daughters of Deo Van Long

Tai religious ritual

Tai religious ritual

Tai dancers

Tai dancers

View of Cholon

View of Cholon

The Ulysse database can be accessed free of charge.

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Tai textiles: Yesterday and today

Silk and cotton weaving is an art that was practiced among all Tai peoples, and still is well known among most of them. Handwoven textiles showed not only the wealth of families, communities, and the Tai royal courts, but also was an important factor in the commercial relations between the Tai and their neighbours like China, Angkor, and Vietnam. Tai textiles were mentioned as tributary gifts and merchandise in the historical records of the Ming dynasty. It is impossible to exactly date the beginnings of weaving in the region of Southeast Asia and Southern China. More than thousand years ago, trade flourished between India and China via various silk roads. The south-west silk road had its origin in Sichuan where traders followed the rivers through the mountainous areas to today`s Assam. Silk and textile trade may have favoured and influenced the development of different weaving and dyeing techniques, but also design and use of textiles among the various Tai groups. Clothes are used as a form of group identification, and textiles have been very important symbols of prestige throughout history. But, they also fulfil important ritual and religious functions.

These and various other aspects of Tai textiles are the topic of an online exhibition of material from the SEACOM collections, curated by Jana Igunma and Cholthira Satyawadhna, and photographed by Oliver Raendchen.

Read and see more from the online exhibition here.

Lao handwoven ritual cloth

Lao handwoven ritual cloth

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Old settlements of Siamese people in Malaysia

A photographic report of a study trip, organised by Walailak University in Nakhorn Sri Thammarat, Thailand, in February 2011 is now online on the SEACOM homepage (click on “Exhibitions” under “Culture”).

Buddhist monastery building at a Siamese village in Kelantan

Buddhist monastery building at a Siamese village in Kelantan

The purpose of the trip was to explore old settlements of Siamese (Thai) people in Malaysia, particularly in the provinces of Kelantan and Kedah. We also met residents living in these communities and had the opportunity to interview them and to participate in their daily lives.

The second part of the photo report also contains links to academic research materials related to the topic of Siamese settlements in Malaysia.

Students learning Thai language in a Siamese settlement in Kelantan

Students learning Thai language in a Siamese settlement in Kelantan

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“Auguste Pavie, the barefoot explorer” – Online exhibition and research

Auguste Pavie (1847—1925) was the French explorer and diplomat, who is best known for his explorations of the Upper Mekong Valley and for playing a major role in bringing the kingdoms of Laos under French control.

Pavie went to Cochinchina (now part of southern Vietnam) as a sergeant in the marines in 1869 and subsequently worked in the Post and Telegraphic Department, directing construction of telegraph lines between Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, and Bangkok in 1879 and another between Phnom Penh and Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1882. While working on the telegraph lines, he travelled throughout Siam, Cambodia, and Vietnam and gained an intimate knowledge of each country’s customs and languages. The French government hoped to gain control of the Lao states of the Mekong River Valley and accredited Pavie to the Siamese government as vice consul in Luang Prabang in 1886. During the next five years he travelled throughout northern Laos, winning for France the friendship of local rulers and chiefs and frustrating Siamese attempts to bring the region under control, which was beset by bands of Chinese freebooters (Ho or Haw). From 1891 to 1893 Pavie served as consul general in Bangkok and helped bring about the Franco-Siamese Conflict of 1893, subsequently resulting in all Lao states east of the Mekong River coming under French protectorate.

Before returning to France, Pavie conducted an expedition, defining Laos’ borders with China, and with Upper Burma, which the British had annexed in 1886. Pavie’s works include “Indochine 1879–1895” (Paris, 1898–1919) and “À la conquête des coeurs” (1921).

An amazing online exhibition and collection of researches by the Archives nationales d’outre-mer in Aix-en-Provence is dedicated to the life and work of Auguste Pavie.

French colonial building in Vientiane

French colonial building in Vientiane

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Photo documentation of a Lantien ordination ceremony

Photographer Kees Sprengers, who is well known for his photographic documentations of social life in Laos, particularly of ethnic minority groups, has made vailable online a collection of over 200 photographs taken during a Lantien ordination ceremony in 2009 in Northern Laos’ Luang Namtha Province. The gallery can be viewed online and there are also links to Kees Sprengers’ other photo collections.

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