Is it true that this is a PANORAMA of the VIETNAMESE SOCIETY toward the beginning of this century?

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Remnants of Time past

a. Upon going against the course of our nation’s history and returning to old
dynasties since the 18th century and before, we can find annals and Chinese texts serving as data for facts, political events …
     But it‘ll be quite difficult for us to find a few illustrations, a few drawings that could help us and the future generations to figure out the lifelike image of our society in each historical period.

b. Fortunately, toward the beginning of this century, we’ve had a source of national field documents consisting of thousands of woodblock sketches, constituting a reference implement that can shed light on problems which people writing about matters such as ancient history, historical scenarios, and other people such as decorators, artists, researchers on folk culture… all need to know. But here, what can we still see from a society that no longer exists in our time? We can skim through the panorama of the Vietnamese society toward the beginning of the 20th century, the first transitional period between modern history and contemporary history.

STATISTICAL WORK relating to the SKETCHES and the PLACES they are kept in reserve

a. This is a set of sketches which according to our statistics consists of 4577 folk-paintings (1), 2529 among them deal with man and landscape, and 1049 among these 2529 paintings show women’s faces; as for the remaining 2048 paintings, they reproduce tools and production equipment.

b. The set kept at the Hanoi National Library consists of 7 volumes not venly bound and bearing the code number HG18 – formerly this set was kept under the code number G5 of the Hanoi Central Library – This library has had it microfilmed in April 1979, under the code number SN /805 with a length of 40 metres 70 centimetres.
    Another set is kept as archives at the General Sciences Library of the Ho Chi Minh city – a library that was originally a part of the Office of the French Resident Superior’s library – under the code number 10511 – this set had been microfilmed for the second time in 1975, and bound into two volumes.
    Originally, this same set that consisted at that time of 10 volumes, had been microfilmed by the Archaeology Institute under the code number VAPNHY on May 24, 1962 (2) at the Alpha Film Enterprise in former Saigon. However, this microfilm lacks page 94 and has page 95 in double (due to a technical defect).

c. There exists also an odd volume of 120 bound pages, kept under the code number HE18a, that has been microfilmed under the code number SN/495 with a length of 5m5, and that bears the seal of the Indochina Central Library on which one can see the number 17924.
    This is the set kept as archives at the Hanoi National Library. Worthy of attention is the fact that in the right corner of the first page, figures a dedication by H. OGER’s own handwriting, dedicating the book to Governor General ALBERT SARRAUT which reads as follows: “Respectfully offered to Governor General Albert Sarraut to pay my debt of gratitude for your Excellency’s kind attention vis-aø-vis my works of research (3). City of Vinh, March…, 1912. Henri Oger”.

d. We haven’t got a chance to find out about it from other sources, specially in Paris, but, in the french capital, Professor PIERRE HUARD (4) has had confirmations as follows:
     “This work published in Vietnam had not followed any copyright deposit procedures, therefore, not even one copy was deposited at the National Library in Paris. However, thanks to the kind understanding of the Vietnamese authorities (of former Saigon), I’ve got a copy photocopied from the main copy under code number 10511 of the Library of the Cochinchinese Resident Superior’s Office.
    TheÉcole Française d’Extrême-Orient” also has a copy thanks to the help of the Photographies Service – Central Department of Documents pertaining to the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)”.

    H. OGER’s work has been wood-engraved and has taken the shapes of small woodcuts that are later on printed on large size rice paper (65 x 42cm); its 700 pages have been arranged unsystematically and disorderly, each page contains about 6 paintings, some of them are numbered with Roman figures, accompanied by legends in chinese characters, but all of them are disorderly arranged. The number of copies published is extremely
limited: only 15 sets and one odd volume. Each set has been bound into 7, 8, or 10 fascicles. At the present time, there exist only two sets and one odd volume in Vietnam (5).

… Updating …

(1)  We’ve eliminated the duplicate copies and the ones showing too tiny instruments that couldn’t be identified clearly.
(2) a. We’ve learned that Mr. PHAN HUY THUY, a cultural researcher and a former headofficial at the Archaeological Institute, had paid attention to that set of sketches and had sent the microfilm to the States (circa 1972) to have it developed into several other copies. But, as the cost was too high, his
intention to send such copies to all professional schools and art schools didn’t materialize. Later on, The Van Hanh University had used the said microfilm to develop into small photos to send to specialists inland and abroad. Researcher NGUYEN DON had been in touch with this microfilm very early.
b. In Paris, well-known researchers such as Mr. HOANG XUAN HAN, NGUYEN TRAN HUAN, and PIERRE HUARD probably have had the aforesaid microfilm.
(3) A Monsieur le Gouverneur Général SARRAUT en hommage respectueux pour le bienveillant intérêt qu’il veut bien apporter à mes études. Vinh le … Mars 1912. Henri Oger.
(4) PIERRE HUARD: A french Orientalist, coauthor with the Orientalist MAURICE DURAND of the well-known work entitled “Learning about Vietnam (Connaissance du Vietnam)”, published in 1954 in Hanoi. PIERRE HUARD – Le pionnier de la technologie vietnamienne (The pioneer in vietnamese technology) – HENRI OGER – B.E.F.E.O. – TL VII 1970, pages 215,217.
(5) We have got in touch with these two sets at two great libraries: The Hanoi National Library (in 1985) and the Saigon National Library (in 1962). This latter set is still kept as archives at the General Sciences Library in Ho Chi Minh city (We have seen it again in 1984).

06 /2020

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