Viet-Nam, Civilization and Culture – THE CRAFTSMEN

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By PIERRE HUARD1
(Honour Member of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient)
and MAURICE DURAND2
(Member of the École Française d’Extrême-Orient3)
Revised 3rd edition 1998, Imprimerie Nationale Paris,

     Beside those devoting themselves to alimentation and clothing techniques (see chapters XIV, XV, XVI), the craftsmen maybe divided as follows :

1° Craftsmen working on metals (tinmen, bronze-founders, jewellers, niellists, coins casters, arms manufacturers);
2° Ceramist craftsmen (potters, earthenware makers, porcelain manufacturers, tile-makers, brick-makers);
3° Craftsmen working on wood (joiners, cabinet-makers, carpenters, printers, paper-makers, marine carpenters, sculptors);
4° Craftsmen performing textile works (cotton weavers, jute, ramie or silk weavers, basket-makers, sail-makers, rope-makers, parasol makers, mat-makers, bag-makers, blind-makers, hat-makers, cloak-makers and hammock-makers);

5° Craftsmen working on leather (tanners and shoe-makers);
6° Lacquerware craftsmen;
7° Wood and stone sculptors;
8° Craftsmen working on shells, horn and ivory;
9° Craftsmen manufacturing objects of worship.

     A greater part of these craftsmen were free-workers. But the Huế Court didn’t distinguish the artist from the craftsman and had genuine state workshops comprising embroiderers, inlayers, niellists, lacquerers, sculptors, ivory-workers and jewellers.

     Vietnamese tools are simple, light, easy to make, perfectly adapted to problems which a clever crafsman has to solve in being patient and not trying to economize his time.

      Screws and bolts are often replaced by wood-corners. Tools of a very current use are: levers, trestles, wood-splitting wedges, weding press, [Page 188] toothed wheels, axle-tree and locomotory wheels, hydraulic force (water-mills, rice-husking pounders), pedal human motors, sowing-harrows, small wheels and pistons (which the origin seemed to go back to a south-oriental synthetic culture within which sino-vietnamese culture would have specialized itself).

     Mercier has well emphasized these tools’ characteristics. But, we are far from having, on this subject, the equivalent to Rudolf Hummer’s China at work.

     Craftsmen are at the same time tradesmen. Like Romans and medieval europeans, they keep their accounts without utilizing pen and ink calculations. Such calculations were replaced by the chinese abacus. One attributes to Lương Thế Vinh (doctor in 1463) an arithmetical work entitled “Toán pháp đại thành(Complete calculation method) that could have been the alteration of a book by Vũ Hũu, one of his contemporaries, treating with the use of the abacus. Chinese tradesmen still use the abacus, but their vietnamese colleagues seem to have abandoned it. Despierres has made a recent study of it.

    Shop-signs sometimes indicate the owners’ names. They often reproduce only a trade name, consisting of two, sometimes of three chinese characters (or their latin transcriptions) considered as auspicious.

    The character xương (chinese transcription tch’ang) that signifies “splendour” and “prosperity” gives Vĩnh Phát Xương “everlasting flourishing prosperity” or Mỹ Xương “charming splendour”. Other trade names maybe Vạn Bảo (ten thousand jewels), Đại Hưng (great growth), Quý Ký (noble mark) and Yên Thành (perfect peace).
A frequent practice among tradesmen was that of đõt vía đốt van.

      Clients may have at one time the vía lành or vía tốt (good soul, favorable heart), at another time the vía xấu or vía dữ (bad, wicked souls). If the first client’s heart is xấu or dữ he gets out of the shop without buying anything, after a lengthy bargaining, thus, the following clients might very well imitate him.

     In such a case, the shop-owner must stave off the disaster in cutting and burning seven little pieces of straw of his own hat if the client is a man, and nine pieces, if the client happens to be a woman. He pronounces at the same time the following incantation :

             Đốt vía, đốt van, đốt thằng rắn gan, đốt con rắn ruột, lành vía thì ở, dữ vía thì đi.
         “I burn the souls, I burn the hard-livered man, the woman with a cruel heart, and wish that good souls shall remain and bad ones shall go away.”

       Actuated by that same superstition, each time when they start an operation, the pirates kill the first passer-by they meet with.

Bibliography

+  J. Silvestre. Notes to be used in the research and classification of monies and medals of Annam and French Cochin-china (Saigon, Imprimerie nationale, 1883).
+  G.B. Glover. The plates of Chinese, Annamese, Japanese, Korean coins, of the coins used as amulets of the Chinese government and private notes (Noronha and Co Hongkong, 1895).

+  Lemire. Ancient and modern arts and cults of Indochina (Paris, Challamel). Conference made on Dec. 29 at the Sociéte francaise des Ingénieurs coloniaux.
+  Désiré Lacroix. Annamese numismatics, 1900.
+  Pouchat. Joss-sticks industry in Tonquin, in Revue Indochinoise, 1910–1911.

+  Cordier. On annamese art, in Revue Indochinoise, 1912.
+  Marcel Bernanose. Art workmen in Tonquin (Decoration of metal, Jewellers), in Revue Indochinoise, N.s. 20, July–December 1913, p. 279–290.
+  A. Barbotin. Firecrackers industry in Tonquin, in Bulletin Economique de l’Indochine, September–October 1913.

+  R. Orband. Art bronzes of Minh Mạng, in BAVH, 1914.
+  L. Cadière. Art in Huế, in BAVH, 1919.
+  M. Bernanose. Decorative arts in Tonquin, Paris, 1922.
+  C. Gravelle. Annamese art, in BAVH, 1925.

+  Albert Durier. Annamese decoration, Paris 1926.
+  Beaucarnot (Claude). Ceramic technological elements for the use of ceramic sections of art schools in Indochina, Hanoi, 1930.
+  L Gilbert. Industry in Annam, in BAVH, 1931.
+  Lemasson. Information on fish-breeding methods in the tonquinese delta, 1993, p.707.

+  H. Gourdon. Art of Annam, Paris, 1933.
+  Thân Trọng Khôi. Lifting wheels of Quảng Nam and paddles norias of Thừa Thiên, 1935, p. 349.
+  Guilleminet. Norias of Quảng Ngãi, in BAVH, 1926.
+  Guilleminet. Soya base preparations in Annamese’s alimention, in Bulletin économique de l’Indochine, 1935.
+  L. Feunteun. Artificial hatching of duck’s eggs in Cochinchina, in Bulletin Economique de l’Indochine, 1935, p. 231.

[214]

+  Rudolf P. Hummel. China at work, 1937.
+  Mercier, Annamese craftsmen’s tools, in BEFEO, 1937.
+  R.P.Y. Laubie. Popular imagery in Tonquin, in BAVH, 1931.
+  P. Gourou. Village industry in the Tonquinese delta, International congress of Geography, 1938.

+  P. Gourou. Chinese anise-tree in Tonquin (communiqué of agricultural services in Tonquin), 1938, p. 966.
+  Ch. Crevost. Conversations on working classes in Tonquin, 1939.
+  G. de Coral Remusat. Annamese art, Moslem arts, in Extreme-Orient, Paris, 1939.
+  Nguyễn Văn Tố. Human face in annamese art, in CEFEO, N°18, 1st trimester 1939.

+  Henri Bouchon. Indigenous working classes and complementary crafts, in Indochine, 26 sept. 1940.
+  X… — Charles Crevost. An animator of tonquinese Working class, in Indochine, Juin 15, 1944.
+  Công nghệ thiệt hành (practical industries), in Revue de Vulgarisation, Saigon, 1940.
+  Passignat. The masters-Iacquerers of Hanoi, in Indochine February 6, 1941.

+  Passignat. Lacquer, in Indochine, Dec. 25, 1941.
+  Passignat. Ivory, in Indochine, January 15, 1942.
+  Serene (R.) An Annamese traditional technique: Woodcut, in Indochine, Oct. 1st, 1942.
+  Nguyễn Xuân Nghi alias Từ Lâm, Lược khảo mỹ thuật Việt Nam (Outline of Vietnamese Art), Hanoi, Thuỵ-ký printinghouse, 1942.

+  L. Bezacier. Essay on Annamese art, Hanoi, 1944.
+  Paul Boudet. Annamese paper, in Indochine, Jan. 27 and Feb. 17, 1944.
+  Mạnh Quỳnh. Origin and signification of popular woodcuts of Tet, in Indochine, Feb. 10, 1945.
+  Crevost et Petelot. Catalogue of products of Indochina, tome VI. Tannins and tinctorials (1941). [Vietnamese names of products are given].

+  Aug. Chevalier. First inventory of woods and other forest products of Tonquin, Hanoi, Ideo, 1919. (Vietnamese names are given).
+  Lecomte. The woods of Indochina, Agence Economique de l’Indochine, Paris, 1926.
+  R. Bulteau. Notes on the manufacturing of potteries in Bình Định province, in BAVH, 1927, p. 149 and 184 (contains a good list of various potteries of Bình Định and their figurations as well as their local names).
+  Despierres. Chinese abacus, in Sud-Est, 1951.

NOTES :
◊  Source: Connaisance du Viet Nam, PIERRE HUARD & MAURICE DURAND, Revised 3rd Edition 1998, Imprimerie Nationale Paris, École Française D’Extrême-Orient, Hanoi – Translated by VU THIEN KIM – NGUYEN PHAN ST Minh Nhat’s Archives.
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