Introduction The purpose of this slid show is to orient you in space and time. Looking at maps and understanding locations is easy enough, but it can be difficult for those of us in the West, especially Americans, to grasp the vast stretches of time over which Vietnamese history flows. This group of slides also emphasizes Vietnamese agriculture. The cultivation of rice has been the engine that drives Vietnamese history and culture for 3000 years. Understanding the relationship of the Vietnamese peasant cultivator of rice to his land is absolutely crucial to understanding Vietnamese history, including the wars of the 20 th century.
<ul><li>Features to make note of: </li></ul><ul><li>Red River </li></ul><ul><li>Mekong Delta </li></ul><ul><li>Hanoi </li></ul><ul><li>Haiphong </li></ul><ul><li>Da Nang </li></ul><ul><li>The DMZ </li></ul><ul><li>Hue </li></ul><ul><li>Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) </li></ul><ul><li>China </li></ul><ul><li>Laos </li></ul><ul><li>Cambodia </li></ul><ul><li>Gulf of Tonkin </li></ul>
For most of its history, the country of Vietnam lay within the oval on the map surrounding Hanoi. It was only in 1802 that Gia Long, the first emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty moved the capital from Hanoi to Hue. This move was made necessary because during the previous century Vietnamese leaders had been pushing southward and displacing native Khmer peoples in order to put more land under cultivation. The ultimate goal of this expansion was to control the extremely fertile land of the Mekong Delta.
This map shows a more detailed version of the expansion outlined in the previous slide.
Red River Delta The Red River delta is the birthplace of Vietnam. It has been inhabited by the Vietnamese for more than 3000 years. Hanoi is its main city, served by the seaport of Haiphong.
Mekong River Delta The Vietnamese refer to the delta as the “Nine Dragons. Originally inhabited by Khmer people, the delta was absorbed into Vietnam in the 18 th century BCE.
Wet Rice Agriculture The Vietnamese say their country is shaped like a carrying pole with rice baskets suspended from either end. The picture above shows a rice field in the Mekong Delta. Notice the trees along a canal for bringing water to the paddies. Both the Mekong & Red River deltas are crisscrossed by hundreds of such canals.
Left: 19 th century European drawing of two women transplanting young rice plants into a paddy; above: two women in modern Hoi An carrying empty rice baskets on shoulder poles.
Flooded rice paddies, dykes & large canal along the Red River in northern Vietnam. The invention of wet rice agriculture can be said to have created Vietnamese culture. (Refer to p. 9-10 in the Woods text for an overview of the importance rice in Vietnamese history.)
Upper left: Poling a small boat down a narrow canal; left: harvesting rice; above: transporting rice on a tributary of the Mekong River. Wet rice agriculture as it has been practiced in Vietnam over the centuries is a highly labor-intensive form of agriculture.
Vietnamese folk art often presents an idealized image of village life. In a world where subsistence is difficult, such images encode the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people. Activities in the picture, reading from top to bottom: rice threshing & hulling, plowing & planting, transplanting, & preparing the paddies for the next crop.
People & animals – even plants! – are depicted as being fat & happy.
Clockwise from upper left: Iconic picture of a boy (shaded by a lotus leaf umbrella) riding a water buffalo while playing a flute; fat child with fat hen; healthy farm animals; villagers taking fish from a small pond. All these images present an idealized picture of peasant life that for most of Vietnamese history represent hope more than reality. Ho Chi Minh said that every family should have a garden, a fish pond & a pig.
Ironically, these drawings made by a French artist in the 19 th century depict the work of wet rice agriculture as much more difficult than the folk pictures. Notice how skinny the farmers are.
Clockwise from upper left: Rice harvest in the Mekong Delta; boy with water buffalo Red River Delta; rice field in the Red River Delta; old rice farmer, Mekong Delta. All photos 2001.
I hope this series of images has given you a sense of the physical aspects of Vietnamese reality. Join me in opening the doors to Understanding Vietnam.