Vietnam 100 years ago: Annamite ladies pantaloons and black teeth


Upon market days, the crowd is very great and the spectacle a curious one, and long lines of women go by carrying their goods in baskets suspended to the two ends of a bamboo which rests on the shoulders.

They wear turbans, and most of them are attired in long smocks, while others wear pantaloons, which, it is said, Minh-Mang ordered to be worn in order to check the licentiousness which prevailed.

This edict was so untimely that it led to a bloody revolt. Jealous of their rights and their mode of dress, the Annamite women have very distinct characteristices, and it is only with them that one sees the indolent carriage which they affect, with their thighs outstretched and their haunches moving as in the dance.

This natural attitude, due in the main to their conformation, is perhaps one of the most marked characteristics of the race of the Giao-Chi, which is quite distinct from the Chinese.

They have good busts, and the face would often be pleasing if they could hide the mouth; but the new-comer is horrified to see their thick, swollen and split lips open and display a cavity with black teeth, often very decayed, and what looks like bloody saliva.

Still more surprised is he when this cavity opens to let drop into the mouth of two or three children some half-masticated rice. Yet there is nothing but what is natural in all this. The black is due to the habit of
lacquering the teeth and the red to the chewing of the betel-nut, while as to masticating the children’s food in advance, I have heard the doctors say that it is a very good plan.

After a few months’ time, one grows accustomed to anything, and as these Annamite ladies put up with our white teeth — dog’s teeth, as they call them — I hope they will excuse my remarks.

Read more:
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Vietnam 100 years ago: Annamite ladies pantaloons and black teeth

Text: Prince Henri d’Orléans (1867-1901)
Around Tonkin and Siam
Publication date: 1894
Publisher: London, Chapman & Hall
Photo: old photo from internet


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