Vietnam 100 years ago: typical appearance, behavior, dress

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The Annamite is generally of small stature (average height, 5 ft. 2 in.), but well proportioned, and brachycephalic. He has prominent cheek bones, slanting eyes, straight, black hair and sparse beard.

Owing to climatic and other conditions, the Annamites in Tonkin have become differentiated from their kinsmen in the south.

The northern type is stouter and more energetic than his southern brethren, who often are rather delicate and somewhat effeminate. The northern and southern types also differ in dress.

North of the Gate of Annam (La Porte d’ Annam), men and women generally wear brown-colored clothing and the women wrap the hair in turbans, while in the south the dress is more colorful, the women wearing tunics in bright colors and using a sheer silk scarf as headgear.

The region of Hue, the capital of Annam, is reputed for the beauty and grace of its women, as well as their aptitude for the fine arts, music, and poetry /…/

In his behavior, the average Annamite is reserved, ceremonious, and cautious. He is generally capable of great self-control, and though, as a rule, he does not ostentatiously express his feelings, he judges severely those who antagonize him, especially by vulgar or brutal manners, is prone to catch and capitalize the ridiculous, and has a certain sense of humor. Temperamental persons are thoroughly disliked.

The Annamite is exceedingly frugal. His food consists mainly of rice, some vegetables, a little fish, and a seasoning called nuoc-mam, a “fish sauce” rich in vitamins and calories. On more festive occasions, he may add some meat such as pork or duck to his menu. He is very seldom seen drunk, is not a great smoker, but enjoys chewing the betel nut with lime.

In some of the overcrowded areas, as, for example, in the delta of Tonkin, a considerable proportion of the local population suffers periodically from undernourishment.

Abstract from the book:
The peoples of French Indocina
By Olov R.T. Janse
Published by the Smithsonian Institution, 1944
Photo: old photo from internet

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