Mechanics and Crafts of the People of Annam


Henri J. Oger was a colonial administrator in French Indochina with a deep admiration for the people and culture of Vietnam, or Annam, as the French then called it. In 1908−9 he commissioned artists and wood carvers to visit the 36 streets of Hanoi and the surrounding countryside in order to document the material culture, methods of production, and cultural practices of the common people. The artists sketched 4,200 scenes and produced wood engravings from which prints were made. Oger assembled the prints to create the multivolume Technique du peuple Annamite (Mechanics and crafts of the people of Annam). The entire work consists of the illustrations with annotated captions written in Vietnamese demotic script. The subjects covered included such traditional occupations as agriculture, commerce, paper making, sculpture, gastronomy, construction, fortune-telling, painting, and folk medicines; weddings, funerals, worship, and important holidays, such as the lunar Tet festival; and forms of entertainment, such as shuttle-cock kicking, card playing, folk song singing, kite flying, and butterfly catching. Shown here, from the collections of the National Library of Vietnam, is a volume of Oger’s work. This copy is signed by Oger on the cover and presented to the governor-general of French Indochina, Albert Pierre Sarraut.

Last updated: April 3, 2015