Article: Classes and costumes in traditional Vietnamese society

 

In this article Dr Sud Chonchirdsin discusses class division and its associated costumes, illustrating this with several examples from the British Library. Please note enlarged versions of each image can be viewed by clicking on the relevant image.

In traditional Vietnamese society people were divided into four classes, similar to those found in Chinese and other East Asian Confucian societies. The tứ dân, or four social hierarchical classes, were scholars (sĩ), farmers (nông), craftsmen (công) and merchants (thương).

Vietnamese mandarins, both civil and military, were divided into nine grades and each grade was further subdivided into senior and junior levels. High ranking mandarins were distinguished by their official robes in purple or red, colours reserved for their class, while lower ranking officials wore blue robes. Commoners could only wear black, brown or white dyed costumes, as Harry A. Franck, an American travel writer, observed in Tonkin in 1923: “the Tonkinese were dressed in a cinnamon or tobacco-juice colour that suddenly became as universal as black had been further south … the country women, then their men, and finally all the hand-labouring class, took to wearing long cotton cloaks of this reddish brown hue” (Franck 1926: 191).

To read the full article visit the website of the British Library

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Event: Atayal Weavers of Taiwan Demonstration

Event dates: 11 May 2018 and 12 May 2018, British Library, London

The Atayal people of Taiwan are known for their ancient textile-weaving traditions. Join weavers Shu-li Lin and Hsiu-yu Chen for workshops and demonstrations exploring Atayal weaving techniques. This event is part of London Craft Week and has been organised in association with the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan.

Weaver Shu-li Lin is based in Miaoli County, Taiwan. She studied the Atayal tradition of dyeing and waving from the elders in her community, preserving their traditional weaving skills and techniques.  Combining Atayal dyeing skills with modern design elements in colour, texture and practice, her work explores environmental protection and sustainability.

Hsiu-yu Chen started weaving 12 years ago with hook and loom as a way to connect to her heritage and understand the experiences of the Atayal people, who made clothes and quilts using this method. The process of collecting the raw material, ramie, and then harvesting, cutting and peeling it, was deeply ingrained in her memories from childhood.

For further information on this free event visit the website of the London Craft Week