The Hanoi Museum has promoted the collection of additional artefacts and documents added to the permanent display established in 2018. The source material of author Samuel Baron, stored at the National Libraries of France and the Netherlands, has been contacted by the Hanoi Museum and exploited the copyright for display. These materials and documents are a valuable source of information which describes the truth about all aspects of the lives of the people of Thang Long-Ke Cho (late 17th century).

Samuel Baron was born in Ke Cho to a Dutch father and a Vietnamese mother, one of many Vietnamese women who married foreign merchants during the flourishing period of the century's international trade in the 17th-18th centuries. Baron's knowledge of Tonkin became a vital advantage for his employment with the East India Company (EIC). Documents show that he was the one who played a role in the negotiation process for the British to set up a trading post at Ke Cho. In 1678 - 1682, Samuel Baron was present in Ke Cho and recorded the customs here. In 1685, he wrote A Description of the Kingdom of Tonqueen, one of the most valuable books written by a Westerner about Vietnam.One of Samuel Baron's vital records is the custom of celebrating the Lunar New Year of the Thang Long-Ke Cho people. This document helps us to have a better understanding of the traditional culture of our ancestors.

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Painting depicting Tet activities in Tonkin drawn by Samuel Baron (including cock fighting, stilt walking and swinging)Source: National Library of France

According to Samuel Baron, the Lunar New Year celebration lasts a week and is the biggest festival for Thang Long-Ke Cho throughout the year. On that occasion, in addition to singing and dancing and other entertainment (cock fighting, stilts, etc.), they also played many games such as kickball or swinging, and men showed off their strength and ingenuity. At the same time, the troupes performed magic tricks, and puppetry.

Description: Text Box: Tranh mô tả các hoạt động ngày tết ở Đàng Ngoài do Samuel Baron vẽ (gồm: chọi gà, đi cà kheo, đánh đu…)
Nguồn: Thư viện Quốc gia Pháp

Paintings depicting Tet activities in Tonkin drawn by Samuel Baron (including magic, walking on ropes, playing games, etc.)Source: National Library of France

In addition, people also organized to play “hất phết” or mud ball wrestling (prevalent games in the Thang Long) and to swing on swings erected in most streets, magic tricks showing their ingenuity which were held everywhere, including the Citadel.Ke Cho people would prepare for Tet as solemnly as possible because these are the year's most important holidays. Depending on the circumstances, people try to impress their neighbours in the three or four days of Tet. During the celebration, people dress up and eat freely; everyone treats relatives and friends well to avoid being known as stingy and mean. So even though they know that spending money on this occasion will lead to difficulties in the year, they don't mind.On the first day of Tet, no one goes out on the street (except for those with public jobs). Everyone stays at home and only approaches close relatives and family members. Everyone at the beginning of the year abstains from borrowing because they are superstitious and afraid of money: the first day they give someone something, the whole year has to continue until finally, they have to beg. The custom of not going out on the street also has a reason: fear that the whole year will be miserable and challenging if you go out to the street and meet a bad omen.On the second day, people congratulate each other on Tet and greet their superiors to fulfil their obligations; Soldiers and servants also celebrate the age of a Mandarin or a homeowner. However, according to the ritual, the mandarins go to the king on the first day.These are just short notes about Samuel Baron's feelings about the Lunar New Year. In addition, he also has other quite detailed details to help us learn about aspects of social life in Thang Long-Ke Cho during the 17th century, such as institutions, laws, currency, military power, customs, pastimes, euthanasia, religion, funerals, products, etc. The Hanoi Museum will introduce these important documents to the display soon.


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