I posted a while ago (here) about a geographical text which was produced in the late nineteenth or (more likely) the early twentieth century which was unique in that it talked about the various “races” (nhân chủng) in Vietnam.

The idea of “race” (chủng) is a concept which was unknown to Vietnamese prior to their contact with Western ideas. This text appears to me to be an early effort to employ this concept.

However, the way it is employed is very interesting. The text talks about the various “nhân chủng” in the country, but it is unclear what, if any, criteria it uses for categorizing people. What is more, the information provided about peoples is extremely derogatory.

The text divides the various savages and aborigines according to the three sections (kỳ) of the country, which is another sign that this text was written during the colonial period. I’m providing below a translation of some of the peoples in Bắc Kỳ. I’ll try to translate more later.

Races of Man [i.e., “savages”] and Thổ [i.e., “aborigines”] from the Three Regions [三畿人蠻土人種]

There are 12 tribes of Thổ people [土人] who live in the mountain forests: the Hoàng, Ma, Hà, Ấu (?), Triệu, Điêu/Đeo, Trùng, Mao, Xích, Mạn, Nảy and Điếu. It is traditionally told that they have an immortal dog as their founding ancestor and that they emerged during the time of the Hùng kings.

Among the Nùng people [儂人], those who live on the mountain tops are the Môi tribe. Those who live half on the mountains and half in the forests are the Nương tribe. Those who live deep in the mountains and always wear white robes and turbans are the Na tribe.

Man people [蠻人]

The men are treacherous and overbearing. The women use white [cloth] for their clothing.

Mạnh people [猛人]

Their temperaments are evil. They can curse people. The women completely use white for their clothing. They live in the mountain caves of Bảo Lạc

Dao people [猺人]

By nature they are very treacherous. They can harm people with poisonous plants and sheep ??? (?). They live in the mountain grottoes of Bắc Cạn.

Mường people [亻/芒人]

The men like to murder people and eat their livers and gall bladders. They can trick people and take their belongings. They live in the grottoes of Thủy Vĩ.

Mọi people [/每人]

For their clothing they entirely use black material with red on the edges. They live in the valleys and grottoes of Phân Mao Ridge in Lạng Sơn.

Bề people [佊人]

They use multi-colored cloth for their clothing. [Residing] deep in the mountains, they eat raw food, and are not afraid of evil things. They live on Thiên Môn Ridge and Mount Lão Quân.