Annamite Montagnards


I was reading an article that a French military officer wrote in the early twentieth century about the various peoples who lived along the basin of the Sông Lô, or Rivière Claire, in the area of what is today northern Vietnam.

There are a couple of points about this article that I find interesting. First of all, it indicated that the Vietnamese (Annamites was the term he used) referred to themselves as “người An Nam” or as “Kinh.”


This is both interesting and frustrating. It is interesting because I have long been trying to find out when the term “Kinh” started to be used. I can’t find it in pre-20th-century sources in Hán or Nôm. So it is interesting to find it here.

However, it is also frustrating to find it here because the author indicates that the term “người An Nam” was also used, and I can’t find much evidence to support that point in pre-20th-century Hán or Nôm sources either. I can find the term mentioned here and there, but not a lot.

Annamites montagards

More interesting to me is what this author said about the Kinh who lived in this mountainous area. Basically what he says is that they had “gone native.” They lived in houses on stilts, carried their babies on their backs and wore turbans and belts in lively colors like the Montagnards (or mountain people) in the region.

Indeed, this author even referred to these Kinh who had gone native as “Annamites montagnards” (or Kinh mountain people), and he pointed out that they dispelled the myth that people like the Kinh and the Thái and Mán can’t get along.


[Commandant Bonifacy, “Les groupes ethniques du bassin de la Rivière Claire (Haut-Tonkin et Chine Méridionale),” Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’anthropologie de Paris V Série, tome 7 (1906) 296-330.

3 Responses to “Annamite Montagnards”

  1. Thanks for this posting! I read in this paragraph echoes of EFFO’s questionaire-based ethnographic surveys on ethnic groups of mountain people based on their languages, living regions and customs,.which started in 1903. Do you have any idea about the implication of this author when he tried to prove the good relationship between ethnic groups: lowlanders and highlanders?

  2. To be honest, I haven’t read enough of what he wrote to be able to say for sure. It doesn’t look to me like he was trying to make a big point. He was just recording something that he noticed. If I read more of what he wrote maybe I’ll be able to see more of a purpose to that comment, but at the moment it looks to me like he was just recording what he saw.

  3. 3 Ego-I

    I see there’s a similarity in sound and tone between ”Kinh” and ”Keo”, a term that Tai-speaking people use to refer to inhabitants of what today is red river plain and it’s ultimately derived from the name of an ancient Chinese prefecture.

    But as you claim that there’s no pre-20th-century sources mention about this name, then it may be coined out very recent.

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