Morragotwong Phumplab

Department of History, National University Of Singapore




An Nam Phong Tuc Sach (The book of Annamese customs): Language, Traditional customs and cultural habits of the Vietnamese villagers in the 20th century


Language signifies the existence of society and culture of the human race, while society and culture play a crucial role in the preservation of language. The correlation between language and culture is linked to beliefs, traditions, customs, folklores and cultural habits of different societies. As language changed over time, it is reflected by shifts in beliefs, traditions and customs of the group and society. In Vietnam, not only was the tradition and custom of the court recorded, the stories of ordinary people was also written through different patterns of language such as poems, proverbs, taboos and narrations. “An Nam Phong Tuc” or “The Book of Annamese Custom” is one crucial source in which we can glean the images of the Vietnamese people in the twentieth century. This book is the official record written by Mr. Mai Vien Doan Trien (1854 - 1919), a Confucianist and a high official ranking in the administration of the Nguyen Dynasty. “An Nam Phong Tuc Sach” narrates the Vietnamese villager's key customs in a typical circle of a year, folklore, worldview and ideology. Furthermore, it exhibits the everyday customs, habits and taboos of the common people.

From the perspective of cultural linguistics, this paper focuses on two key aspects – first, the narration of the Annamese (Vietnamese) traditional customs and cultural  habits from Vietnamese literature “An Nam Phong Tuc”; second, how the use of language reflects culture.