A rare collection of photographs made their way online this month detailing streetview scenes of Hue in 1919. The 100+ year old photos document life around the Citadel and the communities of the former imperial capital.
At this point, the penultimate emperor of Nguyen Dynasty, Khai Dinh was in his second year of reign. Khai Dinh would rule Vietnam under the French regime who worked to further establish their control of Indochine. Khai Dinh was the first emperor to fully cooperate with the French colonialists which would in return provide a long period of financial gain and prosperity within the nation. Not that all was well peaceful among the Vietnamese population. A growth in nationalism and anti-colonial sentiment produced pockets of resistance to the French that steadily grew over the succeeding decades.
Despite only being two years into his reign, Khai Dinh would begin construction on his tomb the following year in 1920. Khai Dinh would die in 1925 from tuberculosis and would be succeeded by his son Bao Dai.
Regardless of the beginnings of civil unrest and colonial oppression, the photos depicted here echo the serene landscapes of Hue as well as a glimpse of life during peaceful moments in Annam.
The photos are from a French publication titled “Annam 1919 – French Indochina”. Unfortunately, the photographs are uncredited.
A musician plays the Đàn tranh (captioned here as the Đàn thập lục). A sixteen-stringed instrument of the zither family.
Presumed siblings passing through an arch typical of the many dynasty-era buildings.
Hue’s most iconic bridge, Cầu Trường Tiền was once named thành thái bridge after the monarch it was built under.
The tower of Thiên Mụ, Hue’s most prominent pagoda, stems above the treeline.
Even today, the landscapes behind the Hương river produce fantastic sunsets.
The walls and entrance to Nam Giao esplanade where emperors would visit annually to pray for the prosperity of the nation.
The Phủ Cam canal was once lined with thick canopy and foliage. These days, the canal is surrounded by the roads and houses of Hue city, whose suburbs now reach far beyond this area.
Hue’s peripheries are occupied by countless amounts of tombs, where burial rites and rituals dedicated to deceased ancestors are still practiced more rigorously than other regions of Vietnam.
In 1919, wood was still a primary source of power for the Vietnamese people before the availability of coal briquettes and electricity.
Until recent decades, Sampans were a common sight on the canals and the rivers of Hue.
A traditional musical troupe of various musicians in formal garb. Musicians would often be employed by the court to entertain the emperor.
A woman and a baby descend the steps of what appears to be Thiên Mụ pagoda.
An abode tucked away in a rural area of Hue.
A mobile pig trader negotiates with residents of a hamlet.
While this caption has been loosely translated, we can all agree it isn’t in the best of tastes. The Hương River has been a life force for the Hue inhabitants since the beginning of theh city’s very foundations.
One of the nine archways into the Hue imperial City.
While their legacy now only exists in statues and decorative arts, elephants in Hue during the Nguyen Dynasty were a common sight.
Contrary to village life depicted in other photos of this collection, this photo shows the property of a rich family, Possibly a relative to the emperor or a mandarin. Many garden houses and homes like the one pictured still exist today, albeit in varying states.