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Historical Research and Data Processing on Ancient Vietnamese Inscriptions

Project description

Digital analysis of ancient Vietnamese inscriptions

The discovery of 40 000 paper stampings reproducing the inscriptions on columns erected between the 16th and 20th century in Vietnam offers a unique opportunity for the study of the Vietnamese society during this period. The inscriptions are written in an idiom that comprises Chinese and local vernacular. These inscriptions are invaluable for the richness in information they contain. The EU-funded VIETNAMICA project will analyse the material to study rural society, religion approaches and economic structures during the five centuries covered by the inscriptions. Popular Buddhism, woman’s role in the gift economy, land ownership and monetisation will be among the studies the project pursues. The stampings will be analysed and studied through advanced digitalised instruments and techniques.


Driven by a general movement in Asia to invest in Classical studies, the project Vietnamica aims for a historical and linguistic study of ancient, invaluable Vietnamese inscriptions, while also helping to determine a ground-breaking method for the use of epigraphic resources. In partnership with Han-Nôm Institute and Vietnam National University, the project is motivated by the recent divulgence of 40,000 paper stampings that reproduce the inscriptions engraved on the surfaces of 25,000 steles erected between the 16th to 20th century in Vietnam. These inscriptions, written in a complex Chinese embedded with the local vernacular, are conserved at the Han-Nôm Institute in Hanoi.
Offering an unexpected counterpoint to existing official sources, these inscriptions prompt the study of rural inhabitants, monks and notables across an era of five centuries through their very own language. The project will produce a series of studies on popular Buddhism and its connection to the ancestor cult, donations and the role of women in the economy of gifting, and monetization and land property. Based on these themes, the project will record and analyze the logographic processes that the Vietnamese once used to transcribe the language they spoke. Such research - close to the field and to its people - was once a dream for scholars, and is now possible due to the corpus of stampings available. Characteristic of local histories, information is dispersed in fragments all throughout the corpus and it is first necessary to categorize the existing inscriptions. Vietnamica will rely on tools available through digital and computational humanities to construct a database of the stampings, connect it to data mapping, and on a more technical level, proceed with a segmentation of the text to allow for the automatic identification of the demotic characters. The results from the project will converge on a Platform ( that is meant to remain accessible to researchers indefinitely.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 924 441,50
75014 Paris

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Ile-de-France Ile-de-France Paris
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 924 441,50

Beneficiaries (2)