Vietnam’s capital city is full of museums, from military and political museums to the wonderful Vietnamese Women’s Museum to the fascinating Museum of Ethnology. The last highlights the traditional practices, crafts, and architecture of the country’s ethnic groups, especially those from the northern and central highlands of Vietnam. The ethnology museum also stages productions of water puppetry, a unique and ancient art that originated in the flooded rice fields of northern Vietnam.
The stage for a water puppet show: Performers behind the bamboo screens control wooden puppets that float on the water in front of screens
Water puppet shows typically depict rural scenes, such as a scuffle between two water buffalo
A man tries to chop the head off a snake
A magic golden turtle
The puppeteers take a bow after the show
Water puppetry originated in northern Vietnam, and the secrets of how to build and control the puppets were closely guarded by each family-based troupe
Classic water puppets on display in the Ethnology Museum
Two farmers plowing rice fields with their buffalo
At another water puppet show we attended in Hanoi, old puppets were on display in the lobby
Francesca wasn't sure about this guy!
The Ethnology Museum honors traditional bicycle peddlers, including one who piled a bike with an enormous load of fish and eel traps
On its grounds, the museum displays traditional rural houses from many of Vietnam's ethnic groups. This was the home of a prosperous Viet family in the 19th century.
The main hall of the house includes an altar for worshiping the family's ancestors.
Next to the altar is the family's dining area (they sat on the big platform and ate off the small platform)
A separate building housed the kitchen, with its small hearth
Wood blocks used for making traditional Dong Ho "good luck" prints
Modern apartment houses tower over a traditional house of the Cham ethnic group
The most amazing building at the Ethnology Museum is this 60-foot-high men's communal house from the Bahnar ethnic group in Vietnam's Central Highlands
Inside the Bahnar men's house; the higher the house, the greater the village's stature
A drum hanging from one the Bahnar house's huge beams
The Ede people, also from the Central Highlands, build long instead of tall. This traditional Ede longhouse stretches 137 feet.
The Ede are a matrilineal society, and some of their decorative carvings reflect that.
An Ede longhouse is home to the families of the daughters and granddaughters of an extended family. Floors are made of split bamboo.
The kitchen hearth
Big jars for making grain alcohol (much like the stuff that Chris drank when lunching with the teachers from the rural school in Laos)
A traditional tomb of the Giarai ethnic group from the Central Highlands
The carved figures, intended to accompany the dead person into the afterlife, are symbols of family fertility
A very different tomb of the Katu people of central Vietnam
This low, long house with wooden shingles (which can be moved to provide light) was built by a Hmong family in northern Vietnam
Inside the Hmong house
A traditional small village forge (the handle on the upper left is used to pump the cylindrical bellows)
A stilted house of the Yao people of northern Vietnam
A series of bamboo pipes and covered troughs for watering fields
This house and stable of the Hani people of northern Vietnam were built for a cold mountain climate, with thick walls and no windows. They're very dark inside.