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Vietnam's 19th-Century Boats, Courtesy of an Artsy French Lieutenant

With over 3,200 kilometers of coastline, it makes perfect sense that Vietnam has a long and complex relationship with the sea. Whether fishing, fighting or traveling, the country's boats are a reflection of its history and the influence which water has had on its development over centuries.

In an article posted to French anthropological journal Techniques & Culture, writer Jean-Claude Amos uncovers a series of drawings by French lieutenant François-Edmond Pâris, who traveled the world between 1826 and 1840. While on his round-the-world journey, the young voyager managed to sketch hundreds of exotic boats, including several of Vietnam's earlier vessels.

According to Amos, Pâris was fascinated not only by the aesthetics of Vietnam's boats but their overall design, documenting every detail of a vessel's construction and features. The range is pretty impressive: from grand European-style pirate ships to the signature wooden fishing boats you still find in the Mekong today, Pâris captured 19th-century Vietnam through its vessels. The following sketches feature boats from across the country, from Mekong fishing vessels to the regal ships of central Vietnam, heart of the Nguyen dynasty at the time.

Some 19th-century boats took their shape from the Chinese vessels of that time.

Unlike the Mekong Delta, fishing boats in central Vietnam featured large nets attached to bamboo poles.

Like many of their modern-day counterparts, the 19th-century fishing boats of the Mekong Delta were brightly-colored and featured a pair of eyes on their bow.

With a heavy French influence, turn-of-the-19th-century wooden vessels like this one were used in the 1799 Battle of Quy Nhon that helped Emperor Gia Long establish the Nguyen dynasty.

The ear-shaped bamboo sails of ghe manh boats at Cua Lo, a port in central Vietnam.

[Photos via Techniques & Culture]


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