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A Visual Homage to the Water Buffalo's Practical and Symbolic Importance in Vietnam

The second animal sign in the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese zodiac, trâu, has symbolic and practical importance in Vietnam.

A farmer and his buffalos in Yên Bái Province.

Buffalos have become of powerful icons because of the important role they have in the nation's history and economy. For much of history, they have been a farmer’s most valued possession, allowing them to be seen as family members and symbols of wealth in the countryside.

A woman looking after the family’s buffalos.

They were also essential to the success of Vietnam's revolutions against foreign invaders thanks to their ability to clandestinely transport materials across difficult terrains during times of war. 

The fields are a place for working and resting.

Folk proverbs such as “Con trâu là đầu cơ nghiệp” (a buffalo is a prerequisite for starting a business) and “Tậu trâu, lấy vợ, làm nhà” (Buying a buffalo, finding a wife, and building a home) reveal their prominence today, even if agricultural industrialization has made them less of a physical asset. They remain important images in literature, media, art and communications.

Grazing on a terrace field.

Moving with ease across a variety of natural and manmade terrain.

Their stubbornness is a virtue.

The family's four-legged pride and joy being brought through Mèo Vạc market.

Time to go home after a long day in the fields.

Ownership is obvious.

Adrien Jean, a long-term resident of Vietnam, has traveled and photographed throughout the country, documenting ethnic festivals and life in less-visited regions, but capturing the streets of Saigon is what inspires him the most. Learn more at his website.

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