Skip to content
11 August 2019 / leggypeggy

History museum gives great overview of Vietnam

Ancient timber buddha

A 1600-year-old Buddha

It’s the rainy season in Vietnam, so Poor John and I have visited four museums in our first week here.

By far the best has been the Museum of Vietnamese History. Designed in the 1920s by French architect, Auguste Delaval, the colonial structure displays a combination of Indochinese and French architectural styles.

Garden outside Museum of Vietnamese History

Museum garden

The building and its gardens are located within Ho Chi Minh City’s picturesque Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The museum itself is home to about 30,000 artefacts dating from the early Vietnamese kingdoms to the present day. It represents all of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic groups, and also showcases ancient art from surrounding Asian countries.

There are plenty of Buddhas, including the most elegant, haunting and unusual Buddha statue I have ever seen (shown at top). It’s from the Mekong Delta, is about 1600 years old, almost three metres tall  and made of sao wood. This divine statue was declared a national treasure in 2013.


Amitabha Buddha

A year before that, another Buddha statue was declared a national treasure. The Amitabha Buddha is from the Hanoi region and was carved in 1057. It is the largest, most ancient and most intact stone Buddha in existence. It is typical of the Ly dynasty’s culture and art. The museum displays a replica.

Many other statues caught my eye. One was a jade image of a Kṣitigarbha. That’s a bodhisattva, or someone on the path to Buddhahood. A Kṣitigarbha is usually depicted as a Buddhist monk. Another was Tianhou, who became a popular Mother Goddess. She is worshipped in temples throughout the south of the country. We also liked the googly-eyed Buddha from Cambodia.

There’s also a plump, stylised lion from the 12th or 13th century and a head of the mythical bird, Garuda, from the 10th century. Both are carved from sandstone.

But the museum is way more than statues. In fact, it’s been on the receiving end of two important collections. Vuong Hong Sen was a famous researcher of culture and antiquities in South Vietnam. He donated his entire collection of about 800 items dating from the 10th to the 19th century. Likewise, the entire collection of Professor Duong Minh Thoi and his wife, Ha Thi Ngoc, was donated to the city by their daughter after both had died. These collections include pieces from the everyday to the elaborate. 

Games table, Vietnam

Games table and other items from a donated collection

There’s also household goods, tombhouse statues, coins, ancient tools, musical instruments, dioramas of ancient battle scenes, cannons and other weapons, stelae, drums, columns, and clothing. There’s even an unusual base of a lamp stand.

A timber door from the Pho Minh pagoda in the Red River Delta in northeast Vietnam dates from 1262. The door is carved with dragons, waves, foliage and geometric patterns. The museum displays a replica.

Tombhouse statues, Vietnam

The more beautiful the tombhouse statue, the more peacefully an ancestor ‘sleeps’

Overall, Poor John and I were impressed by the breadth of the exhibits, as well as the organisation and signage. Most items are explained in three languages—Vietnamese, English and French. A central exhibit area was being updated when we were there and, other than an overpowering smell of glue, the work was progressing quickly and professionally.

Royal clothing, Vietnam

Royal clothing


Leave a Comment
  1. gerard oosterman / Aug 11 2019 3:06 pm

    A great post. I would like one of those peaceful Tomb house to rest in.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kvivekhyd / Aug 11 2019 3:50 pm

    Beautiful statues! That they survived the war is in itself a miracle.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emma Cownie / Aug 11 2019 4:52 pm

    I loved the blue and white china, those tombstone statues and the royal clothing, it was all stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 5:08 pm

      I wish I’d been able to get a better pic of the clothing, but it’s hard when things are behind glass.
      P.S. I love blue and white china too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thewonderer86 / Aug 11 2019 5:28 pm

    A great way to spend time in the rain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 6:46 pm

      We thought so too, and managed to walk home without getting wet.


  5. Gilda Baxter / Aug 11 2019 5:55 pm

    Brian and I are planning to visit Vietnam in January or February, I hope it will be dry then. This museum looks fascinating and I will add it to my wish list. I love the Budha wooden statue, so unusual. I hope the rain will not stop your exploring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 6:47 pm

      We’re managing fine even with the rain. The rainy season should end in November so you should be able to stay dry.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. IreneDesign2011 / Aug 11 2019 5:58 pm

    Amazing photos, Peggy 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. fragglerocking / Aug 11 2019 6:30 pm

    Great photos and such an interesting museum.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 6:47 pm

      Really fascinating and a great introduction to the variety that is Vietnam.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. derrickjknight / Aug 11 2019 8:19 pm

    Fascinating and well photographed as ever – particularly not easy to cope with glass cases

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Eliza Ayres / Aug 11 2019 9:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. gigglingfattie / Aug 11 2019 9:41 pm

    I love both of the Buddha statues! I can’t believe the stone one is so old yet so intact and clear in its carving. Amazing! And that first one, WOW. You’re right to call it haunting. There is something just a little unsettling about it, even just looking at it from your picture. I’m sure the vibe was little more intense seeing it up close in person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 11 2019 10:45 pm

      I stood in front of that timber Buddha for ages. Such a remarkable piece.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gigglingfattie / Aug 11 2019 11:01 pm

        I would have too!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Carol Taloni / Aug 12 2019 1:24 am

    Hi Peggy
    Your photos of your travels continue to amaze me.
    They are stunning and your comments are superb.
    I am with you all the way. Seeing the world through your eyes
    is such a privilege, as you know I will never have the opportunity.
    Grateful thanks. Carol

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 1:53 am

      Oh Carol, thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It is so wonderful to have you travel along with us.


  12. Lynette d'Arty-Cross / Aug 12 2019 1:43 am

    Thanks for sharing – so interesting. I’m happy that so much was protected from the war. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 1:53 am

      Yes, it’s amazing how many ancient objects are on display in the museum.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. susan@onesmallwalk / Aug 12 2019 2:13 am

    LeggyPeggy – How nice to have such places to escape the rain (but is it less hot than at other seasons?). Love the yoga figure in that eternal outstretched pose! – Susan

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 9:47 am

      Hi Susan, I hoped someone would notice the yoga pose. Such a clever presentation. As for the heat, it hasn’t been as hot as other times of the year and much warmer than Australia. It was freezing and snowing this last weekend there.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Lisa Dorenfest / Aug 12 2019 2:54 am

    What a wonderful place to spend a rainy day. Especially loved Kṣitigarbha and the Tombstone Statue replicas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 9:51 am

      I like the Kṣitigarbha too. He wasn’t very big, but so dazzling in white jade.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. cupcakecache / Aug 12 2019 6:46 am

    A beautiful museum. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. dfolstad58 / Aug 12 2019 7:40 am

    Tons of work and time to put this together. I enjoyed it, thank you. I thought the yoga pose lamp stand was neat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 9:53 am

      My posts often take ages to compile. Nice that you realised that. I’m glad you noticed the yoga pose. I hoped people would.


  17. oldpoet56 / Aug 12 2019 8:55 am

    Thank you for this great post, I am going to reblog this for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 10:00 am

      Thanks so very much. It’s always great when someone decides to reblog. Look forward to checking out your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. oldpoet56 / Aug 12 2019 8:55 am

    Reblogged this on Truth Troubles.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. CarolCooks2 / Aug 12 2019 1:50 pm

    Great images and many similarities in design to some I have seen here…I always marvel at some of the raw talents of those sculptors…Thank you for sharing, Peggy 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 9:32 pm

      Yes Carol, some of the designs are familiar to me too, and the talent never ceases to amaze.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. Brian Lageose / Aug 12 2019 3:14 pm

    All the photos are lovely, as usual, but that opening shot of the 1600-year-old Buddha? Such a fascinating image with so much to contemplate…

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 12 2019 9:33 pm

      When we got back to Petra’s flat, the first thing she asked was ‘Did you see the ancient Buddha’?

      Liked by 2 people

  21. beetleypete / Aug 13 2019 12:28 am

    How wonderful to see something about Vietnam that isn’t just about the French Occupation, or the war involving America.
    Great history indeed. Thanks, Peggy.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. In My Cluttered Attic / Aug 13 2019 5:52 am

    Beautiful works of art. Many of us would never have the opportunity to see these museum pieces if it weren’t for this post. Thank you, Peggy. :O)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Curt Mekemson / Aug 13 2019 7:23 am

    I really agree with you on that top Buddha, Peggy. How very unusual. Thanks for sharing. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  24. paolsoren / Aug 13 2019 10:49 am

    The wonder is, after so many generations of imperialist destruction, that so many treasures have survived. Thanks very much for the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Yeah, Another Blogger / Aug 14 2019 8:45 am

    On rainy days, museums come in very handy. Have fun on your travels!

    Neil S.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Sartenada / Aug 14 2019 3:15 pm

    30,000 artefacts – huge amount! I love art and history, so me Your post was very interesting. Thank You.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Tharun Kumar. S / Aug 17 2019 9:52 am

    Cool photos! This post gives me an idea of what to look. I’ve traveled to Vietnam recently. It was my first time flying alone to another country. Do read about my first time experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 17 2019 6:15 pm

      Thanks. Glad you liked the post. Your first time experience sounds very adventurous.


  28. pvcann / Aug 17 2019 8:41 pm

    What delightful insights into a place etched in my mind for other reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. jeanleesworld / Aug 25 2019 8:51 pm

    Such lovely photos! I find the different styles of statue carving to be a fascinating commentary on the time period. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 25 2019 9:21 pm

      I’m glad you noticed the different styles of carving. I wanted to show the variety.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Manav Malhotra / Aug 28 2019 6:04 pm

    Such a nice post ! Can you please check out my post from a travel niche. Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2019 7:47 pm

      Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your blog. The link takes me to a log-in page and not a blog page.


  31. The Bubbly,Tipsy Mermaid (TIB) / Oct 13 2019 5:22 am

    Thank you for sharing!💦🐬

    Liked by 1 person

  32. theburningheart / Apr 28 2021 12:30 pm

    Your time at the Museum was well spent Peggy, thank you for showing us. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  33. etravelersclub / Oct 12 2021 1:28 am

    Astounding coverage – will make sure not to miss next trip in Viet Nam 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: