Money & Stamps of Indochina/Vietnam

What are the effective means for authorities to convey and distribute their ideologies?

You might name newspapers, television broadcasts, or political campaigns. Yet, there are common items in your daily life that you perhaps neglect at first sight: money and stamps. In addition to the denomination values of banknotes, coins, and stamps, the images printed onto them contain ideas promoted by the government. They can enrich our understanding of the money/stamps’ contemporaneous societies. Being interested in the symbolic values of those iconographies, we have investigated several banknotes, coins, and stamps circulating in Vietnam since French colonial times. We hope that you can expand your vision and understanding of the world through this subtle exploration.

Did French colonizers use banknotes, coins, and stamps to propagate their ideology to their colonies? 

Although nowadays coins and stamps are less used in Vietnamese society, they used to be pervasive in course of the 20th century. Those items, together with banknotes (still much used but already gradually replaced by electronic forms of money), became efficient and effective tools for the French to spread their ideas. You can find that important historical and mythological figures such as Marianne, Athena, and Hermes existed prominently in Saigon. Please visit our exhibition to figure out what they represented, and how the French asserted their power and authority over the colonies.

And how about the post-colonial period?

After the French withdrew from Vietnam, in consequence of the Geneva Agreement in July 1954, Vietnam was divided into two parts: the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the North and the Republic of Vietnam with the support of the USA in the South.

Similar to the previous period, in this period, the banknotes and coins were important tools for the respective governments to spread their messages and ideologies. However, due to a different kind of context, those banknotes and coins were not just a representative message from a governance to their citizens but were often also used as a counter message to the other side in the war. By analyzing both Northen and Southern banknotes and coins, you will have the chance to examine our investigations on the iconographies and messages that the two governments embedded in them. 

So let us start the journey to the past in your hands!


Nguyễn Thị Thuỳ Dương - Nguyễn Ngọc Liên - Phó Đỗ Quyên - Trần Thu Thảo - Tạ Thị Thuỳ Duyên