March 15, 2003 — March 7, 2004


Two puppet-like figures dressed in clothing and hats richly adorned with red and gold, with long, thin black mustaches and beards, and red lips.

A journey is a bridge between two points. In Vietnam, some journeys take place on roads, highways, railways, rivers, and footpaths as family members come home for the New Year, hunters travel into the forest and city dwellers carry precariously balanced goods on bicycles and motorbikes. Other journeys are metaphorical: Life is a journey marked by significant rituals, and the year is a journey mapped by a calendar. Souls travel to the netherworld, while gods and ancestors return to the human world during celebrations in their honor. Every year, more than a million tourists visit Vietnam, a country that many of them first knew from images of a war. Among these tourists, too, are former American servicemen, who have made their own pilgrimages to Vietnam as acts of healing and reconciliation. Still other travelers—those born in Vietnam but now living abroad—will always call this place "home." In this exhibition, we invite you to journey through a changing Vietnam and to experience the incredible diversity of its landscape and its people.

This exhibition and related programs are made possible by the philanthropic leadership of the Freeman Foundation. Additional generous funding provided by the Ford Foundation for the collaboration between the American Museum of Natural History and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Also supported by the Asian Cultural Council. Planning grant provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Vietnam: Journeys of Body, Mind & Spirit is the product of a three-year collaboration between the American Museum of Natural History and the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology. Staff members from both museums worked together in planning, researching, writing, and designing the exhibition, as well as collecting the objects displayed in it. Our work together marks a journey away from the painful history of a war and toward a more promising future.