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Historical Research and Data Processing on Ancient Vietnamese Inscriptions
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 833933 Call for proposal: ERC-2018-ADG
Funded under: H2020 | ERC | ERC-ADG Overall Budget: 2,491,580 EURFunder Contribution: 2,491,580 EUR
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Driven by a general movement in Asia to invest in Classical studies, the project Vietnamica aims for a historical and linguistic study of ancient, invaluable Vietnamese inscriptions, while also helping to determine a ground-breaking method for the use of epigraphic resources. In partnership with Han-Nôm Institute and Vietnam National University, the project is motivated by the recent divulgence of 40,000 paper stampings that reproduce the inscriptions engraved on the surfaces of 25,000 steles erected between the 16th to 20th century in Vietnam. These inscriptions, written in a complex Chinese embedded with the local vernacular, are conserved at the Han-Nôm Institute in Hanoi. Offering an unexpected counterpoint to existing official sources, these inscriptions prompt the study of rural inhabitants, monks and notables across an era of five centuries through their very own language. The project will produce a series of studies on popular Buddhism and its connection to the ancestor cult, donations and the role of women in the economy of gifting, and monetization and land property. Based on these themes, the project will record and analyze the logographic processes that the Vietnamese once used to transcribe the language they spoke. Such research - close to the field and to its people - was once a dream for scholars, and is now possible due to the corpus of stampings available. Characteristic of local histories, information is dispersed in fragments all throughout the corpus and it is first necessary to categorize the existing inscriptions. Vietnamica will rely on tools available through digital and computational humanities to construct a database of the stampings, connect it to data mapping, and on a more technical level, proceed with a segmentation of the text to allow for the automatic identification of the demotic characters. The results from the project will converge on a Platform (Vietnamica.eu) that is meant to remain accessible to researchers indefinitely.

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