The Nature of Kingship: The Weather-World in Nineteenth-Century Vietnam

Hardback: $75.00
ISBN-13: 9780824899806
Published: December 2024
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Additional Information

304 pages | 8 b&w illustrations
  • About the Book
  • The Nature of Kingship is an innovative exploration of dynastic power and the environment in nineteenth-century Vietnam. It offers important insights into Vietnamese kingship by delving into the intricate workings of the Nguyễn court and its interactions with the natural world. Weaving together a rich array of sources including official histories, royal poetry, astrological manuals, geography texts, and provincial gazetteers, Kathryn Dyt vividly demonstrates how Nguyễn governance and court hierarchies were intertwined with a powerful, agentive, and emotional “weather-world”—a world inhabited by ecological actors such as rain, wind, land, and skies.

    While previous narratives have often faulted Nguyễn rulers for being aloof and detached from their surroundings, this new study considers how Nguyễn dynastic rule was in fact highly responsive to its setting and sensitive to the environment. It shows that Nguyễn kings were not static, inert individuals, cut off from the world, but rather were intensely engaged with their environment and its cosmological and spiritual dimensions. Placing kings in the thick of lived experience, in a land perceived to be alive and responsive to human incantations, prayers, and pleas, this account demonstrates how Nguyễn rulers consolidated their authority through displays of superior weather knowledge and modes of affective rule rooted in reciprocal emotional resonance with the weather-world. The king’s exemplary affective responsiveness to the weather was central to his preeminence and it was a means by which the court validated its power within Vietnam’s extensive social field. Exploring kingship from phenomenological perspectives, this wide-reaching study addresses diverse forms of court engagement with the environment, including the observation of astronomical and meteorological phenomena, divination practices, rainmaking rituals, travel through the kingdom, the writing of environmental histories, and imperial poetry.

  • About the Author(s)
    • Kathryn Dyt, Author

      Kathryn Dyt is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at SOAS, University of London.
  • Reviews and Endorsements
    • Kathryn Dyt’s The Nature of Kingship is an exciting and important contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century Vietnamese kingship as seen through the lens of weather. Her highly engaging book, based on a wide reading of primary sources and secondary scholarship, explores how Vietnamese emperors thought about and sought to control weather phenomena throughout their kingdom. Dyt convincingly demonstrates that both phenomenological and conceptual weather elements were central to imperial thinking and to Vietnamese rule more generally. In doing so, she challenges conventional portrayals of these emperors simply as military or political strategists, rather than as rulers with particular relationships to their lands and people.
      —George Dutton, University of California, Los Angeles