Confucius and the Teachings of Lạc Việt
“Teaching people with an immense and generous heart, even on immoral people, is the power of Southern people. Gentlemen act like that. Rushing into battles, embracing saddles, and wearing armors until death without discouragement is the power of Northern people. Cruel people act like that.” – Confucius
The “Southern” people mentioned by Confucius represents the Lạc Việt people of the South while the “Northern” people represents the nomadic tribes of the Zhou Dynasty. Confucius made this statement as criticism of the Chinese people of that era, comparing their barbaric, violent, and immoral lifestyle to the peaceful, civilized, and intelligent people of the Southern country.
The Zhou Dynasty was the last of the Chinese nomadic tribes. The time period was around 1000 B.C. and the Zhou Dynasty was making the transition from a nomadic life to a settled society. It was during this time that a genuine Chinese state began to solidify. Confucius was born in 551 B.C. under the rule of the Zhou Dynasty. Society under the Zhou was perverse and immoral. Corrupted kings, murderous generals, and incestuous families characterized the withering society in China under the Eastern Zhou. This period of disturbance became known as the Spring and Autumn Period in Chinese history. Witnessing the disintegration of his society, Confucius searched for ways to educate his fellow Chinese.
Vietnam, during this time, was already an established nation by the name of Lạc Việt (Luo Yue in Chinese). The nation of Lạc Việt had its own civilization, culture, and literature independent from that of China. Existing 4000 years before the Zhou Dynasty, the antiquity of the Vietnamese people has clearly been proven. It was from Lạc Việt that Confucius discovered the teachings of morality and compassion, it was here that the teachings known as Confucianism was rooted from. Confucius used teachings of Lạc Việt to educate the Chinese people, not the other way around. This fact can be verified in Confucius’ own literary works: Shi Ji (Classics of Poetry) and Chun Qiu Jing (Spring and Autumn Annals). Using Vietnamese folk-songs and poetry (known as Zhou Nan and Zhao Nan in Chinese), the people of Zhou learned to become a civilized nation.
The civilization of Lạc Việt, even before the arrival of the nomadic tribes, had already established calender-making, astronomy, chop-sticks, rice-cultivation, and writing characters.