Archive for September, 2010

Nguyễn An: The Man Who Built the Forbidden City

Posted in Did You Know?, Dynastic History with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by Ian Pham

During the Ming Dynasty’s invasion of Vietnam in 1407, many Vietnamese professionals, such as poets, military experts, architects, engineers, etc., were captured and brought back to China.  Among them was a prisoner named Nguyễn An (Juan An in Chinese), a man who would later design and oversee the construction of the Peking Citadel and the entire Forbidden City of Beijing.

Before being shipped to China, Nguyễn An was a talented official under the rule of the Trần Dynasty.  However, he was later taken by the Ming Dynasty and brought back to China as a gift from the illegitimate Hồ Dynasty.  From then on, he would be known in Chinese history as Juan An, a eunuch of the Ming’s imperial court.

For his talents, Nguyễn An was given the task of constructing the Peking Citadel and the Forbidden City of Peking (Beijing).  The size of his workforce was literally in the millions, composing of soldiers, workers, and prisoners.  Interestingly, a large number of the laborers who worked on the Peking Citadel were also Vietnamese, captured by the Ming on their invasions.

The fact that Juan An (Nguyễn An) was really a Vietnamese person had been obscured in Chinese history for centuries.  It is only recently, with long and intricate research, did these facts began to surface.  Research made by the University of Cambridge clearly states that “the chief architect was an Annamese eunuch named Juan An (d. 1453) who also played a major role in rebuilding Peking,” (Mote & Twitchett, 1988: 241).  Annam is what Vietnam was referred to by the Chinese during this period, even though that was never our official name.  Woo!  That was interesting.  Maybe next week I’ll tell you who really invented the cannon!

Source:

Le Thanh Hoa, Du Mien.  Vietnam: The Springhead of Eastern Cultural Civilization. Trans. Joseph M. Vo.  San Jose: The Vietnam Library Publications, 2010.

Mote, Frederick W. & Denis Twitchett.  The Cambridge History of China, Volume 7, Part 1. Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1988.

*****

Correction: A typo indicating that the source by Frederick Mote and Denis Twitchett was published in 1998 has been fixed to its correct publication year, which was 1988. Sorry for any misunderstandings or confusion this may have caused.

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Another Invasion: China Takes Spratly, 1988

Posted in II. History, Modern History with tags , , , , , on September 5, 2010 by Ian Pham

When the Chinese invaded Hoang Sa in 1974, the Republic of Vietnam, under the leadership of President Nguyen Van Thieu, fought with all they had.  The attack ended in what is arguably a stalemate.  However, since the losses of the People’s Republic of China nearly doubled that of the Republic of Vietnam, it is fair to argue that the battle was won by  the South Vietnamese Navy.  The South did win the battle, but they would end up losing the islands in the end.  Since they used up all of their resources on the first confrontation, the Republic of Vietnam did not have enough firepower for a second.  For this reason, the Chinese would return on the following day with more naval power, and complete their invasion of the Paracel Islands (Hoang Sa).

Fast forward to 1988, where a group of unarmed Vietnamese soldiers, who put up their guns to become workers on the islands of Truong Sa, were ambushed by several Chinese warships.  With no fighting capabilities, the Vietnamese workers were massacred by the invading army of the PRC.  This attack would be known as the “Massacre on the Spratly Islands,” where a Chinese army ruthlessly slaughters a group of unarmed Vietnamese workers.  To this day, China denies these allegations, even though the proof of their crimes are well documented in books and all over the internet.

They justified the massacre by claiming that they were defending themselves against aggressive Vietnamese soldiers.  How could this be?  Vietnam did not have a warship present, they didn’t even have any artillery to fight back with.  Regardless, China keeps persisting that they were defending themselves, unwilling to acknowledge the damning evidence of their wrongdoings.  It should be interesting to note that the Chinese used the very same excuses to invade Hoang Sa in 1794, so it shouldn’t be that surprising to see them use it again.  It was this attack that made Spratly fall into the hands of the Chinese, along with Hoang Sa.

It was always on China’s agenda to take both of the islands, since they had the idea of controlling all of the Southeast Asia Sea for the longest time.  The big difference between the incidents in 1974 and 1988 is that the event in 1974 was a military clash, while 1988 is just a ruthless massacre of defenseless individuals.  The attack in 1974 was wrong enough, invading a piece of land that is clearly not under China’s jurisdiction.  However, the assault in 1988 was even worse.  This time, the victims didn’t even have anything to protect themselves with!  Both of the invasions were disgraceful, the latter was the most.  To this day, China is still in control of Hoang Sa, while also trying to take full control of Truong Sa.  It is true that the situation is bleak right now, but don’t worry.  In time, when the right leader arrives, we will take it all back.  With interest.

In the Face of Chinese Aggression

Posted in Opinions, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by Ian Pham

When looking at the condition that Vietnam is in today, it is a real understatement to say that the country is in trouble.  I’ve gone over these problems a thousand times, the constant crackdowns, suppression of free speech, stagnation of intellectual and economic development, etc.  These are all issues that we know very well.  However, there is another issue.  One that may seem like a distant possibility, but is actually very real.  As a matter of fact, it has already begun and is growing in severity everyday.  The problem I am talking about is the invasion of Vietnam by the People’s Republic of China.

Beijing has always claimed sovereignty over land that they do not rightfully own.  Even more disturbing than that, they have succeeded on many occasions in taking these lands.  An enormous chunk of China’s current land is not even ethnically Chinese.  Tibet and Xinjiang are primes examples.  The first group are the Tibetan people, who are obviously not ethnically Chinese.  The latter group are the Uighurs, a Turkish people that are fundamentally more Muslim than Chinese.  Regardless, the People’s Republic still claim sovereignty over the lives of these entire populations, crushing their resistance with an iron fist.

China’s territorial claims: this new map, drawn up in Chinese and translated to English, clearly indicates China’s intentions to occupy the waters of all the Southeast Asian countries.

Today they are after the control of the whole Southeast Asia Sea, located south of China, east of Vietnam, west of the Philippines, and north of Indonesia and Malaysia.  They conduct their invasions by military force on the islands of Hoang Sa and Truong Sa, as well as showing aggression on the waters of Southeast Asia.  The Communists even drew out a new map, showing lands that they claim to own.  This map displays the waters of Vietnam, the Philippines, and all the other Southeast Asian countries as part of China.  This, combined with their aggressive behavior in the waters and islands of the Southeast Asia Sea, is a big red light to all the idealists who keep hopelessly holding on to the illusion of the “peaceful” rise of China.

Aggression on the seas is a major issue, but now we must look at the condition back home, in the land known as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  We all know the crimes committed by the VCP, but now we must put more focus on their relationship with the CCP.  The two claim to be comrades, brothers of the same struggle, fighters of the same cause.  They refer to the sixteen golden words of the Communist bloc, and the goods that these words bring.  These words, every single piece, is shit.  The Chinese Communists claim to be friends with the Vietnamese Communists, but they kill the fishermen of Vietnam in the Southeast Asia Sea.  They claim to be comrades, but they damage Vietnam’s economy with bauxite mining and illegal land-lease agreements, leaving thousands of Vietnamese people homeless and jobless.  They claim to be allies but send in Chinese workers to abuse the business owners of Vietnam and damage their property.

China has already began to invade Vietnam, through many different, yet subtle ways.  If you pay attention to what some of the Chinese media is suggesting in their articles, many which qualify as hate literature, you will recognize the inescapable fact that Vietnam is in serious danger.  For thousands of years, even before the dynasties, China has tried to eradicate the Vietnamese people.  This is not an accusation, it is an observation based on historical facts, evidence and thorough investigation.  In no way do I suggest that those of us who live here in the west, in harmony and trust, would have these thoughts towards one another.  What I do suggest, with great vigor, is that the intentions of the Beijing government is dangerous and malicious.  We live together, all of us, in this diverse world as human beings, with different values, opinions, customs, and cultures.  It is important to understand that I don’t associate the evils of the past generations as a generalization of any certain group of people.

That being said, we still cannot dismiss the dangerous motives of the People’s Republic of China today.  Attacking innocent people on a daily basis, illegally building sites on Vietnamese land, rewriting history, stealing valuable information from the United States, piracy in the Southeast Asia Sea, these are all crimes that cannot simply be ignored.  Vietnam is in big trouble, even worse than before.  As of this moment, China is extremely powerful, ready and able to launch an invasion on Vietnam.  If the Vietnamese Communists don’t smarten up, things can take a turn for the worst.  The dynasties Qin, Han, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing have all tried to take Vietnam in the past, and now the Communists are trying to do the same.

Am I worried?  Sure.  I am not going to lie, the strength of the Chinese today is staggering.  If Vietnam were to go to war with China, the results could be disastrous.  That being said, I still have no doubt that Vietnam will prevail in the face of Chinese aggression.  For thousands of years, from the farmers of Van Lang, to the prisoners of Giao Chau, to the warriors of Dai Viet, all the way to present day, Vietnam has been under fire from China.  Even so, we have always fought back.  Four thousand years ago, the Bach Viet farmers survived the relentless raids of the nomadic tribes.  Two thousand years ago, in the darkest chapter of Vietnamese history, the people of Nam-Viet had miraculously withstood the terror and destruction of the thousand years of Chinese occupation.  One thousand years ago, at the Battle of Bach Dang Bay, a new nation, Dai Viet, was born.

Within that period of time, numerous heroes have emerged to defend the country from the northern expansionists.  Ly Thuong Kiet destroyed the invaders from Song China, chasing them across the Chinese border and making sure they never return.  When the Mongols devastated Europe, overtook China, and launched an attack on Dai Viet, Tran Hung Dao confronted them with neither fear nor remorse.  In the brief period of Ming occupation, Le Loi and Nguyen Trai mobilized the peasants of the Vietnamese nation, expelling the Ming invaders and restoring the independence of our homeland.  Even when the country had traitors, such as the weak and cowardly Le Chieu Tong, who willfully handed the country over to the Manchu Qing, a fearless patriot, Nguyen Hue Quang Trung, rose from the ashes and expelled them from the nation.

Modern times, 1979, Deng Xiaoping sent the Chinese army into Vietnam, claiming that he will “teach us a lesson,” only to be humiliated by the secondary army of the Vietnamese.  The Communists Chinese attacked Vietnam, but suffered enormous casualties, with no progress whatsoever.  Vietnam had just liberated Cambodia from the genocidal massacres committed by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, only to be attacked by the Chinese Communists in return.  This only proves that the countries have never been truly at peace with one another.  Vietnam won, back then, but that was because of the leadership.  I highly doubt that the three leading losers in the Vietnamese Communist Party today are anywhere near capable of mobilizing the Vietnamese people.

In every victory throughout the course of history, Vietnam was united.  In order for Vietnam to prevail today, the country must, again, be united.  Vietnam can defeat China, history has confirmed it.  If Tran Hung Dao can defeat 500,000 Mongols with only 200,000 soldiers, if Nguyen Hue Quang Trung could defeat the Qing with only 100,000 men, why can’t Vietnam confront China today?  Even with all the technological advancements in the Chinese military today, hardware can only go so far.  In the 60’s, the Americans bombed Hanoi ruthlessly, burning the city to the ground.  Even so, the North was resilient enough to keep on fighting, coming out victorious in the very end.  As I have said before, these soldiers didn’t fight for Communism, they fought for the independence of Vietnam.

Today, if China were to launch a full scale invasion into Vietnam, it is very possible that the Vietnamese people could come out victorious.  However, this can only be accomplished if Vietnam fought as one strong unitary force, undivided by ideology or governmental orientation.  To achieve this, the nation needs a leader who is strong, pure, and untainted by the lure of corruption.  They need to be smart, courageous, and always have the good of the nation first and foremost on his/her mind.  It does not matter if he/she is a Communist, a Liberal, or even an Ecologist, if he/she could unite the people of Vietnam, bring freedom and happiness to everyone, then he/she will have my support.