The Sword of King Câu Tiễn

King Câu Tiễn (or Kou Chien/Goujian in Chinese) was a ruler during ancient times.  Câu Tiễn was the leader of the Kingdom of Yueh, over 2500 years ago, at the dawn of the Warring States.  Yueh was one of the contending states during the Spring and Autumn period, after the fall of the Eastern Zhou.  Under the leadership of King Câu Tiễn, the Yueh Kingdom broke free from the grasp of the ancient Wu, re-emerged to conquer that Wu kingdom, and became one of the more powerful states of this era.  The Yueh Kingdom would reign for several centuries, before being swallowed up by the State of Chu.

The Kingdom of Yueh was distinct from the other kingdoms, as they were related to the people of Bách Việt, different from the nomadic tribes.  Geographically, the Kingdom of Yueh is located further north than the other Viet clans.  It can therefore be suggested that Câu Tiễn was a descendent of either the Ư Việt, Hồ Việt, or Đông Việt, as opposed to the Lạc Việt, who were located farther in the south.  During this period, King Câu Tiễn, with the help of his brilliant advisor Phạm Lãi (Fan Li), won many major conflicts against the kingdoms of Wu and Chu, turning Yueh into a major contender of this all-out war.

Today, in a museum exhibit somewhere in China, lays the sword of King Câu Tiễn.  Shown here are photos of the exact same blade wielded by the King of Việt over 2500 years ago.  If you look closely, you will notice the very interesting writing located on the face of the sword.  I’m no expert in Chinese literature, nor am I an expert in ancient Việt texts.  It doesn’t take an expert however, to notice the damning resemblance with the writing on this sword and the Nôm characters of ancient Việt.

It is very interesting that in Chinese history, Việt Vương Câu Tiễn (Kou Chien, King of Yueh) was said to be a Chinese man.  Obviously, with the fact that the Yueh Kingdom was located where the Bách Việt used to be, and that the name Yueh directly translates to mean Việt, it is clear that Kou Chien is Vietnamese.  Even more interesting are the writing found on his blade, which shares a shocking resemblance to the ancient scriptures of the Bách Việt civilization.

During the period of the Spring and Autumn, and the era of the Warring States, the country known as China had not yet been formed.  Instead, many independent states emerged, each with their own ways of communicating.  It just so happens that the Kingdom of Việt’s system of writing were the Nôm from Bách Việt.  The writing on King Câu Tiễn’s sword is different from the writing of the later imperial Chinese, and strongly suggests that the Kingdom of Việt communicated using the ancient Nôm of Bách Việt.  Furthermore, the grammar on the sword is distinct from the Chinese, meaning that Câu Tiễn not only wrote in Vietnamese, but spoke Vietnamese as well.

15 Responses to “The Sword of King Câu Tiễn”

  1. Was Cau Thien a Lac Viet or was he one of the other Viets. Specifically which Viet tribe did he belong to? I’m fascinated by the discovery of his sword and how he fought the Wu of China same as Ba Trieu of Lac Viet.

    • This may be redundant now, but the area of Cau Tien’s kingdom was located where the clans of U Viet, Man Viet, and Dong Viet used to reside. If you’re wondering which one, any of these three would be a good guess to make.

  2. There seems to be alot of misinformation in this article, whether deliberate or just selective in research. Yue during the spring and autumn period wasn’t the same Yue denoting the vietnamese state or people. It encompassed areas of jiangsu and zhejiang. In fact the Yue kingdom of that period shared more cultural affinity with the state of Wu. You are also incorrect to say the state of china had not been formed, since all of the individual states were unified domains of the previous zhou dynasty and as such, these states had a cultural, historical, and political link to the same roots and all were vying to unite the kingdoms into a unified state once more. You are also incorrect about the style of writing, although you did concede you did not know much about chinese literature or writing. The style of writing on goujian’s sword is a style of chinese calligraphy called “Bird Script”, which is a highly stylized zhou dynasty script. It is very unlikely that Goujian himself was viet taken all this into account, and outside of pro-vietnamese nationalist inspired articles, Goujian is widely known and regarded to be Chinese by all credible historians and institutions. What you are proclaiming on this site is against the accepted and well known research of all historian and academia throughout the world.

    To learn more I would recommend you diligently read up on credible academic papers and peer reviewed scholarly journals. They can be found on university websites, libraries, or sites belonging to credited academic institutions. You can even find good information on Chinese history forum and their hanlin journal archive.

    • Interesting thought, though you should also understand the basis of my arguments as well. I have reasons to say what I’ve said and you will see them shortly.

      It is a fair argument to say that the contesting states of that era were all previously unified under the Zhou, depending what you mean by unified. The Zhou Dynasty called the bordering states around them vassals, but only because the Zhou held the most influence in this domain, not because of the ethnic and traditional aspects of the dynasty. Therefore, it can be argued that a truly distinct and cultural Chinese state did not exist until the rise of the Qin Dynasty, under Qin Shihuang, where direct control, a singular Chinese script, language, and identity was formed.

      I admit that I am no expert in Chinese literature and calligraphy, but form what I know, “Bird Script” is an ancient script popular during the Warring States era. Whether it was actually developed by the Zhou is a subject of speculation, for it was said to be common, not only in Zhou, but more so in Wu, Chu and especially Yue. Furthermore, Bird Script also shares a strong resemblance to the Nom writing of Bai Yue, an ancient script that was used by the Hundred Viet long before the establishment of the Zhou. It has been suggested, but not yet proven conclusively, that the two are related, though the resemblance is striking. Therefore, it is possible that the origins of Bird Script lay in that of the Bai Yue. You may disagree, and I respect your right to do so. Even so, you must understand that there are evidence for both sides, and through what I have seen, I am confident that the writing on Kou Chien’s sword, whether Nom or Bird Script, is related to Bai Yue.

      You say that the Yue from the Warring States is different from the Yue of the Viet people, but that is debatable. It is true that Yueh was located in the southernmost area of the Warring States in what is now Zhejiang. Keep in mind, however, that the clans of the Hundred Viet (Bai Yue) had occupied all of Southern China more than 5000 years ago, which also included the province of Zhejiang. You should understand that there were many Viet clans in the past, and the geographic location of the Yue Kingdom, and this includes Zhejiang, was where the U Viet, and some of Dong Viet and Man Viet, used to be.

      What you claim to be accepted and well-known research can also be contested. In the past, it is “widely accepted” that the Chinese were the genetic ancestors of the Viet, something that has proven to be false. The Bai Yue had existed as far back as 5000 years ago, concurrent even with the mythical Shang and Xia dynasties of China. Furthermore, it was “widely accepted” in the past that the Chinese were the first to cultivate rice, something that has been challenged by academics and proven otherwise. It is now many widely believed that the cultivation of rice had its origins in Southeast Asia, a finding that has become more widely accepted with stronger credibility than that of the past.

      Many things about China that you so proudly claim to be “accepted and widely known research” can quickly change over time, as many new discoveries are made everyday. I’m not saying that all of China’s history and research are false, far from that. However, I must warn you not to believe in everything you read, even in academics, for even findings widely believed for decades can be slowly and conclusively be disproved with adequate and intricate research.

      There are mysteries about China that are yet to be discovered, and there are mysteries in Vietnam that have yet to be discovered. I have not fabricated these claims, nor am I presenting them in a way against that of the Chinese. What I am merely doing is showing what I have found in my investigation, and presenting it as a challenge to conventional belief. Don’t preach to me about using scholarly and academic sources, for I am fully aware and have full access to these sources. Not only that, but I have read and thought extensively about many of these articles. Have you diligently looked into deep academic articles on the origins of Vietnam yet? And I’m not talking about ones derived from Chinese sources either, but ones that look deeply into the folklore, archeology, and traditions of the Vietnamese people. No offense, but you might want to ask somebody.

      It is good that you are critical of what you’ve read, but it is unfair to be critical of only one side of the story. Even in academic sources there are contradictions and arguments against widely accepted findings. It may not be a nice thing to hear, but China is no exception.

  3. While I may have learned from more commonly accepted studies of history, and may disagree with some of your claims, I do recognize that you are just sharing what you learn from your own sources, whatever they may be. To be honest I still think claims like these are misinformation or almost fringelike theories, but I do keep an open mind to any new credible discoveries or revelations. I just hope you understand that it is because my beliefs are deeply rooted in the more established research on history. You are correct in saying that what we know of history can be changed with new discoveries, but the knowledge we have now is extremely refined and accurate to the actual truth of what it was like those thousands of years ago. It is open to new interpretations, like you said, with new discoveries and research, but I think any major changes are unlikely. However, the possibility is there, no matter how small or remote.

    I hope you did not take offense to my comment or if you thought I was preaching or acting condescending towards you. But the majority of people I’ve read that claimed the same things as your article turned out to be the bigoted nationalist types that had an agenda. I never have much patience towards them. But from your response I see that you are not that type. We could probably debate on alot of stuff we don’t agree on for countless hours, but I don’t think either of us have the time for that lol, so lets just do the old “agree to disagree” shit.

  4. Wow… I have so much to say to you, I don’t even know where to start. Nonetheless, I’ll try to keep it as short and sweet as possible.

    Cau Tien is Bach Viet, and Bach Viet is Vietnamese. Even though Cau Tien was not a Lac Viet, he was still a Vietnamese man. Based on geography, it is possible that Cau Tien may be of U Viet, Dong Viet, or Man Viet descent. Regardless, he is part of the Bach Viet, a large family that includes all Viets, even the Lac. Therefore, Viet Vuong Cau Tien, I argue with confidence, is a Vietnamese man.

    In regards to the Nom, I’m sure you’ve read my article, “The Origin of Nom Writing,” since you left a comment on it recently. Therefore, you must have seen me differentiate between the “Ancient Nom” of Bach Viet and the “Restored (or Modern) Nom” of the 13th Century, fully utilized later on by Nguyen Hue Quang Trung and his Tay Son Dynasty.

    Furthermore, if you’ve read that article, which I know you did, you would see the citations I left at the bottom of the page. Unless you have an eye condition, or for some other unknown reason you decided not to acknowledge these sources, it is undeniable that I’ve included sources and research to back up my claims. You are wrong in accusing me of failing to include sources, research and discoveries, and I would advise you to rethink what you’ve said.

    I can go on and on about the complicated relationship between Vietnam and China, and how our history has been lost, rewritten, and distorted throughout the ages by certain Chinese Dynasties as a form of control and cultural extermination. That however, would take a very long time. If I were to leave you with something, it would be the advice that not everything you’ve read is true.

    If you believe that the Chinese invented the writing based on the old findings of Chinese history books, then that is all you. I happen to disagree, pulling from the ideas of many pioneer scholars of the 21st Century. Instead of deriving from old history books, the new researchers deduce evidence and conclusions based on archeology, folklore, and language. This is where many of the recent suggestions and ideas have come into existence.

    You ask me where the sources for my claims come from, and I would like to give you the name Kim Dinh. He is a philosopher and pioneer researcher that has been scrutinized, criticized, and hated on in his days for making the very suggestions that you are getting upset at me for. If you want to learn something groundbreaking, new, and contrary to conventional belief, I even encourage you to check out what I am about to offer to you.

    Lastly, is your teacher a Vietnamese “language” teacher, or a history teacher? If he/she is the former, I would assume that he/she is not yet aware of the new findings and discoveries made over the past decade and is only informed of what has been taught by the old generation. If he/she is the latter, it would be fair for me to say that he or she has only been exposed to the writings of the Chinese, or sources derived from these Chinese writings. Whether it be by choice or by the structure of his/her education, it is obviously not for me to brand.

    Regardless, I want to close by saying that I respect your right to disagree, but I do not appreciate your accusations that I’ve fabricated these claims. You can either keep believing what has been taught and believed for decades, or you can choose to ask yourself, “is there more to this story?” I have done much research to defend my claims, and there are credible findings to back them up. As a parting gift, I’ll even provide you with some internet sources that you can show to your teacher, relative, or whomever it may concern. It is in Vietnamese, but that shouldn’t be a problem for your teacher. After all, he/she’s a language teacher, right?ổ-va-nguồn-gốc-dan-tộc-việt-nam/ững-cai-bất-ngờ-ly-thu-trong-khi-tim-hiểu-tiếng-việt-va-nguồn-gốc-nam-a-2/

    A final word, whether you believe the evidence or not is entirely up to you. Just know that the authors of these works have studied and analyzed their respective topics extensively. The writing is academic, and the authors have provided their own sources and references for verification. Don’t say I have no sources or findings. Cheers.

    • Many books writen about the origin and the history of the Viet by many authors in the past that used in school have been proven wrong. I remember that when I was young I was taught in school that the Chinese taught the Viet how to dress, tendering animals, cultivating rice, and how to behave among people. Those information were derived from Chinese history books and the so call Vietnamese scholars used them to teach their young. Vietnam many time through out history had been occupied and controlled by the invaders/victors and many books regarding or relating to the Viet were writen by those occupiers/victors. What happened to the intellignet properties of the Viets during that time. They may be destroy or altered easily. With the help of advanceed sciences many events as described above have been proven wrong.

      Normally, in order to control the natives people, the occupiers had made up stories with intention to limit and destroy uprising capacity of the natives so that they can govern with less chalenges. That had been done by both the Chinese and French to the Viets. Many so call “history books” writen by them are now can be regarded as their opinions. nothing more and nothing less.

      Let’s look at the curent international events in the South China Sea (the East Sea of Vietnam, and West Sea of the Philippines) today. China created a U-Shape and applied the U-Shape in the Southeast Asia Sea that bordering many countries and declared most of the Southeast Asian belongs to them. The explanation for the U-Shape by China was that because their history said so. At the same time they could not present any pieces of history about the U-Shape with internationally acceptable Standard. The Chinese defined that any geography mentioned by their history books that the chinese had landed on or any physical evidence such as chinese graves, pieces of potery then they called as historical evedences. That why before they invaded the Hoangsa Islands in 1974, they falsified some graves and inserted some pieces of potery and used them as historical evidence for their invasion. (how outrages that is but they are facts). Curently, the goverment of China forced their academics to use the U-Shape map for any related geographical publishes. The so called “Academics” obeyed and used it in their publications even though they know U-Shape map is not true. The Academics are supposded to be truthful in their publication and research and based on facts and truth, but they did not, even in the 21st Century. Many and many examples of falsification and lies are happenning in front of my eyes. The chinese has written their history for the future. The U-Shape maps of China will be come history in 100 years later. The chinese people of 100 years later will say that the Southeats Asian Sea “are unquestionaly ” belongs to them because the U-Shape maps they published is evidences. How do I believe or trust the history books written by the chinese that were thousands of years ago with out verification of sicence and hard evidences.

      Since I came to live in the west, I have learned a lot of truth about China. To make it short, historical information prpared by China in any time must be scrutinized and verifiied by hard evidences. Without verification, I regard them as opinions. not History.

  5. peacefulviet Says:

    Hey, I found proof that “Nom” might actually be originated in Vietnam, by the Lac Viet people.

    The images from this site actually shows images of characters that resemble the ancient script. The blade when scrolling down is a clear representation of the Nom script in use. I am finally concluding through hard evidence and the sources shown that Nom originated from the Lac Viet people of van Lang.

  6. I meant to reply sooner, but blogging time is scarce these days. Anyways, I guess I should explain what I mean when labelling Cau Tien as “Vietnamese,” when he is obviously, as you correctly put, not Lac Viet (or Au Lac).

    When I say “Vietnamese,” I am not just talking about Lac Viet, but all of the Bach Viet people. I do this because to my consideration, all the Bach Viet clans, despite their tribal affiliations, are of a single race: the Viet.

    The term “Vietnamese” itself is a modern label given to us by the Nguyen Dynasty, who changed the name of the country from Dai Viet to Dai Nam, until finally calling it Vietnam.

    For the reason above, the term “Vietnamese” can serve two functions:

    1) To describe the people who live in Vietnam, aka their citizenship status regardless of their ethnicity. This is the modern outcome, and does not even apply to the Dai Viet people prior to the 19th century. The point I am trying to make here is that the term “Vietnamese” can also be attributed to other ethnic groups as well, such as the Hmong, Khmer, Thai, Chinese, etc., who may not be Vietnamese ethnically, but because they live in Vietnam, they are still Vietnamese citizens.

    2) Secondly, the term “Vietnamese” denotes our people as a race, distinguishing us from other races, such as Chinese, Japanese, German, Indian, etc. By this definition, the Hmong, Thai, and other races of Vietnamese citizens are not Vietnamese ethnically. It is also by this same definition where I put the U Viet, Dong Viet, and the other Bach Viet tribes as “Vietnamese.” Though they maybe of of different tribes, they are still a part of the Viet race along with the Lac, and based on my second definition, they are also Vietnamese (racially & culturally).

    I hope you understand now why I call Cau Tien a Vietnamese. Though he is from a different tribe from the Lac (and obviously not a Vietnamese citizen), he is still part of the Bach Viet race. You are correct in saying that he is not a Vietnamese citizen per se, but racially, he carries the same blood as the people of the Lac.

    I am very impressed by the dedication you have shown in your pursuit of knowledge. You have clearly done your research, and I encourage you to press on and never stop learning.

    Feel free to keep posting you questions and inquiries, for debate and discussions are the main tools that further our understanding. Your input is very much appreciated.


  7. thank for everyone working hard to find out what belongs to Viet people. I hope one day we can fully develop Viet culture throughout the history of human

  8. Fantastically written. I can’t believe it took me so long to find this blog. I really love the formatting.

  9. Having read this I thought it was really informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot
    of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

  10. Zheng Dan Says:

    Hey, I’m studying Chinese history, and I just want to say that Sinologists are acknowledging that the Yue were not Sinitic! (And also Wu, which fell within a kind of “greater Yue” cultural sphere– same archaeological culture, anyway.) I mean, the kings of Yue don’t follow Chinese naming convention (“Goujian” doesn’t particularly make sense as a Chinese name…. And also no posthumous names or heritable surnames.) Here’s an article on that….

    Also, some linguists in the ’70s demonstrated (persuasively, I think) that a number of loanwords that passed between early Sinitic and an Austroasiatic language resembling Vietnamese in fact went from the AA to the Sinitic. Like, everyone always assumes that China was the donor culture and everyone else the recipients of its cultural innovations. But, like, no.

  11. Asking questions are truly good thing if you are not understanding anything
    fully, however this article presents good understanding even.

  12. I somehow don’t agree with the way you named the Yue’s writting language as Nôm. It is because Nôm a totally different notion. Do you have any other names for it? What Chinese historians call it? I heard it is Old Chinese (Written Language) but I am not sure.

    For Nôm, please check this one:

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