The Culture of Vietnam: Lasting Through the Ages

Our next topic of discussion involves three very different cultures: that of Vietnam, China, and Manchuria.  One culture, Manchu culture, serves its place in history as China’s invader and occupier.  The other culture, Vietnamese culture, acts as China’s eternal rival, and at one dark point in its history, as China’s prisoner.  Interestingly, the ones that acted as China’s overlords, the Manchus, would find their cultural heritage wiped from the face of the earth.  On the other hand, Vietnamese culture, though dominated by the Chinese for 1000 years, will prevail, even to this very day.

What makes Vietnam different from Manchuria?  How is it possible that the people of Vietnam, through 1000 years of occupation and assimilation from the invaders from the north, came to sustain their cultural and ethnic identity?  Furthermore, how did the Manchus, effectively dethroning the Ming in 1644 and ruled all of China until 1912, see their way of life, their language, and their culture vanish in less than 300 years?  The answer to this question, at least form my own analysis, is culture.

The three cultures mentioned above all varied in depth, richness, and sophistication.  Whichever culture to most strongly display these three qualities was more likely to last.  Unfortunately for the Manchus, their culture was the least likely to embody these qualities and, as a result, their culture was inevitably absorbed by the culture of the Han.  Though the Manchu started out as the foreign overlords of the Chinese empire, they would gradually and increasingly adapt the customs and practices of the Chinese.  Overtime, they would become Chinese themselves.  This is where Vietnam and Manchuria differentiate, and this is where Vietnam prevails.

Du Mien Le Thanh Hoa, the author of Vietnam: The Springhead of Eastern Cultural Civilization suggests that Vietnam prevailed because of the strength of its culture.  According to him, Vietnam’s culture was simply higher than Chinese culture.  It was older, and more enshrined in the hearts and minds of the people of Viet.  Thus, even when facing the jarring threat of Chinese assimilation, the Viet people continued to practice their culture.  This persistence helped to safeguard the existence of Vietnamese culture.

Through all the hardship, Vietnam’s culture prevails, even to this day.  For thousands of years, our traditions have been upheld, our language preserved.  The legend of Lac Long Quan, the ancient folklore, and the songs of antiquity have been passed down from generation to generation.  These foundations remind us who we are, but more importantly, who we are not.  Through the darkest periods of foreign domination, our culture has kept us alive.  Our ways of life have lived through the ages, and today, they are more important than ever.

11 Responses to “The Culture of Vietnam: Lasting Through the Ages”

  1. Nice, short, and sweet summation. Simply beautiful!

  2. Hey thanks for the Ancient history article. I’d like to provide some links that might interest you. There was a Lac Viet research group in Guanxi, China in December 2011 trying to uncover the artifacts of the Lac Viet people. What the discovered might fascinate you. Many fossils which show ancient Lac Viet script that closely resembles the Chinese text. Please feel free to look over them. I’d like to see your view on it.

    http://www.viethoc.org/phorum/read.php?10,6280,page=4
    http://www.luoyue.net/show.aspx?tid=697
    http://diakhoi.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/discovery-of-lac-viet-writing-in.html

  3. Hello, I quite new to Viet History so please bear with me. Korean family names (Chinese stylized) were introduced during the Three Kingdoms period, but I wonder if Viet surnames had a similar history as well? Did Chinese surnames come from Bai Yue or vice versa? I am aware that Hmong and Mien have the similar naming conventions as well. Oddly, Mongolians normally do not have any family names and I believe they and the Qiang had the most ancient contacts with Huaxia. Ancient history and foundation myths are often manipulated in order to fulfill ones agendas, and the Chinese are no exception..thanks to Qin Shi Huang! Pangu and Fuxi “myths” was thought to be originated in what is now eastern Gansu and Shaanxi, but recent scholarly research shows that these foundation “myths” came from Southern China non-Huaxia tribes. Even more strange, most Han families in Southern China they usually have a founding father from the central plains region but they almost always disregard their Bai Yue “tribal” heritage/culture. Food, traditions, and language were influenced by Bai Yue but they never had their moment of equal glory. I have Cantonese ancestry, but I often hear that Chinese of the central plains “civilized” the people of South by people from the North by teaching them farming to wiping their asses. I guess when this brainwashed ideology is shoved down one’s throat for generation after generation, people forget or conveniently forget about their true roots. Hakka’s always claim “pure” Central Plain origin, but a lot of their tradition and physical characteristics come from the She people. My own relatives physically look more like Zhuang, Mien, Viet peoples than say a Han from Xian. Some dumbass Chinese will say its due to diet, but I simply know better. I hope one day the world will know true nature of Chinese civilization, and most importantly for Southern Hans to come accept their culture as part of the Bai Yue tribes and to be proud of their ancient Bai Yue roots.

  4. Wong Kam Wah Says:

    It is really unfair to say that Manchu culture never retain their identities because they still exists in China till this day. They changed into Han ways because of the pressure to assimilate and move socially in Han society. Tibetans and Xinjiang people are prime examples of tribes who decided not to assimilate into Central Plains culture and they are suffering for it now. Vietnamese are part of Bai Yue just like any Zhuang, Miao, Yao, Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, etc .

  5. richard yang Says:

    I wonder is it true that before the early twentieth century Vietnamese had referred themselves as Han race instead of Kinh race?

  6. Wong Kam Wah Says:

    Han is not a race, so keep dreaming. Mongoloid is a race. Han is a cultural entity, ppl under this grouping recognize The Yellow Emperor as their founding father. Did the Yellow Emperor or Shennong (Viets claim him as their founding father) ever existed? We don’t know, and it depends on the historian? Historians are filled with people fulfilling their own political/nationalistic/personal agendas; history can also be used a political tool to rouse ppl as well. Actually, most Han ethnic groups are not “pure” as they make the world believe. The 54 minority tribes of China shaped the cultural entity of “Han” as we see it in the modern day. CCP often fail to acknowledge that fact, but now we see a case Han ppl moving into Xinjiang and Tibet regions to modernize the place. The CCP’s true goal is to outnumber and disempower them as a majority forever. There is no such thing as a benevolent race or civilizing culture, its all respective. You don’t see Viets, Koreans, Mongols, Japanese referring to themselves as barbarians? China needs to seriously ask themselves, “Why does SE and E. Asian countries have a suspicious/spiteful attitude towards them?” Instead of writing off these other countries as bunch of “jealous monkeys” as a go to answer; we (including Huaqiao) need to wise up to “Middle” Kingdom’s methods and come up with our own conclusions and think for ourselves. All of us need to leave our pride aside, and try to see perspectives of others.

    Look at this video from the Japanese perspective of China

  7. It is correct Han is not a race. Han is a name of a river where the founder of Han dynasty was born. But somehow it becomes a misnomer and was widely used when Manchurian occupied China.

  8. Derek Benjamin Says:

    Han is a race in the way people talk about the German race, or English race. Southeast Asia and Western Europe are similar in the sense that they are populated by various groups with a large substrate of genetic and cultural similarities but are nonetheless distinctive people.

    But really what you are describing is what Herodotus discovered 2500 years ago vis a vis the Scythains nomadic people don’t have a culture and will be assimilated rapidly even by populations they capture. The Vietnamese were always peasants not raiders so they had a culture.

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