Archive for the Ancient History Category

12 Sources: An Annotated Bibliography on the Hundred Viets (Bach Viet/Baiyue)

Posted in Ancient History, Annotated Bibliography with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2020 by Ian Pham
Photo by Hugo Heimendinger on Pexels.com*

Introduction:

The following is a collection of sources and excerpts I selected which talk about the ancient ancestors of the Vietnamese people, known in history as the “Hundred Viets” race (Bach Viet/Baiyue).

My original plan was to present the sources in my standard blog format, which is to write about each topic individually, one article at a time. I still intend to do that, so anyone who enjoys my history articles will still have that to look forward to.

At the same time, however, there is so much information that I would like you all to be aware of and see as soon as possible. That way, you know that the information exists, and if you wanted to do a little exploration of your own into our ancient and glorious past, then you can.

That is why I’ve compiled this short list of academic sources about the Hundred Viets. The following are some excellent excerpts quoted directly from the works themselves. They provide some detail into the ancient roots of the Vietnamese people, further demonstrating that Vietnamese history is pretty awesome.

The sources are not organized in alphabetical order, but rather in the order that I believe will make the most sense to the reader and help them see the big picture.

I hope you enjoy this read, and that you find it helpful in discovering and understanding the rich heritage of the Vietnamese people.

Brace yourself, though. It’s a longer read.

Word count: 2709**

Estimated reading time: 15-19 minutes

*photos in this article are presented primarily for aesthetic purposes, and, while they could be, are not necessarily related to the topics discussed
**word count does not include the standard bibliography at the end of the article (word count with bibliography: 2955)

1. Murphey, Rhoads. East Asia: A New History, Fifth Edition. Boston: Longman. 2010.

The Yue kingdom had included the related people and culture of what is now northern Vietnam… In Han times, the southern people and culture of Yue were regarded as foreign and were in fact very different from those of the north. More than traces of these differences remain even now, including the Cantonese language and cuisine… The people and culture of Vietnam were still more different, and they regained their independence from China after the fall of the Han. (Murphy 2010: 60)

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

The name Viet (Yue in Chinese) derives from the name of an ancient kingdom that existed during the Warring States Period (sixth to third centuries BCE) on the southeastern coast of what is now China. The name came to be applied by the ancient Chinese to peoples on their southern frontier… Nam Viet (Chinese Nan Yue, meaning “South Viet”) was the name of an ancient kingdom in southern China. (Murphey 2010: 188)

Chronology…

  • … 220 BCE: Qin conquer northern Vietnam kingdom of Yue
  • … 111 BCE to 220 CE: Han conquest of Yue, northern Vietnam

(Murphy 2010: 189)

2. Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011.

The new nineteenth-century name Vietnam was consciously intended to evoke the memory of an ancient (208-110 BCE) kingdom called Southern Viet (pronounced Nam Viet in Vietnamese). Because the capital of that ancient Southern Viet kingdom had been located at the site of the modern city of Guangzhou (in English, Canton), in China, however, nineteenth-century Vietnam was obviously somewhat further south… The reason, then, why the capital of the ancient kingdom of Southern Viet was… located north of modern Vietnam in what is now China, was because the very earliest Bronze Age kingdom called Viet (in Chinese, Yue 越), from which all of these names presumably ultimately derived, had been located even further north, in the vicinity of the modern Chinese Province of Zhejiang, almost halfway up the coast of what is today China! Early Chinese texts, in fact, referred to most of what is now southeast China as the land of the “Hundred Viets.” (Holcombe 2011: 9)

3. Nguyen, Dieu Thi. “A mythographical journey to modernity: The textual and symbolic transformations of the Hung Kings founding myths.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, no. 2 (2013): 315-37.

The origin or founding myth of Vietnam is ‘Truyen Hong Bang’ (The tale of Hong Bang)… According to the tale, King Kinh Duong, who belonged to the bloodline of the Northern Than Nong (in Chinese Shen Nung, or the Divine Farmer) on his paternal side, and to the Immortals on his maternal side, ruled over the Southern realm named Xich Qui Quoc (The Red-haired Devils’ Realm)… During a journey to the Water Realm, Kinh Duong married a Dragon Spirit, who gave birth to one son, Sung Lam, also known as Lac Long Quan (Dragon Lord of the Lac)… The Dragon Lord met Au Co, an Immortal from the Mountainous Realm, and was smitten by her beauty… The quoc dan (realm’s people) over which they ruled were known as the Bach Viet (One hundred Viet), noted for their custom of tattooing as taught by their Dragon Lord-Father to ward off crocodiles and other aquatic creatures. (Nguyen 2013: 318-19)

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

4. Cameron, Judith. “Textile Crafts in the Gulf of Tongking: The Intersection Between Archeology and History.” In The Tongking Gulf Through History, edited by Nola Cooke, Li Tana, and James A. Anderson: 25-38. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2011.

According to Vietnamese folk history, the earliest groups in the Red River region had no knowledge of spinning and weaving until the time of the Hùng kings, the first indigenous chiefdom centered on the Red River valley. It was ruled by kings who claimed descent from a heroic ancestor, the Lạc dragon lord, who had come from the sea, subdued evil elements in the region, and civilized the people by teaching them to cultivate rice and weave clothes. (Cameron 2011: 31)

The spinning and weaving data from these excavations provide firm evidence for the introduction of textile technology into the Red River valley by late prehistoric groups belonging to the Tanshishan culture (probably Yue) from Fujian Province. (Cameron 2011: 30-37)

5. Milburn, Olivia. “A Virtual City: The ‘Records of the Lands of Yue’ and the Founding of Shaoxing.” Oriens Extremus, vol. 46 (2007): 117-46.

The city of Shaoxing 紹興, in what is now northern Zhejiang province, is one of China’s oldest recorded planned cities. At the time of its foundation in 490 BCE, the city was intended to function as the capital city of the independent and culturally distinct kingdom of Yue 越, at that time on the southern edge of the Chinese world. It was laid out by order of King Goujian of Yue 越王勾踐 (r. 496-465 BCE), the most famous monarch of that kingdom, who played a crucial role in the political life at the very end of the Spring and Autumn period (771-475 BCE). (Milburn 2007: 117)

There are fundamental problems with understanding any Yue text, in that many aspects of the cultural and linguistic background are unknown, and completely different from those recorded in other ancient Chinese texts. ” (Milburn 2007: 118)

It was only towards the end of the Spring and Autumn period that the people of the Zhou confederacy began to become aware of the Yue peoples in the south. The Yue peoples, related culturally and linguistically but not politically (and indeed often at war with each other) stretched along the coast from what is now southern Jiangsu province down the coast to northern Vietnam. (Milburn 2007: 118)

Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on on Pexels.com

Every reference in ancient Chinese texts to the people of the south, particularly to the kingdom of Yue, spoke of their unusual appearance and strange customs. The people of Yue were regarded as alien by the inhabitants of the Central States since they wore their hair cut short and they were tattooed. In addition to that they were a riverine and coastal people, travelling by boat rather than by horse and cart. They were highly bellicose, with a reputation for great bravery. This was enhanced by the widespread use in Yue culture of swords, generally admitted to be of unparalleled quality. To the people of the Central States (whose records provide virtually everything that is known of the Yue people prior to the archaeological discoveries of the last half century), the Yue were exotic and dangerous. (Milburn 2007: 119)

6. Hartmann, John, Wei Luo, Fahui Wang, and Guanxiong Wang. “Sinification of Zhuang place names in Guangxi, China: a GIS-based spatial analysis approach.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no. 2 (2012): 317-33.

Zhuang, the largest minority language in China, is the label given to a variety of Tai languages and dialects spoken mostly in Guangxi. As a result of the process known as Sinification or Sinicisation stemming from the influx of Han soldiers and settlers moving in from many directions, but primarily the north, many Zhuang place names (toponyms) were changed to Han or pronounced with a Han accent or spelled in Chinese in such a way as to obscure the original Zhuang form. (Hartmann et al. 2012: 317)

The origin of the Zhuang can be traced to the ‘Baiyue’ peoples in southern China, recorded in history as early as in the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (475-221 BC) (e.g. Pan 2005). Historically, the Zhuang were farmers who specialised in growing rice in irrigated fields called naa in Zhuang languages. They lived primarily in thousands of villages or small towns in the lowlands close to rivers and streams that were dammed to divert water into the naa. The history of the Zhuang, like other minorities in Chinese frontier regions (e.g. Herman 2007), is marked by a relentless series of violent conflicts with their northern neighbour, the Han (the Chinese majority). (Hartmann et al. 2012: 318)

7. Fu, Songbin, Pu Li, Xiangning Meng, and Yali Xue. “Study on the Distribution of the ‘MSY2’ Polymorphism in 9 Chinese Populations.” Anthropologischer Anzeiger, h. 1 (2005): 23-27.

The Buyi, who came from the ancient “Baiyue” and had the same predecessor with the Zhuang, were relatively closed by living in plains isolated by mountains. (Fu et al. 2005: 26)

8. Weinstein, Jodie L. Empire and Identity in Guizhou: Local Resistance to Qing Expansion. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2014.

In northwestern Guizhou, the Lolo, known today as the Yi predominated, interspersed with small settlements of Han immigrants and Miao. The southwest had a high concentration of Zhongjia (Buyi)… (Weinstein 2014: 17)

To begin answering the question “Who are the Zhongjia?” it will be useful to first examine some modern demographic and ethnographic data. As noted earlier, the Zhongjia have been called the Buyi since 1953. Numbering around 2.9 million, the Buyi today constitute the eleventh-largest minority nationality in the People’s Republic of China. (Weinstein 2014: 19)

Photo by Q. Hung Pham on Pexels.com

The Buyi represent one of many Tai groups in southern China and Southeast Asia… Their closest kin in both ethnolinguistic and geographic terms are the Northern Zhuang, a subgroup within the much larger Zhuang nationality that is found mostly in Guangxi… The Buyi and Northern Zhuang share so many cultural and linguistic similarities that it is impossible to study one group without reference to the other… More distant relatives of the Buyi include the Southern Zhuang of Guangxi and the Nung and Tay of Vietnam. The Buyi also share some cultural and linguistic features with the Dai of southern Yunnan as well as the Thai, Lao, and Shan populations of mainland Southeast Asia. Their extended ethnic family also includes the Dong (Kam), Shui, and Maonan ethnic groups dispersed throughout Guizhou, Guangxi, and Hunan, and the Li of Hainan. (Weinstein 2014: 19)

Archeological findings, linguistic data, and DNA evidence suggest that these Tai-speaking populations all descended from the Hundred Yue (Baiyue) peoples who occupied a vast area of eastern, central, and south- ern China as early as 2000 B.C.E. Two Baiyue civilizations in particular have been linked to the Buyi of Guizhou and their Zhuang neighbors. The Buyi and Northern Zhuang seem to share ancestral ties to the Xi’ou people who inhabited the West River basin along Guangxi’s present-day border with Guangdong. The Southern Zhuang, along with the closely related Nung and Tay, may have descended from the Luoyue people who lived in the area extending from Guangxi’s current provincial capital of Nanning to the Red River basin of northern Vietnam. Like their contemporaries in other Yue societies, the inhabitants of Xi’ou and Luoyue relied primarily on rice farming and other agricultural activities for their livelihood. (Weinstein 2014: 19-20)

9. Ruan, Xing. Allegorical Architcture: Living Myth and Architectonics in Southern China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 2006.

The Dong are an ancient but little-known ethnic group who today number more than 2.9 million, a little less than the population of, say, Jamaica. All existing historical records on the Dong are in Chinese, which, as mentioned earlier, was based on various “travel notes” from adventurous Han literati like Lu You. (Ruan 2006: 14)

Photo by Thach Tran on Pexels.com

Generally speaking, the Dong are believed to have originated from a branch of the ancient Luoyue, who are known to have lived in Guizhou at the end of the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220). The Luoyue were native people of the area now inhabited by the Dong. The historically recorded Luoyue customs—tattoos, bronze drums, men and women bathing together in rivers, and the like—are still alive in today’s Dong social life. In some places, even mountains and clans are named Luo. Through time, the ancient Baiyue migrated into this region, mingling with the native population. Other propositions regarding the origins of the Dong associate them with the ancient Yue, the Ouyue, the Ganyue, the Jinyue, and others. In all of these cases, the Dong are thought to have derived from these people. (Ruan 2006: 22)

10. Wang, Feng. “Report of Conference in Evolutionary Linguistics (2012).” Journal of Chinese Linguistics, no. 1 (2013): 246-53.

How to draw genetic trees of languages is an important area where methods and information from mathematics can be brought into evolutionary linguistics… Deng Xiaohua of Xiamen University applied molecular anthropology and lexicostatistics to obtain a genetic tree of Austronesian languages in Taiwan. Based on the analysis of this tree, the BaiYue-Austronesian group was thought to be formed around 4000 B.P. in southeastern China. (Wang 2013: 251)

11. Bush, Richard C. Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. 2005.

In May 2001, scientists in Taiwan announced the results of research on the genetic origins of the island’s Minnan (southern Fujian) majority. This is the part of the population known as Taiwanese, as opposed to mainlanders, Hakkas, and aborigines. The researchers found that they were in fact descended from the Yueh people, who were scattered along the southeastern coast of China during the later Zhou dynasty (770–221 B.C.). The political implication: Taiwanese were not ethnically Chinese.  (Bush 2005: 225)

Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com

Not to be outdone, PRC researchers announced in December 2001 that four aboriginal groups in Taiwan exhibited a specific chromosomal pattern characteristic of the Li ethnic group on Hainan Island and that all five groups were descended from the Baiyue people of eastern China. The Baiyue were said to have migrated to both Hainan and Taiwan, where they maintained the same lifestyle and customs. The Chinese message: even Taiwan’s aborigines had a connection with the mainland.  (Bush 2005: 225)

12. He, Yinan. “Competing Narratives, Identity Politics, and Cross-Strait Reconciliation.” Asian Perspective, no. 4 (2010): 45-83.

On prehistoric Taiwan, three theoretical models exist in the academic debate: theories of southern origin, arguing that Taiwan’s aborigines are the carriers of the Austronesian languages who originally lived on the islands in Southeast Asia and moved to Taiwan; theories of northern origin contending that the aborigines are descendants of the ancient Baiyue (hundreds of Yue tribes), people who came from southern China, although the Yue people remaining in China have since been assimilated by the Han; and theories suggesting that Taiwan is the land of the Austronesian languages and center of the southern islands culture. (He 2010: 50)

Two pieces of news caught peoples’ eyes in 2001. First, two students of Fudan University compared the gaoshanzu with the osseous remains found in a Yue relic in Maqiao, near Shanghai, and claimed that their chromosome match was 50 percent or more. In the other report, the Institute of Genetics of the Chinese Academy of Science concluded that the Li minorities living in Hainan Island today share ancestors with four gaoshanzu groups because their chromosome type is the same as the Baiyue people in Zhejiang province but differs from Southeast Asian people. (He 2010: 51)

Conclusion:

That’s all (for now), folks! As you can see, the Vietnamese people have an ancient ancestry. Our influence vast, and our historical impact immense. Hope you enjoyed the read.

Bibliography (standard and alphabetical):

Bush, Richard C. Untying the Knot: Making Peace in the Taiwan Strait. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. 2005.

Cameron, Judith. “Textile Crafts in the Gulf of Tongking: The Intersection Between Archeology and History.” In The Tongking Gulf Through History, edited by Nola Cooke, Li Tana, and James A. Anderson: 25-38. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2011.

Fu, Songbin, Pu Li, Xiangning Meng, and Yali Xue. “Study on the Distribution of the ‘MSY2’ Polymorphism in 9 Chinese Populations.” Anthropologischer Anzeiger, h. 1 (2005): 23-27.

Hartmann, John, Wei Luo, Fahui Wang, and Guanxiong Wang. “Sinification of Zhuang place names in Guangxi, China: a GIS-based spatial analysis approach.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no. 2 (2012): 317-33.

He, Yinan. “Competing Narratives, Identity Politics, and Cross-Strait Reconciliation.” Asian Perspective, no. 4 (2010): 45-83.

Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011.

Milburn, Olivia. “A Virtual City: The ‘Records of the Lands of Yue’ and the Founding of Shaoxing.” Oriens Extremus, vol. 46 (2007): 117-46.

Murphey, Rhoads. East Asia: A New History, Fifth Edition. Boston: Longman. 2010.

Nguyen, Dieu Thi. “A mythographical journey to modernity: The textual and symbolic transformations of the Hung Kings founding myths.” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, no. 2 (2013): 315-37.

Ruan, Xing. Allegorical Architecture: Living Myth and Architectonics in Southern China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 2006.

Wang, Feng. “Report of Conference in Evolutionary Linguistics (2012).” Journal of Chinese Linguistics, no. 1 (2013): 246-53.

Weinstein, Jodie L. Empire and Identity in Guizhou: Local Resistance to Qing Expansion. Seattle: University of Washington Press. 2014.

The Vietnamese-Cantonese Connection

Posted in Ancient History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2020 by Ian Pham
Guangdong Province of China was once the place of the ancient Vietnamese kingdom of Nam-Viet in the late first millenium B.C. Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

The Cantonese language is a derivation of the Vietnamese language. If you didn’t know, then now you know.

A brief excerpt from Rhoads Murphey’s textbook, East Asia: A New History, 5th Edition, says the following (p. 60):

In Han [China] times, the southern people and culture of Yue [Viet] were regarded as foreign and were in fact very different from those of the north. More than traces of these differences remain even now, including the Cantonese language and cuisine… The people and culture of Vietnam were still more different, and they regained their independence from China after the fall of the Han.

The excerpt from Murphey above candidly shows that the Cantonese language and cuisine were part of Viet culture. This is further evidence demonstrating that the Vietnamese people’s role and influence in Asia during ancient times were larger and more prominent than is commonly believed in popular history.

One important note about Murphey’s book is that it is heavily skewed in favor of China. His coverage of Chinese history is presented with more enthusiasm and glorification than his coverage of Vietnamese history. Despite this point, there is still some useful information about Vietnam to be found in his work.

If taken with other sources on Vietnamese history (one recommendation are the works of Cornell University’s Keith W. Taylor), Murphey’s reluctant coverage may assist a newcomer in learning some introductory things about the Vietnamese nation and its people.

Prior to the invasion by the Chinese Han Dynasty in 111 B.C., there existed a Vietnamese kingdom named Nam-Viet in what is today Guangdong and Guangxi (Murphy 2010: 191). The capital of the Nam-Viet kingdom was located in what is today the city of Guangzhou (aka Canton) (Holcombe 2011: 9).

After the fall of the Han, the people of Viet would wrestle from the grips of Chinese control, occasionally breaking free, but ultimately being recaptured by a new Chinese dynasty. The Viet people’s fight for independence would eventually be achieved once and for all in 938 A.D., with Ngo Quyen’s victory at the Battle of Bach Dang River.

The people of Vietnam have ancient roots that stretch back more than 4,000 years.

Ancestors of the Vietnamese people are known as the “Hundred Viets” race. These Hunded Viets occupied a vast region in Asia that included today’s northern Vietnam and much of today’s China south of the Yangtze River.

Today, Vietnam is a nation in Southeast Asia, with a rich and proud history that is only beginning to truly be grasped by western observers.

Cited:

Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011.

Murphey, Rhoads. East Asia: A New History, 5th Edition. Boston: Longman. 2010.

4,000+ Years and Counting: Essential Facts About the Vietnamese People

Posted in Ancient History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2020 by Ian Pham
Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

Introduction:

There is already a lot of information out there about Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. Much of the following is common knowledge.

We are a nation in Southeast Asia.

We fought a bloody and destructive war in the 20th century, which took place between the 1950s and 1970s. The U.S. was involved in this war and fought alongside the good guys (the South Vietnamese).

Since the 10th century, we became an independent nation called Dai Viet (“Great Viet”) after 1,000 years of Chinese occupation, which started when the Han Dynasty took over in the first century BC.

Vietnam has some pretty incredible historical heroes, such as Lady Trieu, who led a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against the Kingdom of Wu in the third century; General Tran Hung Dao, who crushed the mighty Mongol Yuan Empire invaders in the 14th century; and Emperor Nguyen Hue Quang Trung, who eviscerated the invaders from the Manchu Qing Dynasty in the 18th century.

These are just a few of the things that encompass the long and storied heritage of the Vietnamese people. They are a cornerstone of the Vietnamese identity, and are commonly known to anyone who is interested in Vietnamese history.

A statue of Emperor Quang Trung of the Tay Son Dynasty. Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam. Photo shared in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0. (via Bùi Thụy Đào Nguyên / Wikimedia Commons).

As important and timeless as these truths are, however, they are things that happened relatively recently, within the last 2,000 years in the AD era (Anno Domini; also known as the Common Era [CE]; after the birth of Christ). Therefore, they do not explain who the Vietnamese people were in ancient times, in the BC era (Before Christ) of the western calendar.

And so, in pursuit of a deeper understanding of Vietnamese history, the following questions are raised:

  1. Did Vietnam exist before 2,000 years ago?
  2. If yes, what was Vietnam like before 2,000 years ago?
  3. Just how old are the Vietnamese people?

The proceeding sections of this article will present more detailed answers to the questions above. If you’re short on time right now, though, then the quick version of the answers, in their respective order, are:

  1. Yes.
  2. Pretty sophisticated and impressive.
  3. Really, really, really old.

Brief Answers:

1. Yes, a Vietnamese state did exist before 2,000 years ago:

It wasn’t called “Vietnam” during that time, but it did exist. And it existed in several forms in different time periods.

Vietnam had a number of names throughout its existence. Some (but not all) of these names include “Van Lang,” “Au Lac,” “Nam-Viet,” and “Dai-Viet.” It was not until the 19th century that the modern name “Viet-Nam” was adapted by the Nguyen Dynasty.

The Vietnamese state we will talk about specifically in the next section is Au Lac.

2. This Vietnamese state, Au Lac, was independent, sophisticated, and impressive.

In the first millennium BC, there existed the Vietnamese state of Au Lac. Its capital city was named Co Loa. As the next section will show, Co Loa was quite advanced and developed, signifying that the people who built it were socially, politically, and culturally sophisticated.

3. The Vietnamese people have existed for more than 4,000 years.

Besides the testament presented by the state of Au Lac, there is evidence that the Vietnamese people have existed in northern Vietnam and much of southern China for a really, really, really long time.

Read on to find more detailed explanations for these answers.

Co Loa Citadel and the Vietnamese state of Au Lac in the first millennium BC:

In his book The Origins of Ancient Vietnam (2015), Nam C. Kim presents valuable insight into the state of Au Lac. From Au Lac, the Vietnamese people can trace their heritage back to at least the first millennium BC.

Traditional accounts signify that the kingdom of Au Lac was founded through conquest by a man named An Duong Vuong (aka “King An Duong”) in the third century BC (Kim, 2015: 5). There is common agreement that in Vietnamese tradition, King An Duong is recognized as one of the early ancestors of the Vietnamese people.

Following his conquest, the newly crowned King An Duong ordered the construction of a large citadel in Tay-vu called Co Loa Thanh (aka “Co Loa Citadel”). This citadel, which may simply be called “Co Loa,” would be the capital city of Au Lac, and thus, the political and power center of this new kingdom (Kim, 2015: 5).

(Note: Be careful not to confuse “Co Loa,” the name of the capital city of Au Lac, with “Cao Lo,” the name of one of King An Duong’s advisors, who is also an important historical figure associated with the city’s founding.)

The statue of Cao Lo, builder of the mythical magic crossbow that, according to legend, allowed King An Duong to conquer countless enemies in battle. Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo shared in accordance with CC BY-SA 4.0. (via Julez A. / Wikimedia Commons).

What is significant about the city of Co Loa is its size and sophistication.

Kim’s account presents the fact that Co Loa was a large and heavily fortified city. This, he argues, is proof of significant complexity and consolidated authority that was present within this Viet society when the city was built (2015: 6).

The name “Co Loa” itself means “old snail city.” It comes from the city’s artful and intricate architecture, whose “walls appear to be laid out in concentric rings of earthen ramparts reminiscent of a snail shell,” (Kim, 2015: 5).

The builders of the Co Loa settlement, which Kim calls the “Co Loa Polity,” is said to be an organized political entity. They were centralized, operated at the state level, and had longstanding political institutions (2015: 9).

All of this suggests that the founders of Au Lac, and its capital Co Loa, were people of military, political, and cultural sophistication. These early ancestors of the Vietnamese people were organized, civilized, and well-established.

In addition to Au Lac, the general Red River Delta region in northern Vietnam has been considered the “heartland” of Vietnamese civilization since at least the third millennium BC. (Kim, 2015: 18).

Further investigation into Vietnam’s past shows the existence of ancient peoples whose roots stretch further back than is commonly understood in popular culture.

Collectively, these peoples are known as the Hundred Viets, and had occupied the regions of northern Vietnam and southern China long before the Chinese came.

The Hundred Viets peoples who inhabited Southern China before the Chinese did:

One of the more commonly known examples of Vietnamese people occupying parts of southern China comes from Nam-Viet, another kingdom that also existed in the first millennium BC. Based on its founding year, Nam-Viet is newer than Au Lac.

Nam-Viet existed between 208-110 BC, and, like Au Lac, was a state of Vietnamese origin. It was located in what is today the city of Guangzhou, China (Holcombe, 2011: 9). The name “Nam-Viet,” if translated to English, means “Southern Viet.”

Earlier than this, possibly by a thousand years, there existed yet another Vietnamese kingdom. Charles Holcombe, in A History of East Asia (2011), talks about an early “Bronze Age kingdom called Viet,” which was “located even farther north [than Guangzhou], in the vicinity of the modern Chinese Province of Zhejiang, almost half way up the coast of what is today China!” (2011: 9).

Tellingly, it is also noted by Holcombe that, “Early Chinese texts, in fact, referred to most of what is now southeast China as the land of the ‘Hundred Viets,'” (2011: 9).

A snapshot of modern-day Zhejiang Province in southeast China. Notice the province of Anhui directly northwest. These locations were once the homes of several Viet groups before the arrival of the Chinese.

Holcombe also spends some time in his book briefly talking about one specific tribe of the Hundred Viets. These are the Mountain Viets (in Chinese, “Shan Yue”), who occupied the lower Yangtze River area, and who took their last stand against the Chinese kingdom of Wu before being defeated in the third century AD (2011: 62).

During the “Three Kingdoms” era in Chinese history, the Kingdom of Wu waged a military campaign against the Mountain Viets. This campaign started in the year 234 AD, lasted for three years, and culminated in the surrender of approximately 100,000 Mountain Viets at what today is modern Anhui Province in China (Holcombe 2011: 62).

From Holcombe’s account, it appears that the Mountain Viets were then assimilated into the Chinese population. After the Three Kingdoms period, the name “Mountain Viet” was not spoken of again (2011: 62).

The evidence here shows that before the Chinese came, much of what is today southern China was inhabited by the ancestors of the Vietnamese people. More specifically, it is proof that the Vietnamese people have a long and deep history that is much older and more sophisticated than is commonly believed.

4,000+ Years and counting:

Whether it be the kingdoms of Au Lac and Nam-Viet during the mid-late first millennium BC, or the Kingdom of Viet before that during the Bronze Age, it is clear that prior to the AD era, the Vietnamese people did exist.

The evidence shows that the various Viet kingdoms are connected to a larger family of ancient Viet peoples, which, together, comprise the “Hundred Viets” race.

The Dong Son Bronze Drum is a known symbol of Vietnamese antiquity. This photo was taken at the Vietnam History Museum, and posted to Wikimedia Commons on April 13, 2009 by Binh Giang (Public Domain).

The Hundred Viets occupied vast areas of both East Asia and Southeast Asia, reaching from what is northern Vietnam today, all the way through modern-day southern China up to the Yangtze River.

While further research continues to provide more clarity on just how old the Vietnamese people are, current findings show that they have existed for at least 4,000 years.

Not bad.

Cited:

Holcombe, Charles. A History of East Asia: From the Origins of Civilization to the Twenty-First Century. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011.

Kim, Nam C. The Origins of Ancient Vietnam. New York: Oxford University Press. 2015.

Year One: 938, The Year Vietnam Broke Free

Posted in Ancient History, Dynastic History with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2018 by Ian Pham

Bach Dang Battle 938(Wikimedia)

Let us be clear, first and foremost, that Vietnam, its history, its language, its culture, and its people, has existed long before the year 938 A.D. There are at least two thousand years of popular recorded Vietnamese history, and much more information available about Vietnam out there covering even further back than these two millennia. This article does not make the case that 938 is the year that Vietnam began. No, this article simply seeks to highlight the significance of the year 938, because, while there are many, many major dates in the history of Vietnam before and after 938, that particular year holds a very important place in Vietnam’s history.

938 A.D. was the year that the people of Vietnam defeated China in a decisive war, ended the thousand years of Chinese occupation once and for all, achieved independence, and created for themselves a sovereign nation that was distinctly Vietnamese. It was a new beginning for the Vietnamese people, the year that Vietnam was reborn, and the dawn of a new era of independence after a destructive thousand years of Chinese domination. This is the significance of the year 938, and why it is argued here to be “Year One” of a new Vietnamese epoch.

So many heroes and so many lives were sacrificed, up to and including the year 938 to achieve the triumph of the Vietnamese people over the Chinese occupiers. This momentous victory culminated at Vietnam’s Bạch Đằng River, where a small Vietnamese naval force, under the leadership of General Ngô Quyền, destroyed an invading army from the Southern Han kingdom of China. It was at Bạch Đằng, with this victory, that China’s thousand years of domination over Vietnam effectively came to an end (Bolt & Garrett, 1999).

Prior to the 938 Battle of Bạch Đằng, Vietnam was still an occupied territory under the Southern Han of China. The millennium of Chinese domination over Vietnam formally began in the year 111 B.C., when the Han Dynasty of China, under the command of Emperor Wu Di, overran the ancient kingdom of Nam-Việt (ancient Vietnam) (Tran, 1920: 44-47). From that period, all the way until 938 A.D., the Vietnamese people initiated many fights for independence. Although some of these efforts yielded short-lived successes, such as the revered and truly consequential Trưng Sisters’ Rebellion in the first century (40 A.D. – 43. A.D.) (ibid, 49-50), a conclusive and lasting victory did not occur until Ngô Quyền’s monumental triumph over the Southern Han at Bạch Đằng in 938. It was then and there that Chinese domination was ended once and for all.

General Ngô Quyền, the man who led the fight against the Southern Han in 938, was born in Vietnam’s Sơn Tây province (Chapuis, 1995: 70). According to the historian Tran Trong Kim, Ngô Quyền was 47 years old when he died in the year 944 (89), thus marking his age at either 40 or 41 at the Battle of Bạch Đằng, depending on whether his birthday (unknown in this article) occurred before or after the battle. In any case, one can see here that Ngô Quyền was not very old at the time he led the Vietnamese to victory.

Before Ngô Quyền took the helm as leader of the resistance, a man named Dương Đình Nghệ, Ngô Quyền’s mentor and father-in-law, led the Vietnamese rebel forces. Certain feats accomplished by Dương Đình Nghệ showed him to be a strong and effective leader.

In 931, having already established control over some originally Vietnamese territories in the crumbling Chinese empire, the elder Nghệ launched an attack on Southern Han forces in Đại La, expanded the scope of his control, and effectively consolidated a governorship over a quasi-independent Vietnamese territory (Taylor, 2013: 45-46).

During this time, though the Vietnamese area was indeed ruled by a Vietnamese leader, it was, on paper, still under the control of the Southern Han. Having achieved recognition from a weak and reluctant Southern Han (Taylor, 46), the Governor Nghệ had big plans for his territory. However, due to his assassination, Governor Nghệ would only rule for a span of six years and was unable to carry out his goals (Tran, 76). In 937, Dương Đình Nghệ was betrayed and murdered by one of his own generals, Kiều Công Tiễn, who then sought help from the Chinese to consolidate his usurpation (Taylor, 46). Consistent with their approach to any traitor to the Vietnamese nation, the Chinese were happy to assist the treasonous Kiều Công Tiễn in causing damage to Vietnam’s interests.

During this time, Ngô Quyền was serving under Dương Đình Nghệ as the administrator of what is modern day Thanh Hóa province. The two men had a close relationship, for it was Nghệ who recognized the talents of Ngô Quyền in earlier times, promoted Quyền to oversee the operations of Thanh Hóa, and granted his daughter’s hand in marriage to Quyền. Upon hearing the news of his mentor’s death, Ngô Quyền mobilized his own forces to confront Kiều Công Tiễn and avenge his father-in-law (Tran, 76).

Marching northward, Ngô Quyền killed the traitor Kiều Công Tiễn in 938, and promptly shifted his attention to the incoming Chinese invasion (Taylor, 46; Tran, 76). From China, the Southern Han ruler, Liu Gong, braced his forces for an attempt to recapture the Vietnamese territory.

Anticipating the Southern Han’s attack, Ngô Quyền “stationed his men at the estuary of the Bạch Đằng River where the sea routes entered the plain and where he prepared to receive the Southern Han fleet with iron-tipped poles planted in the bed of the river,” (Taylor, 46).

Prior to the Battle of Bạch Đằng, the Southern Han heeded the call of the traitor Kiều Công Tiễn, and “mobilized a fleet of warships, commanded by the crown prince, to bring an army to the aid of its would-be ally,” (ibid). According to Chapuis, this invading force was known as the “Yunnanese expedition,” (70), and was led by Liu Gong’s son, the crown prince Liu Hungcao (Anderson, 2007: 43), [known as Hoằng Tháo in Vietnamese records (Chapuis, 70)].

As history shows, even after the death of Kiều Công Tiễn, the Southern Han continued their invasion of Vietnam without their “would-be ally.” An examination by James Anderson demonstrates that during this period, in what the Chinese describe as the “Five Dynasties” period, the aspirational Southern Han dynasty north of the Vietnamese regions were showing renewed interest in once again capturing full control of Vietnam and its people (43). These findings cast doubt on the Southern Han’s apparently benevolent intentions of simply helping a potential ally, embodied by the treasonous Kiều Công Tiễn. Instead, it is more apparent that the Southern Han, though claiming to assist an ally in need, sought to exploit the situation in Vietnam to capture and reestablish Chinese control over the Vietnamese once more.

The Southern Han’s Yunnanese expedition arrived in the autumn of 938, and was met by the forces of General Ngô Quyền at Bạch Đằng River (Anderson, 43; Taylor, 46).

As part of their strategy, it was the forces of Ngô Quyền who initiated the naval confrontation versus the Southern Han fleet (Chapuis, 70). The Việt forces instigated the fight during high tide, when the river waters covered the giant iron stakes they had planted beneath the waves. As the tide gradually fell, Ngô Quyền’s forces feigned a retreat, prompting a chase by the Southern Han’s forces. In their pursuit, the invaders sailed directly over Ngô Quyền’s trap (Tran, 70). With the fall of the tide, the Chinese ships became entangled, the stakes ripping through the Chinese ships and impaling the soldiers onboard (Anderson, 43). It was then that Ngô Quyền and the Việt forces launched their counter attack, against an ensnared Southern Han naval fleet that could neither fight back nor escape. As a result, at Bạch Đằng River, Ngô Quyền and his navy obliterated the Chinese invading forces (Tran, 76), drowning half of the Chinese expedition (Anderson, 43).

From the battle, the Southern Han’s naval commander, the crown prince Liu Hungcao, was captured by Ngô Quyền’s forces and subsequently executed (Tran, 76). With the destruction of its invading fleet, and the loss of Prince Hungcao, who was both the leader of the fleet and the heir to the Southern Han’s throne, the defeat at Bạch Đằng River marked “the end of Southern Han ambitions in An Nam,” (Taylor, 46). [Side note: An Nam was the Chinese’ derogatory name for Vietnam, meaning “Pacified South,” and is a label “much resented by the Vietnamese,” then and now (Bolt & Garrett)].

With the Southern Han invaders vanquished, and his position over the Vietnamese realm solidified, Ngô Quyền purged himself of any designations associated with the old Chinese order, and took on the role as “King” of a newly independent Vietnamese throne (Anderson, 43). The new Vietnamese King then set up his independent capital at Cổ Loa, an ancient site north of the Red River Delta, where the legendary Vietnamese ruler King An Dương founded his ancient kingdom of Âu Lạc (257 B.C. – 207 B.C.) more than a thousand years before Ngô Quyền’s time (Anderson, 43-44; Taylor, 46).

Ngô Quyền’s decision to set up his government at this specific location signified his purpose to be a “Vietnamese leader who was independent from northern [Chinese] control” (Anderson, 44). In so doing, King Ngô Quyền declared his own dynasty, separate from the Chinese (Taylor, 46). It was a monarchic regime, viewed by some as “the first manifestation of Vietnam’s national identity,” (Chapuis, 70).

And with that, in the year 938 A.D., a new Vietnamese nation was born, after more than one thousand years of Chinese domination.

The Battle of Bạch Đằng of 938 would be recorded famously in the annals of history, and the mastermind behind the brilliant strategies that resulted in that victory, the General (and later, King) Ngô Quyền, joined the “pantheon of Vietnamese national heroes,” (43). Successive generations, such as the dynasties of the Đinh, the “Early” Lê, the Lý, the Trần (Tran, 76), and all those after them, stemmed from the foundation laid by Ngô Quyền and the brave Vietnamese who made the ultimate sacrifice before and up to that monumental victory at Bạch Đằng River.

It was at that critical juncture that a new Vietnamese homeland was born. At Bạch Đằng River, after a thousand years of trying, trying, and trying some more, our Vietnamese ancestors realized our destiny in 938, affirming the right to exist of the Vietnamese people, and of a Vietnamese homeland, always and forever.

For this reason, with the undying truth that Vietnam and its people possess thousands of years of history long before the Battle of Bạch Đằng Bay, the year 938 A.D. stands immortal in the history books of the Vietnamese people, and is argued here to be “Year One” of a new Vietnamese era.

 

Bibliography:

Anderson, James. The Rebel Den of Nùng Trí Cao: Loyalty and Identity Along the Sino-Vietnamese Frontier. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.

Bolt, Ernest & Amanda Garrett. “The End of Chinese Domination: The Battle of Bach Dang (938).” From Pre-Colonial Vietnam: Study Module for Online Course (Richmond University, 1999). https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~ebolt/history398/PrecolonialVietnam.html (accessed Dec. 30, 2017).

Chapuis, Oscar. A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1995.

Taylor, Keith W. A History of the Vietnamese. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Tran, Kim Trong. Việt Nam Sử Lược. Vietnam: Thanh Hoa Publishing, 1920.

The Culture of Vietnam: Lasting Through the Ages

Posted in Ancient History, Dynastic History, I. News, IV. Columns with tags , , on October 6, 2012 by Ian Pham

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.

Kim Định: The Pioneer of Vietnam’s Historical Awakening

Posted in Ancient History, I. News, IV. Columns with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2011 by Ian Pham

Decades ago, the majority of academics believed that the origins of Asia’s writing system came from China.  However, one man dared to challenge conventional belief, presenting some ideas that shocked and enraged fellow members of his academic community.  This said individual was a professor and philosopher who went by the name of Kim Định.

Through his literature, Kim Định presented many interesting arguments and ideas, many which posed a direct challenge to the writings and accounts of the Chinese.  One of the sensetive points raised by Kim Định was the origin of the Chinese writing system.  Kim was the first to put into question the common perception that the system was developed in China.

Using Vietnamese folklore, geographical names and dates, and the disrepencies in Chinese historical accounts as his basis, Kim Định boldly presented the idea that it was from the clans of the Hundred Viets that the writing system of China was created.  According to Kim Định, it was the Chinese who borrowed the writing system from the Vietnamese, not the other way around.

The next groundbreaking idea presented by Kim Định was the origin of the Confucian ideology.  Kim Định was also one of the very first researchers to take the position that Confucianism was developed in ancient Vietnam, long before the Chinese used it as their official ideology.  Through extensive research, Kim Dinh came up with conclusions, mainly arguing that there is a much older strand of Vietnamese Confucianism, different from the Chinese, and older than the Chinese.

Because his ideas so strongly opposed what was commonly believed at the time, Kim Định was widely unpopular with his fellow researchers.  He was scorned for his work and shunned by many of his colleagues, labelled as a fanatic nationalist who defied history.  Decades went by until his work was taken seriously.  Today, Kim Định’s work has become the foundation by which modern researchers of Vietnamese history begin their investigations.

Kim Định was a researcher, philosopher, and professor in the former Republic of South Vietnam.  He has authored over 30 books dedicated to the study of Vietnam’s origins, and has become the originator of contemporary Viet studies.  Much of the ideas and findings conducted by modern researchers in the study of Vietnam’s past is based on his work.  A great contributor to the reemergence of Vietnamese history, an important man indeed.

The Return of Vietnam’s History

Posted in Ancient History, IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , on September 22, 2011 by Ian Pham

This is just a short note describing the great re-emergence of a history that has been lost for so many centuries.  Thanks to modern research, archeology, and intricate analysis, both of historical sources and ancient folklore, the culture of the Vietnamese people is now slowly coming back from the dust.

After being burned, buried, and outright obliterated for over 2000 years, what seemed like an impossible endeavour is now becoming a real possibility.  The history of the entire Vietnamese people, not only the Lac Viet, but all of the Hundred Viets, is slowly but surely returning from its long, lost, slumber.

Everyone used to believe that Vietnam was just an offset of the Chinese empire, but that is no longer valid.  Current research findings now argue with great validity that a civilized Viet society had existed for as long, if not longer, than the Chinese themselves.  Roots of Viet civilization have been traced back to more than 5000 years in the past, shocking and defying conventional belief, and laying the groundwork for future generations to dig even deeper.

I just want to bring to light the amazing new discoveries that have been made so far, and express my optimism and excitement for what will be found in years to come.  There are so many questions that have yet to be answered: Did Confucius actually acquire his teachings from the southern country of Viet?  Is the Nom writing of Viet really older than the writing of the Chinese?  Were the Hundred Viets really the predecessors of many of the people living in China now?  Did Kou Chien, King of Yueh actually speak and write in Vietnamese?

The questions I’ve just raised may seem farfetched, laughable, maybe even infuriating to some readers.  Regardless, it is important that one can see both sides of the arguments, and gain the confidence to challenge ourselves to see if what we’ve been thinking for years is actually true or not.  There are reasons why questions like these have been asked, and it all comes from evidence.  Whether or not you are excited about what the future holds, I can assure you that many more questions will be asked, with much more findings presented to spark the curious mind.  To an enlightening, stimulating, and groundbreaking future, full of discoveries and insights, cheers!

The Sword of King Câu Tiễn

Posted in Ancient History, Art, I. News with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2011 by Ian Pham

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.

The History of the Hundred Việts

Posted in Ancient History with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by Ian Pham

Earlier this month, I presented the ancient Vietnamese legend of Lạc Long Quân, the Dragon Prince, in order to illustrate the origins of the Vietnamese people.  It chronicles the life of the Prince, his meeting with Âu Cơ the Fairy Princess, and the birth of their hundred sons.  These hundred sons would become known as the Hundred Việts, otherwise known as the Bách Việt, or Bai Yue civilization.

In turning our sights from the story of the Hundred Sons over to the history of the Hundred Việts, we have crossed the line from myth into reality.  The Hundred Việts were an actual people, who once inhabited the vast region now known as Southern China, as far back as 4000 B.C.  They were an agricultural people who engaged in farming, fishing, and the raising of animals.  The traditions of these people included dying their teeth to black, as well as the art of tattooing.

The culture of the Bách Việt people was rich with folklore, poetry, and humanistic teachings.  The system of government was at the village level, as many clans, tribes, and families cooperated with each other, with a king or village chief at the top.  It is from these numerous clans that the people, as a whole, became known in modern history as the Hundred Việts.  The main source of food for these societies was rice, as the rich fertile soil of the south made it perfect for rice cultivation.

In reality, there were about ten to twenty different clans, the name Bách Việt (Hundred Viet, Bai Yue), is just the general title to describe the society as a whole.  Bách Việt was a peaceful society that did not engage in warfare with other regions.  The philosophy of the Bai Yue always spoke of peace, compassion, and the importance of the human heart.  Unfortunately, due to their peaceful nature, the society became highly vulnerable to the nomadic tribes from the north, who raided and captured much of the Bách Việt’s land, along with their culture.

As a result of their peaceful ways and unpreparedness for combat, the clans of Âu Việt, Ư Việt, Hồ Việt, Mân Việt, Đông Việt, and many others, slowly fell to the northern invaders, one by one.  The invaders subsequently erased the history of these clans in order to assimilate them, a strategy that proved to be devastating to the people of Bách Việt.  The plans resulted in the vanishment of Việt culture for over two thousand years, only to be rediscovered in the 21st century.

Of the dozen Việt clans that existed throughout history, only one has prevailed in the face of northern aggression.  This one surviving clan, the one clan able to resist the relentless invasions of the north for more than 4000 years, is the clan of Lạc Việt.  The Lạc Việt clan was the main branch of the Hundred Viets, they were the most powerful, and the only clan equipped to fight back.

The descendants of the Lạc are the forefathers of Vietnam today, carrying on the traditions of a culture that has existed for more than 6000 years.  In distant history, they were the warriors of Nam-Việt, Jiaozhi, and then Đại Việt.  Today, they represent the 3 million people oversees, who live from places like Europe, to Australia, to North America.  They are also the 87 million inhabitants of Vietnam today, a population that is slowly preparing to fight for their freedom, no matter what the cost.

Dragons and Fairies: The Legend of the Hundred Việts

Posted in Ancient History with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by Ian Pham

The following is a myth that chronicles the origin of the Vietnamese people.  It has been passed down from generations to generations, long preceding even the thousand years of Chinese occupation.  It is a cornerstone of Vietnamese culture, a foundation that has safeguarded the identity of the Vietnamese for many thousands of years.

This is a mythical tale, filled with magic and wonder, and should not be taken literally.  It is meant to paint a picture in your mind, giving you something to think about.  After this reading, you will understand why the Vietnamese people refer to themselves as the seeds of Dragons and the descendants of Fairies.  It’s also kind of a love story, if you’re into that sorta thing?

Happy Reading!

The Legend of Lạc Long Quân

Legend speaks of a man named Kinh Dương Vương (aka King Kinh Dương), a mythical figure that descended from a long line of dragons.  Long Nu, a female descendent of another dragon clan, was married to Kinh Dương Vương and gave birth to a boy named Lạc Long Quân.  As an immortal with the dragon lineage, Lạc Long Quân would be known as the Dragon Prince in Vietnamese history. As Lạc Long Quân matures, he meets a beautiful woman by the name of Âu Cơ, and falls deeply in love with her.

The story of their first meeting happens when the Dragon Prince notices a demonic bird chasing after a defenseless white crane.  Lạc Long Quân rushes to the crane’s defense, smashing the demon bird with a rock.  The demonic bird was so furious that it morphed itself into a tiger and bitterly tried to maul the Dragon Prince.  As a result, the Prince found himself tangled in a violent struggle against an adversary he did not know.

Lạc Long Quân prevails in the end, killing the demon and succeeding in his protection of the vulnerable white crane.  As the Dragon Prince would find out, things are not always as they seem.  The white crane was actually the beautiful Âu Cơ in disguise, trying to get away from the predatory abomination that was pursuing her.  Lạc Long Quân was pleasantly surprised to find this out and the two quickly become close.

Âu Cơ was an angelic beauty, a descendent of the fairies, and an immortal like Lạc Long Quân himself.  Together, the two would form a family, becoming the parents of one hundred sons.  With his wife Âu Cơ, Lạc Long Quân would preside over the mountains and rivers of the land.  Their children would carry the blood of the dragons and the charm of the fairies.

Sadly, as time went on, Âu Cơ starts to long for her home in the sky, while Lạc Long Quân begins to miss his life at sea.  As a result, the two lovers would separate.  Princess Âu Cơ would take fifty of the children and depart to the mountains, Lạc Long Quân in-turn would bring the other fifty sons to the coastal regions close to the seas.  These children, the seeds of the dragon clans, the descendants of the fairies, will inhabit the mountains and rivers of the south, becoming the originators of the Vietnamese people.