Archive for Bach Viet

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.

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 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.