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Chinese History
Independent Kingdoms - Ancient Cultures - Vietnam
Northern Vietnam remains every important regarding Chinese history, as it depicts the Southeasterly corner of modern China, and the development of the Cantonese 'Yue States' in conflict and in harmony over millennia, with North Vietnam's 'Lav Viet (Van Lang)' peoples.

It also centres focus upon: Guangxi and Yunnan Provinces of modern China; and the modern countries of: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and northern Burma. It also shows conflicts and independence from the Khmer Empire through the ages, and ultimately Thailand (Siam) is also involved.

Let's begin with modern northern Vietnam and see how this history unfolds across this diverse Asian peninsular...

The Eastern World 550 BC - map for representation purposes only, until I and Thomas Lessman make a new one...
Image: China circa 550bc
Courtesy Thomas Lessman - Click to Enlarge:


This page is not about Vietnamese history, nor that of the Khmer Empire and other Kingdoms. It is written from the perspective regarding millennia when Northern Vietnam and parts of Guangxi and Guangdong Provinces were ruled by the same King or Dynasty.

We are basically looking at a period spanning the last 5, 000 years; over half of which Northern Vietnam was under the control of the Yue Peoples (Cantonese), or vise-versa. Later history shows the breakaway of the Lac Viet states, before the dominance of China as a whole came to bear upon the region.

Beijing does not have any claims upon Vietnam in modern times, and no desire for this either. Please realise that the peoples inhabiting both Northern Vietnam and the extreme Southeastern Provinces of China all speak a common language (Cantonese). They have a very long and shared history, which extends further into neighbouring regions of China and the Asian Peninsula (Thai counting is very close in sound to Cantonese for example - to the extent that my recent Siamese girlfriend could barter using Cantonese sounds so-similar to her local speaking - in the local Foshan wet-markets!)

Think about that for a moment, and know it happened for real in 2007. It is from this perspective we write this and related pages, and in order to understand the real truth of the history of this most fascinating of world regions.

Vietnam - A condensed modern history

Vietnam’s lush northern river valleys presented the perfect backdrop for civilisation to blossom. Archaeological digs reveal the existence of Stone Age man 300,000 years ago, and cave dwellers and agriculture appeared by 10,000 BC.

Patches of civilisation popped up prior to the 1st millennium BC around the Red River, central Vietnam and the Dong Nai River Delta. These were the ancient Viet people, who began paddy farming, irrigation projects and developing handicraft skills in the area that evolved into the Van Lang state.

By 1000 BC, the Hung Vuong Dynasty controlled a kingdom from China to 500 kilometre south of Hanoi. An Duong Vuong transformed this into the Au Lac Nation in the 3rd century BC, but in 207 BC, Chinese General Chao T’o invaded and annexed the territory to the Red River, establishing Nam Viet. In 111 BC, Chinese Han General Chiao Chih took control, thus starting 10 centuries of Chinese control.

Mandarins administered “Chiao Chih”, and it prospered. By the 3rd century, paper and glass items appeared, and Chiao Chih grew as a trading port. However, descendants of mandarins and Viet landowners decided to revolt in 931. They defeated the Han, and the first independent Vietnamese state was established in 939.

The Chinese Sung attacked in 967, but General Le Hoan stepped in to repel them, secure the country and set up a monarchy. In 1010, Ly Thai To took the throne, moved the capital to present-day Hanoi and founded the 200-year Ly Dynasty, while renaming the country Dai Viet in 1054.

The Tran Dynasty took charge in 1225, with a centralised bureaucracy and a solid defence, which was tested in 1253 when Kublai Kahn arrived. The Tran battled the Mongols, finally driving them out in 1287.

The Chinese Ming then set their sights on the Tran, and by 1413 controlled Dai Viet. Le Loi, a Trinh landowner, formed a group to fight the Ming, and proclaimed himself king in 1418. The Ming withdrew by 1428, and in 1460, 18-year-old King Le Thanh Tong, a Confucian scholar, ushered in the “The Flood of Virtue” era. He died in 1497, and chaos ensued until 1527 when Mac Dang Dung usurped the throne.

The Trinh revolted, and battled the Mac over Hanoi for 60 years, finally defeating them in 1592. War broke out between the southern Nguyen and the Trinh in 1622, ending in a stalemate and peace in 1673, which divided Vietnam in two.

The Nguyen began expanding south, pushing the Khmer out of Saigon in 1700 and driving deeper towards Phnom Penh, when in 1771, the Siamese came to help expel them. This triggered three brothers from Tay Son to revolt against their Nguyen lord. The Trinh then ended their truce and attacked Saigon in 1776. The Tay Son drove the Trinh to China, and then the brothers clashed for control. Hearing of the chaos, an exiled Nguyen ruler returned with the French and retook the country in 1802.

Nguyen Anh Gia Long ascended to the throne and founded Vietnam’s final dynasty. In 1858, the French invaded, the Nguyens eventually gave in, and the country became a French protectorate in 1884 with the French appointing all subsequent emperors through Bao Dai, who abdicated to Ho Chi Minh after WW2.

Led by Ho Chi Minh, the Viet Minh defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, and the subsequent Geneva Accord divided the country into north and south. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam in the north sided with China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, while the United States backed the Republic of South Vietnam. War between the two broke out in 1965, and raged until the US pulled out in 1975.

Today's unified Socialist Republic of Vietnam was established on 25 April 1976, with its capital in Hanoi, not far from where the Viet people got their start over 10,000 years ago.


Early History

The first archaeological signs of human occupation come from near Hanoi (Ho Chi Min City), and date from approximately 300, 000 bc. This study is not interested in that, but is interested in remains found dating from 10, 000 bc in virtually the same area. This shows a very long period of existence and cultural development.


We will finish this page here for today - as integral are developments and the displacement of tribes and Kingdoms far away in the Northeastern parts of China - who mainly head West. The Bon head into Tibet,and this displaces the proto-Burmese peoples, who then follow the river valleys to the sea = Northern Vietnam and Thailand. Immediately North the Zhang Zhang flourish as an Empire, as does the Kingdom of Dali in what is nowadays called Yunnan Province.

Therefore in order to make sense of the real history of this region we need to make sense of the Anglicised names, and follow who went where ... and why?

The modern people of Northern Vietnam owe it to their ancestors for staying put - but then I am British, and it is easy for me to realise that if your back is to the sea ... then you don't actually have many places to go!

We aim to have some semblance of understanding published here for you in late summer 2010 - but as nobody has even attempted this before + we need to create maps; call back later and know we will state on our homepage when this section is completed. It really is quite fascinating!
This information is as supplied by Wikipedia, as dated March 2009 or later, and/or other reliable sources.

Maps (Unless stated otherwise) are provided in association with Thomas Lessman

Please check this information yourself as it may alter without notice, and whilst we try our best to ensure it is correct, please do not hold us responsible for any errors - this is intended as a simple guide only
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