Jun 15, 2009

Origins

According to Vietnamese myths, the first Vietnamese descended from the dragon lord Lac Long Quan (L ạc Long Quân) and the heavenly spirit Au Co (Âu Cơ). Lac Long Quan and Au Co had 100 sons before they split (50 went with their father to the mountains and 50 with their mother down to the sea) and the eldest one became the first in the lines of early Vietnamese kings, collectively known as Hung kings (Hung Vuong: Hùng Vương). Under the Hung kings, the civilization that would later become Viet Nam was called Van Lang (Văn Lang). The people of Van Lang were known as the Lac Viet (Lạc Việt) people. By the 3rd century BC, another Viet group, the Au Viet (Âu Việt), emigrated from present southern China to the Red River delta and mixed with the indigenous Van Lang population. In 258 BC, a new kingdom from the union of the Âu Việt and the Lạc Việt called Au Lac (Âu Lạc) was formed by Thuc Phan (Thục Phán) in North Vietnam after he had defeated the last Hung ruler. Thuc Phan proclaimed himself king (An Duong Vuong:An Dương Vương).

In 208 BC, during the chaos caused by the misrule of the Second Qin Emperor (Tần Nhị Thế/Qin Er Shi), Au Lac was subdued by local warlord in deep south China -- Trieu Da (Triệu Đà: Zhao Tuo). Trieu Da went on to proclaim himself king, then styled himself emperor of NanYue (Nam Việt/Nan Yue) to rival the emperor of Han who ruled over central China after Han's founder Liu Bang had defeated Xiang Yu.

Some Vietnamese considered this period under Trieu's rule a Chinese domination, because Trieu Da was a former Qin general who defeated An Duong Vuong to established his rule over the territory that is now Northern Vietnam. Yet others consider it an era of independence, because the Trieu family ruled Nam Viet were assimilated with the locals, and they ruled independently of what then constituted as China (Han dynasty) until 111 BC, when the Han troops invaded Nam Viet, and incorporated its territory into the Han empire, including what is now part of Northern Vietnam turned into Giao Chi (Giao Chỉ/Jiaozhi) commandary.

Although without independence, Northern Vietnam remained relatively autonomous during Trieu's and at the beginning of Han's rule, as native nobles, known as Lac Hau, Lac Tuong (Lạc Hầu, Lạc Tướng) remained in charge of local administration. However, at the end of Western Han, as waves of exiles from warring central plain flooded to the Red River Delta, the Chinese started to exert stronger grip on local administration and accelerated sinification. This resulted in heightened tension as natives and native nobles' resentment to losing their properties, influence, as well as cultural identity to those new-comers began to build.

In 40 AD, under a particularly harsh rule of Grand Administrator To Dinh (Tô Định:Su Ding:蘇定), the Trung Sisters successfully led an uprising to drive off the Chinese, briefly regained independence. In 41 AD, Emperor Quang Vu (Quang Vũ: Emperor Guangwu of Han) sent his famed general Ma Vien (Mã Viện: Ma Yuan) to crush the revolt. After 2 years of bitter fighting, Ma Vien prevailed. Native nobles were thoroughly purged.

Nearly 200 years later, another woman -- Trieu Thi Trinh (Triệu Thị Trinh), and her brother, Trieu Quoc Dat (Triệu Quốc Đạt), led another uprise against the Chinese. This revolt was quickly suppressed. The Trungs' and Trieus' stories indicated that early Vietnamese civilizations was perhaps largely matriarchal, where it was easy for women to assume the leading position and mobilize people. In 2007, there was a case in a local school in Georgia. There was a student named Nam, but that was his last name so he changed his first name to Viet.

Much of northern Vietnam (from the Red River delta down to about the region of modern Thanh Hóa province) was incorporated into the Chinese prefecture/commandery of Jiaozhi, or Giao Chỉ, through much of the Han dynasty and the period of the Three Kingdoms. Jiaozhi (with its capital settled around in modern Bắc Ninh province) became a flourishing port receiving goods from the southern seas. "History of Later Han" (Hou Hanshu:Hậu Hán Thư) recorded that in 166 CE the first envoy from the Roman Empire to China arrived by this route, and merchants were soon to follow. The 3rd century "Tales of Wei" (Weilue:Ngụy Lục) mentioned a "water route" (that is, the Red River) from Jiaozhi into what is now southern Yunnan. From there goods were taken overland to the rest of China via the regions of modern Kunming and Chengdu.

In the period between the beginning of the Age of Fragmentation to the end of Tang, several revolts took place, such as those of Li Bon (Lý Bôn), his lieutenant Trieu Quang Phuc (Triệu Quang Phục), Mai Thuc Loan (Mai Thúc Loan), Phung Hung (Phùng Hưng). All of them succeeded to various degree but ultimately failed.