EARLY CHINESE RULE OF VIETNAM (111 B.C. TO A.D. 938)

EARLY CHINESE RULE OF VIETNAM

In the 2nd century B.C., Chinese began settling on land in the Red River Delta, an area inhabited by feudal slash-and-burn agriculturalists and members of the Dong Son culture. They named the area Annam ("Southern Domain"). In 111 B.C., the northern part of Vietnam was incorporated into the expanding Han Empire. China dominated Vietnam for over 1,000 years (111 B.C. to A.D. 938) but were never able to assimilate the Vietnamese and endured frequent Vietnamese rebellions. After A.D. 938, China invaded Vietnam periodically. Most recently in 1979.

According to Lonely Planet: "The Chinese conquered the Red River Delta in the 2nd century B.C. In the following centuries, large numbers of Chinese settlers, officials and scholars moved south to impose a centralised state system on the Vietnamese. Needless to say, local rulers weren’t very happy about this and in the most famous act of resistance, in AD 40, the Trung Sisters (Hai Ba Trung) rallied the people, raised an army and led a revolt that sent the Chinese governor fleeing. The sisters proclaimed themselves queens of an independent Vietnam. In AD 43 the Chinese counterattacked and, rather than suffer the ignominy of surrender, the Trung Sisters threw themselves into the Hat Giang River. There were numerous small-scale rebellions against Chinese rule – which was characterised by tyranny, forced labor and insatiable demands for tribute – from the 3rd to 6th centuries, but all were crushed. [Source: Lonely Planet =]

"During this era, Vietnam was a key port of call on the sea route between China and India. The Chinese introduced Confucianism, Taoism and Mahayana Buddhism to Vietnam, while the Indians brought Theravada Buddhism. Monks carried with them the scientific and medical knowledge of these two great civilisations and Vietnam was soon producing its own great doctors, botanists and scholars. The early Vietnamese learned much from the Chinese, including the construction of dikes and irrigation works. These innovations helped make rice the ‘staff of life’, and paddy agriculture remains the foundation of the Vietnamese way of life to this day. As food became more plentiful the population expanded, forcing the Vietnamese to seek new lands. The ominous Truong Son Mountains prevented westward expansion, so the Vietnamese headed south." =

Revolts and Assimilation in Vietnam Under Chinese Rule

Chinese rule to some degree was characterized by repression, brutality, demands for huge tributes and forced labor. The Chinese were able to introduce some elements of their culture and methods of organizing society but were unable win over the Vietnamese, who periodically staged revolts, particularly in the 3rd to 6th centuries. The revolts were inevitably put downs. In 679, the Chinese began calling Vietnam "Assam," which means Pacified South. Why did China have numerous wars with Vietnam but not Korea, both of which shared borders with China? One explanation is that Vietnam had rich fertile land, Korea did not, and Vietnam was located on important trade routes between China and India, the Middle East and Europe, and Korea was not.

Even though they were despised, the Chinese had a strong influence on Vietnam. The Chinese introduced large-scale rice agriculture, Taoism and Confucian style of civil service and scholarship. Traditional Vietnamese architecture and art is little more than a variation of Chinese art architecture. One Vietnamese emperor even built a Forbidden City.

In the early years, the Han dynasty rulers relied on local hereditary leaders to rule over northern Vietnam. The Trung Sister Revolt (See Below) ended the tradition of local hereditary leadership. As infrastructure and more intense methods of agriculture were introduced, the Chinese began asserting more control over the local culture and administration. A new Chinese-Vietnamese hybrid elite emerged that was associated with the Red River Delta. It was largely Chinese in character but retained the local language and many non-Chinese customs.

Under the Chinese, Vietnam evolved through the combined influence of two contradictory factors. On the one hand, there was a policy of economic exploitation and cultural assimilation, and on the other, there was a steadfast popular resistance marked by armed insurrection against foreign domination. A final resistance led to the preservation of the identity of the Vietnamese people after many centuries, the emergence of a national consciousness, and the establishment of the independent state of Vietnam. While keeping its unique character, the nation's culture also adopted quite a few elements of Chinese culture. Ten centuries of domination resulted in a thorough transformation of Vietnamese society. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism]

Beginning of Chinese Rule in Vietnam

In the 3rd century B.C., the Han people who lived in the Yellow River basin unified China, merging the various ethnic groups who lived in southern China to the south of the Yangtze River into a centralized empire. This feudal empire soon spread southwards. Chinese began settling on land in the Red River Delta, an area inhabited by feudal slash-and-burn agriculturalists and members of the Dong Son culture.[Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

In 111 B.C. the Han dynasty sent an expeditionary corps to conquer the kingdom of Nam Viet established by Chao To, who had brought the kingdom of Au Lac and several territories in southern China together under his rule. The Han integrated Au Lac into their empire, creating the commandery of Chiao Chih, which was divided into provinces and districts. The three provinces, which constituted present-day northern Vietnam to the 18th parallel, had a population of 981,375 people according to Han documents. ~

Vietnamese historians regard Trieu Da—the military commander who combined the territories under his control in southern China and northern Vietnam and established the kingdom of Nam Viet—as a defender of their homeland against an expanding Han empire. In 111 B.C., however, the Chinese armies of Emperor Wu Di defeated the successors of Trieu Da and incorporated Nam Viet into the Han empire. The Chinese were anxious to extend their control over the fertile Red River Delta, in part to serve as a convenient supply point for Han ships engaged in the growing maritime trade with India and Indonesia. During the first century or so of Chinese rule, Vietnam was governed leniently, and the Lac lords maintained their feudal offices. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Trung Sisters and Early Vietnamese Revolts Against Chinese Rule

In the first century A.D., China had intensified its efforts to assimilate its new territories by raising taxes and instituting marriage reforms aimed at turning Vietnam into a patriarchal society more amenable to political authority. In response to increased Chinese domination, a revolt broke out in Giao Chi, Cuu Chan, and Nhat Nam in A.D. 39, led by Trung Trac and her sister Trung Nhi. The insurrection was put down within two years by the Han general Ma Yuan, and the Trung sisters drowned themselves to avoid capture by the Chinese. Still celebrated as heroines by the Vietnamese, the Trung sisters exemplify the relatively high status of women in Vietnamese society as well as the importance to Vietnamese of resistance to foreign rule. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The Trung Sisters are among the most famous historical figures in Vietnam. They lead a peasant army against the Chinese in A.D. 39 after one of the Trung Trac’s husband, a high-ranking Vietnamese lord, was executed by the Chinese. The sisters initially prevailed: the Chinese governor was forced to flee. When the uprising was put down by the Chinese: rather than surrender the sisters committed suicide together by leaping into the Hat Giang River. Almost every town has a street named after the Trung sisters.

The Trung sisters—Trung Trac and Trung Nhi—were born into a family of military chiefs in the district of Me Linh (northwest of Hanoi). Between A.D. 40 and 43. The Trung sisters launched a vast movement throughout Chiao Chih led by women in many places. Trung Trac was made "Queen". The Han emperor, then at the peak of his power, had to send his best general— Ma Yuan "Tamer of Waters"—to Chiao Chih. Although the insurrection was crushed, it left an indelible imprint on the history of Vietnam. Chinese historical records said "the people of Chiao Chih, relying on remote inaccessible areas, liked to rebel". [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

The insurrection in the Red River valley spread to the south; military posts and the domains of imperial functionaries were attacked. Another young woman, Lady Trieu, launched a large-scale movement against foreign domination in 248 A.D. in the province of Chiu Chen (present-day Thanh Hoa Province). She said, "I'd like to ride storms, kill the sharks in the open sea, drive out the aggressors, reconquer the country, undo the tics of serfdom, and never bend my back to be the concubine of any man". Riding an elephant, she led the way to the battlefield. However, she was unable to maintain a very long resistance against the Chinese Imperial army. Other insurrections marked the 4th and 5th centuries, including one in the year 412 when Chinese peasants who had risen in revolt and been driven out of China co-ordinated their efforts with Vietnamese patriots. ~

Following the ill-fated Trung Sister revolt in the A.D. mid 1st century, Chinese rule became more direct, and the feudal Lac lords faded into history. Ma Yuan established a Chinese-style administrative system of three prefectures and fifty-six districts ruled by scholar-officials sent by the Han court. Although Chinese administrators replaced most former local officials, some members of the Vietnamese aristocracy were allowed to fill lower positions in the bureaucracy. The Vietnamese elite in particular received a thorough indoctrination in Chinese cultural, religious, and political traditions. *

One result of Sinicization, however, was the creation of a Confucian bureaucratic, family, and social structure that gave the Vietnamese the strength to resist Chinese political domination in later centuries, unlike most of the other Yue peoples who were sooner or later assimilated into the Chinese cultural and political world. Nor was Sinicization so total as to erase the memory of pre-Han Vietnamese culture, especially among the peasant class, which retained the Vietnamese language and many Southeast Asian customs. Chinese rule had the dual effect of making the Vietnamese aristocracy more receptive to Chinese culture and cultural leadership while at the same time instilling resistance and hostility toward Chinese political domination throughout Vietnamese society. *

Vietnam Under Chinese Rule

In order to facilitate administration of their new territories, the Chinese built roads, waterways, and harbors, largely with corvee labor (unpaid labor exacted by government authorities, particularly for public works projects). Agriculture was improved with better irrigation methods and the use of ploughs and draft animals, innovations which may have already been in use by the Vietnamese on a lesser scale. New lands were opened up for agriculture, and settlers were brought in from China. After a few generations, most of the Chinese settlers probably intermarried with the Vietnamese and identified with their new homeland. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The first and second centuries A.D. saw the rise of a HanViet ruling class owning large tracts of rice lands. More than 120 brick Han tombs have been excavated in northern Vietnam, indicating Han families that, rather than returning to China, had become members of their adopted society and were no longer, strictly speaking, Chinese. Although they brought Chinese vocabulary and technical terms into their new culture, after a generation or two, they probably spoke Vietnamese. *

The second century A.D. was a time of rebellion in Giao Chi, Cuu Chan, and Nhat Nam, largely due to the declining quality of the Han administrators, who concentrated their energies on making their fortunes and returning north as soon as possible. Revolts against corrupt and repressive Chinese officials were often led by the Han-Viet families. The fall of the Han dynasty in China in 220 A.D. further strengthened the allegiance of the Han-Viet ruling elite to their new society and gave them a sense of their own independent political power. Meanwhile, among the peasant class there was also a heightened sense of identity fostered by the spread of Buddhism by sea from India to Vietnam by the early third century. The new religion was often adapted to blend with indigenous religions. Buddhist temples were sometimes dedicated to the monsoon season, for example, or identified with the guardian spirit of agricultural fertility. Although ruling-class Vietnamese tended to cling to Confucianism, various local rulers patronized the Buddhist religion, thus helping to legitimize their own rule in the eyes of the common people. *

After the demise of the Han dynasty, the period of the third to the sixth century was a time of turbulence in China, with six different dynasties in succession coming to power. The periods between dynasties or the periods when dynasties were weak in China were usually the most peaceful in Vietnam. When dynasties were strong and interfered with local rule, the Vietnamese aristocracy engaged in a series of violent revolts that weakened China's control over its southern territory. A rebellion led by the noblewoman Trieu Au (Lady Trieu) in A.D. 248 was suppressed after about six months, but its leader earned a place in the hearts and history of the Vietnamese people. Despite pressure to accept Chinese patriarchal values, Vietnamese women continued to play an important role and to enjoy considerably more freedom than their northern counterparts. *

Imperial Policy of the Han Chinese in Vietnam

At first, for their own benefit, the Han retained the system of lac hau and lac tuong, the civilian and military chiefs of the early communities; little by little, they replaced them with functionaries appointed by the court who administered the country down to province and district levels (there were three provinces and 56 districts). A mandarin, protected by an armed entourage, presided over each district. The rural communes, which contained most of the population, escaped their direct rule so that this administration very slowly expanded its network throughout the country while coping with a stubborn popular resistance. The imperial functionaries came from China, accompanied by an entourage of scribes, agents and family members. Many of them settled in the country permanently. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

The population had to make a double contribution: a tribute to the imperial court and taxes, duties and corvee to maintain the administration and military apparatus. The tribute paid to the court mostly comprised valuable tropical products such as ivory, mother-of-pearl, pearls and sandalwood which Chinese documents of the time described as abundant and varied products from the southern territories. Tropical fruit, various handicraft items, fabric, gold or silver engravings, and mother-of-pearl inlay work were also required. A certain number of craftsmen were exiled to work for the court while part of the population was compelled to hunt for elephant and rhinoceros in forests or dive into the sea to gather pearls or coral. Each inhabitant had to pay a head-tax and a land tax on each plot; the population was also forced to supply corvee laborers to dig canals and build roads and citadels. Chinese documents describe many revolts due to this systematic exploitation and extortion by imperial functionaries. ~

At the same time, the feudal Han carried out a policy of systematic cultural assimilation, the empire having to be unified in all aspects. The first concern was to impose veneration of the emperor, Son of Heaven; use of the indeographic script was enforced as a vehicle for the official doctrine, Confucianism. At the center of human obligation was absolute loyalty to the monarch, who ruled not only human society but also the kingdom of the gods. A tightly-woven network of obligations and rites bound societal and individual life, strictly governing relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, between friends, and between subjects and the imperial administration which tried to replace old customs with laws and rites inspired by Confucian doctrine. ~

Vietnam Economy Under Chinese Rule

Economic exploitation by the occupiers hampered the development of productive forces but could not check them. Excavation of tombs dating from the 1st to the 6th centuries has revealed the progressive diffusion of iron tools, production implements and weapons already known in the previous era. Iron cauldrons, nails and tripods appeared while objects in bronze became less common, although the making of bronze drums continued for centuries. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

In the 1st century, furrowing with iron ploughshares on wingploughs drawn by oxen or water buffaloes gradually replaced cultivation in burned out clearings. In particular, hydraulic works, canals and dykes ensured control over water; the use of fertilizer facilitated intensive farming, the practice of growing two crops a year on well-irrigated fields for example. The growing of tubers such as sweet potato, sugarcane and mulberry was already known, as well as various vegetables and fruit trees. Mulberry growing and silkworm raising took pride of place; there was also betel, areca-nut trees, medicinal plants, bamboo and rattan, which supplied raw materials for basket making. From the earliest centuries, there was thus a diversified agriculture which, gradually improved, would last for a very long time. ~

Handicrafts also reached a relatively high level. Many tools of iron and bronze were forged; ceramics with enamel coating was added to the already flourishing pottery of the previous era. The remains of citadels, pagodas and tombs showed that brick and tile making was thriving, some of which were also coated with a layer of enamel. The most prosperous handicraft occupations were weaving and basket-making. Fabrics in cotton and silk and baskets of bamboo and rattan were sought after items. In the 3rd century, paper began to be made using techniques imported from China. Glass-making techniques also came to Vietnam from China and India. To meet the need for luxury goods for the court and local functionaries, the making of objects in engraved gold and silver underwent new development, the quality of which improved through the use of Chinese techniques. Lacquer was already known. It could be said that Vietnamese handicrafts established themselves during this period. ~

If the economy as a whole remained autarkic, certain products supplied markets in administrative centers such as Long Bien (in present-day Hanoi) which had trading quarters. River and sea transport was carried out using sampans or junks, some of which had barges and several score oarsmen. The Red River and the road running along it led to Yunnan and Sichuan, and hence to Central Asia as well as Burma. Communication with China was achieved by both sea and land, the road being dotted with many relays. Chiao Chih served as a port of call for junks from Java, Burma, Iran, India and even the Roman empire on their way to China. In large centers, there were a number of foreign residents such as Khmers and Indians. The vessels carried local products, valuable timbers, ivory and handicrafts, and also took part in the slave trade. This external trade was entirely monopolized by the occupiers. ~

Vietnam Society and Culture Under Chinese Rule

The Han policy of cultural assimilation benefitted from the prestige of Chinese civilization,, which was then at a high level, but it was confronted with a stubborn resistance. The Vietnamese language was largely borrowed from Chinese, but the words had been Vietnamized to become part and parcel of the language which was progressively enriched without losing its identity; popular literature kept its vigor while beginning to develop a learned literature written in Han (classical Chinese). Despite Confucian rites and precepts, many local traditions continued the veneration of founding fathers or patriots, participation by women in patriotic activities, and the making and use of bronze drums during great ceremonies. Relics found in the tombs of that era show stronger Han civilization influence; the indigenous upper classes came under greater foreign influence than the population at large or rural communities. However, Dong Son art was still clearly seen with its decorations and statuettes. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

Together with Confucianism, Buddhist and Taoist doctrine also made their way into Chiao Chih. Buddhism, coming from India by sea and from China by land, was conspicuous from the 2nd and 6th centuries, with the town of Luy Lau (in present-day Bac Ninh Province) having 20 towers, 500 monks and 15 already-translated sutras. Taoism integrated itself with local beliefs, giving rise to magical, medical and ascetic practices. The main characteristic of these religions was that they did not encourage fanaticism nor exclude one another, thus helping to preserve unity within the national community. ~

Following the conquest by the Han, Vietnamese society gradually turned into a feudal society. De jure, land belonged entirely to the emperor, while all members of the population became his subjects, bound to pay taxes, corvee and other duties. Nevertheless, the communes stayed more or less autonomous. To ensure domination, the Han feudalists advocated the creation of "military colonies"; military men, political or common-law prisoners and destitute people coming from China together with destitute Vietnamese and landless peasants were recruited to reclaim and exploit the land under the direction of officers or functionaries. At the same time, private domains were created by Chinese functionaries settled for good in the country or indigenous people loyal to the administration (members of the former ruling classes or noblemen from rural communities). ~

After the 2nd century, a certain number of Vietnamese who had received a good education had access to mandarin posts and, hence, could set up private domains. Slaves worked in these military colonies and domains. The tombs of that era often reveal models in baked earth of domains with outer areas dotted with watchtowers, houses, granaries and stables. As time went by, the Chinese functionaries and their descendants living in the country became "Vietnamized". With indigenous functionaries and landowners, they constituted an indigenous ruling class with feudal characteristics. Shaped in a country subject to the harsh domination of the Han imperialists, this feudal class was opposed in some aspects to the court and sided with the population. Internal disturbances in China, caused mostly by peasant revolts, created favorable conditions for an open struggle against Chinese imperialist domination for secession - first temporary, then definitive. ~

Ly Bi and Political Resistance and Revolts Against the Chinese in the 6th Century

The sixth century was an important stage in the Vietnamese political evolution toward independence. During this period, the Vietnamese aristocracy became increasingly independent of Chinese authority, while retaining Chinese political and cultural forms. At the same time, indigenous leaders arose who claimed power based on Vietnamese traditions of kingship. A series of failed revolts in the late sixth and early seventh centuries increased the Vietnamese national consciousness.

A major insurrection against the Chinese Liang dynasty (502-556) was led by Li Bi, a nobleman from Long Hung in present-day Thai Binh Province. In 542 he launched his movement in 542 that drove out the local Chinese administration and defeated a counter-offensive by the imperial army in 543 and an attack by the Cham in the south. In 544, Li Bi made himself King of Van Xuan kingdom and established a national administration. However, he was defeated by the Chinese imperial army in 545-546 and died in 547. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

Li Bi descended from a Chinese family that had fled to the Red River Delta during a period of dynastic turbulence in the first century A.D. He declared himself emperor of Nam Viet in the tradition of Trieu Da and organized an imperial court at Long Bien. After Li Bi was killed in 547, his followers kept the revolt alive for another fifty years, establishing what is sometimes referred to in Vietnamese history as the Earlier Ly dynasty. [Source: Library of Congress *]

While the Ly family retreated to the mountains and attempted to rule in the style of their Chinese overlords, a rebel leader who based his rule on an indigenous form of kingship arose in the Red River Delta. Trieu Quang Phuc made his headquarters on an island in a vast swamp. From this refuge, he could strike without warning, seizing supplies from the Liang army and then slipping back into the labyrinthine channels of the swamp. Despite the initial success of such guerrilla tactics, by which he gained control over the Red River Delta, Trieu Quang Phuc was defeated by 570. According to a much later Vietnamese revolutionary, General Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnamese concepts of protracted warfare were born in the surprise offensives, night attacks, and hit-and- run tactics employed by Trieu Quang Phuc. *

Vietnam Under Tang Dynasty China (618-907)

The Sui dynasty moved the administrative capital to Tong Binh (present-day Hanoi). In 618, the Tang dynasty took power in China; China's economy and culture saw unprecedented development as the empire experienced its greatest ever expansion. For the Tang dynasty, Chiao Chih (Vietnam) was not only a colony for exploitation, but also a starting point for expansion into Southeast Asia. In 679, they instituted the "Protectorate of Annam (Pacified South)"; the term then came to be used for tile country itself. The Tang dynasty extended their administrative network to cover villages and mountainous regions; the annual tribute to the Court and the various taxes, cover and duties were increased. However agriculture and handicrafts in particular, continued to develop, as well as land, river and maritime communications. The three doctrines -Confucianism, Taoism, and notably Buddhism - spread nationwide, without doing away with local beliefs. The veneration of local genies, often patriots or founders of villages, remained widespread. In order to stifle deep-rooted national sentiment, the Chinese imperialists used geomancy in an attempt to drain the "veins of the dragon" running through Vietnamese soi resulting in resistance from the people. In society, more and more of those obtaining high positions in the administration through education or bribery were those who obtained important domains. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

The Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907) instituted a series of administrative reforms culminating in 679 in the reorganization of Vietnamese territory as the Protectorate of Annam (or Pacified South), a name later used by the French to refer to central Vietnam. The Tang dynastic period was a time of heavy Chinese influence, particularly in Giao Chau Province (in 203 the district of Giao Chi, had been elevated to provincial status and was renamed Giao Chou), which included the densely populated Red River plain. The children of ambitious, aristocratic families acquired a classical Confucian education, as increased emphasis was placed on the Chinese examination system for training local administrators. As a result, literary terms dating from the Tang dynasty constitute the largest category of Chinese loan words in modern Vietnamese. Despite the stress placed on Chinese literature and learning, Vietnamese, enriched with Chinese literary terms, remained the language of the people, while Chinese was used primarily as an administrative language by a small elite. During the Tang era, Giao Chau Province also became the center of a popular style of Buddhism based on spirit cults, which evolved as the dominant religion of Vietnam after the tenth century. Buddhism, along with an expanding sea trade, linked Vietnam more closely with South and Southeast Asia as Buddhist pilgrims traveled to India, Sumatra, and Java aboard merchant vessels laden with silk, cotton, paper, ivory, pearls, and incense. [Source: Library of Congress *]

As Tang imperial power became more corrupt and oppressive during the latter part of the dynasty, rebellion flared increasingly, particularly among the minority peoples in the mountain and border regions. Although the Viet culture of Giao Chau Province, as it developed under Tang hegemony, depended upon Chinese administration to maintain order, there was growing cultural resistance to the Tang in the border regions. A revolt among the Muong people, who are closely related to the central Vietnamese, broke out in the early eighth century. The rebels occupied the capital at Tong Binh (Hanoi), driving out the Tang governor and garrison, before being defeated by reinforcements from China. Some scholars mark this as the period of final separation of the Muong peoples from the central. *

Vietnamese, which linguistic evidence indicates took place near the end of the Tang dynasty. In the mid-ninth century, Tai minority rebels in the border regions recruited the assistance of Nan-chao, a Tai mountain kingdom in the southern Chinese province of Yunnan, which seized control of Annam in 862. Although the Tang succeeded in defeating the Nan-chao forces and restoring Chinese administration, the dynasty was in decline and no longer able to dominate the increasingly autonomous Vietnamese. The Tang finally collapsed in 907 and by 939 Ngo Quyen, a Vietnamese general, had established himself as king of an independent Vietnam. *

Battles and Revolts in Tang-Dynasty-Controlled Vietnam (618-907)

Under the Tang dynasty rule, Vietnam faced several invasions from the south — Champa, Java, and Malaya and from the kingdom of Nan Chiao (present-day Yunnan). In 863, Nan Chiao troops reached the capital Tong Binh and destroyed it. The Tang Court had to send General Gao Pian to fight against the Nan Chiao. Becoming governor after defeating the Nan Chiao, Gao Pian tried to suppress the nationalist movement which had continued to develop after the Tang dynasty took power. [Source: Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism ~]

During the Tang Dynasty, Vietnamese guerrillas fighting the Chinese sang a martial song that emphasized their separate identity in the clearest of terms: “Fight to keep our hair long/ Fight to keep our teeth black/ Fight to show that the heroic southern country can never be defeated.”

Many insurrections took place under the Tang dynasty, including that of Ly Tu Tien and Dinh Kien in 687, of Mai Thuc Loan in 722, of Phung Hung in 766-791, and Duong Thanh in 819-820. By the end of the 9th century, internal disturbances, particularly the insurrection of Hwang Chao (874-883) in China, shook the Tang reign and China entered a long period of anarchy that started at the beginning of the 10th century. In 905, the last governor sent by the Chinese imperial court to Vietnam died. ~

Taking advantage of the disturbances in China, a nobleman from Cuc Bo (in the present-day province of Hai Duong), Khuc Thua Du, made himself governor, and in 906 the Tang court had to recognize this fait accompli. Khuc Thua Du's son, Khuc Hao, tried to set up a national administration; in 930 the Southern Ban dynasty, which had taken power in southern China, again invaded the country. In 931, however, a patriot, Duong Dinh Nghe, took up the fight and made himself governor. After Duong Dinh Nghe died, murdered by one of his aides, the fight was led by Ngo Quyen, who in 938 clashed with a Southern Han expeditionary corps approaching by sea. The Southern Han fleet entered Vietnam via the Bach Dang estuary (mouth of the river which flows into Halong Bay) where iron-tipped stakes had been sunk into the riverbed by Ngo Quyen. At high-tide a Vietnamese flotilla attacked the enemy then, pretending to escape, lured the Southern Han boats into the estuary beyond the stakes still covered by the tide. At low-tide, the entire Vietnamese fleet counter-attacked, forcing the enemy to flee and sink, impaled on the barrage of stakes. ~

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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