The Chinese domination of Vietnam (Vietnamese: Bắc thuộc, Hán tự: 北屬, "Belonging to the North (China)"[1][2][3]) began in 111 BC, and is usually considered to have ended in 938 AD. A fourth, relatively brief, 20-year punitive invasion by the Ming dynasty, 400 years later, is usually excluded by historians in discussion of the main, almost continuous, period of Chinese colonization from 111 BC to 938 AD, as is the brief occupation of northern Vietnam by Chinese forces at the end of the Second World War.

Geographical extent and impact

The four periods of Chinese colonization or occupation do not correspond to the modern borders of Vietnam but to Vietnam as a cultural entity. During the first three Chinese periods of domination, Vietnamese society was primarily in the northern part of modern Vietnam.[4][5] Ten centuries of Chinese colonization left a substantial demographic footprint, with settlement by large numbers of ethnic Chinese,[6][7] while opening up Vietnam for trade.[8] Against this the second period of Chinese colonization saw almost 500 years of revolt and war,[9] though the third period (603-939) was more harmonious.

In addition to administration, and making Chinese the language of administration, the long period of Chinese domination introduced Chinese techniques of dike construction, rice cultivation, and animal husbandry.[10][11] Chinese culture, having been established among the elite mandarin class, remained the dominant current among that elite for most of the next 1,000 years (939-1870s) until the loss of independence under French Indochina. This cultural affiliation to China remained true even when militarily defending Vietnam against attempted invasion, such as against the Mongol Kublai Khan. The only significant exceptions to this were the 7 years of the strongly anti-Chinese Hồ dynasty which banned the use of Chinese (among other actions triggering the fourth Chinese invasion), but then after the expulsion of the Ming the rise in vernacular chữ nôm literature.[12] Although 1,000 years of Chinese rule left many traces, the collective memory of the period reinforced Vietnam's cultural and later political independence.[13]


  1. ^ Thailand, Indochina and Burma Handbook, 1994 - Page 557 Joshua Eliot - 1993 "Confucianism was introduced from China during the Bac Thuoc Period (111 BC-938 AD) when the Chinese dominated the country. The 'religion' enshrined the concept of imperial rule by the mandate of heaven, effectively constraining social .."
  2. ^ Viet Nam social sciences 2002 Page 42 Ủy ban khoa học xã hội Việt Nam - 2002 "The first period of cultural disruption and transformation: in and around the first millennium CE (that is, the period of Bac thuoc) all of Southeast Asia shifted into strong cultural exchanges with the outside world, on the one hand with Chinese ..."
  3. ^ Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor edited by Ooi Keat Gin (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC Clio, 2004) Volume 1 2004 Page 1296 "Thoi Bac-Thuoc ..Chinese colonial period in Vietnam"
  4. ^ Craig A. Lockard Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History To 1500 2010 Page 125 "Champa existed from 192 to 1471 c.e., when the Vietnamese finally conquered Champa. Vietnam and Chinese Colonization During Chinese colonial times, Vietnamese society was largely confined to what is today the northern third of Vietnam ..."
  5. ^ Hugh Dyson Walker East Asia: A New History 2012- Page 259 "In July 1407, Vietnam was renamed Jiao-zhi, and Chinese colonial rule was reestablished, with its capital at Thang Long, as in earlier days. Vietnamese provinces were re-labeled prefectures, with sub-prefectural and district subordinate units."
  6. ^ Khánh Trần The Ethnic Chinese & Economic Development in Vietnam 1993- Page 14 "Thus began the long period of Chinese colonization and it also resulted in the first massive migration of Chinese into Vietnam. In 214 Bc nearly half a million Chinese troops and fugitives were resettled in the northern part of Vietnam.3 "
  7. ^ Leo Suryadinata Ethnic Chinese as Southeast Asians Page 268 1997 "After more than ten centuries of Chinese colonization, this Vietnamese territory became one of the many places for refugees, convicts, officers and garrisons coming from northern China. Most of them consisted of men.2"
  8. ^ Anh Tuá̂n Hoàng Silk for Silver: Dutch-Vietnamese Relations, 1637-1700 - Page 12 - 2007 "It was said that Chinese merchants trading to this place all grew very wealthy.28 The Chinese colonization of northern Vietnam, 179 BC–AD 905 These Chinese sources recount that at the time of the Chinese colonization, in certain periods ..."
  9. ^ Vuong Quan Hoang and Tran Tri Dung Vietnam Entrepreneurial Cultures Page 65 "In the second Chinese colonial period (43-544 AD), the Vietnamese society witnessed almost 500 years of war. Before the third Chinese colonial period (603-939), Vietnam enjoyed nearly 60 years of sovereignty, from 544 to 602."
  10. ^ Vietnam - Page 20 Audrey Seah, Charissa Marie Nair - 2005 "The long period of Chinese domination influenced Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese adopted Chinese techniques of dike construction, rice cultivation, and animal husbandry. Knowledge of Chinese language led to Chinese influence on ."
  11. ^ Keat Gin Ooi -Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East ... - Volume 1 - Page 12 2004 This early kingdom had five rulers, a century of independence, and then was under Chinese domination for a millennium from 111 B.C.E. Sinicization took root during this Chinese colonial period. Scholars and officials who fled the mainland ...
  12. ^ The World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Volume 6 - Page 828 Marshall Cavendish Corporation - 2007 "The Chinese occupied but never quite subdued Vietnam for the next thousand years. From the reign of the first Hung king through the period of Chinese domination, there were two kinds of literature in Vietnam: an elaborate court poetry written ..."
  13. ^ Lonely Planet Vietnam- Page 29 Nick Ray, Peter Dragicevic, Regis St Louis - 2007 "In AD679 the Chinese changed the name of Vietnam to Annam, which means 'the Pacified South.' Ever since this era, the collective memory of Chinese domination has played an important role in shaping Vietnamese identity and attitudes towards their northern neighbour."