The BAIYUE, HUNDRED YUE or YUE were various groups of indigenous
non-Chinese tribes who inhabited what is now
Southern China and
Northern Vietnam between the first millennium BC and the first
millennium AD. In the
Warring States period
Warring States period , the word "Yue"
referred to the
State of Yue in
Zhejiang . The later kingdoms of
Guangdong were both considered Yue
states. Although Yue people had an inchoate knowledge of agriculture
and shipbuilding. Han era Chinese writers depicted the Yue as tribal
backward barbarians who had tattoos, lived in primitive conditions,
and lacked basic technology as swords, bows, arrows, horses and
The Yue were gradually displaced and assimilated into Chinese culture
as the Han empire expanded into what is now
Southern China and
Northern Vietnam during the first half of the first millennium AD.
Many modern southern Chinese dialects bear traces of substrate
languages originally spoken by the ancient Yue. Variations of the name
are still used for the name of modern Vietnam, in Zhejiang-related
names including Yue Opera , and in the abbreviation for Guangdong.
* 1 Names
* 2 Peoples of the lower
* 3 Sinification and displacement
* 4 Language
* 5 Legacy
* 6 References
* 7 External links
The modern term "Yue" (Chinese : 越 or 粵; pinyin : Yuè; Cantonese
Yale : Yuht;
Wade–Giles : Yüeh4; Vietnamese : Việt; Zhuang : Vot;
Early Middle Chinese : Wuat) comes from
Old Chinese *wjat. It was
first written using the pictograph "戉" for an axe (a homophone), in
oracle bone and bronze inscriptions of the late Shang dynasty
(c. 1200 BC), and later as "越". At that time it referred to a
people or chieftain to the northwest of the Shang. In the early 8th
century BC, a tribe on the middle
Yangtze were called the Yángyuè, a
term later used for peoples further south. Between the 7th and 4th
centuries BC "Yue" referred to the
State of Yue in the lower Yangtze
basin and its people.
The term "Hundred Yue" first appears in the book Lüshi Chunqiu
compiled around 239 BC. It was used as a collective term for the
non-Chinese populations of south and southwest China and northern
Ancient texts mention a number of Yue states or groups. Most of these
names survived into early imperial times:
Ancient Yue states or groups
LITERAL ENGLISH TRANS.:
Sea Bird Yue
PEOPLES OF THE LOWER YANGTZE
Sword of Goujian
Sword of Goujian , labelled as belonging to a king of Yue
In the 5th millennium BC, the lower
Yangtze area was already a major
population centre, occupied by the Hemudu and Majiabang cultures , who
were among the earliest cultivators of rice .
By the 3rd millennium BC, the successor
Liangzhu culture shows some
influence from the Longshan-era cultures due to trade and commerce.
However, a high frequency of O1 was found in
Liangzhu culture sites,
linking it to modern Austronesian and Daic populations.
From the 9th century BC, two northern Yue peoples, the Gou-Wu and
Yu-Yue, were increasingly influenced by their Chinese neighbours to
their north. These two states were based in the areas of what is now
Jiangsu and northern
Zhejiang , respectively. Their
aristocratic elite learned the written
Chinese language and adopted
Chinese political institutions and military technology. Traditional
accounts attribute the cultural change to
Taibo , a Zhou prince who
had self-exiled to the south. The marshy lands of the south gave
Gou-Wu and Yu-Yue unique characteristics. They did not engage in
extensive agrarian agriculture, relying instead more heavily on
aquaculture . Water transport was paramount in the south, so the two
states became advanced in shipbuilding and developed riverine warfare
technology. They were also known for their fine swords.
Spring and Autumn period
Spring and Autumn period , the two states, now called Wu and
Yue , were becoming increasingly involved in Chinese politics.
According to the Han historian
Sima Qian , King
Goujian of Yue was
descended from the legendary
Yu the Great
Yu the Great .
In 512 BC, Wu launched a large expedition against the large state of
Chu , based in the Middle
Yangtze River. A similar campaign in 506
succeeded in sacking the Chu capital Ying . Also in that year, war
broke out between Wu and Yue and continued with breaks for the next
three decades. In 473 BC,
Goujian finally conquered Wu and was
acknowledged by the northern states of Qi and Jin . In 333 BC, Yue was
in turn conquered by Chu.
After the fall of Yue, the ruling family moved south to what is now
Fujian and established the
SINIFICATION AND DISPLACEMENT
Southward expansion of the Han dynasty Qin empire
and Yue peoples, 210 BC
After the unification of China by
Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang , the former Wu and
Yue states were incorporated into the Qin empire . The Qin armies also
advanced south along the
Xiang River to modern
Guangdong and set up
commanderies along the main communication routes. The Han historian
Sima Qian wrote: "In the south he seized the land of the hundred
tribes of the Yue and made of it Guilin and Xiang provinces, and the
lords of the hundred Yue bowed their heads, hung halters from their
necks, and pleaded for their lives with the lowest officials of the
The "Treatise of Geography" in the
Book of Han
Book of Han (completed AD 111)
describes the Yue lands as stretching from
Shaoxing on the southern
Hangzhou Bay to
Jiaozhi in modern north
Vietnam . Throughout
Han dynasty period two groups of Yue were identified, that of the
Nanyue in the far south, who lived mainly in the area of what is now
the modern Chinese provinces
Guangxi , and northern parts
Vietnam ; and that of the
Minyue to the southeast, centred
on the Min River in the modern
The kingdom of
Nanyue was founded at the collapse of the Qin dynasty
in 204 BC by the local Qin commander
Zhao Tuo . At its height, Nanyue
was the strongest of the Yue states, with
Zhao Tuo declaring himself
emperor and receiving the allegiance of neighbouring kings. The
dominant ethnicities of this kingdom were the Han Chinese and Yue, who
held all the most important positions in the kingdom.
The Han conquest of
Nanyue occurred in 111 BC.
Sinification of these peoples was brought about by a combination of
imperial military power, regular settlement and an influx of Han
Chinese refugees. According to one Chinese immigrant of the second
century BC, the Yue "cut their hair short, tattooed their body, live
in bamboo groves with neither towns nor villages, possessing neither
bows or arrows, nor horses or chariots." The difficulty of logistics
and the malarial climate in the south made the displacement and
eventual sinification of the Yue peoples a slow process.
As Han Chinese migrants gradually increased, the Yue were gradually
driven out into poorer land on the hills and into the mountains.
Unlike the nomadic peoples of
Central Asia , such as the
Xianbei , the Yue peoples never posed any serious threat to Han
colonial expansion. Sometimes they staged small-scale raids or attacks
on Chinese settlements – termed "rebellions" by traditional
Most Yue peoples were eventually absorbed and assimilated by the Han
empire while the remnants of the ancient Yue continue to live in the
Guangdong . Speakers of the Kam–Tai
languages - in modern China such as the Zhuang , Buxqyaix , Dai ,
Aisui , Kam , Hlai , Mulam , Anan , Ong Be , Thai , Lao , and Shan -
retain their ethnic identities.
Knowledge of Yue speech is limited to fragmentary references and
possible loanwords in other languages, principally Chinese. The
longest is the
Song of the Yue Boatman , a short song transcribed
phonetically in Chinese characters in 528 BC and included, with a
Chinese version, in the
Garden of Stories
Garden of Stories compiled by Liu Xiang five
There is some disagreement about the languages they spoke, with
candidates drawn from the non-Sinitic language families still
represented in areas of southern China, Tai–Kadai , Hmong–Mien and
Austroasiatic . Chinese, Tai–Kadai, Hmong–Mien and the Vietic
branch of Austroasiatic have similar tone systems, syllable structure,
grammatical features and lack of inflection, but these features are
believed have spread by diffusion across the Mainland Southeast Asia
linguistic area , rather than indicating common descent.
Jerry Norman and Mei Tsu-Lin presented evidence that at least some
Yue spoke an Austroasiatic language:
Zheng Xuan (127–200 AD) wrote that 扎 (middle Chinese: "jaat",
modern Mandarin Chinese zā, modern Sino-Vietnamese: "trát") was the
word used by the Yue people (越人) to mean "die". Norman and Mei
reconstruct this word as OC *tsət and relate it to Austroasiatic
words with the same meaning, such as Vietnamese chết and Mon chɒt.
* According to the
Shuowen Jiezi (100 AD), "In Nanyue, the word for
dog is (Chinese : 撓獀; pinyin : náosōu; EMC: nuw-ʂuw)", possibly
related to other Austroasiatic terms. Sōu is "hunt" in modern
* The early Chinese name for the
Yangtze (Chinese : 江; pinyin :
jiāng; EMC: kœ:ŋ; OC: *kroŋ; Cantonese: "kong") was later extended
to a general word for "river" in south China. Norman and Mei suggest
that the word is cognate with Vietnamese sông (from *krong) and Mon
They also provide evidence of an Austroasiatic substrate in the
Min Chinese . Norman and Mei's hypothesis is widely
quoted, but has recently been criticized by
Laurent Sagart .
Scholars in China often assume that the Yue spoke an early form of
Tai–Kadai. The linguist Wei Qingwen gave a rendering of the "Song of
the Yue boatman" in
Standard Zhuang .
Zhengzhang Shangfang proposed an
interpretation of the song in written Thai (dating from the late 13th
century) as the closest available approximation to the original
language, but his interpretation remains controversial.
They probably spoke an early form of
Austro-Tai languages .
Ruins of a
Minyue city in Wuyishan,
The fall of the
Han dynasty and the succeeding period of division
sped up the process of sinicization. Periods of instability and war in
northern China, such as the
Northern and Southern dynasties and during
Song dynasty led to mass migrations of Chinese. Intermarriage and
cross-cultural dialogue has led to a mixture of Chinese and
non-Chinese peoples in the south. Most of the distinctive features
of vocabulary, phonology and syntax of southern varieties of Chinese
are attributed substrate languages spoken by the Yue. By the Tang
dynasty (618–907), the term "Yue" had largely become a regional
designation rather than a cultural one, as in the
Wuyue state during
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in what is now Zhejiang
In ancient China, the characters 越 and 粵 (both yuè in pinyin)
were used interchangeably, but they are differentiated in modern
* The character "越" refers to the original territory of the state
of Yue, which was based in what is now northern
Zhejiang , especially
the areas around
Ningbo . The
Shaoxing opera of Zhejiang,
for example, is called "Yue Opera". It is also used to write
a word adapted from Nányuè (Vietnamese : Nam Việt), (literal
English translation as Southern Yue).
* The character "粵" is associated with the southern province of
Guangdong . Both the regional dialects of
Yue Chinese and the standard
form, popularly called "
Cantonese ", are spoken in Guangdong, Guangxi
Hong Kong ,
Macau and in many
Cantonese communities around the
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Grammata Serica Recensa 303e and 305a.
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* ^ The Annals of Lü Buwei, translated by John Knoblock and
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978-0-8047-3354-0 . "For the most part, there are no rulers to the
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