The Hồng Bàng period (Vietnamese: thời kỳ Hồng Bàng),
also called the Hồng Bàng dynasty, was a period in Vietnamese
history spanning from the political union in 2879 BC of many tribes of
the northern Red River Valley to the conquest by
An Dương Vương
An Dương Vương in
Vietnamese chronicles from the 15th century, namely the Đại Việt
sử ký toàn thư claim that the period began with Kinh Dương
Vương as the first
Hùng king (Vietnamese: Hùng Vương), a title
used in many modern discussions of the ancient Vietnamese rulers of
this period. The
Hùng king was the absolute monarch of the country
(then known as Xích Quỷ and later Văn Lang) and, at least in
theory, wielded complete control of the land and its resources.
Archaeological record of such kings in the 3rd millennium BC is
The history of the Hồng Bàng epoch occurred in a series of eighteen
Hùng king dynasties, divided by cultural periods. The Hùng king
period was thriving along with the water-rice civilization in the Red
River Delta, throughout most of the Bronze Age. Numerous wars were
fought in the late stage of the period.
1.1 Origin of name
2.1 Predynastic stage
2.2 The first
Hùng king (c. 2879 BC)
2.3 Early Hồng Bàng (c. 2879 – c. 1913 BC)
2.4 Middle Hồng Bàng (c. 1912 – c. 1055 BC)
2.5 Late Hồng Bàng (c. 1054 – c. 258 BC)
2.6 Final moments (c. 258 BC)
2.7 Continued influence
3 Government and economy
5.1 Ethnic minorities
6.1 Bronze tools
6.2 Canals and dikes
7 Archeological remains
10 External links
The history of the Hồng Bàng period is split according to the
ruling dynasty of each Hùng king. The dating of events is still a
subject of research. The conservative dates are not supported by
any reliable absolute date for a span of about two and a half
millennia. The following is the list including the Bronze Age
Early period (approximately 2879–2000 BC)
Càn line (Hùng
Dynasty I, c. 2879 – 2794 BC)
Khảm line (
Dynasty II, c. 2793 – 2525 BC)
Cấn line (
Dynasty III, c. 2524 – 2253 BC)
Chấn line (
Dynasty IV, c. 2254 – 1913 BC)
Phùng Nguyên Period (approximately 2000–1500 BC)
Tốn line (
Dynasty V, c. 1912 – 1713 BC)
Ly line (
Dynasty VI, c. 1712 – 1632 BC)
Khôn line (
Dynasty VII, c. 1631 – 1432 BC)
Đồng Đậu Period (approximately 1500–1100 BC)
Đoài line (
Dynasty VIII, c. 1431 – 1332 BC)
Giáp line (
Dynasty IX, c. 1331 – 1252 BC)
Ất line (
Dynasty X, c. 1251 – 1162 BC)
Bính line (
Dynasty XI, c. 1161 – 1055 BC)
Gò Mun Period (approximately 1100–800 BC)
Đinh line (
Dynasty XII, c. 1054 – 969 BC)
Mậu line (
Dynasty XIII, c. 968 – 854 BC)
Kỷ line (
Dynasty XIV, c. 853 – 755 BC)
Đông Sơn Period (approximately 800–258 BC)
Canh line (
Dynasty XV, c. 754 – 661 BC)
Tân line (
Dynasty XVI, c. 660 – 569 BC)
Nhâm line (
Dynasty XVII, c. 568 – 409 BC)
Qúy line (
Dynasty XVIII, c. 408 – 258 BC)
Origin of name
The Vietnamese name is the reading of Chinese characters "鴻龐"
assigned to this dynasty in early Vietnamese-written histories in
Chinese. The meaning is a mythical giant bird.
History of Vietnam
Hồng Bàng dynasty
• Early Hồng Bàng
• Mid Hồng Bàng
• Late Hồng Bàng
111 BC–40 AD
1st Chinese domination
2nd Chinese domination
Early Lý dynasty
3rd Chinese domination
Early Lê dynasty
Later Lý dynasty
4th Chinese domination
• Later Trần dynasty
Later Lê dynasty
• Mạc dynasty
• Trịnh lords
• Nguyễn lords
Tây Sơn dynasty
Empire of Vietnam
• North Vietnam
(Democratic Republic of Vietnam)
• South Vietnam
(Republic of Vietnam)
• Viet Cong-occupied South Vietnam
Unification of Vietnam
Champa dynasties (192–1832)
Prehistoric and ancient cultures
List of monarchs
Main article: Prehistoric Vietnam
Vietnam, a country situated along the eastern coast of mainland
Southeast Asia, has had a long and turbulent history. The
Vietnamese people represent a fusion of races, languages, and
cultures, the elements of which are still being sorted out by
ethnologists, linguists, and archaeologists. The Vietnamese
language provides some clues to the cultural mixture of the Vietnamese
The area now known as
Vietnam has been inhabited since Paleolithic
times, with some archaeological sites in Thanh Hóa Province
reportedly dating back around half a million years ago. The
prehistoric people had lived continuously in local caves since around
6000 BC, until more advanced material cultures developed.
Some caves are known to have been the home of many generations of
early humans. As northern
Vietnam was a place with mountains,
forests, and rivers, the number of tribes grew between 5000 and 3000
Prior to the beginning of the Hồng Bàng period, the land was
settled by autonomous villages. Vietnamese predynastic society was
anarchic and did not have any management mechanism. They lived
together in groups as tribes. Archaeologists have found many images on
the wall of caves which showed the daily living of ancient people.
Hùng king (c. 2879 BC)
During a few thousands years in the Late Stone Age, the inhabitant
populations grew and spread to every part of Vietnam. Most ancient
peoples were living near the Hồng (Red), Cả and Mã rivers. The
Vietnamese tribes were the primary tribes at this time. Their
territory included modern meridional territories of
China to the banks
of the Hồng River in the northern territory of Vietnam. Centuries of
developing a civilization and economy based on the cultivation of
irrigated rice encouraged the development of tribal states and
A significant political event occurred when Lộc Tục came into
power. He consolidated the other tribes and succeeded in grouping all
the vassal states (or autonomous communities) within his territory
into a unified nation in approximately 2879 BC. Lộc Tục proclaimed
Kinh Dương Vương and called his newly born nation Xích
Quỷ. Lộc Tục inaugurated the earliest monarchical regime as well
as the first ruling family by heirdom in Vietnam's history. He is
regarded as the ancestor of the Hùng kings, as the founding father of
Vietnam, and as a Vietnamese cultural hero who is credited with
teaching his people how to cultivate rice.
Early Hồng Bàng (c. 2879 – c. 1913 BC)
As rule was passed to the Hùng king's male heirs, Kinh Dương
Vương was succeeded by his son Lạc Long Quân, who founded the
second dynasty of Hùng kings in c. 2793 BC.
Starting from the third Hùng dynasty since c. 2524 BC, the kingdom
was renamed Văn Lang, and the capital was set up at
Phong Châu (in
modern Việt Trì, Phú Thọ) at the juncture of three rivers where
Red River Delta begins from the foot of the mountains.
The evidence that the Vietnamese knew how to calculate the lunar
calendar by carving on stones dates back to 2200–2000 BC. Parallel
lines were carved on the stone tools as a counting instrument
involving the lunar calendar.
The process of making silk has had been known by the Vietnamese since
Middle Hồng Bàng (c. 1912 – c. 1055 BC)
By 1500 BC, the coastal residents developed a sophisticated
Late Hồng Bàng (c. 1054 – c. 258 BC)
The tidal irrigation of rice fields through an elaborate system of
canals and dikes started by the sixth century BC. The Hùng ruler of
Dynasty led the armies to conquer what is modern-day
Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh Provinces. A rival people, the proto-Cham
people based in modern-day Quảng Bình Province, resisted and a
clash between the two sides was inevitable. The Hùng forces
defeated the proto-Chams, annexing the land.
The Hồng Bàng epoch ended in the middle of the third century BC on
the advent of the military leader Thục Phán's conquest of Văn
Lang, dethroning the last Hùng king.
Final moments (c. 258 BC)
Main articles: Hùng Duệ Vương, Cao Lỗ, and An Dương Vương
Thục Phán (An Dương Vương), the ruler of the neighboring upland
Âu Việt tribes, overthrew the last
Hùng king in c. 258 BC. After
conquering Văn Lang,
Thục Phán united the
Lạc Việt tribes with
Âu Việt ones to form a new kingdom of Âu Lạc, building his
capital and citadel,
Cổ Loa Citadel
Cổ Loa Citadel in Hanoi's Dong Anh
The Lạc lords maintained their feudal influence long after demise of
the Hồng Bàng era. These feudal lords faded into history only after
the defeat of the
Trưng Sisters in mid 1st-century AD.
Government and economy
The first Hùng King established the first Vietnamese state in
response to the needs of co-operation in constructing hydraulic
systems and in struggles against their enemies. This was a very
primitive form of a sovereign state with the
Hùng king on top and
under him a court consisted of advisors - the lạc hầu. The
country was composed of fifteen bộ "regions", each ruled by a lạc
tướng; usually the lạc tướng was a member of the Hùng
kings' family. Bộ comprised the agricultural hamlets and villages
based on a matriarchal clan relationship and headed by a bộ chính,
usually a male tribal elder.
The eastern border of the country was the Pacific Ocean. Originally,
the northern border stretched to the southern part of present-day
Hunan, and the southern border stretched to the Cả River, including
parts of modern Guangxi,
Guangdong and Northern Vietnam. Faced
with China's southward expansions, beginning in the early first
Văn Lang gradually lost its northern territory; and by
around 500 BC, its northern border was equivalent to that of the
Vietnam state. However, simultaneously, the Hùng kings
sought to expand Văn Lang's borders southward. During the last
(Eighteenth) dynasty of Hùng kings, the southern border extended to
northern parts of modern-day Quảng Bình Province.
The economy was based mainly on rice paddy cultivation, and also
included handicrafts, hunting and gathering, husbandry and fishing.
Especially, the skill of bronze casting was at a high level. The most
famous relics are
Đông Sơn Bronze Drums
Đông Sơn Bronze Drums on which are depicted
houses, clothing, customs, habits, and cultural activities of the
The Hùng Vươngs ruled
Văn Lang in feudal fashion with the aid of
the Lạc Tướng, who controlled the communal settlements around
each irrigated area, organized construction and maintenance of the
dikes, and regulated the supply of water. Besides cultivating rice,
the people of
Văn Lang grew other grains and beans and raised stock,
mainly buffaloes, chickens, and pigs. Pottery-making and
bamboo-working were highly developed crafts, as were basketry,
leather-working, and the weaving of hemp, jute, and silk. Both
transport and communication were provided by dugout canoes, which
plied the network of rivers and canals.
The period between the end of the third millennium and the middle of
the first millennium BC produced increasingly sophisticated pottery of
the pre-Dong Son cultures of northern Viet Nam and the pre-Sa Huỳnh
cultures of southern Vietnam. This period saw the appearance of
wheel-made pottery, although the use of the paddle and anvil remained
significant in manufacture. Vessel surfaces are usually smooth,
often polished, and red slipping is common. Cord-marking is present in
all cultures and forms a fairly high percentage of sherdage. Complex
incised decoration also developed with rich ornamental designs, and it
is on the basis of incised decoration that Vietnamese archaeologists
distinguish the different cultures and phases one from another.
The pottery from the successive cultural developments in the Red River
Valley is the most well known. Vietnamese archaeologists here discern
three pre-Dong Son cultures: Phùng Nguyên, Đồng Đậu, and Gò
Mun. The pottery of these three cultures, despite the use of different
decorative styles, has features that suggest a continuity of cultural
development in the Red River Valley. In the
Ma River Valley in Thanh
Hóa Province, Vietnamese archaeologists also recognize three pre-Dong
Son periods of cultural development: Con Chan Tien, Dong Khoi (Bai
Man) and Quy Chu. In the areas stretching from the Red to the Cả
River valleys, all the local cultures eventually developed into the
Đông Sơn culture, which expanded over an area much larger than that
of any previous culture and Vietnamese archaeologists believe that it
had multiple regional sources. For instance, while Đông Sơn bronzes
are much the same in different regions of northern Viet Nam, the
regional characters of the pottery are fairly marked. On the whole,
Đông Sơn pottery has a high firing temperature and is varied in
form, but decorative patterns are much reduced in comparison with
preceding periods, and consist mainly of impressions from cord-wrapped
or carved paddles. Incised decoration is virtually absent.
Contemporary Vietnamese historians have established the existence of
various ethnic minorities now living in the highlands of North and
Vietnam during the early phase of the Hồng Bàng
Further information: Đông Sơn culture
Image on the Ngoc Lu bronze drum's surface
By about 1200 BC., the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze
casting in the Mã River and Red River plains led to the development
of the Đông Sơn culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums.
The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Đông Sơn sites show a
Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the
bronze-casting technology. Many small, ancient copper mine sites have
been found in northern Vietnam. Some of the similarities between the
Đông Sơn sites and other Southeast Asian sites include the presence
of boat-shaped coffins and burial jars, stilt dwellings, and evidence
of the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening.
Canals and dikes
An important advancement occurred by the 6th century BC: the
irrigation of rice fields (lac dien) through an elaborate system of
canals and dikes. This type of sophisticated farming
system would come to define Vietnamese society. It required tight-knit
village communities to collectively manage their irrigation systems.
These systems in turn produced crop yields that could sustain much
higher population densities than competing methods of food
Due to the limit of written records, verifiable historical information
on the history of the Hồng Bàng
Dynasty largely comes from
archaeological evidence – vestiges such as the Hùng kings' Temple
in Phú Thọ, the agricultural implements made of stone discovered in
Sơn Tây, Vĩnh Yên,
Bắc Giang – as well as a considerable
number of legends.
^ Colonial Diasporas & Traditional Vietnamese Society
^ Dror, p. 33 & 254 "Hồng Bàng period"
^ a b Pelley, p. 151
^ Tucker, Oxford Encyclopedia of the
^ Tăng Dực Đào, p. 7
^ a b Vuong Quan Hoang and Tran Tri Dung, p. 64
^ a b c d e f Tracing the origin of ethnic and ancestor land during
the Hùng King Age.
^ a b c d Ngô Văn Thạo, p. 823-824
^ Nhất Hạnh Master Tang Hôi: First Zen Teacher in
China - 2001 Page 1 "At that time the civilization of northern Vietnam
was known as Van Lang (van means beautiful, and lang means kind and
healing, like a good doctor). The ruling house of Van Lang was called
Hong Bang, which means a kind of huge bird."
Vietnam - History and Culture
^ a b c Mission Atlas Project - VIETNAM - Basic Facts
^ a b Ancient calendar unearthed. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
^ 6,000-year-old tombs unearthed in northeast Vietnam. Retrieved
^ a b Lamb, p. 52
^ According to the Book of Han: "In a year, they have two rice crops
and eight silk crops".
Vietnam - History Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Ray, Nick; et al. (2010), "Co Loa Citadel", Vietnam, Lonely Planet,
p. 123, ISBN 9781742203898 .
^ a b c d Khâm định Việt sử thông giám cương mục, Vol. 1
^ Hoang and Bui 1980
^ Phan Huy Lê, Trần Quốc Vượng, Hà Văn Tấn, Lương Ninh,
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Dynasty of Vietnam
c. 2879 – 258 BC