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The history of Vietnam can be traced back to around 4000 years ago.[1] Archaeological findings from 1965, still under research, show the remains of two hominins closely related to Sinanthropus, dating as far back as the Middle Pleistocene era, roughly half a million years ago.[2] Pre-historic Vietnam was home to some of the world's earliest civilizations and societies—making them one of the world's first people who practiced agriculture.[3][4] The Red River valley formed a natural geographic and economic unit, bounded to the north and west by mountains and jungles, to the east by the sea and to the south by the Red River Delta.[5] The need to have a single authority to prevent floods of the Red River, to cooperate in constructing hydraulic systems, trade exchange, and to fight invaders, led to the creation of the first mythology Vietnamese states approximately 2879 BC. However, archaeologists suggested the Đông Sơn culture found in Northern Vietnam, Guangxi and Laos was around 700 BC.[6][7][8]

Vietnam's peculiar geography made it a difficult country to attack, which is why Vietnam under the Hùng kings was for so long an independent and self-contained state. Once Vietnam did succumb to foreign rule, however, it proved unable to escape from it, and for 1,000 years, Vietnam was successively governed by a series of Chinese dynasties: the Western Han, Xin, Eastern Han, Eastern Wu, Western Jin, Eastern Jin, Liu Song, Southern Qi, Liang, Sui, Tang, Wu Zhou, and Southern Han. During these 1,000 years there were many uprisings against Chinese domination, and at certain periods Vietnam was independently governed under the Triệus, Trưng Sisters, Early Lýs, Khúcs and Dương Đình Nghệ—although their triumphs and reigns were temporary.

During the Chinese domination of northern Vietnam, several civilizations flourished in what is today central and south Vietnam, particularly the Funanese and Cham. The founders and rulers of these governments, however, were not native to Vietnam. From the 10th century onwards, the Vietnamese, emerging in their heartland of the Red River Delta, began to conquer these civilizations.

When Ngô Quyền (King of Vietnam, 938–944) restored sovereign power in the country with the victory at the battle of Bach Dang River, the next millennium was advanced by the accomplishments of successive local dynasties: Ngôs, Đinhs, Early Lês, Lýs, Trầns, Hồs, Later Trầns, Later Lês, Mạcs, Trịnhs, Nguyễns, Tây Sơns and again Nguyễns. At various points during the imperial dynasties, Vietnam was ravaged and divided by civil wars and witnessed interventions by the Song, Yuan, Cham, Ming, Siamese, Qing, French, and Imperial Japan.

The Ming Empire conquered the Red River valley for a while before native Vietnamese regained control and the French Empire reduced Vietnam to a French dependency for nearly a century, followed by an occupation by the Japanese Empire. Political upheaval and Communist insurrection put an end to the monarchy after World War II, and the country was proclaimed a republic.

Prehistoric period

Ethnic origins

The Austronesian Expansion
(3500 BC to AD 1200)[9]
Pottery fruit tray of the Sa Huỳnh people.
Cham script text

The various people arrived on territory, that constitutes the modern state of Vietnam in many stages, often separated by thousands of years. Australo-Melanesians were the first to settle in numbers during the Paleolithic and by around 30,000 years ago are present in all regions of Southeast Asia. In most lands they were eventually displaced from the coastal lowlands and pushed to the uplands and hinterlands by later immigrants.[10] The territories of modern central and southern Vietnam, originally not belonging to the Vietnamese kingdom were only conquered between the 14th and 18th centuries. The indigenous peoples of those lands had developed a distinct culture from the ancient Vietnamese in the Red River Delta region. The ancient Sa Huỳnh culture of present-day central Vietnam is known for the quantities of iron objects and decorative items made from glass, semi-precious and precious stones such as agate, carnelian, rock crystal, amethyst, and nephrite.[11] The Sa Huỳnh, who maintained an extensive trade network were most likely the predecessors of the Cham people.[12]

The Cham people, who for over one thousand years settled in, controlled and civilized central and southern coastal Vietnam from around the 2nd century AD are of Austronesian origin. The southernmost sector of modern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta and its surroundings was until the 18th century an integral part, yet of shifting significance of the Austroasiatic Proto-Khmer - and Khmer principalities, like Funan, Chenla, the Khmer Empire and the Khmer kingdom.[13][14][15]

The classic core population, the Lạc Việt of the rice-farming Phung Nguyen culture and future nation builders, who had found themselves in the Red River basin are predominantly descendants of agricultural communities of the Yangzi and Yellow River valleys in southern and central China, who have arrived in Indochina around 2000 years BC.[16][17]

Cultural evolution

Fishing and hunting supplemented the main rice crop. Arrowheads and spears were dipped in poison to kill larger animals such as elephants. Betel nuts were widely chewed and the lower classes rarely wore clothing more substantial than a loincloth. Every spring, a fertility festival was held which featured huge parties and sexual abandon. Since around 2000 BC, stone hand tools and weapons improved extraordinarily in both quantity and variety. Pottery reached a higher level of technique and decoration style. The Vietnamese people were mainly agriculturists, growing the wet rice Oryza, which became the main staple of their diet. During the later stage of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, the first appearance of bronze tools took place despite these tools still being rare. By about 1000 BC, bronze replaced stone for about 40 percent of edged tools and weapons, rising to about 60 percent. Here, there were not only bronze weapons, axes, and personal ornaments, but also sickles and other agriculture tools. Toward the closure of the Bronze Age, bronze accounts for more than 90 percent of tools and weapons, and there are exceptionally extravagant graves – the burial places of powerful chieftains – containing some hundreds of ritual and personal bronze artifacts such as musical instruments, bucket-shaped ladles, and ornament daggers. After 1000 BC, the ancient Vietnamese people became skilled agriculturalists as they grew rice and kept buffaloes and pigs. They were also skilled fishermen and bold sailors, whose long dug-out canoes traversed the eastern sea.[citation needed]

Ancient period (2879–111 BC)

Hồng Bàng Dynasty

Southern tribes in pre-Han conquest China and Vietnam
Lạc Long Quân's temple at Sim Hill (Phú Thọ)
Map of the Cổ Loa Citadel, walls in red, water in blue, vegetation in green.

According to a legend which first appeared in the 14th century book Lĩnh nam chích quái, the tribal chief Lộc Tục (c. 2919 – 2794 BC) proclaimed himself as Kinh Dương Vương and founded the state of Xích Quỷ in 2879 BC, that markes the beginning of the Hồng Bàng dynastic period. However, modern Vietnamese historians assume, that statehood was only developed in the Red River Delta by the second half of 1st millennium BC. Kinh Dương Vương was succeeded by Sùng Lãm (c. 2825 BC – ?). The next royal dynasty produced 18 monarchs, known as the Hùng Kings, who renamed their country Văn Lang.[18] The administrative system includes offices like Lạc tướng, Lạc hầu and Bố chính.[19] Great numbers of metal weapons and tools excavated at various Phung Nguyen culture sites in northern Indochina are associated with the beginning of the Copper Age in Southeast Asia.[20] Furthermore, the beginning of the Bronze Age has been verified for around 500 B.C. at Đông Sơn. The local Lạc Việt community had developed a highly sophisticated industry of quality bronze production, processing and the manufacturing of tools, weapons and exquisite Bronze drums. Certainly of symbolic value they were intended to be used for religious or ceremonial purposes. The craftsmen of these objects required refined skills in melting techniques, in the Lost-wax casting technique and acquired master skills of composition and execution for the elaborate engravings.[21][22]

Vietnam under the Hùng kings was for so long an independent and self-contained state. Once Vietnam did succumb to foreign rule, however, it proved unable to escape from it, and for 1,000 years, Vietnam was successively governed by a series of Chinese dynasties: the Western Han, Xin, Eastern Han, Eastern Wu, Western Jin, Eastern Jin, Liu Song, Southern Qi, Liang, Sui, Tang, Wu Zhou, and Southern Han. During these 1,000 years there were many uprisings against Chinese domination, and at certain periods Vietnam was independently governed under the Triệus, Trưng Sisters, Early Lýs, Khúcs and Dương Đình Nghệ—although their triumphs and reigns were temporary.

During the Chinese domination of northern Vietnam, several civilizations flourished in what is today central and south Vietnam, particularly the Funanese and Cham. The founders and rulers of these governments, however, were not native to Vietnam. From the 10th century onwards, the Vietnamese, emerging in their heartland of the Red River Delta, began to conquer these civilizations.

When Ngô Quyền (King of Vietnam, 938–944) restored sovereign power in the country with the victory at the battle of Bach Dang River, the next millennium was advanced by the accomplishments of successive local dynasties: Ngôs, Đinhs, Early Lês, Lýs, Trầns, Hồs, Later Trầns, Later Lês, Mạcs, Trịnhs, Nguyễns, Tây Sơns and again Nguyễns. At various points during the imperial dynasties, Vietnam was ravaged and divided by civil wars and witnessed interventions by the Song, Yuan, Cham, Ming, Siamese, Qing, French, and Imperial Japan.

The Ming Empire conquered the Red River valley for a while before native Vietnamese regained control and the French Empire reduced Vietnam to a French dependency for nearly a century, followed by an occupation by the Japanese Empire. Political upheaval and Communist insurrection put an end to the monarchy after World War II, and the country was proclaimed a republic.

The various people arrived on territory, that constitutes the modern state of Vietnam in many stages, often separated by thousands of years. Australo-Melanesians were the first to settle in numbers during the Paleolithic and by around 30,000 years ago are present in all regions of Southeast Asia. In most lands they were eventually displaced from the coastal lowlands and pushed to the uplands and hinterlands by later immigrants.[10] The territories of modern central and southern Vietnam, originally not belonging to the Vietnamese kingdom were only conquered between the 14th and 18th centuries. The indigenous peoples of those lands had developed a distinct culture from the ancient Vietnamese in the Red River Delta region. The ancient Sa Huỳnh culture of present-day central Vietnam is known for the quantities of iron objects and decorative items made from glass, semi-precious and precious stones such as agate, carnelian, rock crystal, amethyst, and nephrite.[11] The Sa Huỳnh, who maintained an extensive trade network were most likely the predecessors of the Cham people.[12]

The Cham people, who for over one thousand years settled in, controlled and civilized central and southern coastal Vietnam from around the 2nd century AD are of Austronesian origin. The southernmost sector of modern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta and its surroundings was until the 18th century an integral part, yet of shifting significance of the Austroasiatic Proto-Khmer - and Khmer principalities, like Funan, Chenla, the Khmer Empire and the Khmer kingdom.[13][14][15]

The classic core population, the Lạc Việt of the rice-farming Phung Nguyen culture and future nation builders, who had found themselves in the Red River basin are predominantly descendants of agricultural communities of the Yangzi and Yellow River valleys in southern and central China, who have arrived in Indochina around 2000 years BC.[16][17]

Cultural evolution

Fishing and hunting supplemented the main rice crop. Arrowheads and spears were dipped in poison to kill larger animals such as elephants. Betel nuts were widely chewed and the lower classes rarely wore clothing more substantial than a loincloth. Every spring, a fertility festival was held which featured huge parties and sexual abandon. Since around 2000 BC, stone hand tools and weapons improved extraordinarily in both quantity and variety. Pottery reached a higher level of technique and decoration style. The Vietnamese people were mainly agriculturists, growing the wet rice Oryza, which became the main staple of their diet. During the later stage of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, the first appearance of bronze tools took place despite these tools still being rare. By about 1000 BC, bronze replaced stone for about 40 percent of edged tools and weapons, rising to about 60 percent. Here, there were not only bronze weapons, axes, and personal ornaments, but also sickles and other agriculture tools. Toward the closure of the Bronze Age, bronze accounts for more than 90 percent of tools and weapons, and there are exceptionally extravagant graves – the burial places of powerful chieftains – containing some hundreds of ritual and personal bronze artifacts such as musical instruments, bucket-shaped ladles, and ornament daggers. After 1000 BC, the ancient Vietnamese people became skilled agriculturalists as they grew rice and kept buffaloes and pigs. They were also skilled fishermen and bold sailors, whose long dug-out canoes traversed the eastern sea.[citation needed]

Ancient period (2879–111 BC)

Hồng Bàng Dynasty

Southern tribes in pre-Han conquest China and Vietnam
Lạc Long Quân's temple at Sim Hill (Phú Thọ)
Map of the Cổ Loa Citadel, walls in red, water in blue, vegetation in green.

According to a legend which first appeared in the 14th century book Lĩnh nam chích quái, the tribal chief Lộc Tục (c. 2919 – 2794 BC) proclaimed himself as Kinh Dương Vương and founded the state of Xích Quỷ in 2879 BC, that markes the beginning of the Hồng Bàng dynastic period. However, modern Vietnamese historians assume, that statehood was only developed in the Red River Delta by the second half of 1st millennium BC. Kinh Dương Vương was succeeded by Sùng Lãm (c. 2825 BC – ?). The next royal dynasty produced 18 monarchs, known as the Hùng Kings, who renamed their country Văn Lang.[18] The administrative system includes offices like Lạc tướng, Lạc hầu and Bố chính.[19] Great numbers of metal weapons and tools excavated at various Phung Nguyen culture sites in northern Indochina are associated with the beginning of the Copper Age in Southeast Asia.[20] Furthermore, the beginning of the Bronze Age has been verified for around 500 B.C. at Đông Sơn. The local Lạc Việt community had developed a highly sophisticated industry of quality bronze production, processing and the manufacturing of tools, weapons and exquisite Bronze drums. Certainly of symbolic value they were intended to be used for religious or ceremonial purposes. The craftsmen of these objects required refined skills in melting techniques, in the Lost-wax casting technique and acquired master skills of composition and execution for the elaborate engravings.[21][22]

Sources of prehistory and early history are mostly legends, which are passed on orally and, as time progresses, often mix with historical facts. The first historical mention about Hùng kings was in a Northern Wei dynasty's historiography book Commentary on the Water Classic in 5th century, where Hùng kings were known as Lạc king (雒王). It written:

[Ancient] when Jiaozhi wasn't incorporated to China, it had Lạc fields (雒田), rice cultivating based on the river tides, people depended on these fields, so called Lạc people (雒民). Ruler was Lạc king (雒王), chief advisor were Lạc hầu (雒侯), watch and control their land. Many areas, there were Lạc tướng (雒將) had bronze seals and green robes.[23]

Another ancient Chinese informative book proves the existence of Hùng kings and the Lạc Việt before 200 BC is Extensive Records of the Taiping Era which was published in 978. It said:

[Ancient] Jiaozhi was the fertilized land. Many tribes lived there. And they know to plant crops. Its soils are black, its climate is moderate hard. So its fields were called Hùng land (雄田) and its people were Hùng people (雄民). Their leader was Hùng king (雄王), and his chief advisors

The Cham people, who for over one thousand years settled in, controlled and civilized central and southern coastal Vietnam from around the 2nd century AD are of Austronesian origin. The southernmost sector of modern Vietnam, the Mekong Delta and its surroundings was until the 18th century an integral part, yet of shifting significance of the Austroasiatic Proto-Khmer - and Khmer principalities, like Funan, Chenla, the Khmer Empire and the Khmer kingdom.[13][14][15]

The classic core population, the Lạc Việt of the rice-farming Phung Nguyen culture and future nation builders, who had found themselves in the Red River basin are predominantly descendants of agricultural communities of the Yangzi and Yellow River valleys in southern and central China, who have arrived in Indochina around 2000 years BC.[16][17]

Fishing and hunting supplemented the main rice crop. Arrowheads and spears were dipped in poison to kill larger animals such as elephants. Betel nuts were widely chewed and the lower classes rarely wore clothing more substantial than a loincloth. Every spring, a fertility festival was held which featured huge parties and sexual abandon. Since around 2000 BC, stone hand tools and weapons improved extraordinarily in both quantity and variety. Pottery reached a higher level of technique and decoration style. The Vietnamese people were mainly agriculturists, growing the wet rice Oryza, which became the main staple of their diet. During the later stage of the first half of the 2nd millennium BC, the first appearance of bronze tools took place despite these tools still being rare. By about 1000 BC, bronze replaced stone for about 40 percent of edged tools and weapons, rising to about 60 percent. Here, there were not only bronze weapons, axes, and personal ornaments, but also sickles and other agriculture tools. Toward the closure of the Bronze Age, bronze accounts for more than 90 percent of tools and weapons, and there are exceptionally extravagant graves – the burial places of powerful chieftains – containing some hundreds of ritual and personal bronze artifacts such as musical instruments, bucket-shaped ladles, and ornament daggers. After 1000 BC, the ancient Vietnamese people became skilled agriculturalists as they grew rice and kept buffaloes and pigs. They were also skilled fishermen and bold sailors, whose long dug-out canoes traversed the eastern sea.[citation needed]

Ancient period (2879–111 BC)

First Chinese domination (111 BC–40 AD)

Chinese Western Han Empire conquered the Nanyue kingdom in 111 BC and incorporated into its terrirories

In 111 BC, Han China invaded Nam Việt and established new territories, dividing Vietnam into Giao Chỉ (pinyin: Jiaozhi), now the Red River delta; Cửu Chân from modern-day Thanh Hóa to Hà Tĩnh; and Nhật Nam (pinyin: Rinan), from modern-day Quảng Bình to Huế. While governors and top officials were Chinese, the original Vietnamese nobles (Lạc Hầu, Lạc Tướng) from the Hồng Bàng period still managed in some of the highlands. During this period, Buddhism was introduced into Vietnam from India via the Maritime Silk Road, while Taoism and Confucianism spread to Vietnam through the Chinese rules.[37]

Trưng Sisters (40–43)

Triệu's rule as the starting point of the Chinese domination, since Triệu Đà was a former Qin general; whereas others consider it still an era of Vietnamese independence as the Triệu family in Nam Việt were assimilated into local culture.[36] They ruled independently of what then constituted the Han Empire. At one point, Triệu Đà even declared himself Emperor, equal to the Han Emperor in the north.[34]

In 111 BC, Han China invaded Nam Việt and established new territories, dividing Vietnam into Giao Chỉ (pinyin: Jiaozhi), now the Red River delta; Cửu Chân from modern-day Thanh Hóa to Hà Tĩnh; and Nhật Nam (pinyin: Rinan), from modern-day Quảng Bình to Huế. While governors and top officials were Chinese, the original Vietnamese nobles (Lạc Hầu, Lạc Tướng) from the Hồng Bàng period still managed in some of the highlands. During this period, Buddhism was introduced into Vietnam from India via the Maritime Silk Road, while Taoism and Confucianism spread to Vietnam through the Chinese rules.[37]

Trưng Sisters (40–43)

Non-Chinese Yue and Li people in southern China and Northern Vietnam in 2 AD.

In 40 AD, the Trưng Sisters led a successful revolt against Han Governor Su Dung (Vietnamese: Tô Định) and recaptured 65 states (including modern Guangxi). Trưng Trắc became the Queen (Trưng Nữ Vương). In 43 AD, Emperor Guangwu of Han sent his famous general Ma Yuan (Vietnamese:In 40 AD, the Trưng Sisters led a successful revolt against Han Governor Su Dung (Vietnamese: Tô Định) and recaptured 65 states (including modern Guangxi). Trưng Trắc became the Queen (Trưng Nữ Vương). In 43 AD, Emperor Guangwu of Han sent his famous general Ma Yuan (Vietnamese: Mã Viện) with a large army to quell the revolt. After a long, difficult campaign, Ma Yuan suppressed the uprising and the Trung Sisters committed suicide to avoid capture. To this day, the Trưng Sisters are revered in Vietnam as the national symbol of Vietnamese women.[38]

Second Chinese domination (43–544)

Learning a lesson from the Trưng revolt, the Han and other successful Chinese dynasties took measures to eliminate the power of the Vietnamese nobles.[39] The Vietnamese elites were educated in Chinese culture and politics. A Giao Chỉ prefect, Shi Xie, ruled Vietnam as an autonomous warlord for forty years and was posthumously deified by later Vietnamese monarchs.[40][41] Shi Xie pledged loyalty to Learning a lesson from the Trưng revolt, the Han and other successful Chinese dynasties took measures to eliminate the power of the Vietnamese nobles.[39] The Vietnamese elites were educated in Chinese culture and politics. A Giao Chỉ prefect, Shi Xie, ruled Vietnam as an autonomous warlord for forty years and was posthumously deified by later Vietnamese monarchs.[40][41] Shi Xie pledged loyalty to Eastern Wu of the Three Kingdoms era of China. The Eastern Wu was a formative period in Vietnamese history. According to Stephen O'Harrow, Shi Xie was essentially "the first Vietnamese."[42] Nearly 200 years passed before the Vietnamese attempted another revolt. In 248 a Yue woman, Triệu Thị Trinh with her brother Triệu Quốc Đạt, popularly known as Lady Triệu (Bà Triệu), led a revolt against the Wu dynasty. Once again, the uprising failed. Eastern Wu sent Lu Yin and 8,000 elite soldiers to suppress the rebels.[43] He managed to pacify the rebels with a combination of threats and persuasion. According to the Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (Complete Annals of Đại Việt), Lady Triệu had long breasts that reached her shoulders and rode into battle on an elephant. After several months of warfare she was defeated and committed suicide.[44]

At the same time, in present-day Central Vietnam, there was a successful revolt of Cham nations in 192. Chinese dynasties called it Lin-Yi (Lin village; Vietnamese: Lâm Ấp). It later became a powerful kingdom, Champa, stretching from Quảng Bình to Phan Thiết (Bình Thuận).

Central Vietnam, there was a successful revolt of Cham nations in 192. Chinese dynasties called it Lin-Yi (Lin village; Vietnamese: Lâm Ấp). It later became a powerful kingdom, Champa, stretching from Quảng Bình to Phan Thiết (Bình Thuận).

In the period between the beginning of the Chinese Age of Fragmentation and the end of the Tang dynasty, several revolts against Chinese rule took place, such as those of Lý Bôn and his general and heir Triệu Quang Phục. All of them ultimately failed, yet most notable were those led by Lý Bôn and Triệu Quang Phục, whose ruled the shortly independent Van Xuan kingdom for almost half a century, from 544 to 602, before Sui China reconquered the kingdom.[45]

Third Chinese domination (602–905 AD)