History of Vietnam

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. Ancient 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.[2][3] 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. 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 Vietnamese states approximately 2879 BC.[4][5][6] Another truly influential part of history in Vietnam occurred during the late Bronze Age, when the Đông Sơn culture dramatically advanced the civilization. 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. The Xích Tỵs and Qins were among the earliest foreign aggressors of Vietnam, but the ancient Vietnamese managed to regain control of the country soon after the invasions.

Once Vietnam did succumb to foreign rule, however, it proved unable to escape from it, and for 1,100 years, Vietnam had been successively governed by a series of Chinese dynasties: the Han, Eastern Wu, Jin, Liu Song, Southern Qi, Liang, Sui, Tang, and Southern Han; leading to the loss of native cultural heritage, language, and much of national identity. At certain periods during these 1,100 years, Vietnam was independently governed under the Triệus, Trưng Sisters, Early Lýs, Khúcs and Dương Đình Nghệ—although their triumphs and reigns were.

During the Chinese domination of North 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, 939–944) restoring sovereign power in the country, the next millennium was advanced by the accomplishments of successive 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 Songs, Mongol Yuans, Chams, Mings, Dutch, Manchus, French, and the Americans. 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.


First human evidence

Archaeological excavations revealed the existence of humans in the area that is today Vietnam as early as the Paleolithic age. The presence of Homo erectus around 500,000 BC[7] was found in caves of Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An provinces in Northern Vietnam. Other early human fossils are from the Middle Pleistocene age. They include mostly isolated teeth from northern Vietnam at Tham Om (250–140 kyr), and Hang Hum (140–80 kyr).[8] Teeth attributed to Homo sapiens are also known from the Late Pleistocene of Vietnam at Dong Can (16 kyr)[9] and from the Early Holocene at Mai Da Dieu/Mai Da Nuoc (8.2 kyr),[9] Lang Gao[10] and Lang Cuom (6.44 ± 0.5 kyr).[11]

Paleolithic to Neolithic

There are some caves with Paleolithic remains typified by the Nguom industry and the Sơn Vi culture, dating from 28,000 BC to 8,000 BC. The most important event in Vietnamese prehistory is the appearance of Hòa Bình and Bắc Sơn cultures—the most typical cave cultures in Southeast Asia. Archeological excavations in Thailand (Spirit Cave, Non Nok Tha) and northern Vietnam (Dong Son, Hòa Bình) revealed a major surprise: the first Southeast Asians had agriculture and pottery at the same time as the city-states of ancient Mesopotamia. The finds of the fossils of Homo erectus, Homo sapiens and Homo sapiens sapiens in the cave sites in North Vietnam have confirmed that the evolution of human formation took place the most dramatically in the karst topology, from the late Pleistocene to Holocene.

Early dynastic epoch (c. 2879–111 BC)

Hồng Bàng period/dynasty (c. 2879–258 BC)

Main article: Hồng Bàng dynasty
History of Vietnam Timeline

According to mythology, for almost three millennia — from its beginning around 2879 B.C. to its conquest by Thục Phán in 258 B.C. — the Hồng Bàng period was divided into 18 dynasties, with each dynasty being based on the lineage of the kings. Throughout this era, the country encountered many changes, some being very drastic. Due to the limitation of the written evidence, the main sources of information about the Hồng Bàng period are the many vestiges, objects and artifacts that have been recovered from archaeological sites - as well as a considerable amount of legend. The land began as several tribal states, with King Kinh Dương Vương grouping all the vassal states at around 2879 BC. The ancient Vietnamese rulers of this period are collectively known as the Hùng kings (Vietnamese: Hùng Vương).

Early Hồng Bàng (c. 2879–1913 BC)

Main articles: Càn line, Khảm line, Cấn line, and Chấn line

From ancient times, modern northern Vietnam and southern China were peopled by many races. Lộc Tục (c. 2919 – 2794 BC) succeeded his predecessor as tribal chief and made the first attempts to incorporate all tribes around 2879 BC. As he succeeded in grouping all the vassal states within his territory, a convocation of the subdued tribes proclaimed him King Kinh Dương Vương, as the leader of the unified ancient Vietnamese nation. Kinh Dương Vương called his newly born country Xích Quỷ and reigned over the confederacy that occupied the Red River Delta in present-day Northern Vietnam and part of southeastern China, seeing the beginnings of nationhood for Vietnam under one supreme ruler, the Hùng king, also starting the Hồng Bàng period.

Lạc Long Quân's temple at Sim Hill (Phú Thọ).

According to stories of the period, the First Hùng dynasty only had one ruler, Kinh Dương Vương himself, and witnessed the first two capitals in Vietnamese history, at Ngàn Hống and Nghĩa Lĩnh. Sùng Lãm (c. 2825 BC – ?) was Kinh Dương Vương's successor and founded the Second Hùng dynasty. The next line of kings that followed renamed the country Văn Lang.

The Third Hùng dynasty lasted from approximately 2524 BC to 2253 BC. The administrative rule of the Lạc tướng, Bố chính, and Lạc hầu began.[12]

The period of the Fourth Hùng dynasty (c. 2252–1913 BC) saw the evidence for early Vietnamese calendar system recorded on stone tools[13] and the population from the mountainous areas moved out and began to settle in the open along the rivers to join the agricultural activities.[14]

Mid-Hồng Bàng (c. 1912–1055 BC)

Main articles: Tốn line, Ly line, Khôn line, Đoài line, Giáp line, Ất line, and Bính line
Map of Văn Lang 500 BC.

The Fifth Hùng dynasty lasted from approximately 1912 BC to 1713 BC.

Then, during the Sixth Hùng dynasty, Văn Lang was invaded by the mysterious people called the Xích Tỵ, as the king battled Văn Lang back to greatness.

The Seventh dynasty started with Lang Liêu, a son of the last king of the Sixth dynasty. Lang Liêu was a prince who won a culinary contest; he then won the throne because his creations, bánh chưng (rice cake), reflect his deep understanding of the land's vital economy: rice farming. The Seventh dynasty and well into the early first millennium BC was a period of stabilizing, saw a civilization flourishing to continue its greatness.

Late Hồng Bàng (c. 1054–258 BC)

Main articles: Đinh line, Mậu line, Kỷ line, Canh line, Tân line, Nhâm line, and Qúy line

The first millennium BC was a period that included went the Twelfth dynasty to the Eighteenth dynasty. It was when the Vietnamese Bronze Age culture further flourished and attained an unprecedented level of realism,finally culminating in the opening stage of the Vietnamese Iron Age.

The Eighteenth dynasty was the last ruling dynasty during the Hùng king epoch. It fell to the Âu Việt in 258 BC after the last Hùng king was defeated in battle.

Cultural evolution

This period contained some accounts that mixes historical facts with legends. The Legend of Gióng tells of a youth going to war to save the country, wearing iron armor, riding an armored horse, and wielding an iron staff, showed that metalworking was sophisticated. The Legend of the Magic Crossbow, about a crossbow that can deliver thousands of arrows, showed extensive use of archery in warfare.

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. Religion consisted of primitive animistic cults.

Since around 2000 BC, stone hand tools and weapons improved extraordinary 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% of edged tools and weapons, rising to about 60%. 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.

Pottery fruit tray of the Sa Huỳnh people.

Modern central and southern Vietnam were not originally part of the Vietnamese state. The peoples of those areas developed a distinct culture from the ancient Vietnamese in the Red River Delta region. For instance, the 1st millennium BC Sa Huỳnh culture in the areas of present-day central Vietnam revealed a considerable use of iron and decorative items made from glass, semi-precious and precious stones such as agate, carnelian, rock crystal, amethyst, and nephrite.[15] The culture also showed evidence of an extensive trade network. The Sa Huỳnh people were most likely the predecessors of the Cham people, an Austronesian-speaking people and the founders of the kingdom of Champa.

Map of the Cổ Loa Citadel, red is the wall, blue is the water, green is the trees

Thục dynasty (257–179 BC)

By the 3rd century BC, another Viet group, the Âu Việt, emigrated from present-day southern China to the Red River delta and mixed with the indigenous Văn Lang population. In 257 BC, a new kingdom, Âu Lạc, emerged as the union of the Âu Việt and the Lạc Việt, with Thục Phán proclaiming himself "An Dương Vương" ("King An Dương"). Some modern Vietnamese believe that Thục Phán came upon the Âu Việt territory (modern-day northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and southern Guangxi province, with its capital in what is today Cao Bằng Province).[16]

After assembling an army, he defeated and overthrew the eighteenth dynasty of Hùng kings, around 258 BC. He proclaimed himself An Dương Vương ("King An Dương"). He then renamed his newly acquired state from Văn Lang to Âu Lạc and established the new capital at Phong Khê in the present-day Phú Thọ town in northern Vietnam, where he tried to build the Cổ Loa Citadel (Cổ Loa Thành), the spiral fortress approximately ten miles north of that new capital. However, records showed that espionage resulted in the downfall of An Dương Vương. At his capital, Cổ Loa, he built many concentric walls around the city for defensive purposes. These walls, together with skilled Âu Lạc archers, kept the capital safe from invaders.

Nam Việt at its greatest extent.
Bronze drum during the Triệu dynasty.

Triệu dynasty (207–111 BC)

Main article: Triệu dynasty

In 207 BC, Qin warlord Triệu Đà (pinyin: Zhao Tuo) established his own independent kingdom in present-day Guangdong/Guangxi area.[17] He proclaimed his new kingdom as Nam Việt (pinyin: Nanyue), starting the Triệu dynasty.[17] Triệu Đà later appointed himself a commandant of central Guangdong, closing the borders and conquering neighboring districts and titled himself "King of Nam Viet"[17] In 179 BC, he defeated King An Dương Vương and annexed Âu Lạc.[18]

This period is controversial as on one side, some Vietnamese historians consider 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 to local culture . 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.[17]

The Chinese millennium (111 BC – 939 AD)

Han domination (111 BC – 40 AD)

In 111 BC, Han troops 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.

Trưng Sisters (40–43)

Main article: Trưng Sisters

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.

From Han to Liang 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. 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 emperors.[19] Nearly 200 years passed before the Vietnamese attempted another revolt. In 225 another woman, Triệu Thị Trinh, popularly known as Lady Triệu (Bà Triệu), led another revolt which lasted until 248. Once again, the uprising failed and Triệu Thị Trinh threw herself into a river.

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).

Early Lý dynasty (544–602)

Main article: Early Lý dynasty

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; and those of Mai Thúc Loan and Phùng Hưng. All of them ultimately failed, yet most notable were those led by Lý Bôn and Triệu Quang Phục, whose Early Lý dynasty ruled for almost half a century, from 544 to 602, before Sui China reconquered their kingdom Vạn Xuân.[20]

From Sui to Tang domination (602–905)

During the Tang dynasty, Vietnam was called Annam until 866. With its capital around modern Bắc Ninh, Annam became a flourishing trading outpost, receiving goods from the southern seas. The Book of the Later Han recorded that in 166 the first envoy from the Roman Empire to China arrived by this route, and merchants were soon to follow. The 3rd-century Tales of Wei (Weilüe) mentioned a "water route" (the Red River) from Annam into what is now southern Yunnan. From there, goods were taken over land to the rest of China via the regions of modern Kunming and Chengdu.

In 866, Annam was renamed Tĩnh Hải quân. Early in the 10th century, as China became politically fragmented, successive lords from the Khúc clan, followed by Dương Đình Nghệ, ruled Tĩnh Hải quân autonomously under the Tang title of Jiedushi (Vietnamese: Tiết Độ Sứ), Virtuous Lord, but stopped short of proclaiming themselves kings.

Autonomy (905–938)

In 938, Southern Han sent troops to conquer autonomous Giao Châu. Ngô Quyền, Dương Đình Nghệ's son-in-law, defeated the Southern Han fleet at the Battle of Bạch Đằng (938). He then proclaimed himself King Ngô and effectively began the age of independence for Vietnam.

Late dynastic epoch (939–1945)

The basic nature of Vietnamese society changed little during the nearly 1,000 years between independence from China in the 10th century and the French conquest in the 19th century. The king was the ultimate source of political authority, the final dispenser of justice, law, and supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as well as overseer of religious rituals. Administration was carried out by mandarins who were trained exactly like their Chinese counterparts (i.e. by rigorous study of Confucian texts). Overall, Vietnam remained very efficiently and stably governed except in times of war and dynastic breakdown, and its administrative system was probably far more advanced than that of any other Southeast Asian state. No serious challenge to the king's authority ever arose, as titles of nobility were bestowed purely as honors and were not hereditary. Periodic land reforms broke up large estates and ensured that powerful landowners could not emerge. No religious/priestly class ever arose outside of the mandarins either. This stagnant absolutism ensured a stable, well-ordered society, but also resistance to social, cultural, or technological innovations. Reformers looked only to the past for inspiration.

Literacy remained the provenance of the upper classes. Initially, Chinese was used for writing purposes, but by the 13th century, a set of derivative characters known as Chữ Nôm emerged that allowed native Vietnamese words to be written. However, it remained limited to poetry, literature, and practical texts like medicine while all state and official documents were written in Classical Chinese. Aside from some mining and fishing, agriculture was the primary activity of most Vietnamese, and economic development and trade were not promoted or encouraged by the state.[21]

Ngô, Đinh, & Early Lê dynasties (939–1009)

Further information: Anarchy of the 12 Warlords

Ngô Quyền's untimely death after a short reign resulted in a power struggle for the throne, resulting in the country's first major civil war, the upheaval of Twelfth Warlords (Loạn Thập Nhị Sứ Quân). The war lasted from 944 to 968 until the clan led by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh defeated the other warlords, unifying the country. Đinh Bộ Lĩnh founded the Đinh dynasty and proclaimed himself Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh the Majestic Emperor) and renamed the country from Tĩnh Hải quân to Đại Cồ Việt (literally "Great Viet Land"), with its capital in Hoa Lư (modern-day Ninh Bình Province). The new emperor introduced strict penal codes to prevent chaos from happening again. He then tried to form alliances by granting the title of Queen to five women from the five most influential families.

In 979, Emperor Đinh Tiên Hoàng and his crown prince Đinh Liễn were assassinated, leaving his lone surviving son, the 6-year-old Đinh Toàn, to assume the throne. Taking advantage of the situation, Song China invaded Đại Cồ Việt. Facing such a grave threat to national independence, the commander of the armed forces, (Thập Đạo Tướng Quân) Lê Hoàn took the throne, founding the Early Lê dynasty. A capable military tactician, Lê Hoan realized the risks of engaging the mighty Song troops head on; thus he tricked the invading army into Chi Lăng Pass, then ambushed and killed their commander, quickly ending the threat to his young nation in 981. The Song dynasty withdrew their troops and Lê Hoàn was referred to in his realm as Emperor Đại Hành (Đại Hành Hoàng Đế). Emperor Lê Đại Hành was also the first Vietnamese monarch who began the southward expansion process against the kingdom of Champa.

Emperor Lê Đại Hành's death in 1005 resulted in infighting for the throne amongst his sons. The eventual winner, Lê Long Đĩnh, became the most notorious tyrant in Vietnamese history. He devised sadistic punishments of prisoners for his own entertainment and indulged in deviant sexual activities. Toward the end of his short life  he died at the age of 24. Lê Long Đĩnh had become so ill that he had to lie down when meeting with his officials in court.

Lý, Trần, & Hồ dynasties (1009–1407)

Southeast Asia c. 1010 AD. Đại Việt lands in yellow, Champa in green and Khmer Empire in purple

When the king Lê Long Đĩnh died in 1009, a palace guard commander named Lý Công Uẩn was nominated by the court to take over the throne, and founded the Lý dynasty.[22] This event is regarded as the beginning of another golden era in Vietnamese history, with the following dynasties inheriting the Lý dynasty's prosperity and doing much to maintain and expand it. The way Lý Công Uẩn ascended to the throne was rather uncommon in Vietnamese history. As a high-ranking military commander residing in the capital, he had all opportunities to seize power during the tumultuous years after Emperor Lê Hoàn's death, yet preferring not to do so out of his sense of duty. He was in a way being "elected" by the court after some debate before a consensus was reached.[23]

The Lý dynasty is credited for laying down a concrete foundation for the nation of Vietnam. Leaving Hoa Lư, a natural fortification surrounded by mountains and rivers, Lý Công Uẩn moved his court to the new capital in present-day Hanoi and called it Thăng Long (Ascending Dragon).[24] Lý Công Uẩn thus departed from the militarily defensive mentality of his predecessors and envisioned a strong economy as the key to national survival. The third emperor of the dynasty, Lý Thánh Tông renamed the country "Đại Việt" (大越, Great Viet).[25] Successive Lý emperors continued to accomplish far-reaching feats: building a dike system to protect rice farms; founding the Quốc Tử Giám,[26] the first noble university; holding regular examinations to select capable commoners for government positions once every three years; organizing a new system of taxation; establishing humane treatment of prisoners. Women were holding important roles in Lý society as the court ladies were in charge of tax collection. The Lý dynasty also promoted Buddhism, yet maintained a pluralistic attitude toward the three main philosophical systems of the time: Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism.

The Lý dynasty had two major wars with Song China, and a few invasive campaigns against neighboring Champa in the south. The most notable battle took place on Chinese territory in 1075. Upon learning that a Song invasion was imminent, the Lý army and navy totaling about 100,000 men under the command of Lý Thường Kiệt, and Tông Đản used amphibious operations to preemptively destroy three Song military installations at Yongzhou, Qinzhou, and Lianzhou in present-day Guangdong and Guangxi, and killed 100,000 Chinese . The Song dynasty took revenge and invaded Đại Việt in 1076, but the Song troops were held back at the Battle of Như Nguyệt River commonly known as the Cầu river, now in Bắc Ninh province about 40 km from the current capital, Hanoi. Neither side was able to force a victory, so the Lý dynasty proposed a truce, which the Song emperor accepted. Champa and the powerful Khmer Empire took advantage of the Lý dynasty's distraction with the Song to pillage Đại Việt's southern provinces. Together they invaded Vietnam in 1128 and 1132. Further invasions followed in the subsequent decades.[27]

Trần royal battle standard

Toward the end of the Lý dynasty, a powerful court minister named Trần Thủ Độ forced the emperor Lý Huệ Tông to become a Buddhist monk and Lý Chiêu Hoàng, Huệ Tông's young daughter, to become queen. Trần Thủ Độ then arranged the marriage of Chiêu Hoàng to his nephew Trần Cảnh and eventually had the throne transferred to Trần Cảnh, thus begun the Trần dynasty.

Trần Thủ Độ viciously purged members of the Lý nobility; some Lý princes escaped to Korea, including Lý Long Tường. After the purge, the Trần emperors ruled the country in similar manner to the Lý kings. Noted Trần dynasty accomplishments include the creation of a system of population records based at the village level, the compilation of a formal 30-volume history of Đại Việt (Đại Việt Sử Ký) by Lê Văn Hưu, and the rising in status of the Nôm script, a system of writing for Vietnamese language. The Trần dynasty also adopted a unique way to train new emperors: when a crown prince reached the age of 18, his predecessor would abdicate and turn the throne over to him, yet holding the title of Retired Emperor (Thái Thượng Hoàng), acting as a mentor to the new Emperor. Despite continued Champa-Khmer attacks, the Trần managed to establish peace with them during several .

During the Trần dynasty, the armies of the Mongol Empire under Möngke Khan and Kublai Khan invaded Vietnam in 1258, 1285, and 1287 88. Đại Việt repelled all attacks of the Yuan Mongols during the reign of Kublai Khan. Three Mongol armies said to have numbered from 300,000 to 500,000 men were defeated. The key to Đại Việt's successes was to avoid the Mongols' strength in open field battles and city sieges—the Trần court abandoned the capital and the cities. The Mongols were then countered decisively at their weak points, which were battles in swampy areas such as Chương Dương, Hàm Tử, Vạn Kiếp and on rivers such as Vân Đồn and Bạch Đằng. The Mongols also suffered from tropical diseases and loss of supplies to Trần army's raids. The Yuan-Trần war reached its climax when the retreating Yuan fleet was decimated at the Battle of Bạch Đằng (1288). The military architect behind Đại Việt's victories was Commander Trần Quốc Tuấn, more popularly known as Trần Hưng Đạo. In order to avoid further disastrous campaigns, the Tran and Champa acknowledged Mongol supremacy.

It was also during this period that the Trần emperors waged many wars against the southern kingdom of Champa, continuing the Viets' long history of southern expansion (known as Nam tiến) that had begun shortly after gaining independence in the 10th century. Often, they encountered strong resistance from the Chams. Champa was made a tributary state of Vietnam in 1312, but ten years later regained independence and Cham troops led by king Chế Bồng Nga (Cham: Po Binasuor or Che Bonguar) killed king Trần Duệ Tông in battle and even laid siege to Đại Việt's capital Thăng Long in 1377 and again in 1383. However, the Trần dynasty was successful in gaining two Champa provinces, located around present-day Huế, through the peaceful means of the political marriage of Princess Huyền Trân to a Cham king.

The wars with Champa and the Mongols left Vietnam exhausted and bankrupt. The Trần dynasty was in turn overthrown by one of its own court officials, Hồ Quý Ly. Hồ Quý Ly forced the last Trần emperor to abdicate and assumed the throne in 1400. He changed the country name to Đại Ngu and moved the capital to Tây Đô, Western Capital, now Thanh Hóa. Thăng Long was renamed Đông Đô, Eastern Capital. Although widely blamed for causing national disunity and losing the country later to the Ming Empire, Hồ Quý Ly's reign actually introduced a lot of progressive, ambitious reforms, including the addition of mathematics to the national examinations, the open critique of Confucian philosophy, the use of paper currency in place of coins, investment in building large warships and cannons, and land reform. He ceded the throne to his son, Hồ Hán Thương, in 1401 and assumed the title Thái Thượng Hoàng, in similar manner to the Trần kings.

Ming domination & Later Lê dynasty (1407–1527)

In 1407, under the pretext of helping to restore the Trần dynasty, Chinese Ming troops invaded Đại Ngu and captured Hồ Quý Ly and Hồ Hán Thương. The Hồ dynasty came to an end after only 7 years in power. The Ming occupying force annexed Đại Ngu into the Ming Empire after claiming that there was no heir to Trần throne. Vietnam, weakened by dynastic feuds and the wars with Champa, quickly succumbed. The Ming conquest was harsh. Vietnam was annexed directly as a province of China, the old policy of cultural assimilation again imposed forcibly, and the country was ruthlessly exploited. However, by this time, Vietnamese nationalism had reached a point where attempts to sinicize them could only strengthen further resistance. Almost immediately, Trần loyalists started a resistance war. The resistance, under the leadership of Trần Quĩ at first gained some advances, yet as Trần Quĩ executed two top commanders out of suspicion, a rift widened within his ranks and resulted in his defeat in 1413.

In 1418, a wealthy farmer, Lê Lợi, led the Lam Sơn uprising against the Ming from his base of Lam Sơn (Thanh Hóa province). Overcoming many early setbacks and with strategic advices from Nguyễn Trãi, Lê Lợi's movement finally gathered momentum, marched northward, and launched a siege at Đông Quan (now Hanoi), the capital of the Ming occupation. The Ming Emperor sent a reinforcement force, but Lê Lợi staged an ambush and killed the Ming commander, Liu Shan (Vietnamese: Liễu Thăng), in Chi Lăng. Ming troops at Đông Quan surrendered. The Lam Sơn revolution killed 300,000 Ming soldiers.[28] In 1428, Lê Lợi ascended to the throne and began the Hậu Lê dynasty (Posterior or Later Lê). Lê Lợi renamed the country back to Đại Việt and moved the capital back to Thăng Long.

Map of Vietnam showing the conquest of the south (the Nam tiến, 1069-1757)

The Lê dynasty carried out land reforms to revitalize the economy after the war. Unlike the Lý and Trần kings, who were more influenced by Buddhism, the Lê kings leaned toward Confucianism. A comprehensive set of laws, the Hồng Đức code was introduced with some strong Confucian elements, yet also included some progressive rules, such as the rights of women. Art and architecture during the Lê dynasty also became more influenced by Chinese styles than during the Lý and Trần dynasty. The Lê dynasty commissioned the drawing of national maps and had Ngô Sĩ Liên continue the task of writing Đại Việt's history up to the time of Lê Lợi. King Lê Thánh Tông opened hospitals and had officials distribute medicines to areas affected with epidemics.

Overpopulation and land shortages stimulated a Vietnamese expansion south. In 1471, Le troops led by king Lê Thánh Tông invaded Champa and captured its capital Vijaya. This event effectively ended Champa as a powerful kingdom, although some smaller surviving Cham states lasted for a few centuries more. It initiated the dispersal of the Cham people across Southeast Asia. With the kingdom of Champa mostly destroyed and the Cham people exiled or suppressed, Vietnamese colonization of what is now central Vietnam proceeded without substantial resistance. However, despite becoming greatly outnumbered by Kinh (Việt) settlers and the integration of formerly Cham territory into the Vietnamese nation, the majority of Cham people nevertheless remained in Vietnam and they are now considered one of the key minorities in modern Vietnam. Vietnamese armies also raided the Mekong Delta, which the decaying Khmer Empire could no longer defend. The city of Huế, founded in 1600 lies close to where the Champa capital of Indrapura once stood. In 1479, King Lê Thánh Tông also campaigned against Laos and captured its capital Luang Prabang. He made further incursions westwards into the Irrawaddy River region in modern-day Burma before withdrawing.

Mạc & Restored Lê dynasties (1527–1788)

The Lê dynasty was overthrown by its general named Mạc Đăng Dung in 1527. He killed the Lê emperor and proclaimed himself emperor, starting the Mạc dynasty. After defeating many revolutions for two years, Mạc Đăng Dung adopted the Trần dynasty's practice and ceded the throne to his son, Mạc Đăng Doanh, and he became Thái Thượng Hoàng.

Meanwhile, Nguyễn Kim, a former official in the Lê court, revolted against the Mạc and helped king Lê Trang Tông restore the Lê court in the Thanh Hóa area. Thus a civil war began between the Northern Court (Mạc) and the Southern Court (Restored Lê). Nguyễn Kim's side controlled the southern part of Đại Việt (from Thanhhoa to the south), leaving the north (including Đông Kinh-Hanoi) under Mạc control.[29] When Nguyễn Kim was assassinated in 1545, military power fell into the hands of his son-in-law, Trịnh Kiểm. In 1558, Nguyễn Kim's son, Nguyễn Hoàng, suspecting that Trịnh Kiểm might kill him as he had done to his brother to secure power, asked to be governor of the far south provinces around present-day Quảng Bình to Bình Định. Hoang pretended to be insane, so Kiem was fooled into thinking that sending Hoang south was a good move as Hoang would be quickly killed in the lawless border regions. However, Hoang governed the south effectively while Trịnh Kiểm, and then his son Trịnh Tùng, carried on the war against the Mạc. Nguyễn Hoàng sent money and soldiers north to help the war but gradually he became more and more independent, transforming their realm's economic fortunes by turning it into an international trading post.

The civil war between the Lê/Trịnh and Mạc dynasties ended in 1592, when the army of Trịnh Tùng conquered Hanoi and executed king Mạc Mậu Hợp. Survivors of the Mạc royal family fled to the northern mountains in the province of Cao Bằng and continued to rule there until 1677 when Trịnh Tạc conquered this last Mạc territory. The Lê kings, ever since Nguyễn Kim's restoration, only acted as figureheads. After the fall of the Mạc dynasty, all real power in the north belonged to the Trịnh lords. Meanwhile, the Ming court reluctantly decided on a military intervention into the Vietnamese civil war, but Mạc Đăng Dung offered ritual submission to the Ming Empire, which was accepted.

Map of Vietnam showing (roughly) the areas controlled by the Trịnh, Nguyễn, Mạc, and Champa around 1650. Violet: Trịnh Territory. Yellow: Nguyễn Territory. Green: Champa-Panduranga (under Nguyễn overlordship). Pink (Cao Bang): Mạc Territory. Orange: Vũ Lordship

Trịnh & Nguyễn lords

In the year 1600, Nguyễn Hoàng also declared himself Lord (officially "Vương", popularly "Chúa") and refused to send more money or soldiers to help the Trịnh. He also moved his capital to Phú Xuân, modern-day Huế. Nguyễn Hoàng died in 1613 after having ruled the south for 55 years. He was succeeded by his 6th son, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, who likewise refused to acknowledge the power of the Trịnh, yet still pledged allegiance to the Lê king.

Trịnh Tráng succeeded Trịnh Tùng, his father, upon his death in 1623. Tráng ordered Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên to submit to his authority. The order was refused twice. In 1627, Trịnh Tráng sent 150,000 troops southward in an unsuccessful military campaign. The Trịnh were much stronger, with a larger population, economy and army, but they were unable to vanquish the Nguyễn, who had built two defensive stone walls and invested in Portuguese artillery.

The Trịnh–Nguyễn War lasted from 1627 until 1672. The Trịnh army staged at least seven offensives, all of which failed to capture Phú Xuân. For a time, starting in 1651, the Nguyễn themselves went on the offensive and attacked parts of Trịnh territory. However, the Trịnh, under a new leader, Trịnh Tạc, forced the Nguyễn back by 1655. After one last offensive in 1672, Trịnh Tạc agreed to a truce with the Nguyễn Lord Nguyễn Phúc Tần. The country was effectively divided in two.

Advent of Europeans & southward expansion

One of the earliest Western maps of Vietnam, published in 1651 by Alexandre de Rhodes (north is oriented to the right).

The West's exposure to Vietnam and Vietnam's exposure to Westerners dated back to 166 AD[30] with the arrival of merchants from the Roman Empire, to 1292 with the visit of Marco Polo, and the early 16th century with the arrival of Portuguese in 1516 and other European traders and missionaries.[30] Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit priest, improved on earlier work by Portuguese missionaries and developed the Vietnamese romanized alphabet Quốc Ngữ in Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum in 1651.[31] Various European efforts to establish trading posts in Vietnam failed, but missionaries were allowed to operate for some time until the mandarins began concluding that Christianity (which had succeeded in converting up to a tenth of the population by 1700) was a threat to the Confucian social order since it condemned ancestor worship as idolatry. Vietnamese attitudes to Europeans and Christianity hardened as they began to increasingly see it as a way of undermining society.

Between 1627 and 1775, two powerful families had partitioned the country: the Nguyễn lords ruled the South and the Trịnh lords ruled the North. The Trịnh–Nguyễn War gave European traders the opportunities to support each side with weapons and technology: the Portuguese assisted the Nguyễn in the South while the Dutch helped the Trịnh in the North. The Trịnh and the Nguyễn maintained a relative peace for the next hundred years, during which both sides made significant accomplishments. The Trịnh created centralized government offices in charge of state budget and producing currency, unified the weight units into a decimal system, established printing shops to reduce the need to import printed materials from China, opened a military academy, and compiled history books.

Meanwhile, the Nguyễn lords continued the southward expansion by the conquest of the remaining Cham land. Việt settlers also arrived in the sparsely populated area known as "Water Chenla", which was the lower Mekong Delta portion of the former Khmer Empire. Between the mid-17th century to mid-18th century, as the former Khmer Empire was weakened by internal strife and Siamese invasions, the Nguyễn Lords used various means, political marriage, diplomatic pressure, political and military favors, to gain the area around present-day Saigon and the Mekong Delta. The Nguyễn army at times also clashed with the Siamese army to establish influence over the former Khmer Empire.

Tây Sơn & Nguyễn dynasties (1778–1945)

In 1771, the Tây Sơn revolution broke out in Quy Nhơn, which was under the control of the Nguyễn lord. The leaders of this revolution were three brothers named Nguyễn Nhạc, Nguyễn Lữ, and Nguyễn Huệ, not related to the Nguyễn lords. By 1776, the Tây Sơn had occupied all of the Nguyễn Lord's land and killed almost the entire royal family. The surviving prince Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (often called Nguyễn Ánh) fled to Siam, and obtained military support from the Siamese king. Nguyễn Ánh came back with 50,000 Siamese troops to regain power, but was defeated at the Battle of Rạch Gầm–Xoài Mút and almost killed. Nguyễn Ánh fled Vietnam, but he did not give up.

The Tây Sơn army commanded by Nguyễn Huệ marched north in 1786 to fight the Trịnh Lord, Trịnh Khải. The Trịnh army failed and Trịnh Khải committed suicide. The Tây Sơn army captured the capital in less than two months. The last Lê emperor, Lê Chiêu Thống, fled to Qing China and petitioned the Qianlong Emperor for help. The Qianlong Emperor supplied Lê Chiêu Thống with a massive army of around 200,000 troops to regain his throne from the usurper. Nguyễn Huệ proclaimed himself Emperor Quang Trung and defeated the Qing troops with 100,000 men in a surprise 7 day campaign during the lunar new year (Tết). During his reign, Quang Trung envisioned many reforms but died by unknown reason on the way march south in 1792, at the age of 40. During the reign of Emperor Quang Trung, Đại Việt was in fact divided into three political entities. The Tây Sơn leader, Nguyễn Nhạc, ruled the centre of the country from his capital Qui Nhơn. Emperor Quang Trung ruled the north from the capital Phú Xuân Huế. In the South, Nguyễn Ánh, assisted by many talented recruits from the South, captured Gia Định (present-day Saigon) in 1788 and established a strong base for his force.

After Quang Trung's death, the Tây Sơn dynasty became unstable as the remaining brothers fought against each other and against the people who were loyal to Nguyễn Huệ's infant son. Nguyễn Ánh sailed north in 1799, capturing Tây Sơn's stronghold Qui Nhơn. In 1801, his force took Phú Xuân, the Tây Sơn capital. Nguyễn Ánh finally won the war in 1802, when he sieged Thăng Long (Hanoi) and executed Nguyễn Huệ's son, Nguyễn Quang Toản, along with many Tây Sơn generals and officials. Nguyễn Ánh ascended the throne and called himself Emperor Gia Long. Gia is for Gia Định, the old name of Saigon; Long is for Thăng Long, the old name of Hanoi. Hence Gia Long implied the unification of the country. The Nguyễn dynasty lasted until Bảo Đại's abdication in 1945. As China for centuries had referred to Đại Việt as Annam, Gia Long asked the Manchu Qing emperor to rename the country, from Annam to Nam Việt. To prevent any confusion of Gia Long's kingdom with Triệu Đà's ancient kingdom, the Manchu emperor reversed the order of the two words to Việt Nam. The name Vietnam is thus known to be used since Emperor Gia Long's reign. Recently historians have found that this name had existed in older books in which Vietnamese referred to their country as Vietnam.

The Period of Division with its many tragedies and dramatic historical developments inspired many poets and gave rise to some Vietnamese masterpieces in verse, including the epic poem The Tale of Kiều (Truyện Kiều) by Nguyễn Du, Song of a Soldier's Wife (Chinh Phụ Ngâm) by Đặng Trần Côn and Đoàn Thị Điểm, and a collection of satirical, erotically charged poems by a female poet, Hồ Xuân Hương.

Many Catholic martyrs (believers and priests) were slain in Tonkin, Cochinchina and Annam during persecutions. 64 Martyrs were declared blessed in 1900 of whom 54 were natives; 26 of the martyrs were members of the Dominican Order.[32]

In 1784, during the conflict between Nguyễn Ánh, the surviving heir of the Nguyễn lords, and the Tây Sơn dynasty, a French Roman Catholic prelate, Pigneaux de Behaine, sailed to France to seek military backing for Nguyễn Ánh. At Louis XVI's court, Pigneaux brokered the Little Treaty of Versailles which promised French military aid in exchange for Vietnamese concessions. However, because of the French Revolution, Pigneaux's plan failed to materialize. He went to the French territory of Pondichéry (India), and secured two ships, a regiment of Indian troops, and a handful of volunteers and returned to Vietnam in 1788. One of Pigneaux's volunteers, Jean-Marie Dayot, reorganized Nguyễn Ánh's navy along European lines and defeated the Tây Sơn at Qui Nhơn in 1792. A few years later, Nguyễn Ánh's forces captured Saigon, where Pigneaux died in 1799. Another volunteer, Victor Olivier de Puymanel would later build the Gia Định fort in central Saigon.

After Nguyễn Ánh established the Nguyễn dynasty in 1802, he tolerated Catholicism and employed some Europeans in his court as advisors. His successors were more conservative Confucians and resisted Westernization. The next Nguyễn emperors, Minh Mạng, Thiệu Trị, and Tự Đức brutally suppressed Catholicism and pursued a 'closed door' policy, perceiving the Westerners as a threat, following events such as the Lê Văn Khôi revolt when a French missionary, Fr. Joseph Marchand, encouraged local Catholics to revolt in an attempt to install a Catholic emperor. Catholics, both Vietnamese and foreign-born, were persecuted in retaliation. Trade with the West slowed during this period. There were frequent uprisings against the Nguyễns, with hundreds of such events being recorded in the annals. These acts were soon being used as excuses for France to invade Vietnam. The early Nguyễn dynasty had engaged in many of the constructive activities of its predecessors, building roads, digging canals, issuing a legal code, holding examinations, sponsoring care facilities for the sick, compiling maps and history books, and exerting influence over Cambodia and Laos.

Under the orders of Napoleon III of France, Rigault de Genouilly's gunships attacked the port of Đà Nẵng in 1858, causing significant damage, yet failed to gain any foothold, in the process being afflicted by the humidity and tropical diseases. De Genouilly decided to sail south and captured the poorly defended city of Gia Định (present-day Ho Chi Minh City). From 1859 to 1867, French troops expanded their control over all six provinces on the Mekong delta and formed a colony known as Cochinchina.

French army attacking Nam Định, 1883.

A few years later, French troops landed in northern Vietnam (which they called Tonkin) and captured Hà Nội twice in 1873 and 1882. The French managed to keep their grip on Tonkin although, twice, their top commanders Francis Garnier and Henri Rivière, were ambushed and killed fighting pirates of the Black Flag Army hired by the mandarins. France assumed control over the whole of Vietnam after the Tonkin Campaign (1883–1886). French Indochina was formed in October 1887 from Annam (Trung Kỳ, central Vietnam), Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ, northern Vietnam), Cochinchina (Nam Kỳ, southern Vietnam, and Cambodia, with Laos added in 1893). Within French Indochina, Cochinchina had the status of a colony, Annam was nominally a protectorate where the Nguyễn dynasty still ruled, and Tonkin had a French governor with local governments run by Vietnamese officials.

French protectorate

French officers and Tonkinese riflemen, 1884

After Gia Định fell to French troops, many resistance movements broke out in occupied areas, some led by former court officers, such as Trương Định, some by peasants, such as Nguyễn Trung Trực, who sank the French gunship L'Esperance using guerilla tactics. In the north, most movements were led by former court officers and lasted decades, with Phan Đình Phùng fighting in central Vietnam until 1895. In the northern mountains, former bandit leader Hoàng Hoa Thám fought until 1911. Even the teenage Nguyễn Emperor Hàm Nghi left the Imperial Palace of Huế in 1885 with regent Tôn Thất Thuyết and started the Cần Vương ("Save the King") movement, trying to rally the people to resist the French. He was captured in 1888 and exiled to French Algeria. Guerrillas of the Cần Vương movement murdered around a third of Vietnam's Christian population during the rebellion.[33] Decades later, two more Nguyễn kings, Thành Thái and Duy Tân were also exiled to Africa for having anti-French tendencies. The former was deposed on the pretext of insanity and Duy Tân was caught in a conspiracy with the mandarin Trần Cao Vân trying to start an uprising. However, lack of modern weapons and equipment prevented these resistance movements from being able to engage the French in open combat. The various anti-French revolts started by mandarins were carried out with the primary goal of restoring the old feudal society. However, by 1900 a new generation of Vietnamese were coming of age who had never lived in precolonial Vietnam. These young activists were as eager as their grandparents to see independence restored, but they realized that returning to the feudal order was not feasible and that modern technology and governmental systems were needed. Having been exposed to Western philosophy, they aimed to establish a republic upon independence, departing from the royalist sentiments of the Cần Vương movements. Some of them set up Vietnamese independence societies in Japan, which many viewed as a model society (i.e. an Asian nation that had modernized, but retained its own culture and institutions).

There emerged two parallel movements of modernization. The first was the Đông Du ("Go East") Movement started in 1905 by Phan Bội Châu. Châu's plan was to send Vietnamese students to Japan to learn modern skills, so that in the future they could lead a successful armed revolt against the French. With Prince Cường Để, he started two organizations in Japan: Duy Tân Hội and Việt Nam Công Hiến Hội. Due to French diplomatic pressure, Japan later deported Châu. Phan Châu Trinh, who favored a peaceful, non-violent struggle to gain independence, led a second movement, Duy Tân (Modernization), which stressed education for the masses, modernizing the country, fostering understanding and tolerance between the French and the Vietnamese, and peaceful transitions of power. The early part of the 20th century saw the growing in status of the Romanized Quốc Ngữ alphabet for the Vietnamese language. Vietnamese patriots realized the potential of Quốc Ngữ as a useful tool to quickly reduce illiteracy and to educate the masses. The traditional Chinese scripts or the Nôm script were seen as too cumbersome and too difficult to learn. The use of prose in literature also became popular with the appearance of many novels; most famous were those from the Tự Lực Văn Đoàn literary circle.

As the French suppressed both movements, and after witnessing revolutionaries in action in China and Russia, Vietnamese revolutionaries began to turn to more radical paths. Phan Bội Châu created the Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội in Guangzhou, planning armed resistance against the French. In 1925, French agents captured him in Shanghai and spirited him to Vietnam. Due to his popularity, Châu was spared from execution and placed under house arrest until his death in 1940. In 1927, the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng (Vietnamese Nationalist Party), modeled after the Kuomintang in China, was founded, and the party launched the armed Yên Bái mutiny in 1930 in Tonkin which resulted in its chairman, Nguyễn Thái Học and many other leaders captured and executed by the guillotine.

Marxism was also introduced into Vietnam with the emergence of three separate Communist parties; the Indochinese Communist Party, Annamese Communist Party and the Indochinese Communist Union, joined later by a Trotskyist movement led by Tạ Thu Thâu. In 1930, the Communist International (Comintern) sent Nguyễn Ái Quốc to Hong Kong to coordinate the unification of the parties into the Vietnamese Communist Party (CPV) with Trần Phú as the first Secretary General. Later the party changed its name to the Indochinese Communist Party as the Comintern, under Stalin, did not favor nationalistic sentiments. Being a leftist revolutionary living in France since 1911, Nguyễn Ái Quốc participated in founding the French Communist Party and in 1924 traveled to the Soviet Union to join the Comintern. Through the late 1920s, he acted as a Comintern agent to help build Communist movements in Southeast Asia. During the 1930s, the CPV was nearly wiped out under French suppression with the execution of top leaders such as Phú, Lê Hồng Phong, and Nguyễn Văn Cừ.

During World War II, Japan invaded Indochina in 1940, keeping the Vichy French colonial administration in place as a puppet. In 1941 Nguyễn Ái Quốc, now known as Hồ Chí Minh, arrived in northern Vietnam to form the Việt Minh Front, and it was supposed to be an umbrella group for all parties fighting for Vietnam's independence, but was dominated by the Communist Party. The Việt Minh had a modest armed force and during the war worked with the American Office of Strategic Services to collect intelligence on the Japanese. A famine broke out in 1944–45.[34] Japan's defeat by World War II Allies created a power vacuum for Vietnamese nationalists of all parties to seize power in August 1945, forcing Emperor Bảo Đại to abdicate and ending the Nguyễn dynasty. Their initial success in staging uprisings and in seizing control of most of the country by September 1945 was partially undone, however, by the return of the French a few months later.

Republican period (from 1945)

Communist North & capitalist South (1945–76)

Vietcong prisoners await being carried by helicopter to rear area after Operation Starlite. August 18–24, 1965

In September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and held the position of chairman (Chủ Tịch). Communist rule was cut short, however, by nationalist Chinese and British occupation forces whose presence tended to support the Communist Party's political opponents. In 1946, Vietnam had its first National Assembly election (won by the Viet Minh in central and northern Vietnam[35]), which drafted the first constitution, but the situation was still precarious: the French tried to regain power by force; some Cochinchinese politicians formed a seceding government the Republic of Cochinchina (Cộng hòa Nam Kỳ) while the non-Communist and Communist forces were engaging each other in sporadic battle. Stalinists purged Trotskyists. Religious sects and resistance groups formed their own militias. The Communists eventually suppressed all non-Communist parties but failed to secure a peace deal with France.

Full-scale war broke out between the Việt Minh and France in late 1946 and the First Indochina War officially began. Realizing that colonialism was coming to an end worldwide, France decided to bring former emperor Bảo Đại back to power, as a political alternative to Ho Chi Minh. A Provisional Central Government was formed in 1948, reuniting Annam and Tonkin, but the complete reunification of Vietnam was delayed for a year because of the problems posed by Cochinchina's legal status. In July 1949, the State of Vietnam was officially proclaimed, as a semi-independent country within the French Union, with Bảo Đại as Head of State. France was finally persuaded to relinquish its colonies in Indochina in 1954 when Viet Minh forces defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. The 1954 Geneva Conference left Vietnam a divided nation, with Hồ Chí Minh's communist DRV government ruling the North from Hanoi and Ngô Đình Diệm's Republic of Vietnam, supported by the United States, ruling the South from Saigon. Between 1953 and 1956, the North Vietnamese government instituted various agrarian reforms, including "rent reduction" and "land reform", which resulted in significant political oppression. During the land reform, testimony from North Vietnamese witnesses suggested a ratio of one execution for every 160 village residents, which extrapolated nationwide would indicate nearly 100,000 executions. Because the campaign was concentrated mainly in the Red River Delta area, a lower estimate of 50,000 executions became widely accepted by scholars at the time.[36][37][38][39] However, declassified documents from the Vietnamese and Hungarian archives indicate that the number of executions was much lower than reported at the time, although likely greater than 13,500.[40] In the South, Diem went about crushing political and religious opposition, imprisoning or killing tens of thousands.[41]

As a result of the Vietnam (Second Indochina) War (1954–75), Viet Cong and regular People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces of the DRV unified the country under communist rule.[42] In this conflict, the North and the Viet Cong—with logistical support from the Soviet Union—defeated the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, which sought to maintain South Vietnamese independence with the support of the U.S. military, whose troop strength peaked at 540,000 during the communist-led Tet Offensive in 1968. The North did not abide by the terms of the 1973 Paris Agreement, which officially settled the war by calling for free elections in the South and peaceful reunification. Two years after the withdrawal of the last U.S. forces in 1973, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the communists, and the South Vietnamese army surrendered in 1975. In 1976, the government of united Vietnam renamed Saigon as Hồ Chí Minh City in honor of Hồ, who died in 1969. The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll standing at between 800,000 and 3.1 million, and many thousands more crippled by weapons and substances such as napalm and Agent Orange.[43][44][45] 4.8 million Vietnamese were affected by the Agent Orange chemicals, causing 400,000 Vietnamese to be killed and 1 million Vietnamese to be physically or mentally disabled for the dangerous chemicals.[46]

Socialist Republic after 1976

A communist propaganda poster in Da Nang, 2011

In the post-1975 period, it was immediately apparent that the effectiveness of Communist Party (CPV) policies did not necessarily extend to the party's peacetime nation-building plans. Having unified North and South politically, the CPV still had to integrate them socially and economically. In this task, CPV policy makers were confronted with the South's resistance to communist transformation, as well as traditional animosities arising from cultural and historical differences between North and South. In the aftermath of the war, under Lê Duẩn's administration, there were no mass executions of South Vietnamese who had collaborated with the U.S. or the Saigon government, confounding Western fears.[47] However, up to 300,000 South Vietnamese were sent to reeducation camps, where many endured torture, starvation, and disease while being forced to perform hard labor.[48]

Compounding economic difficulties were new military challenges. In the late 1970s, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime started harassing and raiding Vietnamese villages at the common border. To neutralize the threat, PAVN invaded Cambodia in 1978 and overran its capital of Phnom Penh, driving out the incumbent Khmer Rouge regime. In response, as an action to support the pro-Beijing Khmer Rogue regime, China increased its pressure on Vietnam, and then the Chinese troops crossed Vietnam's northern border in 1979 to "punish" Vietnam as Sino-Vietnamese War, but their foray was quickly pushed back by Vietnamese forces. Relations between the two countries had been deteriorating for some time. Territorial disagreements along the border and in the South China Sea that had remained dormant during the Vietnam War were revived at the war's end, and a postwar campaign engineered by Hanoi against the ethnic Chinese Hoa community elicited a strong protest from Beijing. China was displeased with Vietnam's alliance with the Soviet Union. During its prolonged military occupation of Cambodia in 1979–89, Vietnam's international isolation extended to relations with the United States. The United States, in addition to citing Vietnam's minimal cooperation in accounting for Americans who were missing in action (MIAs) as an obstacle to normal relations, barred normal ties as long as Vietnamese troops occupied Cambodia. Washington also continued to enforce the trade embargo imposed on Hanoi at the conclusion of the war in 1975.

The harsh postwar crackdown on remnants of capitalism in the South led to the collapse of the economy during the 1980s. With the economy in shambles, the communist government altered its course and adopted consensus policies that bridged the divergent views of pragmatists and communist traditionalists. Throughout the 1980s, Vietnam received nearly $3 billion a year in economic and military aid from the Soviet Union and conducted most of its trade with the USSR and other Comecon countries. In 1986, Nguyễn Văn Linh, who was elevated to CPV general secretary the following year, launched a campaign for political and economic renewal (Đổi Mới). His policies were characterized by political and economic experimentation that was similar to simultaneous reform agenda undertaken in the Soviet Union. Reflecting the spirit of political compromise, Vietnam phased out its reeducation effort. The communist gov't stopped promoting agricultural and industrial cooperatives. Farmers were permitted to till private plots alongside state-owned land, and in 1990 the communist gov't passed a law encouraging the establishment of private businesses.

Changing names

For the most part of its history, the geographical boundary of present-day Vietnam covered 3 ethnically distinct states: a Vietnamese state, a Cham state, and a part of the Khmer Empire. The Vietnamese nation originated in the Red River Delta in present-day Northern Vietnam and expanded over its history to the current boundary. It went through a lot of name changes, with Văn Lang being used the longest. Below is a summary of names:

Period Country Name Time Frame Boundary
Hồng Bàng dynasty Xích Quỷ 赤鬼 2879–2524 BC Stretching from Dongting Lake (Hunan) to the southernmost area now called Quảng Trị, including the Guangxi and Guangdong provinces of China.
Hồng Bàng dynasty Văn Lang 文郎 2524–258 BC Territory reduced to modern Northern Vietnam including the three modern provinces of Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh. The Red River Delta is the home of the Lạc Việt culture.
Thục dynasty Âu Lạc 甌雒 257–207 BC Red River Delta and its adjoining north and west mountain regions.
Triệu dynasty Nam Việt 南越 207–111 BC North and north-central of Vietnam (southern border expanded down to the Hoành Sơn Range), Guangdong, and Guangxi.
Han Domination Giao Chỉ (Jiaozhi) 交趾 111 BC – 39 AD Present-day north and north-central of Vietnam (southern border expanded down to the Ma River and Cả River delta), Guangdong, and Guangxi.
Trưng Sisters Lĩnh Nam 嶺南 40–43 Present-day north and north-central of Vietnam (southern border expanded down to the Ma River and Cả River delta).
Han to Eastern Wu Domination Giao Chỉ 交趾 43–229 Present-day north and north-central of Vietnam (southern border expanded down to the Ma River and Cả River delta), Guangdong, and Guangxi.
Eastern Wu to Liang Domination Giao Châu (Jiaozhou) 交州 229–544 Same as above
Early Lý dynasty Vạn Xuân 萬春 544–602 Same as above
Sui to Tang Domination Giao Châu 交趾 602–679 Same as above
Tang Domination An Nam 安南 679–757 Same as above
Tang Domination Trấn Nam 鎮南 757–766 Same as above
Tang Domination An Nam 安南 766–866 Same as above
Tang Domination, Autonomy (Khúc clan, Dương Đình Nghệ, and Kiều Công Tiễn), Ngô dynasty Tĩnh Hải quân 静海军 866–967 Same as above
Đinh, Early Lê and Lý dynasty Đại Cồ Việt 大瞿越 968–1054 Same as above
and Trần dynasty Đại Việt 大越 1054–1400 Southern border expanded down to present-day Huế area.
Hồ dynasty Đại Ngu 大虞 1400–1407 Same as above
Ming Domination and Later Trần dynasty Giao Chỉ 交州 1407–1427 Same as above
, Mạc, TrịnhNguyễn lords, Tây Sơn dynasty, Nguyễn dynasty Đại Việt 1428–1804 大越 Gradually expanded to the boundary of present-day Vietnam.
Nguyễn dynasty Việt Nam 越南 1804–1839 Present-day Vietnam plus some occupied territories in Laos and Cambodia.
Nguyễn dynasty Đại Nam 大南 1839–1887 Same as above
Nguyễn dynasty and French Protectorate French Indochina, consisting of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), Annam (central Vietnam), Tonkin (northern Vietnam) 1887–1945 Present-day Vietnam.
Republican Era Việt Nam (with variances such as Democratic Republic, State of Vietnam, Republic of Vietnam, Socialist Republic) Democratic Republic of Vietnam (1945–1976 in North Vietnam),
State of Vietnam (1949–1955),
Republic of Vietnam (1955–1975 in South Vietnam),
Socialist Republic of Vietnam (1976–present)
Present-day Vietnam.

Except the Hồng Bàng and Tây Sơn dynasties, all Vietnamese dynasties are named after the king's family name, unlike the Chinese dynasties, whose names are dictated by the dynasty founders and often used as the country's name. Nguyễn Huệ's "Tây Sơn dynasty" is rather a name created by historians to avoid confusion with Nguyễn Ánh's Nguyễn dynasty.

Vietnamese nationalist historiography

The historian Professor Liam Kelley of the University of Hawaii at Manoa on his Le Minh Khai's SEAsian History Blog wrote on how Vietnamese ultra-nationalists misleadingly reinterpreted outdated theories by western geography professors in order to further a Vietnamese nationalist agenda by claiming that Vietnamese invented rice cultivation and therefore were responsible for civilization while Chinese were pastoralists The outdated theory has been dis-proven with rice cultivation found to not originate in southeast Asia and the Vietnamese interpretations of the original theories were wrong.[49][50][51] Vietnamese ultra-nationalists also claim the Yijing.[52]

Professor Liam Kelley criticized the theory of Edouard Chavannes that southeastern China was the origin of the Vietnamese before they ended up in their current location.[53]

Vietnam claims that Phong Châu 峯州 was the capital of the Hùng Kings.[54]

Professor Liam Kelley argued that the Tran dynasty constructed Âu Lạc as a way of connecting Vietnam with their homeland of Fujian.[55]

The bronze drums of Đông Sơn which date back to far before the advent of native Vietnamese historical records were never seen by Vietnamese before the modern era as a "symbol" of Vietnam.[56][57][58][59][60] After the Trung Sisters production of bronze drums stopped in Vietnam.[61]

Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư copied the mythical accounts of the Huayang guozhi 華陽國志.[62] Liam Kelley disproved the notion that the Phong Châu 峯州 was the capital of the Hùng kings.[54]

Michael Churchman criticized the fact that modern historians falsely project modern day animosity between Vietnamese and Chinese onto the past history of Vietnam under Chinese rule and falsely portraying past people as "freedom fighters" or oppressors in a made-up narrative of resistance when there was no such ethnic boundary.[63] Professor Liam Kelley criticized O. W. Wolters for doing this.[64] Pre-1500s Vietnam had Confucianism as an integral component according to Liam Kelly.[65] Confucianism influenced traditional education in Vietnam.[66] Confucianism in Vietnam: A State of the Field Essay was written by Liam Kelley while Lost Modernities was written by Woodside and "Annam": A New Analysis of Sino-Viet-Muong Linguistic Contact.[67]

According to Professor Liam Kelley during the Tang dynasty native spirits were subsumed into Daoism and the Daoist view of these spirits completely replaced the original native tales.[68] Buddhism and Daoist replaced native narratives surrounding Mount Yên Tử 安子山.[69]

People from Song dynasty China like Zhao Zhong and Xu Zongdao fled to Tran dynasty ruled Vietnam after the Mongol invasion of the Song. The Tran dynasty originated from the Fujian region of China as did the Daoist cleric Xu Zongdao who recorded the Mongol invasion and referred to them as "Northern bandits".[70]

Wu Bozong 吳伯宗 (b. 1334- d. 1384) was sent as ambassador to Annam and wrote down in the Rongjinji 榮進集 that the Tran dynasty monarch said to him in a reply his Wu's inquiry on Annam's affairs where the Tran ruler said that Annam proudly adhered to Tang dynasty and Han dynasty customs.


Dục vấn An Nam sự,
An Nam phong tục thuần.
Y quan Đường chế độ,
Lễ nhạc Hán quân thần.
Ngọc ủng khai tân tửu,
Kim đao chước tế lân.
Niên niên nhị tam nguyệt,
Đào lý nhất ban xuân.

The Ming dynasty included the monarchs of the Ly and Tran dynasties in its list of "important people" of Annam.[71]

Professor Liam Kelley suggested that the "north" in Bình Ngô đại cáo referred to the Ming collaborationist Hanoi scholars while the south referred to Thanh Hóa, the base of Lê Lợi since the text referred to "Dai Viet" and did not introduce China before mentioning north.[72] cited John Whitmore and challenged the claim that "Ngô " referred to Ming dynasty China but instead referred to the Chinese settled Red River Delta area of Vietnam.[73] It was English and French foreign languages translations which bowdlerized "south" into "Vietnam" and "north" into China even though people today have no true idea of what south and north referred to in the original text.[74] He believes that it was the Ming collaborationist scholars of Hanoi who were referred to as the "Ngô" and that it was not a term used for Chinese as is currently though in Vietnam, and that the Bình Ngô đại cáo not directed at China.[75] In the 20th century for propaganda purposes against French colonialism, the development of the new genre of "resistance literature" spurred a change in how "Bình Ngô đại cáo" was looked at.[76] Kelley suggested that the "Bình Ngô đại cáo" drew on a previous Ming text.[51][77] North and South in Bình Ngô đại cáo might have referred to internal divisions in Vietnam (Hanoi vs Thanh Hoa) rather than China vs Vietnam.[78] The Hồ dynasty's rule and Vietnamese who worked with the Ming were attacked in the "Bình Ngô đại cáo" by Lê Lợi.[79] The "Bình Ngô đại cáo" criticized a people called "Ngô" in Vietnam, and it did not refer to the Ming Chinese. It saidthat Song dynasty clothing was worn by the Tran and Ming while it slammed and criticized Mongol Yuan customs followed by the Ngô.[80]

The Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư contained a constructed genealogy tracing back the political legitimacy of Vietnam's rulers to the Chinese Emperor Shennong similar to how the Northern Wei traced the legitimacy of the Tuoba to the Yellow Emperor.[81] Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư traced the ancestry of the Hùng kings to Consort Âu and Lord Lạc Long who had 100 sons from an egg sac.[82]

The purpose of tracing back to Shennong was to claim that the length of Vietnam's history rivaled China's.[62]

In the 17th century Vietnamese historians like Ngô Thì Sĩ and Jesuits like Martinio Martini studied texts on the Hồng Bàng Dynasty like Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư and used mathematics to deduce that the information on them were nonsense given the impossible reign years of the monarchs. However, modern Vietnamese now believe that the information is true.[83] Ngô Thì Sĩ used critical analysis of historical texts to question the relations between Zhao Tuo's Nanyue Kingdom in Guangdong and the Vietnamese inhabited Red River Delta, concluding that the Red River Delta was a mere vassal to Nanyue and not an integral part of it in addition to criticizing the existence of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty.[84]

Modern Vietnamese nationalists seek to stress local Vietnamese influence in history and downplay the role of foreign origin monarchs like the fact that the family of the Tran dynasty rulers originated in China.[85] Vietnamese historians have sought to construct a fantasy of a continuous succession since the Hung Kings of local political units in Vietnam.[86] Vietnamese scholars and historians have debated over whether to regard Zhao Tuo as part of the "orthodox succession" of rulers or as "enemy invader".[87]

Professor Liam Kelley suggested that before Chinese rule the Red River Delta was not under a unified polity.[88]

Both Chinese and Vietnamese sovereigns were honored at a temple constructed by the Nguyen dynasty.[89]

The Nguyen Empoeror Minh Mang sinicized ethnic minorities such as Cambodians, claimed the legacy of Confucianism and China's Han dynasty for Vietnam, and used the term Han people 漢人 to refer to the Vietnamese.[90] Minh Mang declared that "We must hope that their barbarian habits will be subconsciously dissipated, and that they will daily become more infected by Han [Sino-Vietnamese] customs."[91] This policies were directed at the Khmer and hill tribes.[92] The Nguyen lord Nguyen Phuc Chu had referred to Vietnamese as "Han people" in 1712 when differentiating between Vietnamese and Chams.[93]

Minh Mang used the name "Trung Quốc" 中國 to refer to Vietnam.[94] Vietnam also referred to itself as Trung Hạ 中夏.

Chinese clothing was forced on Vietnamese people by the Nguyễn.[95][96][97][98]

Modern Vietnamese have retroactively labelled figures like Trần Ích Tắc as "traitor" to Vietnam, even though the word for traitor did not exist in Vietnamese during his time and Vietnamese histories like Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư do not refer to him as a traitor.[99]

South Vietnam retained elements of Chinese culture and grammar in their language while North Vietnam actively engaged in a campaign to remove them- while North Vietnam maintained a pro-China position.[100] IT was the Cultural Revolution which led to North Vietnam encouraging anti-China sentiment.[101]

Many anti-Vietnam war protesters bought into a narrative that Vietnam's history consisted of Chinese invasion for 2,000 years and that Vietnam was a united country.[102]

Before modern times scholars in Vietnam wanted to copy China's civilization which they perceived as more civilized but since the French introduced nationalism Vietnam sought to present itself in a different aspect as a civilizational rival.[103]

A Vietnamese forged and manufactured a fake ancient mythical script claimed to have been used in ancient Vietnam.[104] Modern Vietnamese historians inserted word changes and altered the meanings of texts written by ancietn Vietnamese historians on how battles between rebels in Vietnam and the Chinese states such as the Chen dynasty and Southern Han were viewed.[105] The Nguyễn Dynasty initiated government sponsored ceremonies to the Hùng kings. The French may have established the ceremony on the Hùng kings death and the Hùng Kings had an annual event established for them by Hồ Chí Minh.[106] Due to psychological embarrassment over their rule by foreign imperialists, ancient historical texts were edited for nationalistic purposes by modern Vietnamese historians.[107]

In the Mekong Delta area of Cochinchina many Vietnamese and Chinese conducted illegal commercial activities.[108] During the rule of the Chinese Kingdom of Eastern Wu over Vietnam the local people learned Chinese after Chinese people were moved down to live with them.[109]

John D. Phan has suggested a new analysis of the linguistic situation in Vietnam under Chinese rule suggesting that a Middle Chinese dialect was spoken by the people of the Red River Delta during the Tang dynasty by drawing on Sino-Vietnamese vocabulary which showed evidence that it was derived from an existing language and that this Middle Chinese dialect was later displaced by a Muong language influenced by Chinese.[110][111][112]

See also


  1. Origin of Vietnamese people
  2. History of Vietnam
  3. Hoa Binh Culture
  4. Ancient time Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Lê Huyền Thảo Uyên, 2012-13. Welcome to Vietnam. International Student. West Virginia University.
  6. Handbook of Asian Education: A Cultural Perspective, p. 95
  7. The Human Migration: Homo Erectus and the Ice Age
  8. Kha and Bao, 1967; Kha, 1975; Kha, 1976; Long et al., 1977; Cuong, 1985; Ciochon and Olsen, 1986; & Olsen and Ciochon, 1990
  9. 1 2 Cuong, 1986
  10. Colani, 1927
  11. Demeter, 2000
  12. Administration of Văn Lang - Âu Lạc. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  13. Ancient calendar unearthed. Retrieved 2014-09-05.
  14. Nguyen Ba Khoach 1978
  15. Pierre-Yves Manguin, A. Mani, Geoff Wade. "Early Interactions Between South and Southeast Asia: Reflections on Cross-cultural Exchange". Institute of Southeast Asian, 2011; p.5
  16. Chapuis, Oscar (1995-01-01). "A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc". ISBN 9780313296222.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Keat Gin Ooi. Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO, Jan 1, 2004; p.933-34
  18. Taylor, Keith Weller (1991). Birth of Vietnam, The. University of California Press. pp. 23–27. ISBN 0520074173.
  19. Taylor (1983), p. 70
  20. Taylor (1983), p. 135
  21. Andaya (2006), p. 23
  22. Ngô Sĩ Liên 2009, pp. 154
  23. Ngô Sĩ Liên 2009, pp. 155
  24. Ngô Sĩ Liên 2009, pp. 160
  25. Ngô Sĩ Liên 2009, pp. 193
  26. Ngô Sĩ Liên 2009, pp. 197
  27. Cœdès (1966), p. 84
  28. Tsai (1996), p. 15
  29. Dardess (2012), p. 5
  30. 1 2 Brief History of Vietnam
  31. Davidson, Jeremy H. C. S.; H. L. Shorto (1991). Austroasiatic Languages: Essays in Honour of H.L. Shorto. p. 95.
  32. (1902-03) "Nachrichten aus den Missionen," Die katholischen Missionen. Illustrierte Monatschrift 31, pp. 255-257.
  33. Fourniau, Annam–Tonkin, pp. 39–77
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  35. Neale, Jonathan The American War, pp. 23-24; ISBN 1-898876-67-3
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  39. Dommen, Arthur J. (2001), The Indochinese Experience of the French and the Americans, Indiana University Press, p. 340, gives a lower estimate of 32,000 executions.
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Further reading

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In Vietnamese

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