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Origins of Vietnam


General Zhao Tuo
General Zhao Tuo

Archaeological findings indicate that settlers in the Red River Delta may have been among the first peoples in East and Southeast Asia to practice agriculture. By the end of the 2nd millennium bc, Vietnamese civilization had begun to enter the Bronze Age. The ancestors of the modern Vietnamese were one of many scattered communities that lived in what are now South China and northern Vietnam during the 1st millennium BC. According to local tradition, a line of hereditary kings ruled over the ancient kingdom of Van Lang in the Red River Delta for thousands of years. Van Lang was conquered by Thuc Phan, who founded a small Vietnamese kingdom called Au Lac.

In 221 bc the state of Qin completed its conquest of neighboring states and became the first dynasty to rule over a united China. However, the dynasty collapsed soon after the death of its dynamic founder Qin Shihuangdi in 210 bc. In the wreckage of the empire, the Qin’s Chinese commander in the south, General Zhao Tuo (Chao T’o), created his own kingdom out of the Qin’s former southern provinces. Zhao, known in Vietnam as Trieu Da, named the kingdom Nam Viet (Nan Ywe in Chinese, meaning “southern Viet”). He soon conquered the Vietnamese kingdom of Au Lac and added it to his kingdom.

In 111 bc, however, Chinese armies conquered Nam Viet and absorbed Zhao’s kingdom, including the old state of Au Lac, into the growing empire of the Han Dynasty. At first, the Han tried to rule through local chieftains, who periodically attempted to expel the Chinese invaders and restore an independent state.

The Han imperial court


The Han imperial court then integrated the Red River Delta politically and culturally into the Chinese Empire.

They imposed Chinese-style political institutions and made Confucianism the official ideology. They also made Chinese the official spoken and written language. Eventually, Chinese characters were adapted as the written form for the Vietnamese spoken language. Chinese art, architecture, and music all became models for their counterparts in Vietnam.

Vietnamese resistance to Chinese rule was fierce but sporadic. The first major revolt occurred in ad 39 when two widows of local chieftains, known as the Trung Sisters, led an uprising against foreign rule. The revolt was briefly successful and the eldest sister established herself as ruler of an independent state. However, Chinese armies led by General Ma Yuan invaded the Red River Delta and again conquered the Vietnamese four years later. "Vietnam" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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