History of Vietnam

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History of Vietnam Map of Vietnam
2879–0258 Hồng Bàng Dynasty
2879–1913 Early Hồng Bàng
1912–1055 Mid-Hồng Bàng
1054–258 Late Hồng Bàng
257–207 Thục Dynasty
207–111 Triệu Dynasty
11140 1st Chinese domination
40–43 Trưng Sisters
43–544 2nd Chinese domination
544–602 Early Lý Dynasty
602–938 3rd Chinese domination
939–967 Ngô Dynasty
968–980 Đinh Dynasty
980–1009 Early Lê Dynasty
1009–1225 Later Lý Dynasty
1225–1400 Trần Dynasty
1400–1407 Hồ Dynasty
1407–1427 4th Chinese domination
1428–1788 Later Lê Dynasty
1527–1592 Mạc Dynasty
1545–1787 Trịnh lords
1558–1777 Nguyễn lords
1778–1802 Tây Sơn Dynasty
1802–1945 Nguyễn Dynasty
1858–1945 French imperialism
from 1945 Republic
Further subjects
Champa Dynasties 192–1832
Historical capitals
Prehistoric cultures
List of monarchs
Country's names
Economic history
Military history

The history of Vietnam is one of the longest continuous histories in the world, with archaeological findings showing human settlements as far back as around half a million years ago and a cultural history of over 20,000 years.[1] 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 in 2879 BC.[4][dead link][clarification needed] The first truly influential part of history in Vietnam occurred during the 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 Hùng Vương was for so long an independent and self-contained state. The Âns 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, beginning with the southward expansion of the Han Dynasty into Bách Việt territory: the Han, Eastern Han, Eastern Wu, Jin, Liu Song, Southern Qi, Liang, Sui, Tang, and Southern Han; leading to the losses of its writing system[dubious ], language[clarification needed], and much of national identity. At certain periods during these 1,100 years, Vietnam was independently governed under the Triệus, Trưng Sisters, Anterior Lýs, Khúcs and Dương Đình Nghệ - although their triumphs and reigns were brief.

During the foreign domination of North Vietnam, several Indianized civilizations flourished in the central and south of what we know as 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 Vietnam advanced by the accomplishments of a series of dynasties: Ngôs, Đinhs, Prior Lês, Lýs, Trầns, Hồs, Posterior Trầns, Later Lês, Mạcs, Trịnhs, Nguyễns, Tây Sơns and again Nguyễns. At various points during these 1,000 years of imperial dynasties, Vietnam was ravaged and divided by civil wars and repeatedly attacked 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 vestiges[edit]

Archaeological excavations revealed the existence of humans on Vietnamese territory as early as the Paleolithic age. The presence of Homo erectus around 500,000 BC[5] was found in caves of Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An provinces in Northern Vietnam. Other early human fossils from are of Middle Pleistocene age. They include mostly isolated teeth from northern Vietnam at Tham Om (250-140 kyr), and Hang Hum (140-80 kyr).[6] Teeth attributed to Homo sapiens are also known from the Late Pleistocene of Vietnam at Dong Can (16 kyr)[7] and from the Early Holocene at Mai Da Dieu/Mai Da Nuoc (8.2 kyr),[7] Lang Gao[8] and Lang Cuom (6.44 ± 0.5 kyr).[9]

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.[citation needed]

Early Dynastic Period (2879 – 111 BC)[dubious ][edit]

Hồng Bàng Period/Dynasty (2879 – 258 BC)[edit]

Map of Văn Lang 500 BC.

Evidence of the earliest established society other than the Iron Age Đông Sơn culture in Northern Vietnam was found in Cổ Loa, an ancient city situated near present-day Hà Nội.

Lộc Tục (2919–2794 BC) succeeded his predecessor as tribal chief. In 2879 BC, Lộc Tục was master of almost all of Vietnam. In that year, a convocation of the subjugated tribes proclaimed him Kinh Dương Vương, leader of the united ancient Vietnamese tribes. Kinh Dương Vương reigns over the Xích Quỷ confederacy that occupied the Red River Delta in present-day Northern Vietnam and part of southeastern China, starting the Hồng Bàng Dynasty. Sùng Lãm (2825 BC - ????) was Kinh Dương Vương's successor. The next line of kings that followed renamed the country Văn Lang. The people of Văn Lang were known as the Lạc Việt.[citation needed]

The ancient Vietnamese kings of the Hồng Bàng period, collectively known as the Hùng Vương, ruled the country until 258 BC and consisted of 18 lines of kings. Văn Lang is thought to have been a matriarchal society, similar to many other matriarchal societies common in Southeast Asia and in the Pacific Islands at the time. Various archaeological sites in northern Vietnam, such as Đông Sơn have yielded metal weapons and tools from this age. Most famous of these artifacts are large bronze drums, probably made for ceremonial purposes, with sophisticated engravings on the surface, depicting life scenes with warriors, boats, houses, birds and animals in concentric circles around a radiating sun at the center. Many legends from this period offer a glimpse into the life of the people. The Legend of the Rice Cakes is about a prince who won a culinary contest; he then wins the throne because his creations, the rice cakes, reflect his deep understanding of the land's vital economy: rice farming. The Legend of Giong 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.[citation needed]

Map of 'red soil' circular earthworks in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Chinese accounts tell much about the early Vietnamese people. Plows and draft animals were not yet used, and fields were worked with polished stone hoes. Fishing and hunting supplemented the main rice crop. Arrowheads and spears were dipped in poison to kill larger animals such as elephants, whose tusks were traded to China for iron ore. 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. Overall, the early Vietnamese were not much different from other Southeast Asian peoples of the time, and it wasn't until later that a distinct national culture emerged. Recent research has revealed artificial circular earthworks in the areas of present day southern Vietnam and overlapping to the borders of Cambodia. These archaeological remains are estimated to be economic, social and cultural entities from the 1st millennium BC.[10]

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

Thục Dynasty (257 – 207 BC)[edit]

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"). 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. According to old Vietnamese historical records Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư and Khâm định Việt sử Thông giám cương mục ("欽定越史通鑑綱目"), An Dương Vương (Thục Phán) was a prince of the Chinese state of Shu (, which shares the same Chinese character as his surname Thục),[11][12] sent by his father first to explore what are now the southern Chinese provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan and second to move their people to modern-day northern Vietnam during the invasion of the Qin Dynasty. 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).[13] After assembling an army, he defeated King Hùng Vương XVIII, the last ruler of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, around 257 BCE. 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 Cổ Loa Thành (Co Loa Citadel), the spiral fortress approximately ten miles north of that new capital. However, records showed that espionage resulted in the downfall of An Dương Vương.

Triệu Dynasty (207 – 111 BC)[edit]

In 207 BC, Qin warlord Triệu Đà (pinyin: Zhao Tuo) defeated King An Dương Vương by having his son Trọng Thủy (pinyin: Zhong Shi) act as a spy after marrying An Dương Vương's daughter. The Qin Governor of Canton advisted Zhao to found his own independent Kingdom since the area was remote and there were many Chinese settlers in the area[14] Triệu Đà annexed Âu Lạc into his domain located in present-day Guangdong, then proclaimed himself king of a new independent kingdom, Nam Việt (pinyin: Nanyue). Trọng Thủy, the supposed crown prince, drowned himself in Cổ Loa out of remorse for the death of his wife in the war.

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

The Long Eclipse: Chinese Millennium (111 BC – 938 AD)[edit]

Han domination (111 BC – 40 AD)[edit]

In 111 BC, Han troops invaded Nanyue and established new territories, dividing Vietnam into Giao Chỉ (pinyin: Jiaozhi), now the Red River delta; Cửu Chân from modern-day Thanh Hoá 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 some highlands.

The Han began a vigorous campaign to civilize and assimilate the as-yet illiterate, tribal native population. Chinese culture, rituals, and governmental organization were imposed along with Taoism and Confucianism in addition to the language and writing system. Even Chinese clothing and hairstyles were required. Many of these innovations were gladly taken up by the Vietnamese, but they still insisted on maintaining a distinct language and national identity. Over time, Vietnamese nationalism grew, and while they looked to their huge neighbor for cultural inspiration, the desire for independence was strong.

Trưng Sisters (40–43)[edit]

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.

Folk art depiction of Lady Trieu.

From Eastern Han to Liang domination (43–544)[edit]

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 would be coerced to assimilate into Chinese culture and politics. The Chinese prefect of Jiaozhi Shi Xie ruled Vietnam as an autonomous warlord and was posthumously deified by later Vietnamese Emperors. Shi Xie was the leader of the elite ruling class of Han Chinese families who immigrated to Vietnam and played a major role inndeveloping Vietnam's culture.[15] Many Chinese fled to the Vietnamese part of the Red River Valley from Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces during the tumult which occurred during the transition from the Western to Eastern Jin Dynasty, when northern China was plunged into anarchy.[16] 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.

During the Tang dynasty, Vietnam was called Annam until 866. Annam (with its capital around modern Bắc Ninh Province) 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 overland to the rest of China via the regions of modern Kunming and Chengdu.

At the same time, in present-day Central Vietnam, there was a successful revolt of Cham nations. 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 addition, the local languages began to diverge. The modern Vietnamese tongue developed from the dialect of the towns, while that of the hill tribes developed into the Hmung[clarification needed] language. By the 10th century, the separation between the two was complete.

Anterior Lý Dynasty (544–602)[edit]

In the period between the beginning of the Chinese Age of Fragmentation to 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 Lý Bôn and Triệu Quang Phục, whose Anterior Lý Dynasty ruled for almost half a century, from 544 AD to 602 AD, before the Chinese Sui Dynasty reconquered their kingdom Vạn Xuân. Lý Bôn came from a family of Chinese descent, the ancestors of his family were Chinese who fled to Vietnam from Wang Mang's seizure of power during the interregnum between the Western and Eastern Han dynasties.[17]

From Sui to Tang domination (602–905)[edit]

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

Autonomy (905–938)[edit]

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 Period (939 – 1945)[edit]

Ngô, Đinh, & Prior Lê dynasties (939 – 1009)[edit]

Ngô Quyền's untimely death after a short reign resulted in a power struggle for the throne, the country's first major civil war, the upheaval of Twelfth Warlords (Loạn Thập Nhị Sứ Quân). The war lasted from 944 to 968 when the clan led by Đinh Bộ Lĩnh defeated the other warlords, unifying the country. Bộ Lĩnh founded the Đinh Dynasty and proclaimed himself Đinh Tiên Hoàng (Đinh the First 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). Emperor Đinh Tiên Hoàng introduced strict penal codes to prevent chaos from happening again. He 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 court's Commander of the Ten Armies (Thập Đạo Tướng Quân) Lê Hoàn took the throne, founding the Anterior 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 referred to in his realm as Đại Hành Emperor (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 24 – Lê Long Đĩnh became so ill that he had to lie down when meeting with his officials in court.

Lý, Trần, & Hồ dynasties (1009 – 1407)[edit]

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 AD, a Palace Guard Commander named Lý Công Uẩn was nominated by the court to take over the throne, and founded the Lý dynasty. This event is regarded as the beginning of a golden era in Vietnamese history, with great following dynasties. 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.[citation needed]

Lý Công Uẩn, posthumously referred as Lý Thái Tổ, changed the country's name to Đại Việt (literally "Great Viet"). The Lý Dynasty is credited for laying down a concrete foundation, with strategic vision, 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). Lý Công Uẩn thus departed from the militarily defensive mentality of his predecessors and envisioned a strong economy as the key to national survival. Successive Lý kings continued to accomplish far-reaching feats: building a dike system to protect the rice producing area; founding Quốc Tử Giám, 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. During the Lý Dynasty, the Chinese Song Dynasty officially recognized the Đại Việt monarch as King of Giao Chỉ (Giao Chỉ Quận Vương).[citation needed]

The Lý Dynasty had two major wars with Song China, and a few conquests against neighboring Champa in the south. The most notable battle took place on Chinese territory in 1075 AD. 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, Tông Đản used amphibious operations to preemptively destroy three Song military installations at Yong Zhou, Qin Zhou, and Lian Zhou 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. Chinese prisoners were returned to China for captured districts in 1078 after China defeated Dai Viet and overran several of Cao Bằng Province's districts.[18] 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 Chinese to pillage the south of the country. Together they invaded Vietnam in 1128 and 1132. Further invasions followed in the subsequent decades.[citation needed]

Trần royal battle standard.

Toward the end of the Lý Dynasty, a powerful court minister named Trần Thủ Độ forced king 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. The founder of the Trần Dynasty, Emperor Tran Thai Tong was the great grandon of a Chinese who came to Vietnam from Fujian, from the Chinese Chen clan and several members of the family like Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn continued to be able to speak Chinese[19][20] The name of his great grandfather was Trần Kinh. Trần Thủ Độ viciously purged members of the Lý nobility; some Lý princes escaped to Korea, including Lý Long Tường. After the purge, most Trần kings 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 kings: when a crown prince reached the age of 18, his predecessor would abdicate and turn the throne over to him, yet holding a title of August Higher Emperor (Thái Thượng Hoàng), acting as a mentor to the new Emperor. Despite continued Champa-Khmer attacks, the Trần managed to arrange several periods of peace with them.[citation needed]

During the Trần Dynasty, the armies of the Mongol Empire under Möngke Khan and Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty invaded Vietnam in 1257 AD, 1284 AD, and 1288 AD. Đại Việt repelled all attacks of the Yuan during the reign of Kublai Khan. Three Yuan 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.[citation needed]

It was also during this period that the Trần kings 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 into a tributary state of Vietnam in 1312, but ten years later regained independence and Champa 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 AD and again in 1383 AD. 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, who founded the Hồ Dynasty was descended from a Chinese who came to Vietnam from Zhejiang during the 940s.[21][22] Hồ Quý Ly forced the last Trần king to resign 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 Chinese Ming Dynasty, 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 cannon, 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.

Feudal state & society[edit]

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 total resistance to any 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, subsistence agriculture was the primary activity of most Vietnamese, and economic development and trade were not promoted or encouraged by the state. The Vietnamese elites who were descended from mixed marriages between Chinese and Vietnamese viewed other non Vietnamese people as beneath them and inferior due to Chinese influence.[23]

Ming domination & Posterior Lê Dynasty (1407 – 1527)[edit]

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 turn them into Chinese 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.[citation needed]

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. Le Mi (黎秘), the chief eunuch of Le Loi and 10,000 Vietnamese were killed after Ming China crushed and defeated their invasion in 1427 of a Chinese town.[24] 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 Vietnamese expansion south. In 1471, Le troops led by king Lê Thánh Tông invaded Champa in the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of 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.

Divided period (1527 – 1802)[edit]

Mạc & Restored Lê dynasties[edit]

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. The Ming threatened Mạc Đăng Dung with an invasion of 110,000 men ready to invade Vietnam from Guangxi in 1540. Mac succumbed and caved in to Chinese pressure and accepted the bitter demands the Chinese made, including crawling barefoot before the Chinese, giving up land to China, downgrading the status of his polity from a country to a chieftancy and givingup official documents like tax registers to the Ming.[25] 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.[citation needed]

Trịnh & Nguyễn lords[edit]

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.

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

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 the Europeans & southward expansion[edit]

The West's exposure in Vietnam and Vietnam's exposure to Westerners dated back to 166 AD[26] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[citation needed]

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 Dynasty[edit]

Many Catholic martyrs (believers and priests) gave their life for Jesus in Tonkin, Cochinchina and Annam during persecutions. In 1900 were beatified 64 Martyrs, from whose 54 the inmates; only Society of Saint Dominic gave 26 Martyrs.[28]

In 1771, the Tây Sơn revolution broke out in Quy Nhơn, which was under the control of the Nguyễn. 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-controlled China and petitioned the Manchu-Qing Emperor for help. The Qing emperor Qianlong 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.[citation needed]

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.

Nguyễn Dynasty & French protectorate (1802 – 1945)[edit]

Flag of Colonial Annam
French army attacking the Thanh in Lạng Sơn,1885

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 1859–67, French troops expanded their control over all six provinces on the Mekong delta and formed a colony known as Cochinchina.

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.[citation needed]

After Gia Định fell to French troops, many Vietnamese 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, the 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, or "Save the King", movement, trying to rally the people to resist the French. He was captured in 1888 and exiled to French Algeria. 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).[citation needed]

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 to China. 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 .[citation needed]

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. In 1930, the party launched the armed Yen Bai mutiny in Tonkin which resulted in its chairman, Nguyễn Thái Học and many other leaders captured and executed by the guillotine.[citation needed]

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 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. Nguyễn Ái Quốc was a leftist revolutionary living in France since 1911. He 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 Vietnamese Communist Party was nearly wiped out under French suppression with the execution of top leaders such as Phú, Lê Hồng Phong, and Nguyễn Văn Cừ.[citation needed]

In 1940, during World War II, Japan invaded Indochina, keeping the Vichy French colonial administration in place as a Japanese puppet. In 1941 Nguyễn Ái Quốc, now known as Hồ Chí Minh, arrived in northern Vietnam to form the Việt Minh Front, short for Việt Nam Độc Lập Đồng Minh Hội (League for the Independence of Vietnam). The Việt Minh Front 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. From China, other non-Communist Vietnamese parties also joined the Việt Minh and established armed forces with backing from the Kuomintang. Between 1944-1945, millions of Vietnamese people starved to death in the Japanese occupation of Vietnam.[29]

Republic (from 1945)[edit]

Communist North & capitalist South (1945 – 75)[edit]

Japan's defeat by the Allies of World War II created a power vacuum for Vietnamese nationalists of all parties to seize power in August 1945 before French authorities were able to return to reclaim control of the government. 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. Emperor Bảo Ðại abdicated in August 1945, ending the Nguyễn Dynasty. In September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh declared Vietnam independent under the new name of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRVN) 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[30]), 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 fashioned a semi-independent State of Vietnam, within the French Union, with Bảo Đại as Head of State. France was finally persuaded to relinquish its colonies in Indochina in 1954 when Vietnamese forces defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. The 1954 Geneva Conference left Vietnam a divided nation, with Hồ Chí Minh's communist government ruling the North from Hanoi and Ngô Đình Diệm's regime, supported by the United States, ruling the South from Saigon (later Hồ Chí Minh City). In the North, the communist government launched a land reform program, which, according to Steven Rosefielde, was "aimed at exterminating class enemies."[31] It is estimated that some 50,000[32] to 172,000[31] people perished in the campaigns against wealthy farmers and landowners. Rosefielde discusses much higher estimates that range from 200,000 to 900,000, which include summary executions of National People's Party members.[31][33] In the South, Diem went about crushing political and religious opposition, imprisoning or killing tens of thousands.[34]

As a result of the Vietnam (Second Indochina) War (1954–75), Viet Cong and regular People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) forces from the North unified Vietnam under communist rule. In this conflict, the insurgents—with logistical support from the Soviet Union—ultimately 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 on 30 April 1975. In 1976, the government of united Vietnam renamed Saigon as Hồ Chí Minh City in honor of Hồ, who died in September 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 the use of chemical weapons such as napalm and Agent Orange.[35][36][37]

Socialism after 1975[edit]

In the post-1975 period, it was immediately apparent that the effectiveness of Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) policies did not necessarily extend to the party's peacetime nation-building plans. Having unified North and South politically, the VCP still had to integrate them socially and economically. In this task, VCP 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. Lê Duẩn purged South Vietnamese who had fought against the North, imprisoning over one million people and setting off the mass exodus and humanitarian disaster.[38]

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, Vietnam's government altered its course and adopted consensus policies that bridged the divergent views of pragmatists and communist traditionalists. In 1986, Nguyễn Văn Linh, who was elevated to VCP 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 government stopped promoting agricultural and industrial cooperatives. Farmers were permitted to till private plots alongside state-owned land, and in 1990 the government passed a law encouraging the establishment of private businesses.[citation needed]

Compounding economic difficulties were new military challenges. In the late 1970s, two countries—Cambodia and China—posed threats to Vietnam. Clashes between Vietnamese and Cambodian communists at the common border began in 1975. To neutralize the threat, Vietnam invaded Cambodia in December 1978 and overran Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, driving out the incumbent Khmer Rouge regime and initiating a prolonged military occupation of the country. In February and March 1979, China retaliated against Vietnam's incursion into Cambodia by launching a limited invasion of Vietnam, but the Chinese foray was quickly rebuffed. 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.[citation needed]

During its incursion into Cambodia in 1978–89, 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. 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 (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) countries. In 1986, the Vietnamese government initiated market reforms called Đổi Mới.[citation needed]

In 2013, a baby girl named Nguyen Thi Thuy Dung was born and was chosen as Vietnam's official 90th million citizen. [39]

Changing names[edit]

For the most part of its history, the geographical boundary of present day Vietnam covered 3 ethnically distinct nations: a Vietnamese nation, a Cham nation, and a part of the Khmer Empire. The Viet 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 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 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 257–207 BC Red River Delta and its adjoining north and west mountain regions.
Triệu Dynasty Nam Việt 207–111 BC Âu Lạc, Guangdong, and Guangxi.
Han Domination Giao Chỉ (Jiaozhi) 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 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 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) 229–544 Same as above
Anterior Lý Dynasty Vạn Xuân 544–602 Same as above.
Sui to Tang Domination Giao Châu 602–679 Same as above
Tang Domination An Nam 679–757 Same as above
Tang Domination Trấn Nam 757–766 Same as above
Tang Domination An Nam 766–866 Same as above
Tang Domination, Autonomy (Khúc family, Dương Đình Nghệ, and Kiều Công Tiễn), Ngô Dynasty Tĩnh Hải quân 866–967 Same as above
Đinh, Early Lê and Lý Dynasty Đại Cồ Việt 968–1054 Same as above.
and Trần Dynasty Đại Việt 1054 - 1400 Southern border expanded down to present-day Huế area.
Hồ Dynasty Đại Ngu 1400–1407 Same as above.
Ming Domination and Later Trần Dynasty Giao Chỉ 1407–1427 Same as above.
, Mạc, TrịnhNguyễn lords, Tây Sơn Dynasty, Nguyễn Dynasty Đại Việt 1428–1804 Gradually expanded to the boundary of present day Vietnam.
Nguyễn Dynasty Việt Nam 1804–1839 Present-day Vietnam plus some occupied territories in Laos and Cambodia.
Nguyễn Dynasty Đại Nam 1839–1887 Same as above
Nguyễn Dynasty and French Protectorate French Indochina, consisting of Cochinchina (southern Vietnam), Annam (central Vietnam), Tonkin (northern Vietnam), Cambodia, and Laos 1887–1945 Present-day Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
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 Tây Sơn Dynasty, 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Origin of Vietnamese people
  2. ^ History of Vietnam
  3. ^ Hoa Binh Culture
  4. ^ Ancient time
  5. ^ The Human Migration: Homo Erectus and the Ice Age
  6. ^ Kha and Bao, 1967; Kha, 1975; Kha, 1976; Long et al., 1977; Cuong, 1985; Ciochon and Olsen, 1986; & Olsen and Ciochon, 1990
  7. ^ a b Cuong, 1986
  8. ^ Colani, 1927
  9. ^ Demeter, 2000
  10. ^ Gerd Albrecht: "Circular Earthwork Krek 52/62: Recent Research of the Prehistory of Cambodia"
  11. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 19
  12. ^ Asian Perspectives, Volume 28, Issue 1 (1990), p. 36
  13. ^ Chapuis, Oscar (1995-01-01). A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc. ISBN 9780313296222. 
  14. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 23
  15. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 70
  16. ^ Gernet (1996), p. 180 A History of Chinese Civilization, p. 180, at Google Books
  17. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 135
  18. ^ Cœdès (1966), p. 84
  19. ^ Taylor (2013), p. 120
  20. ^ Hall (2008), p. 159
  21. ^ Taylor (2013), p. 166
  22. ^ Hall (2008), p. 161
  23. ^ Andaya (2006), p. 23
  24. ^ Tsai (1996), p. 15
  25. ^ Dardess (2012), p. 5
  26. ^ a b Brief History of Vietnam
  27. ^ Davidson, Jeremy H. C. S.; H. L. Shorto (1991). Austroasiatic Languages: Essays in Honour of H.L. Shorto. p. 95. 
  28. ^ Die katholischen Missionen, August 1903, sides 255-257, Freiburg im Breisgau
  29. ^ "Japan's Role in the Vietnamese Starvation of 1944-45 by Bui Minh Dung Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3 (July 1995), pp. 573-618; the article consists of 46 pages". Cambridge University Press. 
  30. ^ Neale, Jonathan The American War, pp. 23-24; ISBN 1-898876-67-3
  31. ^ a b c Rosefielde (2009), Red Holocaust, Routledge, p. 110.
  32. ^ Jean-Louis Margolin, "Vietnam and Laos: the impasse of war communism" in The Black Book of Communism pp. 568–569.
  33. ^ See also Robert F. Turner (1975), Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development Hoover Institution Press, pp. 141-3, 155-7; Turner (1972), "Myths of the Vietnam War: The Pentagon Papers Reconsidered", Southeast Asian Perspectives, No. 7, pp. i-iv, 1-55: "Although no official figures were made public, the best estimates are that about fifty thousand people were executed, and several hundred thousands more died as a result of the "policy of isolation"; Lam Thanh Liem (1990), "Chinh sach cai cach ruong dat cua Ho Chi Minh: sai lam hay toi ac?" in Jean-Francois Revel et al., Ho Chi Minh, Nam A, pp. 179-214.
  34. ^ "Ngo Dinh Diem". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 26 November 2012. 
  35. ^ Charles Hirschman et al. "Vietnamese Casualties During the American War: A New Estimate". Population and Development Review (December 1995).
  36. ^ Shenon, Philip (23 April 1995). "20 Years After Victory, Vietnamese Communists Ponder How to Celebrate". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2011. 
  37. ^ Associated Press (3 April 1995). "Vietnam Says 1.1 Million Died Fighting For North."
  38. ^ Desbarats, Jacqueline. "Repression in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam: Executions and Population Relocation", from The Vietnam Debate (1990) by John Morton Moore. "We know now from a 1985 statement by Nguyen Co Tach that two and a half million, rather than one million, people went through reeducation....in fact, possibly more than 100,000 Vietnamese people were victims of extrajudicial executions in the last ten years....it is likely that, overall, at least one million Vietnamese were the victims of forced population transfers."
  39. ^ http://english.vietnamnet.vn/fms/society/88162/the-first-images-of-vietnam-s-90-millionth-citizen.html


Further reading[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

In Vietnamese[edit]

  • Lê Văn Hưu/Ngô Sĩ Liên. Đại Việt Sử Ký Toàn Thư.
  • Trần Trọng Kim. Việt Nam Sử Lược. Trung Tâm Học Liệu 1971.
  • Phạm Văn Sơn. Việt Sử Toàn Thư.
  • Taylor, Keith W. The Birth Of Vietnam.
  • Trần Dân Tiên. Những Mẫu Chuyện Về Đời Hoạt Động Của Hồ Chủ Tịch
  • Văn Tiến Dũng. Đại Thắng Mùa Xuân
  • Hành Trình Biển Đông (vols. 1 and 2); anthology of memoirs by Vietnamese boat people
  • Nguyễn Khắc Ngữ. Nguồn Gốc Dân Tộc Việt Nam. Nhóm Nghiên Cứu Sử Địa
  • Văn Phố Hoàng Đống. Niên Biểu Lịch Sử Việt Nam Thời Kỳ 1945-1975. Đại Nam. 2003
  • Lê Duẩn. Đề Cương Cách Mạng Miền Nam
  • Nhat Tien, Duong Phuc, Vu Thanh Thuy. Pirates in the Gulf of Siam
  • Nguyễn Văn Huy, Tìm hiểu cộng đồng người Chăm tại Việt Nam

External links[edit]