Pictures: Hi-light of misc. events
Yellow: Viet Nam dynasties
Dark Gray: Country names, Viet Nam has been successively known as…
Black: Time scale
Purple: Wars and colonizations
Deep Red: Chinese dynasties
Light warm gray: Introduction of religions
Brown: Encounters of European and US
Green: Language evolution
Chocolate: Culture evolution

In 20000 BC, before the first history was recorded in writings, there had been already among people the legends and mythology about the origin of mankind and stories about the beginning of formation of Viet nation from HUNG VUONG. These are stories on HONG BANG dynasty, on offspring of dragon and fairy, bag of hundred eggs, eighteen kings of Hung Vuong dynasty, Son Tinh - Thuy Tinh's conflict, Thanh Giong's victory over An foreign aggressors, folk of betel and areca nuts, "banh chung banh day", watermelon ..... All these legends together can be regarded as a folk history comprising mythology characteristic as well as core of history in memory and tradition through many ages of people. Most of history of a nation of the world, with or without writing, is penetrated with treasure of folk and legends.

In era of TRAN (1226-1400) and LE (1428-1527), these historic legends were firstly collected and compiled by the contemporary authors' view. The two symbolic works of this aspect were Viet Dien U Linh by Ly Te Xuyen with a foreword in 1329, and Linh Nam Trich Quai by Tran The Phap in around end of Tran, then edited by Vu Quynh and Kieu Phu in Le era with prologue in 1492-1493.

The Vietnamese have attempted to give their country a history as hoary as China's. According to one of the numerous legends concerning the origin of their state, a Vietnamese prince named LAC LONG QUAN came to Northern Viet Nam from his home in the sea. He married a princess from the mountain, AUCO, who is also described as the wife of a Northern Intruder (Chinese?), on the top of Mount Tan Vien, sometimes around 2800 BC Instead of the commonplace results of a union, the princess laid 100 eggs - when they hatched, a son emerged from each of them. Afterward, the reason why the parents separated was told like this : The father someday told the mother because they were from different origin, he was dragon from the sea, she was lady fair from the mountain, and they couldn't live together. Therefore, the mother led half the progeny across the northern mountains, and became the ancestors of the Muong. While the remaining fifty followed the father to the sea and became ancestors of the Vietnamese. The most valiant of the sons was chosen to be the first of the eighteen HUNG VUONG kings. Lac Long Quan, a prince of the sea, and Au Co, a princess of the mountains, are regarded by the Vietnamese as their primal ancestors. Does this imply that the Vietnamese were originally of the Malay-Polynesian, sea-oriented race coming to terms with the Mongolians of the Southern Chinese plains?

Chu Nguyen
Tai lieu tham khao: Lich su Viet Nam & Trials and Tribulations of a Nation

Since the foundation of the first kingdom of the Viet, some 3,000 years ago, and the first Viet Chuong or Lac Viet kingdom in North Viet Nam 2,400 years ago, the name has been changed several times, depending on historical events.

Viet Nam has been successively known as…
257 BC Van Lang Hung or Lac dynasty
257-207 Au Lac Thuc dynasty
207-11 Nam Viet Trieu dynasty
3 BC-203 AD Giao Chi Han dynasty [first part]
203-544 Giao Chau Han dynasty [second part]
544-603 Van Xuan Ly dynasty
603-939 An Nam Duong dynasty
968-1054 Dai Co Viet Dinh dynasty
1054-1400 Dai Viet Ly and Tran dynasties
1400-1407 Dai Ngu Ho dynasty
1427-1802 Dai Viet Le and Nguyen dynasties
1802 Viet Nam Gia Long
1832 Dai Viet Minh Mang
04/1945 Viet Nam First national government

Viet Su Luoc is a work in Tran era mentioning about the formation of Van Lang, for the first time. In 15th century, Nguyen Trai gave affirmation on position of Van Lang in Hung Vuong dynasty in the first geography-history text of the nation. Ngo Si Lien especially brought Hung Vuong era into official history of Viet Nam under the title of "Hong Bang Dynasty" in addenda chapter of his Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu.

The "Hung Era" is rightly termed "legendary" by most historians inasmuch as no eighteen kings or generations could have spanned the nearly two millennia of prehistoric development in the Tonkin delta. Possibly, the Dong Son period was related to HUNG VUONG dynasty because the displacement of the economic and social leadership of primitive agricultural practices by a monarchial apparatus responsible for the building and maintenance of an irrigation system of dykes and canals, providing against nature's vagaries of drought as well as floods caused by excessive rise in the water level of the rivers.

The new state based on the irrigation system in the region of the three rivers in Upper Tonkin must have produced excess wealth, requiring protection against predatory enemies from the exposed borders to the North and the South. Therefore the need for extensive use of bronze technology for various weaponry. By the Dong son period, the kingdom of VAN LANG extended to Hunan in Southern China. The capital was moved to Vinh Phu where the three rivers - Song Da (Black River), Song Ma (Red River) and Song Chay meet.

What led to the fall of the HUNG rulers of VAN LANG, known to us partly through the Dong son cultural remains, cannot be established by historical evidence. By 300 BC, it seems the people in the region of Kwangtung and Tonkin were divided into AU VIET, namely, Vietnamese of the highlands and LAC VIET, Vietnamese of the plains. AN DUONG VUONG, about whom also not much is known, politically united them into the kingdom of AU LAC. It is not clear whether the AU LAC people were partly descendants of VAN LANG or whether they were the Viets, "real" ancestors of the Vietnamese people, migrated from their habitat in Lower Yangtse around 300 BC under pressure from Han Chinese southward into Tonkin delta. Most scholars by now, accept that the Vietnamese are not descended from one single racial group, that they are instead a racial mixture of Austro-Indonesian and Mongolian races.

After Dai Viet Su Ky Toan Thu. the formation of Viet Nam in Hung Vuong era was affirmed in the course of history of nation, but still in a doubtful status. The knowledge level and method of studying and examining history in Middle age did not allow the historians of the current time prove the existence of a long pre-historic time ago. This situation was prolonged in a century from the beginning of Le dynasty to Nguyen dynasty.

In French colony, this viewpoint on Hung Vuong era still existed. In his, Viet Nam Su Luoc, Tran Trong Kim has reserved a chapter for "Hong Bang dynasty" however gave these remarks : "The historians only collected the traditional legends, which were deity and fairy tales, non-natural", and "the story of Hong Bang dynasty was possibly not true". Besides the works with traditional view, there were a number of studies of European, especially French scholars. On the other hand, the legendary nature of the document confused the historians at that time. Even Ngo Si Lien, who must both agreed to the existence of the Hung Vuong era and also showed caution, when he writes : "Let simply narrate the old story to transmit suspicions'.

Once furthermore, the formation of Van Lang of Hung Vuong was also recorded by Viet Su Luoc, the oldest history of Viet Nam that in Trang Vuong of Chu Dynasty (696-681 BC). In Gia Ninh there was a stranger, by his magic won over the tribals, declared himself Hung Vuong, and set the capital at Van Lang giving his kingdom the name Van Lang, with simple and good custom, and used the method of knots tying in his administration. His crown was transferred in 18 offspring, all declared himself as Hung Vuong.

It was unknown that based on what document the author of Viet Su Luoc gave the above affirmation. But the formation of a primitive state of Van Lang, in about 7th century BC, that was the beginning of Dong Son period, was suitable to results of to-day researches, and agreed with by many historians.

Based on the division into two Giao Chi (North Viet Nam), and Cuu Chan (Northern Central Viet Nam) prefectures in later times, and local differences of the two regions recounted in old bibliology, archeological documents, someone pointed out a hypothesis stating that at least two allies of tribes in North Viet Nam and Northern Central Viet Nam had participated in the process of formation of Van Lang and constituted the Lac Viet tribes.

The government is still very simple. Hung Vuong is the head of Van Lang. In Hung Vuong title, Vuong (a Chinese word, meaning King) is clearly to be added by later-time historians because of the concept of the head of a state should be the King (if not the King, should be the Emperor), as for Hung, a Chinese phonetic transcription from a very old Vietnamese term. In Muong language, there is term kun in lang kun indicating the eldest son of the first family in line of descent who ruled the Muong. In Mong-Khmer and Thai language, as Xinh-mun, Kho-mu, Khang, Thai, Lao..., there is a term khun indicating the chief of tribe, the leader; in Mun-da language the term khunzt indicates the first person in the family or any organization of the society. Probably, the word Hung is the Chinese phonetic transcription of an ancient Vietnamese which is synonymous and homonymous with kun, khun, khunzt ... to address the chief of tribe, the leader.

This title showed us that Hung Vuong was originally the chief of Van Lang tribe- the strongest one, with its domain in both sides of Song Hong (River) from Ba Vi Mount to Tam Dao Mount, and played the role of the chief coordinator with the central duty of unifying all the other tribes, then became chief of state. He was assisted by Lac Hau (civilian chiefs).

In Viet Su Luoc, we were also told about a series of significant legends relate to this period. Lord Lac Long Quan married Au Co, who bore him 100 sons. One day he said to his wife: "I am a dragon, you are a fairy. We can't remain together". He took 50 of his sons with him to the plains and coastal regions, while the others followed their mother to the mountains. One of Lac Long Quan's sons inherited his throne and was the founder of a dynasty of 18 rulers known as the Hung kings. Legends put the beginning of the Hung dynasty as early as 4,000 years ago.

The reign of Hung Vuong was hereditary and lasted for 18 kings. The number 18 in Hung Vuong story was brought in question with doubt by a lot of historians who proposed many different explanations. Traditionally, many numbers have only symbolic meaning not mathematical one. The number 18 as well as 9 and all its multiple (36, 991, 999... ) often imminently mean a lot, many, or a great quantity. Is it reasonably that 18 kings of Hung Vuong means many reigns of kings, lasts for long time.

Van Lang was composed of 15 "bo"(administrative division), and according to Viet Su Luoc, these "bo" were originally 15 tribes. Each "bo" was headed by Lac Tuong (military chiefs), or according to a number of legend and mythological tradition, these functionaries were also named bo chua, bo tuong, phu dao ( meaning chief of tribes). As phu dao term was also a Chinese word phonetically transcribed from old Viet as dao in Muong language, tao in Tay-Thai language, po tan in Gia-rai language, mo tao in E-de language, bo dao in Ra-glai language, ba dao in Ba-na language, pa tao in Cham language, and together had a same meaning chief of tribe, leader or chief of a region. If "bo" is tribe, we can say exactly "phu dao" or "lac tuong" is chief of tribe, then became the chief of regional tribe of Van Lang under Hung Vuong reign.


to be continued . . .

The Vietnamese first appeared in history as one of many scattered peoples living in what is now South China and Northern Viet Nam just before the beginning of the Christian era. According to local tradition, the small Vietnamese kingdom of Au Lac, located in the heart of the Red River valley, was founded by a line of legendary kings who had ruled over the ancient kingdom of Van Lang for thousands of years. Historical evidence to substantiate this tradition is scanty, but archaeological findings indicate that the early peoples of the Red River delta area may have been among the first East Asians to practice agriculture, and by the 1st century BC they had achieved a relatively advanced level of Bronze Age civilization.

Chinese Influence
In 221 BC the Ch'in dynasty in China completed its conquest of neighboring states and became the first to rule over a united China. The Ch'in Empire, however, did not long survive the death of its dynamic founder, Shih Huang Ti, and the impact of its collapse was soon felt in Viet Nam. In the wreckage of the empire, the Chinese commander in the south built his own kingdom of Nam Viet (South Viet; Chinese, Nan Yüeh); the young state of Au Lac was included.
In 111 BC, Chinese armies conquered Nam Viet and absorbed it into the growing Han Empire. The Chinese conquest had fateful consequences for the future course of Vietnamese history. After briefly ruling through local chieftains, Chinese rulers attempted to integrate Viet Nam politically and culturally into the Han Empire. Chinese administrators were imported to replace the local landed nobility. Political institutions patterned after the Chinese model were imposed, and Confucianism became the official ideology. The Chinese language was introduced as the medium of official and literary expression, and Chinese ideographs were adopted as the written form for the Vietnamese spoken language. Chinese art, architecture, and music exercised a powerful impact on their Vietnamese counterparts.
Vietnamese resistance to rule by the Chinese was fierce but sporadic. The most famous early revolt took place in AD 39, when two widows of local aristocrats, the Trung sisters, led an uprising against foreign rule. The revolt was briefly successful, and the older sister, Trung Trac, established herself as ruler of an independent state. Chinese armies returned to the attack, however, and in AD 43 Viet Nam was reconquered.

The Trung sisters' revolt was only the first in a series of intermittent uprisings that took place during a thousand years of Chinese rule in Viet Nam. Finally, in 939, Vietnamese forces under Ngo Quyen took advantage of chaotic conditions in China to defeat local occupation troops and set up an independent state. Ngo Quyen's death a few years later ushered in a period of civil strife, but in the early 11th century the first of the great Vietnamese dynasties was founded. Under the astute leadership of several dynamic rulers, the Ly dynasty ruled Viet Nam for more than 200 years, from 1010 to 1225. Although the rise of the Ly reflected the emergence of a lively sense of Vietnamese nationhood, Ly rulers retained many of the political and social institutions that had been introduced during the period of Chinese rule. Confucianism continued to provide the foundation for the political institutions of the state. The Chinese civil service examination system was retained as the means of selecting government officials, and although at first only members of the nobility were permitted to compete in the examinations, eventually the right was extended to include most males. The educational system also continued to reflect the Chinese model. Young Vietnamese preparing for the examinations were schooled in the Confucian classics and grew up conversant with the great figures and ideas that had shaped Chinese history.
Vietnamese society, however, was more than just a pale reflection of China. Beneath the veneer of Chinese fashion and thought, popular mostly among the upper classes, native forms of expression continued to flourish. Young Vietnamese learned to appreciate the great heroes of the Vietnamese past, many of whom had built their reputation on resistance to the Chinese conquest. At the village level, social mores reflected native forms more than patterns imported from China. Although to the superficial eye Viet Nam looked like a "smaller dragon," under the tutelage of the great empire to the north it continued to have a separate culture with vibrant traditions of its own.

The Economy Under the Ly Dynasty
Like most of its neighbors, Viet Nam was primarily an agricultural state, its survival based above all on the cultivation of wet rice. As in medieval Europe, much of the land was divided among powerful noble families, who often owned thousands of serfs or domestic slaves. A class of landholding farmers also existed, however, and powerful monarchs frequently attempted to protect this class by limiting the power of feudal lords and dividing up their large estates.
The Vietnamese economy was not based solely on agriculture. Commerce and manufacturing thrived, and local crafts appeared in regional markets throughout the area. Viet Nam never developed into a predominantly commercial nation, however, or became a major participant in regional trade patterns.

Territorial Expansion
Under the rule of the Ly dynasty and its successor, the Tran (1225-1400), Viet Nam became a dynamic force in Southeast Asia. China's rulers, however, had not abandoned their historic objective of controlling the Red River delta, and when the Mongol dynasty came to power in the 13th century, the armies of Kublai Khan attacked Viet Nam in an effort to reincorporate it into the Chinese Empire. The Vietnamese resisted with vigor, and after several bitter battles they defeated the invaders and drove them back across the border.
While the Vietnamese maintained their vigilance toward the north, an area of equal and growing concern lay to the south. For centuries, the Vietnamese state had been restricted to its heartland in the Red River valley and adjacent hills. Tension between Viet Nam and the kingdom of Champa (see Champa, Kingdom of), a seafaring state along the central coast, appeared shortly after the restoration of Vietnamese independence. On several occasions, Cham armies broke through Vietnamese defenses and occupied the capital near Hanoi. More frequently, Vietnamese troops were victorious, and they gradually drove Champa to the south. Finally, in the 15th century, Vietnamese forces captured the Cham capital south of present-day Da Nang and virtually destroyed the kingdom. For the next several generations, Viet Nam continued its historic "march to the south," wiping up the remnants of the Cham Kingdom and gradually approaching the marshy flatlands of the Mekong delta. There it confronted a new foe, the Khmer Empire, which had once been the most powerful state in the region. By the late 16th century, however, it had declined, and it offered little resistance to Vietnamese encroachment. By the end of the 17th century, Viet Nam had occupied the lower Mekong delta and began to advance to the west, threatening to transform the disintegrating Khmer state into a mere protectorate.

The Le Dynasty
The Vietnamese advance to the south coincided with new challenges in the north. In 1407 Viet Nam was again conquered by Chinese troops. For two decades, the Ming dynasty attempted to reintegrate Viet Nam into the empire, but in 1428, resistance forces under the rebel leader Le Loi dealt the Chinese a decisive defeat and restored Vietnamese independence. Le Loi mounted the throne as the first emperor of the Le dynasty. The new ruling house retained its vigor for more than a hundred years, but in the 16th century it began to decline. Power at court was wielded by two rival aristocratic clans, the Trinh and the Nguyen. When the former became dominant, the Nguyen were granted a fiefdom in the south, dividing Viet Nam into two separate zones. Rivalry was sharpened by the machinations of European powers newly arrived in Southeast Asia in pursuit of wealth and Christian converts.
By the late 18th century, the Le dynasty was near collapse. Vast rice lands were controlled by grasping feudal lords. Angry peasants—led by the Tay Son brothers—revolted, and in 1789 Nguyen Hue, the ablest of the brothers, briefly restored Viet Nam to united rule. Nguyen Hue died shortly after ascending the throne; a few years later Nguyen Anh, an heir to the Nguyen house in the south, defeated the Tay Son armies. As Emperor Gia Long, he established a new dynasty in 1802.

French Intervention
A French missionary, Pierre Pigneau de Behaine, had raised a mercenary force to help Nguyen Anh seize the throne in the hope that the new emperor would provide France with trading and missionary privileges, but his hopes were disappointed. The Nguyen dynasty was suspicious of French influence. Roman Catholic missionaries and their Vietnamese converts were persecuted, and a few were executed during the 1830s. Religious groups in France demanded action from the government in Paris. When similar pressure was exerted by commercial and military interests, Emperor Napoleon III approved the launching of a naval expedition in 1858 to punish the Vietnamese and force the court to accept a French protectorate.
The first French attack at Da Nang Harbor failed to achieve its objectives, but a second farther south was more successful, and in 1862 the court at Hue agreed to cede several provinces in the Mekong delta (later called Cochin China) to France. In the 1880s the French returned to the offensive, launching an attack on the north. After severe defeats, the Vietnamese accepted a French protectorate over the remaining territory of Viet Nam.

Colonial Rule and Resistance
The imposition of French colonial rule had met with little organized resistance. The national sense of identity, however, had not been crushed, and anticolonial sentiment soon began to emerge. Poor economic conditions contributed to native hostility to French rule. Although French occupation brought improvements in transportation and communications, and contributed to the growth of commerce and manufacturing, colonialism brought little improvement in livelihood to the mass of the population. In the countryside, peasants struggled under heavy taxes and high rents. Workers in factories, in coal mines, and on rubber plantations labored in abysmal conditions for low wages. By the early 1920s, nationalist parties began to demand reform and independence. In 1930 the revolutionary Ho Chi Minh formed an Indochinese Communist party.
Until World War II started in 1939, such groups labored without success. In 1940, however, Japan demanded and received the right to place Viet Nam under military occupation, restricting the local French administration to figurehead authority. Seizing the opportunity, the Communists organized the broad Vietminh Front and prepared to launch an uprising at the war's end. The Vietminh (short for Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh, or League for the Independence of Viet Nam) emphasized moderate reform and national independence rather than specifically Communist aims. When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, Vietminh forces arose throughout Viet Nam and declared the establishment of an independent republic in Hanoi.
The French, however, were unwilling to concede independence and in October drove the Vietminh and other nationalist groups out of the south. For more than a year the French and the Vietminh sought a negotiated solution, but the talks, held in France, failed to resolve differences, and war broke out in December 1946.

The Expulsion of the French
The conflict lasted for nearly eight years. The Vietminh retreated into the hills to build up their forces while the French formed a rival Vietnamese government under Emperor Bao Dai, the last ruler of the Nguyen dynasty, in populated areas along the coast. Vietminh forces lacked the strength to defeat the French and generally restricted their activities to guerrilla warfare. In 1953 and 1954 the French fortified a base at Dien Bien Phu. After months of siege and heavy casualties, the Vietminh overran the fortress in a decisive battle. As a consequence, the French government could no longer resist pressure from a war-weary populace at home and in June 1954 agreed to negotiations to end the war. At a conference held in Geneva the two sides accepted an interim compromise to end the war. They divided the country at the 17th parallel, with the Vietminh in the North and the anti-communist Vietnamese in the South. To avoid permanent partition, a political protocol was drawn up, calling for national elections to reunify the country two years after the signing of the treaty.

After Geneva, the Vietminh in Hanoi refrained from armed struggle and began to build a Communist society. In the southern capital, Saigon, Bao Dai soon gave way to a new regime under the staunch anti-Communist president Ngo Dinh Diem. With diplomatic support from the United States, Diem refused to hold elections and attempted to destroy Communist influence in the South. By 1959, however, Diem was in trouble. His unwillingness to tolerate domestic opposition, his alleged favoritism of fellow Roman Catholics, and the failure of his social and economic programs seriously alienated key groups in the populace and led to rising unrest.

The Viet Nam War
In the fall of 1963, Diem was overthrown and killed in a coup launched by his own generals. In the political confusion that followed, the security situation in South Viet Nam continued to deteriorate, putting the Communists within reach. In early 1965, to prevent the total collapse of the Saigon regime, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson approved regular intensive bombing of North Viet Nam and the dispatch of U.S. combat troops into the South. The U.S. intervention caused severe problems for the Communists on the battlefield. However, with strong supports from China & Soviet Union, the North Vietnamese continued to send army into the South. In 1968, after the North's bloody Tet offensive shook Saigon to its core, the Johnson administration decided to pursue a negotiated settlement. Ho Chi Minh presumedly died in 1969 and was succeeded by another leader of the revolution, Le Duan. The new U.S. president, Richard Nixon, continued Johnson's policy while gradually withdrawing U.S. troops. In January 1973 the war temporarily came to an end with the signing of a peace agreement in Paris. The settlement provided for the total removal of remaining U.S. troops, while Hanoi tacitly agreed to accept the Thieu regime in preparation for new national elections. The agreement soon be broken by the Communists and in early 1975 the Communists launched a military offensive. In six weeks, the resistance of the Thieu regime collapsed, on April 30 the Communists seized power in Saigon. Follow the fall of South Saigon, the North retaliated the South by sending millions of South Vietnamese officers & intellectuals to "Re-education" camps while their wives & children have been stripped or forced to sell their homes. Lacouture, a French journalist, wrote that it was “a prefabricated hell and a place one comes to only if the alternative to it would be death.” Hundreds of thousands of camp prisoners have committed suicide. Some have been secretly murdered, others perished through staged “accidents”. The collapse of South Viet Nam also caused millions to flee in makeshift boat thus "Boat People". 2 out of 3 died in the process of looking for a new life. The fleeing from Communists continued many years after the Fall of Saigon.

The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam
In 1976 Viet Nam became new Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. The conclusion of the war, however, did not end the violence. Border tension with the Communist government in Cambodia escalated rapidly after the fall of Saigon, and in early 1979 the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and installed a pro-Vietnamese government. A few weeks later, Viet Nam was itself attacked by its Communist neighbor and erstwhile benefactor, China. A war that Vietnamese Communists has kept quite about.
The United States removed a trade embargo in 1994, and in 1995 Viet Nam and the United States agreed to exchange low-level diplomats then eventually full diplomatic relations (which involve opening embassies and appointing ambassadors).