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History of Vietnam

Vietnam's history goes back more than 2,500 years, when it was a part of the unified Chinese Empire. It continued to be a subordinate subject for the next millennium, even after it became a kingdom in early 10th century, until it gained virtual autonomy a century later. The native dynastic period ended in mid-19th century, when the country was invaded by France, sebsequently by Japan in the following century. It gained sovereignty in 1954, but a war ensued, causing the new nation to split briefly.

Table of contents

Relationship with China

Around 2500 BC, Vietnam was a part of the unified Chinese Qin Empire, called Xiang Prefecture (象郡), which also included parts of Guangxi.

In 111 BC, Emperor Wudi of Han China[?] (漢武帝) sent armies to the southernmost tip of Vietnam, Cochin. And for the next millennium, the Chinese technology (such as agriculture) and art (such as writing system and literature) were introduced to Vietnam, establishing a close relationship between the two places. However, many Vietnamese commoners were not fully Sinicized, and there were those, such as the Trung Sisters in 39 CE, who resisted the changes and influences.

Dynastic Period

Since 939, it had been a partially independent kingdom, a tributary to the Emperors of China. In 1009, the Ly dynasty, Vietnam's first independent dynasty, was proclaimed. The "four great dynasties" of Vietnam refers to the Ly, the Tran, the Later Le, and the Nguyen. The last dynasty, Nguyen dynasty, declared its monarchs to be emperors.

There are over ten recognizable dynasties in Vietnam's history. Occasionally, some of which are not considered official, such as the Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the Tay Son dynasty.

Almost all Vietnamese dynasties are named after the ruler's family name, unlike the Chinese dynasties, whose names are an attribute chosen by the first emperors.

  1. The Ngo Dynasty[?] (吳朝) (939-965): 2 rulers
  2. The Dinh Dynasty[?] (丁朝) (968-979): 1 ruler
  3. The Former Le Dynasty[?] (前黎朝) (980-1009 ): 4 rulers
  4. The Ly Dynasty[?] (李朝) (1010-1225): established by Ly Cong Uan (李太祖), whose posthumous name is Ly Thai To (李太祖); 8 rulers
  5. The Tran Dynasty[?] (陳朝) (1225-1440): 12 rulers
  6. The Ho Dynasty[?] (胡朝) (1400-1407): 1 ruler
  7. The Ming Dynasty of Chinese Empire (1414-1427): ruled as the Buzheng Delegate-Officialdom of Cochin (交趾布政使司).
  8. The Le Dynasty[?] (Later Le Dynasty) (後黎朝) (1428-1527): 10 rulers
  9. The Southern and Northern Dynasties (南北朝) (1527-1592, 1627-1672)
    • The North Dynasty (1527-1592): the Mac (莫) family
    • The South Dynasty (1527-?): the Nguyen family
  10. The Third Le Dynasty[?] (1592-1627): the Trinh (鄭) family
  11. The Tay Son dynasty[?] (西山朝) (1778-1802): 3 simultaneous rulers: the Nguyen Brothers; predecessor to the following Nguyen Dynasty
  12. The Nguyen Dynasty (阮朝) (1802 - 1945): 13 rulers

The Changing Names

Vietnam was called Dai Co Viet (大瞿越) during the Dihn Dynasty in the 11th century. 500 years later, Thanh Tong (聖宗) of the Le Dynasty named the nation Dai Viet (大越). In 1174, during the reign of Anh Tong (英宗) of the Ly Dynasty, the Chinese Empire officially let his nation to be called Annam. The Ly Vietnam was divided into five circuit.

In 1802, Emperor Gia Long of the Nguyen request the Qing Empire to allow his country to be known as Nam Viet (南越). The next year, the Emperor of China gave Gia Long the title "Grand King of Vietnam," hence the modern name. In 1838, during the Nguyen Dynasty, the nation's name was changed temporary to Dai Nam (大南).

Vietnam had been divided into the Three Bo (三圻), which included the Northern Bo (since the French Occupation, Tonkin), Central Bo (Annam), and Southern Bo (Cochin China).



Under the orders of Napoleon III of France, the landing of French forces in the port of Tourane, (present-day Danang[?]) in August 1858, heralded the beginning of the colonial occupation which was to last almost a century. In 1884, the French had complete control over the country, which now formed the largest part of French Indochina. However, the French allowed the Vietnamese to keep their monarchy. The last Emperor was Bao Dai, who ruled until 1954/55.


In 1940 during World War II, coinciding with their ally Germany's invasion of France, the Japanese invaded Indochina. While they did not eject the French administration, the Japanese directed policy from behind the scenes in a parallel of Vichy France. As far as Bao Dai and the Vietnamese were concerned, this was now a kind of double-puppet government. This arrangement lasted until March 9, 1945 when the French were overrun and Bao Dai had little option but to switch allegiance to Japan.

True Independence

The Japanese surrendered to the Allies in August 1945, and the Communist Viet Minh under Ho Chi Minh aimed to take power. Due to the Japanese associations, Ho was able to persuade Bao Dai to abdicate on August 25, 1945, handing power to the Viet Minh -- an event that greatly enhanced Ho's legitimacy in the eyes of the Vietnamese people. Bao Dai was appointed "supreme adviser" in the new government in Hanoi, which asserted independence on September 2.

Vietnam descended into violence -- rival Vietnamese factions clashing with each other and with the French. The First Indochina War lasted until 1954, when the Viet Minh won a major victory at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.

The USA, nervous since the war of Ho Chi Minh's communism, became strongly opposed to the idea of a Vietnam run by Ho after his government of the north, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in 1950 gained recognition from the Soviet Union and China. In the south in the same year, the government of Bao Dai in Saigon was recognized by the United States and Great Britain, but did not enjoy wide popular support.

The 1954 peace deal, between the French and the Viet Minh, involved a Chinese-inspired, supposedly temporary partition of the country into North and South. Bao Dai had intentions to to take full control of South Vietnam, and from his home in France appointed the religious nationalist Ngo Dinh Diem as Prime Minister. However, in 1955 Diem used a referendum to remove the Emperor and took control of the South himself, managing to win American support.

In response to the failure of establishing unifying elections, the National Liberation Front (NLF or Viet Cong) was formed as a guerrilla movement in opposition to the South Vietnamese government. (The RVN and the US referred to the NLF as Viet Cong, short for Viet Nam Cong San, or "Vietnamese Communist". The NLF itself never went by this name.) In response to the guerrilla war, the United States began sending military advisors in support of the government in the South. This escalated into what is called the Vietnam War, or the "Second Indochina War".

The war lasted until 1975, when the North finally gained control over all of Vietnam. In 1976, Vietnam was officially reunited under the North Vietnamese government as "The Socialist Republic of Vietnam".

External links

  • Independence of Vietnam (http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/vietnam/introduction/history/eih_bacthuoc.htm) by Vietnam Tourism.

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