Vietnam History in Brief
A historical road independence and the naming of Vietnam
At the beginning of the Bronze Age, the Viet tribe groups had settled in the northern and central regions of Vietnam. Approximatley 15 groups of Lac Viet tribesmen lived mainly in the northern highlands and delta regions, and a dozen Au Viet groups living in Viet Bac, the northern region of old Vietnam. Due to the threats of floods and invaders, as well as the beneifts in cultural and economical exchange, tribes living near each other tended to integrate into a larger mixed groups. Among the Lac Viet tribes was the Van Lang - the most powerful tribe. The leader of the Van Long, known as the Hung King unified all the Lac Viet tribes to found the Van Lang Nation.
Based on historical documents, researchers correlatively delineated the location of Van Lang Nation to the present day regions of North and North-Central Vietnam, as well as, the South of present-day Kwangsi (China). The Van Lang Nation lasted approximately from the beginning of the first millennium BC to the 3rd century BC.
In 221 BC, Tan Thuy Hoang, King of Tan (China), invaded the land of the Viet tribes. Thuc Phan, the leader of the alliance of Au Viet tribes was respected as the chief of the resistance war against the Tan enemy, that later, in 208 BC was forced to withdraw. With his imposing power, Thuc Phan nominated himself as King An Duong Vuong and founded the Au Lac Nation with groups of Lac Viet and Au Viet tribes.
In 179 BC, Trieu Da, King of Nam Viet (China), invaded Au Lac country. The resistance of An Duong Vuong failed soon after this invasion. As a result, the northern feudalists dominated the country over the next seven centuries, establishing a harsh regime and dividing the country into administrative regions and districts with unfamiliar names; nevertheless, the country’s name of Au Lac would remain true in the minds of the people.
In the spring of 542, Ly Bi rose up in arms and swept away the harsh Chinese administration, liberating the territory. He declared himself King of Van Xuan Kingdom in February 544. However, the existence of Ly Bi’s administration was very brief. He was defeated by the Chinese imperial army, and the country returned to feudal Chinese domination again in 602. The name Van Xuan was restored again after the victory over the Han army at the Bach Dang River led by General Ngo Quyen in 938. This victory marked the end of the Chinese domination period in Vietnam at that time.
In 968, Dinh Bo Linh defeated the twelve lords and unified the country. He declared himself King and named the country Dai Co Viet. This name remained throughout the Dinh dynasty (868-979), Pre-Le dynasty (980-1009) and the beginning of the Ly dynasty (1010-1053).
In 1054, it is said that a flaming bright star appeared in the sky for many days, which was considered a good omen. As a result, the Ly King changed the name of the country to Dai Viet. This name remained until the end of Tran dynasty.
In March 1400, Ho Quy Ly usurped the throne of King Tran Thieu De, founded the Ho dynasty and changed the country’s name to Dai Ngu, meaning peace in the ancient language. This name only lasted for very short time, until April 1407, when the Minh enemy invaded Dai Ngu and defeated the Ho dynasty.
After 10 years of resistance against the Minh (Chinese) occupation (1418-1427), Le Loi achieved a victorious triumph. In 1428, Le Loi declared himself King of Le dynasty and changed the name of the country back to Dai Viet. At this time, the territory of Vietnam had expanded to the region of present-day Hue. The name Dai Viet remained under the Le dynasty (1428-1787) and the Tay Son dynasty (1788-1810).
The first appearance of the name Vietnam
In 1802, Nguyen Anh claimed his coronation to become the first Nguyen King, starting the Nguyen dynasty and changing the country’s name to Viet Nam. This name was officially recognized in many diplomatic missions in 1804. However, the words Vietnam had already appeared very early in history. First, in the 14th century, in a book of code entitled Vietnam The Chi, edited by Doctor Ho Tong Thoc. Then, in the book by scholar Nguyen Trai entitled Du Dia Chi at the beginning of 15th century, the words Viet Nam were repeated several times. Doctor Trinh Nguyen Binh Khiem (1491-1585) had written on the first page of his work Trinh Tien Sinh Quoc Ngu the following "Viet Nam has constructed its foundation..." The words Viet Nam was also found in some carved stelae of the 16th-17th century in Bao Lam Pagoda, Hai Phong (1558), in Cam Lo Pagoda, Ha Tay (1590), in Phuc Thanh Pagoda, and Bac Ninh (1664). In particular, in the first sentence on the stele Thuy Mon Dinh (1670) at the landmark on the border at Lang Son reads "This is the gateway of Viet Nam that guards the northern frontiers."
In terms of meaning, there are many theories that prove the words Viet Nam are created by combining two racial and geographic elements. During the reign of King Minh Mang (1820-1840), the name of the country was changed to Dai Nam, but Viet Nam was still widely used in many literary works, civil business affairs, and social relations.
In 1858 French imperialism took hold of the country.
Following the triumph of the August Revolution on August 19, 1945, which ended French colonial oppression and began a new era in the country, President Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the nation’s independence. The national name Democratic Republic of Viet Nam was born on September 2, 1945. Although Viet Nam (Vietnam) suffered from war and separation in the following 30 years, the sacred words Vietnam were very popularily used from the north to the south, and were deeply imprinted in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.
Following the liberation of Southern Vietnam on April 30, 1975, the entire country of Vietnam was completely unified. In the first meeting of the national assembly of the unified Vietnam on July 2, 1976, the assembly decided to name the country The Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The constitution of 1980, and again in 1992, continued its affirmation of the country’s official name.
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