Eastern Han Dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

Version française

Eastern Han dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

titre_dynhan_9 Guimet museum (Paris)


Chronology of Eastern Han dynasty 


 Đông Hán

25-57: Guangwudi reign

57-75: Mingdi’s reign

75-88: Zhandi reign

88-106: Heidi reign

106: Shangdi reign

106-125: Andi reign

125: Shaodi reign

125-144: Chongdi reign

145-146: Zhidi reign

146-168:  Huandi reign

168-189: Lingdi reign

184: Yellow turban rebellion

189: Shaodi impeachment.

189-220: Xiandi reign.

190: Increasing power of General Cao Cao (Tào Tháo)

220: Death of  Cao Cao and Xiandi.

End of Eastern Han dynasty


In the  territories conquered by  the Han, in particular in the South China, the Chinese assimilation continued in full swing. That is why revolts firstly  succeeded each other in the Dian kingdom (Điền Quốc)  (86, 83  before J.C., 14 after J.C., from 42 to  45 ). They were repressed with severity. These upheavals were largely due to   the Han officials exactions and the Chinese settlers’ behaviour in possession of fertile soils and expulsion of local people in remote  corners on his territory.  In addition, the latter had to adopt the language, the customs and the religiuos beliefs practiced by the Han.

In year 40, a serious rebellion broke out in Jiaozhou province (or Giao Châu in Vietnamese) including at this time a part of  Kouangsi  and Kouang tong territories. It was led by the local prefect’s daughters, the elder Trưng Trắc (Zheng Cè)  and  her youngest daughter Trưng Nhị (Zheng Èr). As the husband of the elder Shi Suo (Thi Sách) opposed the Chinese assimilation policy conducted  brutally  by the Chinese proconsul Su Ding (Tô Định), the latter did not hesitate to kill him for making an example against Yue rebels. This killing revolted sisters Trưng and trigged immediately the insurgent movement in Yue territories.





Sisters Trưng succeeded in gaining control of 65 citadels for a very short period of time.  They were  proclaimed Queens on conquered territories and etablished themselves in Meiling (or Mê Linh). In year 41, they were defeated by Chinese general Ma Yuan ( Mã Viện, Phục Ba tuớng quân)(the flow tamer) and preferred the suicide instead of the reddition by pluging into the  Hát river. They thus  became the symbol of Vietnamese resistance.They continue to be venerated today not only in Vietnam but also in certain areas of Yue territories belonging to China (Kouangsi et Kouang Tong). Ma Yuan began to apply a policy of terror and assimiltaion at forced march by placing at all level administration, Chinese trustwothy men and imposing the Chinese as the official language over the territory of the Vietnamese. It is the first Chinese domination during just 1000 years before the war of liberation started by General Ngô Quyền. In the meantime, Guangwudi  (Quang Vũ Đế) succeeded to bring prosperity and stability in his empire by reducing the tax on crops and profits. After his death,   his son Mingdi imitating Wudi, pursued the policy of expansion by taking an offensive against the northern Xiongnu with the aim of releasing the States of Central Asia from the guardianship of the latter and restoring the security of the silk road for the benefit of China. Being the brother of Ban Gu historian of this time, General Ban Chao (Ban Siêu was in charge of this  military expedition. He succeeded in reaching the sea Caspienne and subduing the  Yuezhi thanks to the Kusana assistance.




Con rồng cháu Tiên (English version)

French version

 Long time ago, Vietnam was a country half-wild, half-cultured, infested with wild beasts that cohabitated with men in deep caves in the forest. Lived then a young man named Lạc Long Quân intelligent and endowed with extraordinary powers. In his vein flowed a bloodstream mixed with the blood of the Dragons form Bách Việt country. During his travels through mountains and valleys, he arrived at a maritime region of southeast Lac Việt. Seeing the population decimated by a marine monster, he took a spear that he got red hot in fire and threw in the mouth of the monster killing it. He cut its body in three pieces which he threw into three different places that received three geographical names: the head became a mountain named Cầu Dầu Sơn, the body Cầu Dầu Thủy and the tail the name of Bạch Long Vỹ.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ

Once the people of Lac Viet in peace, the hero headed for the Long Bien region where its inhabitants were terrorized by a fox which became a monster. The latter often turned itself into a young man to enter villages taking away women and young girls. Lac Long Quan had to fight for three days and three nights before beating the monster and entering its cave to free his survivors. Arriving at the Phong Châu area, he confronted the monster of trees so ferocious he had to turn to his father Kinh Dương Vương to chase it to the South. After having brought peace to the three countries, he was so moved by compassion for such an unfortunate and simple people. He decided to stay to protect and teach them how to grow rice, cook it, cut trees to build homes that sheltered them from rain, wind and savage beasts. He educated them in the family virtues of parents and spouses. The people revered him and considered him as their Chief. They also considered him as their father, the one who gave them their lives.

Before he joined his mother in the Palace of Waters, he recommended to his people, in case of misfortune, to call him aloud: Father. And he would come back right away. Some time later, the Lord of the High Regions of the North, Ðế Lai, leading his troops, invaded Lac Viet while bringing with him his delightful daughter Âu Cơ. De Lai oppressed and fleeced the people who had to supply his army with meat and rice. In distress people called: Father, come back and save us. Lạc Long Quân was on the spot, but did not find De Lai. Au Cơ was there alone, out for a walk amid her servants. Dazzled by her beauty, he took Au Cơ to his palace. Au Cơ herself, charmed by the young man, consented to live with him. Ðế Lai, coming back in rage, sent his troops out to besiege the town.

But Lac Long Quan commanded savage beasts to push him back. Incapable of struggling against such a strong son-in-law, Ðế Lai withdrew from Lạc Việt, leaving his daughter on the strange land.

Lac Long Quân with the monster

Amid their happiness, Au Cơ brought to the world a big pouch from which got out one hundred eggs that gave birth to one hundred sons as robust as their father. When came the time to separate and return to his mother, Lạc Long Quân told his wife Au Cơ : “You are of the race of Immortals. I am of that of the Dragons. We cannot stay together for the rest of our lives. You need to live up high. I need to live down by the sea. So you stay here with fifty children. I will bring the other fifty to the maritime region, we settle on the same land”. From then on, Au Cơ stayed in the mountains with her fifty children. Those became the ancestors of all the peoples living nowadays on high plateaus and mountains (these are the montagnards and minorities ). As for Lạc Long Quân, he descended on the plain, by the sea, with his children that he taught how to clear the land to establish a kingdom there. His eldest son became thus the first king of Vietnam and took the dynastic name of Hùng Vương and called his country Văn Lang.

That’s why Vietnamese are proud of being ” Children of the Dragon, Grandchildren of the Immortal”
(Con Rồng Cháu Tiên).

Vietnamese heroes (Anh hùng dân tộc)

Version française

History museum of Saïgon

On the road of the history of Vietnam, the list of heroes is so long it is difficult to cite them all. But it would be unbelievable for a young Vietnamese not to know heroes such as Lê Lai, Trần Hưng Ðạo and Quang Trung Nguyễn Huệ because these characters illustrate each of them a model example to follow.

Lý Thường Kiệt: winner of the  Song and the Cham.

Trần Hưng Đạo: winner of the Mongol (or the Yuan).

Nguyễn Trãi: winner of the Ming of Chou Di.

Nguyễn Huệ:  winner of the  Qing and the Siamese (Thaïs)

histoire1Unforgettable words

Better being a phantom in the South is worth than to become a prince of North.

Trần Bình Trọng (the general of the Trần dynasty captured and sentenced to death by the Mongols))

The life is a game of chance. The chance is against us. Better is worth to die now for this country and to give the example of the sacrifice.

Nguyễn Thái Học (the nationalist leader guillotined by the French colonialists)

Trời đất nể nang người khí khái
Nước non tây vị kể tài tình

Heaven and Earth have consideration for men of character,
Mountains and Rivers favour great-hearted and talented people.

Hưng Đạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn

(1228- 1300)

The great destiny belongs to people of talent and heart
Nghiệp lớn thuộc về người tài đức.

Facing a Mongolian army of 500,000 warriors of Kubilai Khan, it is difficult for a country as small as Vietnam to resist this barbarous invasion. In spite of that, Vietnam has arrived at defeating the Mongolian army repeatedly twice in 1257 and in 1287 with shining victories on Bạch Ðăng river thanks to the talent of general Hưng Ðạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn. As for historians, Vietnam is the only country in Asia and Europe that succeeded in countering Mongolian invasion in this episode.

Nothing is surprising if a glance is made on the autobiography of this general. Coming from the royal family, he was a beyond-common character.  

He knew how to conciliate all the political forces of the country at that time, to galvanize the spirit of unity and the enthusiasm of all the people with the Vietnamese army through popular gatherings ( Hội Nghị Diên Hồng ) and surrounding himself with talented people among whom figured a character of exceptional value of the name Phạm Ngũ Lão.

Kubilai khan

Grandson of Genghis Khan (1215-1294)

Thanks to the strategy of this one, the Vietnamese people’s army entirely decimated the Mongolian army by planting stakes in the bed of the Red river to break all the joncs.Despite the shining victories, Hưng Ðạo Vương knew it was difficult to win the war facing a strong enemy such as the Mongolian army.

Ðằng giang tự cổ huyết do hồng
The river Bạch Ðằng continues to be stained with blood red.

Aware of geographic realities and potilical necessities, he knew how to avoid cutting completely all ties with his powerful neighbor by proposing that Vietnam continued to pay tribute in exchange for a long lasting peace. Thanks to this general’s perceptiveness, Vietnam found a period of peace and independence. This general is highly praised by the Vietnamese people because it is found in him all the qualities of a politician. His memory is honored every year at the temple of Kiếp Bắc.

His advice to king Trần Anh Tôn before his death in 1300 served several times as reference for most of Vietnamese in the struggle for independence:

When the enemy advances roaring like fire and wind, it is easy to overcome them. If they use patience like the silkworm nibbling berry leaves without looking for a quick victory and without fleecing people, we need to have not only good generals but also an elaboration of adequate tactics like in a chess game. In any way, the army should be united, having only one heart like father and sons in a family, the people should be treated with humanity so we can guarantee deep roots and durable bases.

Người anh hùng của dân tộc

Nguyễn Huệ


Quang Trung Nguyễn Huệ was a native of Tây Sơn where his ancestors resettled to get away from the war between the Trinh and the Nguyen. With his two brothers Nguyễn Nhạc and Nguyên Lữ, he led the uprising of Tây Sơn. (this region is located near Quy Nhơn in the south of Vietnam). Despite his young age, it was he who played the role of a leader in the revolt and also in the management of state affairs of Ðại Việt after having eliminated the Nguyen and the Trinh. His first success was the victory he knew how to get with an alarming rapidity in 1785 west of the Mekong against the Siamese (Battle Rạch Gầm-Xoài Mút (Mỹ Tho)). The latter were dispatched by the Siamese monarchy to reestablish Nguyễn Ánh to the throne. From an army of 50,000 troops at the start, it remained only 2,000. That permitted to cut dry the Siamese expansion in the direction of Cochinchina.

His fame was due a great deal to the way of making a lightning war against the Qing in 1788.

That year, allied with the puppet king Lê Chiêu Thống, the Chinese arrived in front of the capital Thăng Long without any resistance, Ngô Văn Sỡ, the chief of the Tây Sơn at Thăng Long having preferred to withdraw his troops to Thanh Hóa

Nguyễn Huệ decided to attack the Qing on the day of Tet when the discipline was relaxed with the Qing. In five days, he succeeded in retaking the capital Thăng Long. Like Hưng Ðạo Vương Trần Quốc Tuấn, Nguyễn Huệ showed proof of humility before China whose power was incomparable in spite of her defeat, which restored peace along the border. During his years of reign, he imposed the nom as the official script to get away from the Chinese cultural domination. Despite his will to reform the country, he did not have the time to reign. He died in 1792, leaving an heir only 10 years of age.

This allowed Nguyễn Ánh, the last survivor of the Nguyễn dynasty to conquer little by little all Vietnam and become later emperor Gia Long.

For the majority of Vietnamese, Quang Trung is not only a reforming king but also one of the strategists the best known.

Người anh hùng áo vải

Lê Lai

It was in a phase of decisive struggle that Lê Lợi was besieged at the Chí Linh mountain by the Chinese determined to capture him to render the resistance leaderless. Le Loi had an idea of looking for someone who would accept to disguise himself under his traits, fight in retreat in another direction to trick the Chinese in their pursuit and thus allow him to escape and continue the struggle for liberation.

Among his troops there was a soldier of the name Nguyễn Thân who consented to play this stratagem. As foreseen, the Chinese followed the false Lê Lợi, captured him and killed him. Thanks to Nguyễn Thân, Lê Lợi, after 10 years of struggle, triumphed and founded the dynasty of the Le who would reign almost one hundred years. Admiring the man who had accepted to die in his stead, and the sacrifice of Nguyễn Thân for the great national cause, Lê Lợi granted the latter the privilege of bearing the royal family name Le and the individual name Lai, and ordered posterity to perpetuate Le Lai’s anniversary which falls on the eighth month of the lunar year. This has recalled in the Vietnamese youth a sublime sense of solidarity between the individual and the great cause, of which Lê Lai is the supreme illustration.

Vietnam history (Lịch Sữ Việt Nam)

French version


The word Vietnam was first known only in the 19th century when Emperor Gia Long decided to rename the country from Nam-Viêt. Marco Polo evoked it in the account of his voyage entitled The Book of Marvels under the name of Caugigui ( Giao Chỉ Quán ).

Vietnam’s history can be summarized in a few words: struggle for independence, conquest of new land, and reunification of the country. The Vietnamese appear for the first time at the Bronze age ( Ðồng-Sơn civilization ). The Vietnamese tribes who lived scattered south of China and north of Vietnam were undoubtedly wandering hunters kind of people who, because of hunting, liked to move constanly beyond the borders. The Chinese character “nam” ( or “nan” in Mandarin ), meaning “southern”, was used to indicate these Vietnamese of the South as to differentiate from the Vietnamese of the North who remained in China. As for the word Viet (or Yuê in mandarin ), it was used by the Zhou dynasty ( 1050-249 B.C ) to indicate the territories located south of China. These Vietnamese of the south, or Southern Vietnam had, by the end of the second millenium ( two thousand years ) formed kingdoms.

The first kingdoms of the legendary dynasties were located north in Tonkin. By the 10th century they had, as a name kingdom Văn Lang, then kingdom Âu Lạc, started from the Red River delta, the cradle of the Vietnamese nation, a movement characterized as Nam Tiến (Advancement toward the South)

This nation relentlessly pushed new cells in each parcel of land favorable to its mode of growth. It was based on a multitude of small, politically independent hearths consisted of soldier-peasants reeinforced sometimes by troops from the central authority and behaved like a gigantic madrepore forming its atoll littlle by little, ending up with enclircling and assimilating the new country and thus enlarge Vietnam. It constituted an undeniable advantage for a policy of expansion but would on the other hand always require a strong central authority.

The Wise  Confucius had already talked about these Vietnamese in his Book of Rites ( Kinh Lễ ). Thanks to the prehensile capability of their well detached big toes from the others, these Viets could cross rice fields and climb mountains without ever being tired. The history of Vietnam is not that of dynasties or great movements of thoughts. But it is the history of a people of stubborn peasants who work hard in their rice fields and leave their marks in the landscape.

At the least relaxation of the latter, the country crumbles easily. This is one of the main reasons of why the history of Vietnam is filled with disorders and eternal wars. It had the advantage of a triple coherent national structure: a bureacratic state built on the Confucian model around an imperial function having the mandate of Heaven, the family, and the village. This helped in preserving the country’s civilization lived by each and every Vietnamese like a total attachment to the forces of the land and the ancestors.

This policy of nibbling silkworms allowed the slow absorption of the space occupied by the Khmer and the Chàm people. Their vestiges currently found in central Vietnam ( Phan Thiết, Ðà Nẫng etc.) and in the delta of the Mekong River illustrate very well this conquest.

The attachment to independence has been proven many times in the past and in the war in Vietnam. It requires long centuries of struggle, wars, pains and jolts for Vietnam to finally become the size of a dragon today. One finds in the history of Vietnam a succession of small stories that the draftmen and storytellers Vink and Sơn succeeded in telling through theircomic strips. They know how to give to each a resonance of grandeur of a people who witness the dignity and the nobility in their poverty and sufferings. One finds in this history two thousand years of constant fight against the soil, water, and nature, which translates into not only a close attachment to the land but also an intimate and profound agreement between these peasants and this nature. Paul Mus did not hesitate in underscoring it in his work entitled “Vietnam, Sociologie d’une guerre, Paris, le Seuil 1952”. This agreement proved to be so intimate that, everywhere where these circumstances were realized no people has resisted the thrust of the Vietnamese, nor any foreign force then came to the end of their engagement on the ground.

In spite of the Chinese occupation for one millenium, the Vietnamese ingrained of their culture, have preserved their language although it was transcribed in Chinese characters and later romanized after the arrival of Alexandre de Rhodes. If the Vietnamese have not refused any contribution from abroad, it is because they have succeeded with the “Vietnamization” in keeping what is dear to any people in the world, and that is the traditions. It is those that have been transmitted from one generation to the next by the frail men whose feet are buried in the mud of the rice field.

How not to stick to this Vietnam, this lost country where sacrifice is not a vain word? This sacrifice is found time and again in the Annals of the history of Vietnam. I would rather be a ghost in the South than a prince in the North, declared General Trần Bình Trọng before being executed by the Mongols in 1257. Life is a game of chance. The chance is against us. It’s worth dying now for the country and set an example of sacrifice, said the nationalist leader Nguyễn Thái Học before being guillotined on June 17, 1930 in Yên Bái. How to erase in the collective memory the innocent face of the young captive emperor Hàm Nghi, exiled to Algeria at the age of 18 with tears in the eyes? How to forget the tragic death of the exiled emperor Duy Tân ( an aircrash in OuBangui-Chari, Africa ) whose announced return could probably change in 1945 the regrettable events of the history of Vietnam during the last decades?

How not to regret this native country that was however not tender ?. It was the feeling expressed by writer Huỳnh Quang Nhường in his best-seller “The land I lost”, published by Castor Poche Flammarion.

The country I love is lost forever.

Văn Lang civilization (Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng: Part 2)

French version

One also retains the outstanding event underlined by the Chinese historian Trịnh Tiều in his work “Thông Chí“: In the southern China, under the reign of  Nghiêu king  (2253 before J.C.), there was the emissary of a tribe named Việt Thường who offered to the king as a pledge of allegiance, an old tortoise living more than 1000 years and 3 meters long. One found on its back, the inscriptions carrying the characters in the shape of a tadpole (văn Khoa Ðẩu) and allowing to interpret all the changes of the Sky and nature. King Nghiêu decided to attribute to them the name Qui Lịch (or tortoise calendar). This form of writing was recently found  on a stone belonging to the cultural vestiges of the region Sapa-Lào Cai in the North of Vietnam. The Vietnamese historian Trần Trọng Kim raised this question in his work entitled Việt Nam sử lược (Abstract of the history of Vietnam). Many clues have been found in favour of the interpretation of the same tribe and  people. One cannot refute  there is an undeniable bond between the writing in the shape of tadpoles  and the toad found either on the  bronze drums of Ðồng Sơn or the  Ðông Hà popular Vietnamese stamps,  the most of which known remains the stamp “Thầy Ðồ Cóc” (or the Master toad). On the latter, one finds the following sentence: Lão oa độc giảng ( the old toad holds the monopoly of teaching ). Although it had appeared 400 years ago only, it ingeniously reflected the perpetual thought of the Hùng vuong time. It is not by chance that one attributed to the toad the Master role  but one would like to highlight the importance of the representation and the significance of this image.

The toad was the carrier of a civilization whose the writing in the shape of tadpoles was used by the  Lac Viet tribe  at the Hùng Vương time  because he was the father of the tadpole. In the same way, through the stamp of “Chú bé ôm con cóc” (or the child embraces the toad ), one detected all the original thought of  Lạc Việt people. The respect of the child towards  the toad or rather  its Master (Tôn Sư trọng đạo) was an already existing concept at the Hùng vương time. Could one conclude from it there was a correlation with what one found later in the confucean spirit with the sentence “Tiên học lễ, hậu học văn ” ( First learn the moral values then  the culture )?

The master toad (Thầy Ðồ Cóc)
 In Vietnam, the tortoise is not not only the symbol of longevity and immortality but also that of transmission of  spiritual values in the Vietnamese tradition. One finds its representation everywhere, in particular in commonplaces like communal houses, pagodas and temples. It is used at the temple of literature ( Văn Miếu ) to raise steles praising the merits of laureates to the national contests.


The crane on the tortoise back
On the other hand, in the temples and communal houses, one sees the tortoise  always carry a crane on its back. There is an undeniable resemblance between this crane and the bird wader with a long beak found on the bronze drums of Ðồng Sơn. The  crane statue on the tortoise  back probably reflects the perpetuity of all the religious beliefs resulting from the  Văn Lang  civilization through the time.

The tortoise  omnipresence in the history and culture of the Vietnamese results neither from the long domination of the Chinese nor the effect of chance but it  owed  to the fact that the Văn Lang kingdom should be located in an area populated by large tortoises. It was only in the south of  the Basin  Yang Tsé river (Sông Dương Tữ) that one can find this species of large tortoises in extermination. It is what was reported by the Vietnamese author Nguyễn Hiến Lê in his work entitled “Sử Trung Quốc ” (History of China ) (Editor Văn Hoá 1996) “.

It is not very probable to  find one day, the archaeological vestiges proving the existence of this kingdom like those already found with the Shang  dynasty. But nothing invalidates this historical truth because in addition to the facts evoked above, there is even  in this kingdom the intangible proof of a very old civilization often named  “the Văn Lang civilization” , one found the base of which  in the theory of Yin and Yang and  the five elements (Thuyết Âm Dương Ngũ Hành ). 

Âm Dương
This one was highlighted through the sticky rice cake “Bánh Chưng Bánh dầy” which was exclusively specific to the Vietnamese people since the   kings Hùng period.  One could raise questions about the origin of this theory which was attributed until now to the Chinese. According to the historical Memoires of Si Ma Qian ( Sử Ký Tư Mã Thiên ), one knew that  the philosopher of the country of Qi ( Tề Quốc ) ( 350-270 before J.C.) Tseou Yen (Trâu Diễn), was the first Chinese to highlight the relation between the theory of Yin and Yang and that of the 5 elements ( Wu Xing )(Thuyết Âm Dương Ngũ Hành)  at the time of the Warring States (thời Chiến Quốc). 

The Yin and the Yang  was evoked in the  Zhouyi book (Chu Dịch) by the son of king Wen (1)or Duke of Zhou (Chu Công Đán) while the theory of the five elements had been found by Yu the Great (Đại Vũ) of the Xia dynasty ( Hạ ). There was practically an interval of 1000 years between these two theories. The concept of the five elements was quickly integrated into  the yin and the yang to give an explanation on the “tao” which is at the origin of everything. In spite of the success met in a great number of domains (astrology, geomancy, traditional medicine), it is difficult to give a coherent justification to the level of the publication date of these theories because the concept Taiji  (thái cực) ( supreme limit ) from which the two principal elements were born ( the yin and the yang ), was introduced only at the time of Confucius (500 years before J.C. ).  Taiji was the object of meditation for  philosophers from all horizons  since the philosopher of the Song  period  and  founder of the Neo-Confucianism, Zhou Dunyi ( Chu Ðôn Di ), had given to this concept a new definition in his bestseller: “Treatise on the figure Taiji” ( Thái Cực đồ thuyết ):

Vô cực mà là thái cực, Thái cực  động sinh Dương, động đến cực điểm thì tĩnh, tĩnh sinh Âm, tĩnh đến cực đỉnh thì lại động. Một động một tĩnh làm căn bản cho nhau….

From Wuji (no limit) to Taiji (supreme limit or  grand extreme). The supreme limit, once in motion, generates the yang and at the limit of motion, it is in the rest state.   In turn, this one generates the yin and at the limit of the rest state, it is  the return to  the motion state.  For the latter  and the rest state, each takes roots in the other.

For the Chinese, there is a sequence in the beginning of the universe:
Thái cực sinh lưỡng nghi là Âm Dương, Âm Dương sinh Bát Quái

Taiji is  the “One” referred to in the Dao principle of creation. From Taiji,  Yin and Yang which are the basic attributes of the universe give rise to the eight trigrams.

 Hà Đồ (Plan of the River)
The incoherence is so visible in the chronological order of these theories because one had attributed to Fu Xi (Phục Hi)(1) the invention of the eight trigrams 3500 years ago before J.C. while the concept of Yin and Yang was introduced at the time of Zhou (1200 years before J.C.). While relying on the recent archaeological discoveries, in particular on the discovery of the manuscripts on silk  at Mawangdui (1973), the Chinese specialists of today advance unimaginable statements: The hexagrams precede the trigrams…, which proves that the chronological order of these theories is likely to be modified unceasingly in accordance with the new situations. One is brought to find in this imbroglio, an another explanation, an  another approach, an  another assumption according to which the theory of Yin and  Yang and  5 elements was adequated to an  another civilization. It would be that of Văn Lang. The confusion continues to be anchored in the  reader mind with the famous Plan of the river and Writing of Luo (Hà Ðồ Lạc Thư). 

The Writing of Luo was to be found before the appearance of the Plan of the River. That highlights the contradiction found in the chronological order of these discoveries. Certain Chinese had the occasion to call in question the traditional history established up to that point in the confucian orthodoxy by the Chinese dynasties. It is the case of Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) who saw in this famous plan the work of man. He refuted the “gift from heaven” in his work entitled “Questions of a child about Yi King ( Yi tongzi wen )” (Zhongguo shudian, Peking 1986). He preferred the version of the human invention.

How can  one grant  the veracity to the Chinese legend when  a complete inconsistency is known in the chronological order of the discovery of these famous Plan of the River and Writing of Luo?

Fou Xi (Phục Hi) (3500 before J.C.) discovered first, the Plan of the River ( Hà Ðồ ) at the time of an excursion on the Yellow River (Hoàng Hà). He saw leaving the water a dragon horse (long mã) bearing on its back this plan. It is to You the Great (Đại Vũ)  (2205 before J.C.) that one attributed the discovery of the Writing of Luo found on the  tortoise back. However it is thanks to the Writing of Luo and with its explanation (Lạc Thư cửu tinh đồ) that one manages to establish and  interpret correctly the stellar diagram drawn  from the polar star (Bắc Ðẩu) and found on this famous Plan of the river according to the Yin and Yang and 5 elements.

The famous word “Luo” ( Lạc ) found in the text of the Great Commentary of Confucius:

     Thị cố thiên sinh thần vật, thánh nhân tắc chi, thiên địa hóa thánh nhân hiệu chi; thiên tượng, hiện cát hung, thánh nhân tượng chi. Hà xuất đồ, Lạc xuất thư, thánh nhân tắc chi

     Cho nên trời sinh ra  thần vật, thánh nhân áp dụng theo; trời đất biến hoá, thánh nhân bắt chước; trời bày ra hình tượng. Hiện ra sự  tốt  xấu, thánh nhân phỏng theo ý tượng. Bức đồ hiện ra sông Hoàng  Hà, hình chữ hiện ở sông Lạc, thánh nhân áp dụng.

The Heaven gives rise to the divine things, the Wise men  take them as criterion. The Heaven  and the Earth know changes and transformations, the Wise men  reproduce them. The images expressing fortune and misfortune are suspended    in the Heaven, the Wise mens imitate them. The Plan comes from the Yellow River, the Writing  from the Luo river, the Wise men take them as models.

continues to be interpreted until today like the name of the Luo river, an affluent of the Yellow River which crosses and nourishes the center of China. One continues to see in these famous Plan of the River and Writing of Luo the first premises of the Chinese civilization. From the drawings and figures to the trigrammatic signs, from the trigrammatic signs to the linguistic signs, one thinks of the march of the Chinese civilization in Yi King without believing that it could be the model borrowed by the Wise one from another civilization. However if Luo is associated with the word Yue, that indicates the tribe Lạc Việt  (Luo Yue ) from which the Vietnamese come.  Does it seem  like  a sheer coincidence or a name used by the Wise men  You the Great  or Confucius to refer to the Văn Lang civilization? Lạc Thư indicates effectively the writing of the tribe Luo, Lạc tướng its generals, Lạc điền its territory, Lạc hầu  its marquis etc…..

It is rather disconcerting to note that the theory of Yin – Yang and  5 elements finds its perfect cohesion and its functioning in the  intangible proof of the  Văn Lang civilization, the sticky cake. In addition to the water, one finds in its constitution the 4 essential elements (meat, broad beans, sticky rice, bamboo or latanier leaves). The cycle of generation (Ngũ hành sinh) of 5 elements is quite visible in the making of this cake. At the interior of the cake, one finds a red  piece of porkmeat  (Fire) surrounded by a kind of paste made with  yellow broad beans (Earth). The whole thing is wrapped by the white  sticky rice (Metal) to be cooked with boiling water  (Water) before finding a green colouring on its surface thanks to the latanier leaves (Wood).

The two geometrical forms, a circle and a square which this cake takes, correspond well to the  Yin ( Âm ) and  the Yang (Dương). As the Yang breath reflects plenitude and purity, one gives it  the shape of a circle. However, one finds in the  Yin breath the impurity and  limitation. That is why it recovers the form of a square. A light difference is notable in the definition of Yin-Yang of the Chinese and that of the Vietnamese. For the latter, Yin tends to be in motion (động).

Cycle of generation


Ngũ hành tương sinh

It is for that reason one finds only the presence of the 5 elements in the Yin (Âm) represented by the rice cake in the form of a square ( Bánh chưng ). It is not the case of the cake in the shape of a circle that  the Yang (Dương) symbolizes, this latter tending  to carry the “motionless” character  (tĩnh). It is probably the reason which explains until today why the theory  of Yin-Yang and 5 elements does not know a giant leap in its evolution and that its applications continue to carry the mystical and confused character in the public opinion because of the error introduced into the definition of Yin-Yang by the Chinese.

One is accustomed to saying “Mẹ tròn, con vuôn” in Vietnamese to wish the mother and her child a good health at the time of birth. This expression is used as a phrase of courtesy if it is not known that it was bequeathed by our ancestors with an aim of holding our attention on the creative character of the Universe. From this latter were born Yin and Yang which are not only in opposition but also in interaction and correlation. The complementarity and the indissociability of these two poles are at the base of the satisfying development of nature. The typically Vietnamese game “Chơi ô ăn quan” also testifies to the perfect operation of the theory of Yin-Yang and 5 elements. The game stops when one does not find any more tokens in the two extreme half-circles corresponding to the two poles Yin and Yang.

Ancestor altar

No Vietnamese hides his emotion when he sees on his ancestor altar  the sticky rice cake at the time of the  Tết festival. For him, this dish looking less attractive and not having any succulent taste,  bears a particular significance. It testifies not only to the respect and affection that  the Vietnamese likes to maintain with regard to his ancestors but also the impression of a 5000-year old civilization. This sticky rice cake is the undeniable proof of the perfect  functioning  of Yin and Yang and 5 elements. It is the only intact legacy that the Vietnamese succeeded in receiving on behalf of his ancestors in the swirls of history. It cannot compete with the masterpieces of other civilizations like the Wall of China or pyramids of the Pharaohs built with sweat and blood. It is the living symbol of a civilization which bequeathed to humanity a knowledge of priceless value.  One continues to use it  in a great number of domains of application (astronomy, geomancy, medicine, astrology etc….). Return to Part 1




Văn Lang civilization (Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng): Part 1

Version française

Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng

Văn Lang civilization

The Vietnamese are accustomed to saying: one remembers the source from which one drinks the water (Uống nước nhớ nguồn). It is therefore not surprising to see them continue to celebrate in grand pomp on the 10th day of the third lunar month of each year, the commemorative day of the Hùng kings of the Hồng Bàng dynasty, the founding fathers of the Vietnamese nation.

Until today, no archaeological vestige is found to confirm the existence of this dynasty except for the ruins of the citadel Cỗ Loa (Old snail city) dating from the period of the  An Dương Vương‘s reign and the temple built in honor of these  Hùng kings at  Phong Châu in the province of Phú Thọ.

Many clues do not invalidate this existence if one refers to the legends reported of this mythical time and  the Annals of Vietnam and China. The Chinese domination (IIIrd century before J.C. – 939 after J.C.) is not foreign to the greatest influence on the development of the Vietnamese civilization. All that belongs to the Vietnamese became Chinese and vice versa during this period.

One notes it is a policy of assimilation deliberately wanted by the Chinese. That does not let the Vietnamese  the possibility for maintaining their culture inherited from an old civilization of 5000 years and called “Văn Lang civilization” without resorting to the oral traditions (popular proverbs, poems or legends).

Two verses found in the following popular song (ca dao):

Trăm năm bia đá thì mòn

Ngàn năm bia miệng vẫn còn trơ trơ

The stele of stone erodes after a hundred years
The words of people continue to remain in force after a thousand years

testify to the practice carried out knowingly by the Vietnamese with the goal of preserving what they inherited from the Văn Lang civilization.

This one bears the name of a kingdom which was bordered at that time by the East sea, to the west by the Shu Ba kingdom (Ba Thục)(Tứ Xuyên or Szechuan in English), to the north by the territory of the lake Ðông Ðình (Hu Nan) (Hồ Nam) and to the south by the  kingdom of Chămpa (Champa). This state was located in the  Yang Tse river (Dương Tữ giang) Basin region and was placed under the authority of a king Hùng. This one had been elected for his courage and his values. He had divided his kingdom into districts entrusted to his brothers known under the name “Lạc hầu” (marquis). His male children have the title of Quang Lang and his daughters that of Mỵ nương. His people was known under the name “Lạc Việt”. His men had a custome of  tattooing their body. Being often revealed in the Chinese annals, this “barbarian” practice was intended to protect men from the attacks of  water dragons (con thuồng luồng) if one believes the Vietnamese texts. It is perhaps the reason why the Chinese often designated them under the name Qủi (demons). Loincloth and chignon constituted the usual costume of these people to which were added bronze ornaments. The Lac Viet lacquered their teeth in black, chewed betel nuts and crushed rice with their hand. Being farmers, they practiced the cultivation of rice in flooded field. They lived in plains and coastal areas while in the mountainous areas of  Việt Bắc and on the part of the territory of the  Kuang Si province, took refuge the Tây Âu, the ancestors of the ethnic groups Tày, Nùng and Choang.

Towards the end of the third century before our era, the leader of Tây Âu tribes defeated the last king Hùng  and succeeded in reunifying under his banner the territories of Tây Âu and  Lac Việt to form the  Âu Lạc kingdom, in the year 258 before our era. He took as the reign name, An Dương Vương  and transferred his capital to Cỗ Loa located  just over 20  kilometers from Hànội.

Is the kingdom of Văn Lang a pure fabrication supplied by the Vietnamese with an aim of maintaining a myth or a kingdom really existing and disappeared in the swirls of history?

Geographic map of Văn Lang kingdom

According to the Vietnamese myth, the land of the Proto-Vietnamese was delimited in the north, at the time of Hùng kings (first vietnamese dynasty 2879 before J.C.)  by the Dongting lake (Động Đình Hồ) located in the land of the Chu kingdom (Sỡ Quốc in Vietnamese). A part of their territory returned to this latter during the Warring States period (thời Chiến Quốc).  Their descendants living in this part reattached  probably became inhabitants of the Chu kingdom. There were a relationship, an  intimate connection between in this kingdom and the Proto-Vietnamese. There is a hypothesis suggested and proposed recently by a Vietnamese writer Nguyên Nguyên (2). According to the latter, it is not rare that in the old writings, ideograms are replaced by other ideograms with the same phonetics. It is the case of the title Kinh Dương Vương whom had taken  the father of the ancestor of the Vietnamese, Lộc TụcBy writing it in this way in Chinese , we  see appearing easily the names of two cities Kinh Châu (Jingzhou) (3) and Dương Châu (Yángzhou) (4) where lived respectively the  Yue ethnic groups  of Thai branch  and Lạc branch. There was the  expression of a  desire employed by the narrator for evoking intelligently the installation and  fusion of yue ethnic groups of Thai branch and Lạc branch coming from these cities during the conquests of the Chu kingdom.  On the other hand, the ideogram  (Thái dương) is translated as light or solemn. It is employed with  the aim of avoiding its use as surname. By using this word, it allows to translate Kinh Dương Vương   into solemn king Kinh. But there is also a synonymic word Kinh  of the word Lạc (), nickname of the Vietnamese. In short,  Kinh Dương Vương can be translated as solemn king Việt. Concerning the title whom took the Âu Việt king , the author does not question his explanation: it is the pacification of the country of the Yue ethnic group from the Lạc branch by a Yue son from the Thái branch. This can only strengthen the argument given by Edouard Chavannes and  Léonard Aurousseau(5): the Proto-Vietnamese  and the inhabitants of the Chu kingdom have had common ancestors. Moreover,  there  is a striking coincidence found in the clan name Mi (bear or gấu in Vietnamese) written in the Chu language, translated into Hùng  () (in Vietnamese) and beared  by Chu kings and that of Vietnamese kings. By relying on Sseu-Ma Tsien historical memories translated by  E. Chavannes (6), one knowns that the king of the Chu principality  is from bararian hordes living in the South China (or Bai Yue): Hiong-K’iu (Hùng Cừ) says: I am a barbarian man and does not participe in titles and posthumous names  granted by the Middle kingdom.

American linguists  Mei Tsulin and  Norman Jerry (7) identified a number of borrowed words in the Austro-Asiatic language and recognized them in Chinese writings during  the Han period. There is the case of the Chinese word  囝 (giang in Vietnamese or river  in French ) or nu (ná     in Vietnamese or  crossbow in English). They demonstrated the high likelihood of the   Austro-Asiatic language presence  in South China and concluded that there was a contact between the Chinese language and the Austro-Asiatic language in the territority of the former kingdom of Chu between 1000 and 500 years before J.C.

The geographical argument was never taken seriously  into account by Vietnamese historians in the past because for them, this dynasty belonged to the mythical period. Moreover, according to Chinese writings,  the   territory of ancestors of the Vietnamese  (Kiao-tche (Giao Chỉ))  was confined in the current Tonkin, thus annoying them to accept without explanation or justification the territorial spread  of the Hồng Bàng dynasty   until the  Dongting lake. They did not see in the narration of this myth, the willingness of the ancestors   of the Vietnamese to indicate their origin, to show their belonging in the Bai Yue group and their unwavering resistance facing formidable Chinese conquerors.

In the Chinese annals,  one has reported that, at the Spring and Autumn period,   Gou Jian king of the  Yue state  was interested to get an alliance with the Văn Lang kingdom  in order to hold supremacy on  other powerful  principalities of the region. It is likely that the Văn Lang kingdom had to be a  country  neighbouring the state of  Gou Jian king  of  Yue. This one had no interest in contracting this alliance if  the Văn Lang kingdom was geographically confined in Vietnam today. The recent discovery of the Gou Jian king’s sword  (reign of 496-465 before J.C.)  in the grave  n°1 of Wanshan (Jianling) (Hubei) allows to better discern the  contours of the Văn Lang kingdom. It would probably be located in the Guizhou region (Qúi Châu).  But Henri Masporo has contested this speculation in the book  intituled “Le royaume de Văn Lang “(BEFEO, t XVIII, fasc 3 )”. He has attributed to Vietnamese historians the mistake of confusing the Văn Lang kingdom with that of Ye Lang (or Dạ Lang in Vietnamese)  the name of which has been badly by Chinese historians to their Vietnamese colleagues at the time of  the Tang dynasty (nhà Đường).  This is not exactly true because in Vietnamese legends, in particular in that of Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương (or  Skylord of  Phù Ðổng village), one realizes that the Văn  Lang kingdom was in armed conflict with the Yin-Shang dynasty (Ân Thương) at the time of the  Hùng  VI king  and it was much larger in area than the Ye Lang kingdom found at the time of  the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang Di (Tần Thủy Hoàng)

In the Vietnamese annals, one took about the long period of the Hùng kings reign (from 2879 to 258 before J.C.). The discovery of bronze artefacts in Ningxiang (Hu Nan) during the years 1960 does not put into question the existence of the contemporary centres of the Shang civilization ignored by  writings in the southern China. There is the case of the culture of Sangxindui (Di chỉ Tam Tinh Đôi)(Sichuan (Tứ Xuyên)) for example. The wine vase in bronze decorated with the anthropomorphic faces testifies obviously to the contact established by the Shang with    people of Melanesian type because one finds on these sides,  the round human faces with a flat nose. The moulding of this bronze used in the manufacture of this vase requires the tin incorporation which the northern China did not have at that time.  

Would there be any  real contact, a war between the  Shang and the   Văn Lang  kingdom  if one held on to the legend of the skylord Phù Ðổng? Could  you  grant the  veracity to a fact brought back by a Vietnamese legend ? Many western historians always perceived the  Dongsonian  civilization period as the beginning  of the Vietnamese nation (500-700 before J.C.). It is also the shared opinion  found in the anonymous historical work intituled  “Việt Sử Lược“.

Under the reign of Zhuang Wang (Trang Vương) of Zhou (nhà Châu)  ( 697-682 before J.C.), in the district Gia Ninh, there was a strange character managing to dominate  all the tribes with his sorceries, taking for title the name Hùng and establishing his capital at Phong Châu. With the hereditary filiation, that made it possible for his line to maintain power with 18 kings, all bearing the name Hùng.

On the other hand, in other Vietnamese historical works, one granted a long period of reign to the Hồng Bàng  dynasty (from 2879 to 258 before J.C.) with 2622 years. It appears inconceivable to us if one maintains 18 as  the number of kings during this period because this means that each king Hùng  reigned on average 150 years. One can only find a satisfactory answer if one accepts the assumption established by Trần Huy Bá in his expose published in the newspaper  Nguồn Sáng n°23 on the commemorative day of Hùng kings (Ngày giỗ Tổ Hùng Vương) (1998). For him, there is a false interpretation on the word “đời” found in the sentence “18 đời Hùng Vương“. The word “Ðời” must be replaced by the word Thời meaning “period”.

Mouth organ player

With this assumption, there are therefore  18 periods of reign,   each of which  corresponds to a branch being able to be made up of one or several kings in the family tree of the  Hồng Bàng dynasty . This argumentation is reinforced by the fact that king Hùng Vương was elected for his courage and his merits if one refers to the Vietnamese tradition to choose men of value for the supreme function. That was reported in the famous legend of the sticky rice cake (Bánh chưng bánh dầy). One can thus justify the word Thời by the word branch (or chi ).

There is a need to give a more coherent explanation for the number 2622 with 18 branches following in the work  intituled “Văn hoá tâm linh – đất tổ Hùng Vương” by the author  Hồng Tử Uyên.

Chi Càn Kinh Dương Vương húy Lộc Túc   
Chi Khảm Lạc Long Quân húy Sùng Lãm
Chi Cấn Hùng Quốc Vương húy Hùng Lân
Chi Chấn Hùng Hoa Vương húy Bửu Lang
Chi Tốn Hùng Hy Vương húy Bảo Lang
Chi Ly Hùng Hồn Vương húy Long Tiên Lang
Chi Khôn Hùng Chiêu Vương húy Quốc Lang
Chi Ðoài Hùng Vĩ Vương húy Vân Lang
Chi Giáp Hùng Ðịnh Vương húy Chân Nhân Lang
………….. manquant dans  le document historique …
Chi Bính Hùng Trinh Vương húy Hưng Ðức Lang
Chi Ðinh Hùng Vũ Vương húy Ðức Hiền Lang
Chi Mậu Hùng Việt Vương húy Tuấn Lang
Chi Kỷ Hùng Anh Vương húy Viên Lang
Chi Canh Hùng Triệu Vương húy Cảnh Chiêu Lang
Chi Tân Hùng Tạo Vương húy Ðức Quân Lang
Chi Nhâm Hùng Nghị Vương húy Bảo Quang Lang
Chi Qúy Hùng Duệ Vương

That enables us to also find the thread of history in the military conflict between the  Văn Lang kingdom  and the Shang  via the legend of “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương (Thánh Gióng)“. If this conflict took place, it could only be at the beginning of the period of  the Shang’s reign  for several reasons:

  • 1) No Chinese or Vietnamese historical document spoke about the trade between the kingdom of Van Lang and the Shang. On the other hand, one noted the contact established later between the Zhou dynasty (nhà Châu) and  Hùng king. A silver pheasant had been offered even by this latter to the king of Zhou according to the book  intituled “Selection of Strange Tales in Lĩnh Nam” (Lĩnh Nam Chích Quái).
  • 2) The  Shang dynasty  only reigned from 1766 to 1122 before J.C.  There would be approximately a time lag of 300 years  if one tried to compute the arithmetic mean of the 18 periods under the  Hùng kings reign: (2622/18) and to multiply it by 12 to give rougly  a date to the end of  the sixth branch of the Hùng reign ((Hùng Vương VI) by adding to which the number  258, the year of the annexation of the Văn Lang  kingdom by  An Dương king. One would have fallen about at the year 2006 dating  the end of the sixth branch Hùng reign (Hùng Vuong VI). One can deduce from this date that the conflict if happened, should be at the beginning of the  Shang dynasty era. This gap is not completely unjustified because one only has until then few precise historical details beyond the  reign time of  Chu Lệ Vương (Zhou LiWang)  (850 before J.C.).

One notes a military expedition undertaken during three years by   Wuding (Vũ Ðịnh) king of the Shang in  the  region of  Ðộng Ðình lake against the nomadic people, the Gui  alias “Demons”, which was mentioned in the  Yi King book (Kinh Dịch) translated by Bùi Văn Nguyên, Khoa Hoc Xã Hội Hà Nội 1997. In his work published in the newspaper Nguồn Sáng no 23, Trần Huy Bá rather thought of King Woding (Ốc Ðinh) who was one of the first kings of the Shang  dynasty. With this assumption,  there is no doubt or ambiguity because there is a perfect coherence reported in the Chinese and Vietnamese annals. One must know that at the time of An Dương Vương, one was accustomed to indicating the country Việt Thường under the name “Xích Qủi”. The term Xích is employed for referring to the equator (Xich đạo). About Qủi, this  wants to evoke the red star Yugui Qui, one of the seven stars of the South. This one  happened under the skies of the Jingzhou city of the Yue at the time the Shang king had installed his troop. It is also the opinion shared by the Vietnamese author Vũ Quỳnh in his work “Tân Ðinh Linh Nam Chích Quái”:

Ở đây có bộ tộc Thi La Quỷ thời Hùng Vương thứ VI vào đánh nước ta nhân danh nhà Ân Thương.

It is here that at the reign time  of king Hùng VI , one found a tribe Thi La Qủy who invaded our country in the name of Yin-Shan.

This conflict could explain the principal reason for which the Văn Lang kingdom did not establish any trade with the Shang. The discoveries of the bronze objects in Ningxiang  (Hu Nan) during the years 1960 gave the evidence that they could be the spoils brought back during the expedition into the southern China because there was no explanation to give to the bronze wine vases decorated with  Melanesian anthropomorphic faces.

  • 3°) In the Vietnamese legend “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương”, one noted the escape and  dislocation of the Shang army  in the district Vũ Ninh at the same time  the immediate disappearance of the celestial hero coming from the  Phù Ðổng village. One also told of his spontaneous appearance at the time of the Shang  invasion without any preparation in advance. This gave the evidence that he should be present on the territory at the  invasion time  of this latter. The territories conquered by the Shang could not be taken back entirely by the Lạc Việt because  one could say that they were driven out of the  Văn Lang territory in the legend. It was not completely the case because it was noted that with the advent of the Zhou dynasty, one saw appearing  vassal countries like the state of Yue  Goujian (Wu Yue) (Ngô Việt), the  Chu  kingdom ( Sỡ ) etc…on an old part of the Văn Lang territory.

 It would not be known for whatever reason , the Văn Lang kingdom was reduced and thus confined in the north of Vietnam of today  by glancing  at  the geographical map found during  the time of Springs and Autumn and that of king Qin Shi Huang Di. Why was Goujian interested to the alliance with the Văn Lang kingdom if the latter was confined in the north of the Vietnam today? One could give to the dismemberment of this kingdom the following explanation:

At the time of the Yin-Shan  invasion, a certain number of tribes among the 15 tribes of  Lạc Việt people, succeeded in routing away the Shang  army  and continued to shown  their attachment and their honesty to the Văn Lang kingdom. That did not prevent them from keeping their autonomy and  maintaining a development rather high at  the social and cultural level. That could give later  an explanation to the emergence of  independent states   located at  the geographical map  of the  Tsin period (Qin Shi Huang Di) as  Ye Lang (Dạ Lang), Dian (Ðiền Việt), Si Ngeou (Tây Âu) and  the  significant reduction of the Văn Lang kingdom in  area  to the current state (in the north of Vietnam).

It is possible that this reduced kingdom restructured itself  in an identical way sus as the Văn Lang kingdom established at the beginning of its creation by last king Hùng in order to remind to his people the greatness of his kingdom.  The king  thus  kept  the names of 15  ancient tribes and gave to his reduced territory the name Vũ Ninh for commemorating the brilliant success earned by Lạc Việt people under the reign of Hùng VI  king. Việt Trì probably could be the last capital of the Văn Lang kingdom.  One notes a part of historical  reality  in the Vietnamese legend because one has recently discovered in China the use of iron at the time of the Shang dynasty. On  the other hand, the  iron could be replaced by an other metal like the bronze without losing however the real significance in the content of the legend. It was only used for reflecting the courage and the bravery which one loved  to attribute to the skylord. If the iron was well  quoted, this  no longer doubted its  discovery  and its use very early in the Văn Lang kingdom. This  also justifies  the coherence given by this legend to the conflict which opposed  the Văn Lang kingdom and  the Shang. Read more 



(1) Paul Pozner : Le problème  des chroniques vietnamiennes., origines et influences étrangères.  BEFO, année 1980, vol 67, no 67,  p 275-302
(2) Nguyên Nguyên: Thử đọc lại truyền thuyết Hùng Vương 
(3)Jīngzhōu (Kinh Châu) : la capitale de vingt rois de Chu, au cours de la période  des Printemps et Automnes (Xuân Thu) (-771 — ~-481) 
(4) Yángzhōu (Dương Châu) 
(5) Léonard Rousseau: La première conquête chinoise des pays annamites (IIIe siècle avant notre ère). BEFO, année 1923, Vol 23, no 1.
(6) Edouard Chavannes :Mémoires historiques de Se-Ma Tsien de Chavannes, tome quatrième, page 170).
(7) Norman Jerry- Mei tsulin 1976 The Austro asiatic in south China : some lexical evidence, Monumenta Serica 32 :274-301

Civilisation Văn Lang (Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng): 2ème partie


English version

On retient  aussi l’événement marquant souligné par l’historien chinois Trịnh Tiều dans son ouvrage “Thông Chí“:Dans le sud de la Chine, sous le règne du roi Nghiêu (2253 av J.C. ), il y avait l’émissaire d’une tribu nommé Việt Thường qui offrît au roi comme gage d’allégeance, une vieille tortue vivant plus de 1000 ans et longue de 3 mètres. On trouva sur son dos, des inscriptions portant des caractères en forme de têtard (văn Khoa Ðẩu) et permettant d’interpréter toutes les mutations du Ciel et de la nature. Le roi Nghiêu décida de leur attribuer le nom Qui Lịch (ou calendrier de la tortue). Cette forme d’écriture a été retrouvée récemment sur une pierre faisant partie des vestiges culturels de la région Sapa-Lào Cai dans le Nord du Vietnam.

L’historien vietnamien Trần Trọng Kim a soulevé cette question dans son ouvrage intitulé Vietnam sử lược (Précis de l’histoire du Vietnam).

Beaucoup d’indices ont été trouvées en faveur de l’interprétation d’une même tribu, d’un même peuple. On ne peut pas réfuter qu’il y a un lien incontestable entre l’écriture en forme de têtards et le crapaud trouvé soit sur les tambours de bronze de Ðồng Sơn soit sur les estampes populaires vietnamiens de Ðông Hồ dont la plus connue reste l’estampe “Thầy Ðồ Cóc” (ou Le maître crapaud) . Sur cette dernière, on trouve la phrase suivante: Lão oa độc giảng (Le vieux crapaud détient le monopole d’enseignement). Bien qu’elle fut apparue il y avait 400 ans seulement, elle refléta ingénieusement la pensée perpétuelle de l’époque des rois  Hùng (Hùng Vương). Ce n’est pas par hasard qu’on attribue  au crapaud le rôle du maître mais on voudrait mettre en évidence l’importance de la représentation et de la signification de cette image. Le crapaud était le porteur d’une civilisation dont l’écriture en forme de têtards était employée par la tribu Lạc Việt à l’époque des Hùng Vương car il était le père du têtard. De même, à travers l’estampe de “Chú bé ôm con cóc” (ou l’enfant embrasse le crapaud ), on décela toute la pensée originale du peuple Lạc Việt. Le respect de l’enfant à l’égard du crapaud ou plutôt son maître (Tôn Sư trọng đạo) était une notion déjà existante à l’époque des Hùng Vương. Pourrait-on en conclure qu’il y avait une corrélation avec ce qu’on trouva plus tard dans l’esprit confucéen avec la phrase “ Tiên học lễ, hậu học văn ” (D’abord l’éducation puis l’enseignement) ?

Au Vietnam, la tortue n’est pas non seulement le symbole de longévité mais aussi celui de transmission des valeurs spirituelles dans la tradition vietnamienne. On trouve sa représentation partout, en particulier dans des lieux communs comme les maisons communales, les pagodes et les temples. Elle est employée au temple de la littérature (Văn Miếu) pour soulever des stèles vantant les mérites des lauréats aux concours nationaux. 

La grue sur le dos de la tortue

Par contre, dans les temples et dans les maisons communales, on la voit porter toujours une grue sur son dos. Il y a une ressemblance indéniable entre cette grue et l’oiseau échassier à long bec trouvé sur les tambours de bronze de Ðồng Sơn. L’image de la grue sur le dos de la tortue reflète probablement la pérennité de toutes les croyances religieuses issues de la civilisation Văn Lang à travers le temps. L’omniprésence de la tortue dans l’histoire et la culture des Vietnamiens ne résulte ni de la longue domination des Chinois ni de l’effet du hasard mais elle doit tenir du fait que le royaume de Văn Lang devrait être situé dans une région peuplée de grosses tortues. C’est seulement dans le sud du bassin du fleuve Yang Tsé (Sông Dương Tữ ) qu’on peut trouver cette espèce de grosses tortues en extermination. C’est ce qu’a rapporté l’auteur vietnamien Nguyễn Hiến Lê dans son ouvrage intitulé “Sử Trung Quốc” (Histoire de la Chine) (Editeur Văn Hoá 1996).

Il est peu probable de trouver un jour les vestiges archéologiques prouvant l’existence de ce royaume comme ceux déjà trouvés avec la dynastie des Shang. Mais rien n’infirme cette vérité historique car outre les faits évoqués ci-dessus, il y a  même la preuve intangible   d’une civilisation très ancienne dans ce royaume, celle qu’on dénomme souvent “la civilisation de Văn Lang” dont on a trouvé le fondement dans la théorie du Yin et du Yang et de 5 éléments (Thuyết Âm Dương Ngũ Hành). Celle-ci a été mise en évidence à travers le gâteau de riz gluant “Bánh Chưng Bánh dầy” qui était exclusivement propre au peuple vietnamien depuis la période des rois Hùng Vương. On pourrait se poser des questions sur l’origine de cette théorie qui a été attribuée jusque-là aux Chinois. On savait que selon les Mémoires historiques de Si Ma Qian (Sử Ký Tư Mã Thiên), Trâu Diễn (Tseou Yen, philosophe du pays de Qi (Tề Quốc) (350-270 avant J.C.) était à l’époque des Royaumes Combattants (thời Chiến Quốc), le premier Chinois à mettre en évidence la relation entre la théorie du Yin et du Yang et celle des 5 éléments (wu xing).

Âm Dương

La première a été évoquée dans le livre Zhouyi (Chu Dịch) par le fils du roi Wen (1), Chu Công Ðán (le Duc de Zhou), tandis que la seconde avait été trouvée par Yu le Grand (Ðại Vũ) de la dynastie des Xia (Hạ). Il y a pratiquement un écart de 1000 ans entre ces deux théories. Le concept des cinq éléments est rapidement intégré à la théorie du yin et du yang pour donner une explication sur le tao qui est à l’origine de toute chose. Malgré le succès rencontré dans un grand nombre de domaines d’application (astrologie, géomancie, médecine traditionnelle), il est difficile de donner une justification cohérente au niveau de la date de parution de ces théories car la notion Taiji (thái cực) (la limite suprême) à partir de laquelle les deux éléments principaux sont nés (le yin et le yang), fut introduite seulement à l’époque de Confucius (500 ans avant J.C.). Le Taiji a été l’objet de méditation des philosophes de tous les horizons depuis que le philosophe de l’époque des Song et le fondateur du néo-confucianisme, Zhou Dunyi (Chu Ðôn Di), avait donné à ce concept une nouvelle définition dans son best seller: “Traité sur la figure Taiji” (Thái Cực đồ thuyết):

Vô cực mà là thái cực, Thái cực động sinh Dương, động đến cực điểm thì tĩnh, tĩnh sinh Âm, tĩnh đến cực đỉnh thì lại động. Một động một tĩnh làm căn bản cho nhau…. 

Du Wuji (Sans limite) au Taiji ( limite suprême ). La limite suprême, une fois en mouvement, génère le yang et à la limite du mouvement c’est le repos; celui-ci, à son tour, génère le yin et à la limite du repos c’est le retour au mouvement. Un mouvement et un repos , l’un prend racine dans l’autre..

Pour les Chinois, il y a un enchaînement dans le commencement de l’univers:

Thái cực sinh lưỡng nghi là Âm Dương, Âm Dương sinh Bát Quái
De Taiji sortent le Ciel et la Terre, un Yin et un Yang qui donnent naissance aux huit trigrammes.

Hà Đồ (Plan du fleuve)

L’incohérence est tellement visible dans l’ordre chronologique de ces théories car on avait attribué à Fu Xi (1) l’invention des huit trigrammes il y avait 3500 ans avant J.C. tandis que la notion de Yin et de Yang fut introduite à l’époque de Zhou (1200 ans avant J.C.). En s’appuyant sur les découvertes archéologiques récentes, en particulier sur la découverte des manuscrits sur soie de Mawangdui (1973), les spécialistes chinois d’aujourd’hui avancent des énoncés inimaginables : Les hexagrammes précèdent les trigrammes …, ce qui prouve que l’ordre chronologique de ces théories est susceptible d’être sans cesse re-modifié conformément aux situations nouvelles. On est amené à trouver dans cet imbroglio, une autre explication, une autre démarche, une autre hypothèse selon laquelle la théorie de Yin -Yang et de 5 éléments a été appropriée à une autre civilisation. Ce serait celle de Văn Lang. La confusion continue à être ancrée dans l’esprit du lecteur avec les fameux Plan du fleuve et Ecrit de la Luo (Hà Ðồ Lạc Thư).

L’Ecrit de la Luo devait être trouvé avant l’apparition du Plan du Fleuve. Cela met en évidence la contradiction trouvée dans l’ordre chronologique de ces découvertes. Certains Chinois ont eu l’occasion de remettre en question l’histoire traditionnelle établie jusque-là dans l’orthodoxie confucéenne par les dynasties chinoises. C’est le cas de Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072 ) qui a vu dans ce fameux plan le travail de l’homme. Il a réfuté le “don du Ciel” dans son ouvrage intitulé “Questions d’un enfant sur le Yi King ( Yi tongzi wen ) ( Zhongguo shudian, Pékin 1986 ) . Il y a préféré la version de l’invention humaine.

Peux-t-on accorder de la véracité à la légende chinoise lorsqu’on sait qu’il y avait aussi une incohérence complète dans l’ordre chronologique de la découverte de ces fameux Plan du Fleuve et Ecrit de la Luo?

Fou Xi (Phục Hi ) ( 3500 avant J.C. ) découvrit le premier, le Plan du Fleuve (Hà Ðồ) lors d’une excursion sur le fleuve jaune. Il vit sortir de l’eau un dragon cheval (long mã) portant sur son dos ce plan. C’est à You Le Grand (Đại Vũ) (2205 avant J.C.) qu’on attribua la découverte de l‘Ecrit de la Luo trouvé sur le dos de la tortue. Pourtant c’est grâce à l’Écrit de la Luo et à son explication (Lạc Thư cửu tinh đồ) qu’on arrive à établir et à interpréter correctement le schéma stellaire établi à partir de l’étoile polaire (Bắc Ðẩu) et trouvé sur ce fameux Plan du fleuve selon le principe du Yin et du Yang et de 5 éléments.

Le fameux mot “Luo” (Lạc) trouvé dans le texte du Grand Commentaire de Confucius :

Thị cố thiên sinh thần vật, thánh nhân tắc chi, thiên địa hóa thánh nhân hiệu chi; thiên tượng, hiện cát hung, thánh nhân tượng chi. Hà xuất đồ, Lạc xuất thư, thánh nhân tắc chi

Cho nên trời sinh ra thần vật, thánh nhân áp dụng theo; trời đất biến hoá, thánh nhân bắt chước; trời bày ra hình tượng. Hiện ra sự tốt xấu, thánh nhân phỏng theo ý tượng. Bức đồ hiện ra sông Hoàng Hà, hình chữ hiện ở sông Lạc, thánh nhân áp dụng .

Le Ciel donne naissance aux choses divines, les Sages les prennent comme critère. Le Ciel et la Terre connaissent des changements et des transformations, les Sages les reproduisent. Dans le Ciel sont suspendues des images manifestant la fortune et l’infortune, les Sages les imitent. Du Fleuve jaune sort le Plan, de la rivière Luo sort l’Ecrit, les Sages les prennent comme modèles.

continue à être interprété jusqu’à aujourd’hui comme le nom de la rivière Luo, un affluent du fleuve jaune qui traverse et nourrit le centre la Chine. On continue à voir dans ces fameux Plan du Fleuve et Ecrit de la Luo les prémices de la civilisation chinoise. Des dessins et des figures aux signes trigrammatiques, des signes trigrammatiques aux signes linguistiques, on pense à la marche de la civilisation chinoise dans Yi King sans croire qu’il pourrait être le modèle emprunté par le Sage à une autre civilisation. Pourtant si Luo est associé au mot Yue, cela désigne la tribu Lạc Việt (Luo Yue) dont les Vietnamiens sont issus. S’agit-il d’une pure coïncidence ou de l’appellation employée par les Sages You le Grand ou Confucius pour se référer à la civilisation de Văn Lang? Lạc Thư désigne effectivement l’écrit de la tribu Luo, Lạc tướng ses généraux, Lạc điền son territoire, Lạc hầu ses marquis etc …..

Il est assez troublant de constater que la théorie de Yin -Yang et de 5 éléments trouve sa parfaite cohésion et son fonctionnement dans le gâteau de riz gluant, preuve intangible de la civilisation de Văn Lang. Outre l’eau dont on a besoin pour faire cuire le gâteau, on trouve dans sa constitution les 4 éléments essentiels (viande, fèves jaunes, riz gluant, feuilles de bambou ou de latanier) . Le cycle d’engendrement (Ngũ hành tương sinh) de 5 éléments est bien visible dans la confection de ce gâteau. A l’intérieur du gâteau, on trouve un morceau de viande de porc de couleur rouge ( le Feu ) entouré par une sorte de pâte faite avec des fèves de couleur jaune ( la Terre ). Le tout est enveloppé par le riz gluant de couleur blanche (le Métal) pour être cuit avec de l’eau bouillante (l’Eau ) avant de trouver une coloration verte sur sa surface grâce aux feuilles de latanier ( le Bois ).

Les deux formes géométriques, un carré et un cercle que prend ce gâteau, correspondent bien au Yin (Âm) et au Yang (Dương ). Du fait que le souffle Yang reflète la plénitude et la pureté, on lui attribue la forme d’un cercle. Quant au Yin, on trouve en ce souffle l’impureté et la limitation. C’est pourquoi on lui donne la forme d’un carré. Une légère différence est  notable dans la définition du Yin-Yang des Chinois et dans celle des Vietnamiens. Pour ces derniers, le Yin a tendance d’être en mouvement (động).

Cycle d’engendrement


Ngũ hành tương sinh

C’est pour cela qu’on ne trouve que la présence des 5 éléments dans le Yin représenté par le gâteau de riz en forme de carré (Bánh chưng). Ce n’est pas le cas du gâteau en forme de cercle que symbolise le Yang ayant tendance de porter le caractère “immobile” (tĩnh). C’est probablement la raison qui explique jusqu’à aujourd’hui que la loi des Yin-Yang et de 5 éléments ne connaît pas un grand pas dans son évolution et que ses applications continuent à porter le caractère mystique et confus dans l’opinion publique à cause de l’erreur introduite dans la définition du Yin-Yang par les Chinois.

On a l’habitude de dire “Mẹ tròn, con vuôn” en vietnamien pour souhaiter à la mère et à son enfant une bonne santé au moment de la naissance. Cette expression est employée comme une phrase de politesse si on ne sait pas qu’elle a été léguée par nos ancêtres dans le but retenir notre attention sur le caractère créateur de l’Univers. De ce dernier sont nés le Yin et le Yang qui sont non seulement en opposition mais aussi en interaction et en corrélation. La complémentarité et le fait d’être indissociable de ces deux pôles sont à la base du développement satisfaisant de la nature. Le jeu typiquement vietnamien “ Chơi ô ăn quan” témoigne aussi du parfait fonctionnement de la théorie de Yin-Yang et de 5 éléments. Le jeu s’arrête quand on ne trouve plus des jetons dans les deux demi-cercles extrêmes correspondant aux deux pôles Yin et Yang.

Autel des ancêtres

Aucun Vietnamien ne cache son émotion lorsqu’il voit sur l’autel de ses ancêtres le gâteau de riz gluant lors de la fête du Tết. Pour lui, ce mets d’apparence peu séduisante et n’ayant aucun goût succulent a une signification particulière. Il témoigne non seulement du respect et de l’affection que le Vietnamien aime entretenir à l’égard de ses ancêtres mais aussi de l’empreinte d’une civilisation vieille de 5000 ans. Ce gâteau de riz gluant est la preuve incontestable du parfait fonctionnement de Yin et de Yang et de 5 éléments. Il est le seul legs intact que le Vietnamien a réussi à recevoir de la part de ses ancêtres dans les tourbillons de l’histoire. Il ne peut pas rivaliser avec les chefs d’oeuvre des autres civilisations comme la muraille de Chine ou les pyramides des pharaons faites avec de la sueur et du sang. Il est le symbole vivant d’une civilisation qui a légué à l’humanité un savoir d’une valeur inestimable dont on continue à se servir dans un grand nombre de domaines d’application ( astronomie, géomancie, médecine, astrologie etc ..). Retour à la 1ère partie

Civilisation Văn Lang (Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng): 1ère partie

English version

Thời kỳ Hồng Bàng

Civilisation Văn Lang

Les Vietnamiens ont l’habitude de dire: l’eau bue nous rappelle la source (Uống nước nhớ nguồn). Rien n’est étonnant de les voir continuer à fêter en grande pompe au 10ème jour du troisième mois lunaire de chaque année la journée de commémoration des rois Hùng de la dynastie des Hồng Bàng, les pères fondateurs de la nation vietnamienne. Jusqu’à aujourd’hui, aucun vestige archéologique n’est trouvé pour confirmer l’existence de cette dynastie à part les ruines de la citadelle Cổ Loa ( Cité du coquillage ) datant de l’époque de règne du roi An Dương Vương et le temple édifié en l’honneur de ces rois Hùng à Phong Châu dans la province de Phú Thọ.

Beaucoup d’indices n’infirment pas cette existence si on se réfère aux légendes rapportées de cette époque mythique et aux Annales du Vietnam et de la Chine. La domination chinoise ( IIIème siècle avant J.C.- 939 après J.C. ) n’est pas étrangère à l’influence la plus grande sur le développement de le civilisation vietnamienne. Tout ce qui appartient aux Vietnamiens devient chinois et vice-versa durant cette période. On  constate une politique d’assimilation délibérément voulue par les Chinois. Cela ne laisse pas aux Vietnamiens la  possibilité de maintenir leur culture héritant d’une civilisation vieille de 5000 ans et dénommée “civilisation de Văn Lang” sans recourir aux traditions orales (les proverbes, les poèmes populaires ou les légendes).

Le recours à l’allusion mythique est le moyen le plus sûr de permettre à la postérité de retrouver son origine en lui donnant un grand nombre d’indications utiles malgré la destruction systématique de leur culture et la répression inexorable des Chinois à l’encontre des Yue (ou des Vietnamiens). Pour le chercheur Paul Pozner, l’historiographie vietnamienne se base sur une très longue et permanente tradition historique, laquelle est représentée par une tradition historique orale durant le 3è – 1ère moitié du 1er millénaire avant notre ère sous forme de légendes historiques dans les temples des cultes des ancêtres (1). 

Les deux vers trouvés dans la chanson populaire (ca dao) suivante :

Trăm năm bia đá thì mòn
Ngàn năm bia miệng vẫn còn trơ trơ

Avec cent ans, la stèle de pierre continue à se détériorer
Avec mille ans, les paroles des gens continuent à rester en vigueur

témoignent de la pratique menée sciemment par les Vietnamiens dans le but de préserver ce qu’ils ont hérité de la civilisation de Văn Lang.

Celle-ci porte le nom d’un royaume qui était bordé à cette époque par la mer de l’Est (Biển Đông), à l’ouest par le royaume de Ba Thuc (Tứ Xuyên ou Sichuan en français ), au nord par le territoire du lac Ðộng Ðình (Hu Nan) (Hồ Nam) et au sud par le royaume de Hồ Tôn (Champa). Ce royaume était situé dans le bassin du fleuve Yang tsé (Sông Dương Tữ) et était placé sous l’autorité d’un roi Hùng. Celui-ci avait été élu pour son courage et ses valeurs. Il avait partagé son royaume en districts confiés à ses frères connus sous le nom “Lạc hầu” (marquis). Ses enfants mâles avaient le titre de quang lang et ses filles celui de Mỵ nương. Son peuple était connu sous le nom “Lạc Việt”. Ses hommes avaient pour coutume de se tatouer le corps. Cette pratique “barbare”, révélée souvent dans les annales chinoises, était si l’on croit les textes vietnamiens, destinée à protéger les hommes des attaques des dragons d’eau (con thuồng luồng). C’est peut-être la raison que les Chinois les désignaient souvent sous le nom Qủi (démons). Pagne et chignon constituaient le costume habituel de ce peuple auquel étaient ajoutées des parures en bronze. Les Lạc Việt se laquaient les dents en noir, chiquaient du bétel et pilaient du riz à la main. Agriculteurs, ils pratiquaient la culture du riz en champ inondé. Ils vivaient dans les plaines et les régions littorales tandis que dans les régions montagneuses du Việt Bắc  et sur une partie du territoire de la province chinoise  de Kouang Si, se réfugiaient  les Tây Âu, les ancêtres des groupes ethniques Tây, Nùng et Choang. Vers la fin du troisième siècle avant notre ère, le chef des tribus Tây Âu défit le dernier roi Hùng  et réussit à réunifier sous sa bannière les territoires des Tây Âu et celui des Lạc Việt pour former le royaume de Âu Lạc, en l’an 258 avant notre ère. Il prit comme nom de règne An Dương Vương et transféra sa capitale à Cỗ Loa située à une vingtaine de kilomètres de Hànội.

Le royaume de Văn Lang est-il une pure invention alimentée par les Vietnamiens dans le but d’entretenir un mythe ou un royaume réellement existant et disparu dans les tourbillons de l’histoire?

Carte géographique du royaume Văn Lang

Selon le mythe vietnamien,  le pays de ces Proto-Vietnamiens était  délimité au Nord à l’époque des Hùng Vương (première dynastie des Vietnamiens  2879 avant J.C.) par le lac de Dongting (Động Đình Hồ) situé dans le territoire du royaume de Chu (Sỡ Quốc). Une partie de leur territoire revint à ce  dernier à l’époque des Royaumes Combattants (thời Chiến Quốc). Leurs descendants vivant dans cette partie rattachée devinrent  probablement  les sujets du royaume de Chu. Il y avait évidemment un rapport, un lien intime entre ce royaume et les Proto-Vietnamiens.  C’est une hypothèse suggérée et avancée  récemment par un écrivain vietnamien  Nguyên Nguyên(2).  Selon celui-ci, il n’est pas rare que dans les textes anciens, les idéogrammes soient remplacés par d’autres idéogrammes avec la même phonétique. C’est le cas du titre Kinh Dương Vương qu’avait pris le père de  l’ancêtre des Vietnamiens, Lôc Tục. En l’écrivant de cette manière en chinois,  on voit apparaître facilement les noms de deux villes Kinh Châu (Jīngzhōu)(3) et Dương Châu (Yángzhōu)(4) où vivaient  respectivement les ethnies des Yue de branche Thai et de branche Lạc.  Il y avait  la traduction d’une volonté d’évoquer intelligemment par le narrateur  l’implantation et la fusion des ethnies yue de branche Thai (Si Ngeou) et de branche Lac (Ngeou-lo)  provenant des migrations de ces  villes  lors des conquêtes d’annexion de Chu. Par contre,  l’idéogramme  (thái dương) se traduit comme lumière, solennel. Il est utilisé dans le but d’éviter son emploi en tant que nom de famille. En se servant de ce mot, cela permet de traduire Kinh Dương Vương en roi solennel Kinh.  Mais il y a également  un mot Kinh  synonyme du mot  Lac ( ), surnom des Viêt. Bref, Kinh Dương Vương  peut se traduire comme le Roi solennel Viêt. Quant au titre An Dương Vương qu’a pris le roi de Âu Viêt, l’auteur ne met pas en doute  son explication: il s’agit  bien de la pacification du pays des Yue de branche Lac (trị an xứ Dương) par un fils de Yue de branche Thái.

Cela ne peut que conforter  la thèse d’Edouard Chavannes et de Léonard Aurousseau(5): les Proto-Vietnamiens et les sujets du royaume de Chu ont les mêmes ancêtres. De plus il y a  une coïncidence étonnante trouvée dans  le nom de clan Mi (Ours ou gấu en vietnamien) écrit en langue de Chu, traduit en Hùng () en vietnamien  et porté par les rois de Chu  et celui   des rois vietnamiens. En se basant sur les Mémoires historiques (Che-Ki) de Sseu-Ma Tsien (Tư Mã Thiên) traduites par E. Chavannes (6), on sait que le roi de la principauté Chu est issu des barbares du Sud (ou Bai Yue) : Hiong-K’iu (Hùng Cừdit : Je suis un barbare et je ne prends point part aux titres et aux noms posthumes des royaumes du Milieu. 

 Les linguistes  américains Mei Tsulin et Norman Jerry ont identifié un certain nombre de mots d’emprunt de la langue austro-asiatique des Yue dans les textes chinois de la période des Han. C’est le cas du mot chinois  jiang (giang en vietnamien ou rivière en français) ou le mot nu (  en vietnamien ou arbalète en français). Ils ont démontré la forte probabilité de la présence de la langue austro-asiatique dans la Chine du Sud et ont conclu qu’il y avait eu un contact entre la langue chinoise et la langue austro-asiatique dans le territoire de l’ancien royaume de Chu entre 1000 et 500 ans avant J.C. 

Cet argument géographique n’était jamais pris en compte sérieusement dans le passé par certains historiens vietnamiens car pour eux, cette dynastie relevait plutôt de la période mythique. De plus, d’après les sources chinoises, le territoire des ancêtres des Vietnamiens (Kiao-tche (Giao Chỉ) et Kieou-tchen (Cửu Chân)) était confiné dans le Tonkin actuel, ce qui les gêna d’accepter sans explication ni justification l’étendue territoriale de la dynastie des Hồng Bàng jusqu’au lac Dongting. Ils ne virent pas dans la narration de ce mythe la volonté des ancêtres des Vietnamiens de montrer leur origine, d’afficher leur appartenance au groupe Bai Yue et leur résistance inébranlable face aux conquérants redoutables qu’étaient les Chinois.

Dans les annales chinoises, on a rapporté qu’à la période des Printemps et Automnes (Xuân Thu), le roi Gou Jian(Câu Tiễn) des Yue (Ngô Việt) s’intéressa à l’alliance qu’il aimerait contracter avec le royaume Văn Lang dans le but de maintenir la suprématie sur les autres principautés puissantes de la région. Il est probable que ce royaume de Văn Lang devait être un pays limitrophe de celui des Yuê de Gou Jian. Celui-ci ne trouva aucun intérêt de contracter cette alliance si ce royaume Văn Lang se trouvait confiné géographiquement dans le Vietnam d’aujourd’hui. La découverte récente de l’épée du roi Goujian de Yue (règne de 496-465 avant J.C) dans la tombe no 1 de Wanshan (Jianling) (Hubei) permet de mieux cerner les contours du royaume de Văn Lang.  Il serait situé probablement dans la région de Qui Châu (ou GuiZhou). Mais Henri Masporo a contesté cette hypothèse dans son ouvrage intitulé “Le royaume de Văn Lang” (BEFEO, t XVIII, fac 3 )Il a attribué aux historiens vietnamiens l’erreur de confondre le royaume de Văn Lang avec celui de Ye Lang (ou Dạ Lang en vietnamien ) dont le nom aurait été mal transmis par les historiens chinois à leurs collègues vietnamiens à l’époque des Tang( nhà Đường).  Ce n’est pas tout à fait exact car  dans les légendes vietnamiennes, en particulier dans celle de “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương (ou le Seigneur céleste du village Phù Ðổng) on s’aperçoit que le royaume de Văn Lang était en conflit armé avec la dynastie des Yin-Shang (Ân-Thương) à l’époque du roi Hùng VI et qu’il était plus vaste que le royaume de Ye Lang trouvé à l’époque de l’unification de la Chine par Qin Shi Huang Di

 Dans les Annales du Vietnam, on a parlé de la longue période de règne des rois Hùng (de 2879 jusqu’à 258 avant J.C.).  Les découvertes des objets en bronze à Ningxiang (Hu Nan) dans les années 1960 ont permis de ne mettre plus en doute l’existence des foyers de civilisation contemporains des Shang ignorés par les textes dans la Chine du Sud. C’est le cas de la culture de  Sanxingdui (Sichuan) (Di chỉ Tam Tinh Đôi )par exemple. Le vase à vin en bronze décoré de faces anthropomorphes témoigne évidemment du contact établi par les Shang avec les peuples de type mélanésien car on trouve sur ces faces des visages humains ronds avec un nez épaté. Le moulage de ce bronze employé dans la fabrication de ce vase nécessite l’incorporation de l’étain que le Nord de la Chine ne posséda pas à cette époque.

Y aurait-t-il un contact réel, un conflit armé entre les Shang et le royaume de Văn Lang si on se tenait à la légende du seigneur céleste de Phù Ðổng? Pourrait-ton accorder  la véracité à un fait rapporté par une légende vietnamienne? Beaucoup d’historiens occidentaux ont perçu toujours la période de la civilisation dongsonienne comme le début de la formation de la nation vietnamienne (500-700 avant J.C.). C’est aussi l’avis partagé et trouvé dans l’ouvrage historique anonyme “Việt Sử Lược“.

Sous le règne du roi Zhuang Wang (Trang Vương) des Zhou ( 696-691 avant J.C.), il y avait dans le district Gia Ninh, un personnage étrange réussissant à dominer toutes les tribus avec ses magies, prenant pour titre le nom Hùng Vương et établissant sa capitale à Phong Châu. Avec la filiation héréditaire, cela a permis à sa lignée de maintenir le pouvoir avec 18 rois, tous portant le nom Hùng.

Par contre, dans d’autres ouvrages historiques vietnamiens, on accorda une longue période de règne à la dynastie des Hồng Bàng ( de 2879 jusqu’a 258 avant J.C.) avec 2622 ans. Il nous parait inconcevable si on se tient au chiffre 18, le nombre de rois durant cette période car cela veut dire que chaque roi Hùng Vương régna en moyenne 150 ans. On ne peut trouver qu’une réponse satisfaisante si on se tient à l’hypothèse établie par Trần Huy Bá dans son exposé publié dans le journal Nguồn Sáng no 23 lors la journée de commémoration des rois Hùng Vương (Ngày giỗ Tổ Hùng Vương) ( 1998 ). Pour lui, il y a une fausse interprétation sur le mot đời trouvé dans la phrase “18 đời Hùng Vương”. Le mot “Ðời” doit être remplacé par le mot Thời qui signifie “période“. 

Avec cette hypothèse, il y a donc 18 périodes de règne dont chacune correspond à une branche pouvant être composée d’un ou de plusieurs rois dans l’arbre généalogique de la dynastie des Hồng Bàng. Cette argumentation est renforcée par le fait que le roi Hùng Vương était élu pour son courage et pour ses mérites si on se réfère à la tradition vietnamienne de choisir des hommes de valeur pour la fonction suprême. Cela a été rapporté dans la célèbre légende du gâteau de riz gluant ( Bánh chưng bánh dầy ). On peut ainsi justifier le mot Thời par le mot branche (ou chi ).

On est amené à donner une explication plus cohérente pour le chiffre 2622 avec 18 branches suivantes trouvées dans l’ouvrage “Văn hoá tâm linh – đất tổ Hùng Vương” de l’auteur Hồng Tử Uyên:

Chi Càn Kinh Dương Vương húy Lộc Túc   
Chi Khảm Lạc Long Quân húy Sùng Lãm
Chi Cấn Hùng Quốc Vương húy Hùng Lân
Chi Chấn Hùng Hoa Vương húy Bửu Lang
Chi Tốn Hùng Hy Vương húy Bảo Lang
Chi Ly Hùng Hồn Vương húy Long Tiên Lang
Chi Khôn Hùng Chiêu Vương húy Quốc Lang
Chi Ðoài Hùng Vĩ Vương húy Vân Lang
Chi Giáp Hùng Ðịnh Vương húy Chân Nhân Lang
………….. manquant dans  le document historique …
Chi Bính Hùng Trinh Vương húy Hưng Ðức Lang
Chi Ðinh Hùng Vũ Vương húy Ðức Hiền Lang
Chi Mậu Hùng Việt Vương húy Tuấn Lang
Chi Kỷ Hùng Anh Vương húy Viên Lang
Chi Canh Hùng Triệu Vương húy Cảnh Chiêu Lang
Chi Tân Hùng Tạo Vương húy Ðức Quân Lang
Chi Nhâm Hùng Nghị Vương húy Bảo Quang Lang
Chi Qúy Hùng Duệ Vương

Cela nous permet de retrouver aussi le fil de l’histoire dans le conflit armé du royaume de Văn Lang avec les Shang par le biais de la légende de “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương”. Si ce conflit avait lieu, il ne pourrait qu’être au début de la période de règne des Shang pour plusieurs raisons:

1) Aucun document historique chinois ou vietnamien ne parla des relations commerciales entre le royaume de Văn Lang et les Shang. Par contre, on nota le contact établi plus tard entre la dynastie des Zhou et le roi Hùng Vương . Un faisan argenté ( chim trĩ trắng ) avait été offert même par ce dernier au roi des Zhou selon l’ouvrage Linh Nam Chích Quái.

2) La dynastie des Shang ne régna que de 1766 a 1122 avant J.C. Il y aurait approximativement un décalage de 300 ans si on tentait de faire la moyenne arithmétique de 18 périodes de règne des rois Hùng : ( 2622 / 18 ) et de la multiplier par 12 pour donner approximativement une date à la fin de règne de la sixième branche Hùng vương ( Hùng Vương VI ) en lui ajoutant 258 l’année de l’annexion du royaume de Văn Lang par le roi An Dương vương. On serait tombé à peu près à l’année 2006, date de la fin de règne de la sixième branche Hùng Vương ( Hùng Vương VI ) . On peut en déduire que le conflit s’il y avait lieu, devrait être au début de l’avènement de la dynastie des Shang. Ce décalage n’est pas tout à fait injustifié car on a  jusque là peu de précisions historiques au delà de l’époque de règne du roi Chu Lệ Vương (Zhou LiWang) ( 850 avant J.C. ).

On note une expédition militaire entreprise au bout de trois ans par le roi des Shang de nom Wuding (Vũ Ðịnh) dans le territoire du lac Ðộng Ðình Hồ contre le peuple nomade, les Gui alias “Démons“, ce qui a été rapporté dans l’ouvrage Yi King ( Kinh Dịch ) traduit par Bùi Văn Nguyên (Khoa Học Xã Hội Hà Nội 1997) . Dans son exposé publié dans le journal Nguồn Sáng no 23, Trần Huy Bá a pensé plutôt au roi Woding (Ốc Ðinh) qui était l’un des premiers rois de la dynastie des Shang. Avec cette hypothèse, il n’y a plus de doute et d’équivoque car il y a une parfaite cohérence rapportée dans les annales chinoise et vietnamienne. On doit savoir qu’à l’époque du roi An Dương Vương, on avait l’habitude de désigner le pays Việt Thường sous le nom “Xích Qủi“. Le terme Xích est employé pour faire allusion à l’équateur (Xich đạo). Quant à Qủi, cela veut évoquer l’étoile Yugui Qui de couleur rouge, l’une des sept étoiles du Sud. Celle-ci arriva sous le ciel de la ville Kinh Châu (Jīngzhōu) des Yue au moment où le roi  des Shang eut installé sa troupe. C’est aussi l’avis partagé par l’auteur vietnamien Vũ Quỳnh dans son ouvrage “Tân Ðính Linh Nam Chích Quái“:

Ở đây có bộ tộc Thi La Quỷ thời Hùng Vương thứ VI vào đánh nước ta nhân danh nhà Ân Thương.

C’est ici qu’à l’époque de règne de Hùng Vương VI, on trouva une tribu Thi La Quỷ qui a envahi notre pays au nom des Yin-Shan. Ce conflit pourrait expliquer la raison principale pour laquelle le royaume de Văn Lang n’a établi aucune relation commerciale avec les Shang. Les découvertes des objets en bronze a Ningxiang (Hu Nan) dans les années 1960 ont mis en évidence qu’il pourrait s’agir des butins ramenés lors de l’expédition dans le sud de la Chine car il n’y avait aucune explication à donner aux vases à vin en bronze décorés de faces anthropomorphes mélanésiennes.

3) Dans la légende vietnamienne “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương“, on nota la fuite et la dislocation de l’armée des Shang dans le district Vũ Ninh en même temps la disparition immédiate du héros céleste du village Phù Ðổng. On raconta aussi son apparition spontanée au moment de l’invasion des Shang sans aucune préparation à l’avance. Cela mit en évidence qu’il devrait être présent sur le terrain lors de l’invasion de ces derniers. Les territoires conquis par les Shang ne pouvaient pas être repris entièrement par les Lạc Việt car sinon on pourrait dire qu’ils étaient chassés du territoire Văn Lang dans la légende. Ce n’était pas tout à fait le cas car on constata qu’avec l’avènement des Zhou, on vit apparaître sur une ancienne partie du territoire de Văn Lang, des pays vassaux comme le pays des Yue de Goujian (Wu Yue)(Ngô Việt), le pays Chu (Sỡ) etc…

On ne saurait pas pour quelles raisons le royaume de Văn Lang serait réduit et confiné ainsi dans le nord du Việt-Nam d’aujourd’hui en jetant un coup d’œil sur les cartes géographiques trouvées à l’époque des Printemps et Automnes et de l’empereur Qin Shi Huang Di. Pourquoi Goujian, le roi des Yue,  s’intéressa-t-il  à l’alliance avec le royaume de Văn Lang si ce dernier se cantonnait dans le nord du Vietnam actuel? On pourrait donner au démembrement de ce royaume l’explication suivante:

Au moment de l’invasion des Yin-Shan, un certain nombre de tribus parmi les 15 tribus que comportait le peuple Lạc Việt, ont réussi à mettre en déroute l’armée des Shang et ont continué à afficher leur rattachement et leur loyauté au royaume de Văn Lang. Cela ne les empêcha pas de garder leur autonomie et de maintenir un développement assez élevé au niveau social et culturel. Cela pourrait donner une explication plus tard à l’apparition des foyers états indépendants bien situés sur la carte géographique de l’époque de Tsin (Qin Shi Huang Di) comme Dạ Lang (Ye Lang), Ðiền Việt (Dian) , Tây Âu (Si Ngeou) et au rétrécissement significatif du royaume de Van Lang à l’état actuel (dans le nord du Vietnam).

Il ne serait pas impossible que ce royaume  réduit se restructura de manière identique à l’image du royaume de Văn Lang trouvé au début de sa création par le dernier roi Hùng Vương dans le but de rappeler à son peuple la grandeur de son royaume. Le roi garda ainsi   les noms des 15 anciennes tribus et donna à son territoire réduit le nom  Vũ Ninh   dans le but de commémorer le succès éclatant remporté par le peuple Lạc Việt sous le règne de Hùng Vương VI. Việt Trì serait probablement  la dernière capitale du royaume de Văn Lang.  On note une part de réalité historique dans cette légende vietnamienne car on découvrit récemment en Chine l’utilisation du fer à l’époque des Shang. Ce fer  pourrait être  remplacé  d’autre part par un autre métal comme le bronze  sans perdre pour autant la signification réelle dans le contenu de la légende. Il  y était employé   uniquement pour refléter  le courage et la bravoure qu’on aimait attribuer au héros céleste. S’il y était cité ainsi, cela ne mit plus en doute la découverte du fer et son utilisation  très tôt dans le royaume de Văn Lang.  Cela justifie aussi la cohérence apportée par cette légende au  conflit qui a opposé le royaume de Văn Lang aux Shang. Lire la suite 


(1) Paul Pozner : Le problème  des chroniques vietnamiennes., origines et influences étrangères.  BEFO, année 1980, vol 67, no 67,  p 275-302
(2) Nguyên Nguyên: Thử đọc lại truyền thuyết Hùng Vương 
(3)Jīngzhōu (Kinh Châu) : la capitale de vingt rois de Chu, au cours de la période  des Printemps et Automnes (Xuân Thu) (-771 — ~-481) 
(4) Yángzhōu (Dương Châu) 
(5) Léonard Rousseau: La première conquête chinoise des pays annamites (IIIe siècle avant notre ère). BEFO, année 1923, Vol 23, no 1.
(6) Edouard Chavannes :Mémoires historiques de Se-Ma Tsien de Chavannes, tome quatrième, page 170).
(5) Norman Jerry- Mei tsulin 1976 The Austro asiatic in south China : some lexical evidence, Monumenta Serica 32 :274-301

In Search of the Origin of the Vietnamese People: Part 2 (Đi tìm nguồn gốc dân tộc Việt)


Đi tìm nguồn gốc dân tộc Việt (Phần 2)

French version

In search of the Origin of the Vietnamese people

This remark has been confirmed by what was discovered in the tombs at the Guigi site of Jiangxi: The weapons found bore a symbolic characteristic because they were all made of wood. They did not have an important place in people’s life or after-live. This led to the conclusion that contrary to the society of the folks from the North, that of the Yue was rather more peaceful. That is why they were not able to resist better every time there was an encroachment by the neighbors from the North, the Yi who did not stop at nibbling away their territory and pushing them a little farther south at each confrontation. The Yi distinguished themselves by their art of making bows and arrows. They were formidable warriors talented in arching and horse riding. Hardened by the roughness of nature, they were used to wrestling with wild animals and other tribes. That gave them at the start a gene of a conqueror and a fighter in their blood.

It was not the case of the folks from the South, the Bai Yue. The wise Confucius had the occasion to compare the forces that the folks from the North and from the South possessed respectively: Courage and power ( Dũng ) for the former and kindness and generosity ( Nhân từ ) for the latter. Again, the word Yi having for origin the picture of a man holding a bow gives us a pretty good idea on the particularity of the folks from the North. Under the direction of , Houang Di ( Hoàng Ðế ) they have succeeded in pushing back the first tribes of Bai Yue in the territory delimited by the yellow river Huang He and the YangTse river led by Chiyou ( Xi Bưu ) ( or Ðế Lai in Vietnamese ) in alliance with king Lôc Tục ( ou Kinh Dương Vương ) who reigned south of the blue River on a vast country of Xích Qủi ( Country of red demons ). According to a Chinese legend, this confrontation took place at Trác Lộc ( Zhuolu ) in the presently province of Hebei and has permitted the folks from the North to start progressively their expansion to the Blue River. The death of Chiyou marked the first victory of the folks from the North over the Bai Yue people some 3000 years B.C.

At the Shang period, none of the Chinese or Vietnamese historic documents talked about the relationship between the Bai Yue and the Shang besides the Vietnamese legend about “Phù Ðổng Thiên Vương” ( or the heavenly hero of Phù Ðổng village ) which reported a confrontation between the Shang and the Văn Lang kingdom of the Luo Yue. However it was noted that contact was established later between the Zhou dynasty and the king of the Luo Yue ( Hùng Vương ). A silver pheasant ( bach trĩ ) was offered by the latter to the king of Zhou according to the book Linh Nam Chích Quái. At the time of Spring and Autumn, a state of East Yue was known in the Mémoires Historiques by the historiographer of Han empire Si Ma Qian ( Tư Mã Thiên ) . It was the kingdom of the famous lord Gou Jian ( Câu Tiễn ). At the death of this one, his descendants did not succeed in maintaining hegemony. At the middle course of the Blue River, another kingdom, founded also by one of the Bai Yue tribes ( Bộc Lão ) and known as Chu ( Sở Quốc), took over at the time of Fighting Kingdoms and became one of the seven rival principalities ( Han, Zhao, Wei, Chu, Yan, Qi, Qin and Chu ).(Hàn, Triệu, Ngụy, Yên, Tề, Tần và Sỡ).

Terracotta warrior of Qin Shi Huang Di

Before being defeated by the army of Qin, the Chu kingdom has indirectly brought its undeniable contribution in favor of the future formation and unity of the Chinese nation that the Yi had begun to put in place by eliminating in 332 the state of East Yue of Goujian and starting to give a new impulsion to the development of a large state with the reforms of Wu Qi (Ngô Khởi).

The Gou Yue ( or East Yue ) began to take refuge in the southern territory of Bai Ye after the annexation of their land by the Chu kingdom. According to Léonnard Aurousseau, after their defeat, The Gou Yue or Ðông Âu (or East Âu ) found asylum in large number in the following regions: Foujian ( Phúc Kiến ), Guangdon ( Quảng Ðông ), Guangxi ( Quảng Tây ) and Jiaozhi ( Giao Chỉ ) and thus became the Man Yue ( Foujian ), Nan Yue (Jiangsu, Jiangxi) and Luo Yue (Quangxi, Jiaozhi). All were “sinisized” as centuries went by except the Luo Yue who were the legitimes descendants of Gou Yue at the Au branch and were known often as Tây Âu ( Xi Ou or West Âu ).

“There was no doubts on the origin of the Luo Yue”, wrote the French scholar Leonard Aurousseau in his work “Notes sur les origines du peuple annamite ( Ghi chép nguồn gốc dân tộc An Nam )” ( BEFEO, T XXIII, 1923, p.254 ). The other Yue peoples, particularly those living in the Chu kingdom were fast to follow them at the unification of China by Qin Shi Huang Di. This one did not hesitate to banish whoever dare resist his policy of assimilation, particularly the Yue and the Miao to forced labor on the construction of the Great Wall, to burn not only all the works of learned confucianists but also those of other unsubdued people and to maintain his policy of aggression against the Bai Yue as far as Ling Nan ( Linh Nam ). The conquest of the Xi Ou and Luo Yue (Tay Au) territory of Thục An Dương Vương that marked the second confrontation between the Chinese and the Bai Yue, was achieved in 207 with the nomination of two famous governors to the conquered territory: Nhâm Hiếu ( Jen Hiao ) and his assistant Triệu Ðà ( Zhao Tuo ).

In spite of the policy of terror and pacification, the Yue continued to run their resistance heroically. They hid in the bush and lived with the animals. No one agreed to become slave of the Chinese. The Yue picked their chiefs among their men of value. Then they attacked the Chinese at night and inflicted them with a great defeat…, that was reported in the translation of Huainan zi (Hoài nam tử) of L. Aurousseau, B.E.F.E.O. XXIII, 1923, p. 176.

At the death of Nhâm Hiếu, taking advantage of consecutive troubles following the fall of the Qin empire in 207, Triệu Ðà. ( Zhao Tuo ) became allied with other Yue to declare independence fo the Nan Yue kingdom for which he took control of Guilin and Xiang then in 184 B.C., he attacked the Chang Sha region ( Hunan ( Hồ Nam )) . This kingdom was short-lived and fell back in the hands of the folks from the North, the Han in 111 B.C. despite the heroic resistance of Prime Minister Lục Gia. This confrontation, the third one with the people of Bai Yue took away not only their land but also their cultural identity. The sinization began its full steam on the conquered territory ( Foujian (Phuc Kien), Guizhou ( Qui Chau ), Guangdong ( Quảng Ðông ), Guangxi ( Quảng Tây ), Yunnan ( Vân Nam ), Tonkin ( Giao Chỉ ). Many revolts and insurrections broke out during this long period of Chinese domination. But the most dazzling revolt remained the one run heroically by the sisters Trưng Trắc, Trưng Nhị. On appeal of the sisters in 39 A.D., the Yue living in the South of China and a large part of Tonkin joined them. That helped them to stand up with the Han army until 43 A.D. But they were finally defeated by Ma Yuan ( Mã Viện ) a great Chinese marshal at the time. Ma Yuan ( Mã Viện ) assigned by the Han emperor , Guang Wu (Quang Võ) decided to destroy all bronze drums found on the land of the Luo Yue because he knew at the confrontation that those objects had the value as an emblem of power for them. According to what people said, to move back the frontier down to the Nam Quan border gate, he did not hesitate to erect a pillar several meters high made of bronze collected from the drums and bearing this sign:

Ðồng trụ triệt , Giao Chỉ diệt
Ðồng trụ ngã, Giao Chỉ bị diệt.
Bronze pillar falls, Giao Chi disappears

But that did not upset the will and ardor for independence of the Luo Yue ( the Viet ). They decided to consolidate the pillar by throwing a piece of earth around it when they went by, which progressively helped in building up a mound and made disappear the mythical pillar. To deal with any eventuality of revolt, there was also an order from empress Kao (Lữ Hậu) in 179 B.C. providing a ban on delivery of not only plowing and metal instruments but also horses, oxen and sheep to the Barbarians and the Yue. This has been reported by E. Gaspardone in his work titled ” Matériaux pour servir à l’histoire de l’Annam” ( BEFEO, 1929 ). Because of this policy, it is not surprising to discover recently a large number of bronze drums burried in Vietnam and in neighboring areas ( Yunnan, Hunan ). The Ðồng Sơn civilization came to an end during the Chinese occupation.

Forced enlistment of the Yue into the army of the conquerors and the contacts they had with the Chinese as the years went by allowed them to know more about warfare technique ( Sunzi (Tôn Tử) for example ) and to improve their weapons in the struggle against the invaders in the years to come. On the other hand, the Chinese appropriated what belonged to the Yue during their long occupation. The Yue continued to be treated as barbarians despite their undeniable contribution to the radiance of Chinese culture. Those folks from the North could pretend from then on to be the legitimate holders of the Writing of Luo, the theory of Ying and Yang and the 5 elements, even though there exists a large number of incoherence in their mythical made up stories.

 Reconstructed model found at the Banpo site

They modified the dragon, the preferred mythical animal of the Bai Yue, which had a start with an alligator’s head and a snake’s body, to fit their temperament of a warrior and their taste by giving it the wings and a horse’s trunk and definitely adopted it as their own symbolic animal even though they had the white tiger in their Turco – Mongol traditions. Their round form house whose model has been reconstructed and found at the Banpo site has been replaced by a spacious house with a roof largely “hollow-back” and overflowing in canopy, that of the Bai Yue. In the turmoil of history, there was no more room for the Bai Yue.

Except the Luo Yue, other peoples of Bai Yue continued to be “sinized” in a way that at the end of 10th century, on their land there were only two peoples face to face, a conquering people (the Han) and the rebellious people ( the Viet ) looking for independence. The states of Gou Yue, Nan Yue, Man Yue etc…thereafter took part in Southern China. Taking advantage of the breaking up of the Tang empire, the Luo Yue declared independence with Ngô Quyền. The Vietnamese nation began to see the day. One should not believe that everything went really smoothly and harmoniously. It cost such sacrifices in order for the folks from the North to accept the reality. That is how the history page of the Bai Yue was mixed up with that of the Luo Yue.

Have recent scientific discoveries radically changed the view about the Bai Yue and particularly their history? They have called into question he idea of cultural diffusionism originated from the North. More ancient vestiges than those at Hemudu have been discovered recently in the middle Blue river at Pentoushan ( Hunan ) . Could one continue to consider the Miao , the Bai Yue as “barbarian” folks? Nevertheless the word Miao (or Miêu in Vietnamese) which is made of a ricefield picture ( Ðiền ) added on its top the pictogram “Thảo” (cỏ) ( herb ) provides evidence how the Chinese depict in their language people knowing how to grow rice. Could we continue to maintain a traditional and obsolete version written by the conquerors to the detriment of the search for historic truth? It turns out indispensable to put the train back on the tracks knowing for sure that the Chinese civilization does not need made up stories because it deserved to appear for a long time among the great civilizations of humanity. It is the ancestors of the Luo Yue that taught the folks from the North the culture of rice and not the other way around as has been written in a large number of Chinese and Vietnamese historic documents. The time has come to give the homage to our ancestors, the Yue, who because of their peaceful nature were forced to be wiped off in front of the use of force in the turmoil of history.


Heirs of a glorious past, tangled up successively in fraticide and colonial wars and deep in corruption, Vietnam of the Luo Yue needs to recover because it does not deserve to be part of the poorest countries in the world. The time has come for it to follow the path drawn by its ancestors and do better than them….


In Search of the Origin of the Vietnamese People: Part 1 (Đi tìm nguồn gốc dân tộc Việt)

Version française


The discovery of the Hemudu site ( Zhejiang ) in 1973 was a great event for Chinese archaelologists because the site traced back to more than 7000 years the most ancient civilization of rice found on earth. Also found there were remnants of lacustrine wooden housing built on piles, the type of construction quite different from the earthen houses in Northern China. The people who lived there possessed traits characterized Mongoloid as well as Australo-Negroid. Because Zhejiang is part of the most beautiful provinces in Southern China for a long time, that famous civilization has been attributed to the Chinese people even though the cradle of their civilization was known to be narrowly tied to the basin of the Yellow River ( or Huang He ) ( Hoàng Hà ) where Anyang is its ancient heart. One cannot deny that their civilization has found all its quintessence in the neolithic cultures of Yang-Shao ( Henan Province ) ( 5000 years BC) and Longshan ( Shandong Province ) ( 2500 years BC ) respectively identified by the Swedish Johan G. Andersson in 1921 and the father of Chinese archaeology Li Ji a few years later. Thanks to phylogenetic works done by the American team led by professor J.Y.Chu of the University of Texas, which was published in the American Review of Sciences Academy under the title “Genetic Relationship of Population in China” (1), an accurate idea about the origin of the Chinese people began to emerge. Three points were raised from these works:

  • 1) It is clear that genetic evidence does not support that Homo-sapiens in China has an independent origin. The ancestors of the populations presently living in the East of China came from South East Asia.
  • 2) Thereafter, it is probably safe to conclude that “modern” folks native of Africa constitute largely the genetic capital found presently in East Asia.

At her birth a person possesses her genoptype ( collection of genes ) that is a gem capable of making itself an infinity of copies transmitted from generation to generation. These genes, which are made of immense molecules in the form of double-helix DNA (3) are the basis of heredity. It is possible that the tiny biochemical computers made of DNA portions in our body make radical changes in a specific context where all essential factors combine to allow them to do so. It is at the point of spontaneous mutation in response to climatic changes or solar radiation or a genetic drift that the genotype of one species can be completely modified to become the genotype of another species as the years go by. That mutation can take place at snail pace ( theory of gradualism of Ernst Mayr ) or by giant’s leaps (theory of punctuated equilibrium put forth by two American paleontologists Nils Elredge and Stephen Jay Gould ). That better facilitated the understanding of the human race evolution ( from Homo-Erectus to Homo-sapiens sapiens ) and of the phenotype that the latter can acquire in an encountered environment ( skin color, size, blood system, different behavior etc…).

In his conclusion, professor J.Y. Chu recognized that it is probable the ancestors of the populations speaking Altaic languages ( or the Han ) were issues of the population of South East Asia and the tribes coming from Central Asia and Europe.

That discovery did not call into question what has been proposed some few years before by anthropology professor Wilhelm G. Solheim II of the University of Hawaii in his book “A New Light in a Forgotten Past” (2). For this anthropologist, there is no doubts that the Hoa Binh culture (15,000 years B.C.) discovered in 1922 by the French archaeologist Madeleine Colani in a village near Hoà Bình province in Vietnam was the birth place of future evolution of Neolithic cultures of Yang Shao and Longshan found in Northern China. British physicist Stephen Oppenheimer has gone far beyond what was thought at that time by showing in logical and scientific processes that the cradle of civilization of humanity was in South-East Asia in his work “Eden in the East: the Drowned Continent of South-East Asia“.(4) He concluded basing on geological evidence found at the bottom of the East sea (Biển Đông)  and carbon-14 dating methods on foodstuff (yam, taro, rice, cereals etc…) found in South-East Asia ( Non Sok Tha, Sakai ( Thailand ) , Phùng Nguyên, Ðồng Ðậu ( Vietnam ), Indonesia ), that a huge flood took place and forced the people in the region who, unlike what western archaeologists had described as folks living on fishing, hunting and gathering, were the first to know how to perfectly master rice growing and farming to migrate all over the place ( either southward in Oceania, or eastward in the Pacific, or westward in India, or northward in China ) for their survival. Those folks had become the seeds of great and brilliant civilizations found later in India, Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Mediterranean.

From those archaeological and scientific findings, one is led to pose questions on what has been reported and falsified by history in this region of the world and taught until then to the Vietnamese. Could one ignore any longer those scientific discoveries? Could one continue to believe any longer in Chinese writings ( Hậu Hán Thư for example ) where Chinese prefects such as Tích Quang ( Si Kouang ) and Khâm Diên were imputed the care of teaching the ancestors of the Vietnamese how to dress and use the plow that they did not know at the first century of our era?. How could they not know rice growing, the legitimate descendants of king Shennong ( Thần Nông )(4), when one knows that the latter was a specialist in agrarian domain? No one dares to pick out this contradiction.

Shennong (Thần Nông)

One does not even raise questions on what the people from the North have given to this devine hero the nickname Yandi ( Viêm Ðế )( king of hot country of Bai Yue ). Is it about the way to refer to the king of the region of the South, because at the Zhou era, the Yue territory was known as Viêm Bang? Is it possible for nomad folks from the North whose origin is Turco-Mongol, the ancestors of the Han and of the Southern folks, the Yue to have the same ancestors? Is it the matter of a pure making up stories at the glory of the conquerors in order to justify their policy of assimilation?

All the traces of the other peoples, the “Barbarians” have been wiped off at the time of their passage. The conquest of the Chinese continent began at the borders of the loess and the Great Plain and hard to please for almost four millennia. That has been noted by the French scholar René Grousset in his work “History of China” when speaking of the expansion of a Chinese rude pioneer race of the Great Plain.

Facing their brilliant civilization, very few people including the Europeans when they first arrived in Asia dared to raise any doubts about what has been said in Chinese and Vietnamese annals and think of the existence of even another civilization that the dominators succeeded in monopolizing and erasing on the submissive land of the Bai Yue people. The name Indochina has already reflected a great deal this attitude because for a large number of folks, there are only two civilizations in the world worth mentioning in Asia: That of India and of China. It is also regrettable to note the same mistake made by some Vietnamese historians influenced by by the Chinese culture in their history works. By dint of being indoctrinated by the Northern folks’ policy of colonization, a certain number of Vietnamese continue to forget our origin and to think nowadays that we are issues of the Chinese who will not hesitate to set going their policy of assimilation and annexation in territories they have succeeded in conquering since the creation of their nation. The success of “Sinisation” of the Han was visible as the centuries went by at the time of contact with other “barbarian” peoples. The process would not be different from the one that marked their footsteps on the Mongolian “land of grass” in 19th century and in the Manchurian forest in 20th century.

One does not refute their brilliant civilization having an undeniable impact on the development of the Vietnamese culture during their long domination, but one cannot forget to recognize that the ancestors of the Vietnamese, the Luo Yue ( ou Lạc Việt ) have had their own culture, that of Bai Yue. The Vietnamese were the sole survivors of this people for not to be “sinised” in the turmoil of history. They were the legitimate heirs of the Bai Yue people and of their agricultural civilization. The bronze drums of Ðồng Sơn have witnessed their legitimacy because on these objects were found patterns of decoration recounting their agricultural and maritime activities of this brilliant era before the arrival of the Chinese on their territory ( Kiao Tche or Giao Chỉ in Vietnamese).

Now we know that the agricultural civilization of Hemudu has given birth to the culture of Bai Yue (or Bách Việt in Vietnamese). The term Bai Yue literary meaning One hundred Yue, has been used by the Chinese to call all the tribes thought to belong to one group, the Yue. According to Bình Nguyên Lộc, a Vietnamese writer, the tool frequently used by the Yue is the axe ( cái rìu in Vietnamese) found in several forms and made of different materials ( stone, iron or bronze ). For this reason that at the moment of contact with the nomad folks from the North of Turco-Mongol origin, the ancestors of the Han ( or Chinese ) called them by the name of “Yue”, the folks who use the axe, which at that time looked like this :

and served as the model of representation in Chinese writing by the pictogram  . This pictogram also appears in the word Yue where is found the root word mễ ( ) (or rice or gạo in Vietnamese ) to mean the folks who practice farming at the era of Confucius. 

Nowadays, the word Yue ( ) besides the radical (   pass or vượt in Vietnamese), the picture of the axe continues to be represented by the pictogram     endlessly modified as time goes by. Perhaps the word Yue phonetically comes from the sound Yit used by the Muong tribe to call the axe. It is important to remember that the Muong tribe has the same origins as the Luo Yue ( ou Lạc Việt ) tribe whose the Vietnamese are issues. ( The famous Vietnamese kings Lê Ðại Hành , Lê Lợi being Muong people). Recently, archaeologist and researcher of CNRS Corinne Debaine-Francfort has talked about the use of the ceremonial axes by the Chinese in the sacrifice of humans or animals in her work titled “The Rediscovery of Ancient China” ( Editeur Gallimard, 1998 ). The sage Confucius had the opportunity to talk about the Bai Yue people in conversations with his disciples.

The Bai Yue people living south of the Yang Tse river ( Dương Tử Giang ) has a life style, a language, traditions, moral standards and a specific foodstuff… They devote themselves to rice growing, which makes them different from our people who grow millet and wheat. They drink water coming from a kind of plant plucked from the forest known as “tea”. They like dancing, working while singing and alternate their reply in the songs. They often disguise themselves in the dance with leaves and plants. We should not imitate them ( Xướng ca vô loại ).

Confucian influence is not unfamiliar to the bias that Vietnamese parents still hold today when their children devote themselves a bit too much to musical or theatrical activities. it is in this spirit that they are seen with a negative view. But it is also the attitude adopted by Chinese governors in forbidding the Vietnamese to manifest musical expressions in their ceremonies and festivities during their long domination.

Historian Si Ma Qian ( Tư Mã Thiên ) had the opportunity to talk about the Yue in his Memoires historiques ( Sử Ký Tư Mã Thiên ) when he recounts the life of the famous lord , Gou Jian ( Câu Tiễn ),prince of the Yue for his incommensurable patience facing the ennemy governor Fu Chai ( Phù Sai ), king of principality Wu ( Ngô ) at the war time of Srpings and Autumns. After his death, his kingdom was absorbed completely in 332 B.C. by the kingdom of Chu ( Sở Quốc ) which was in its turn annexed later by Qin Shi Huang Di during the unification of China. It is important to stress that the Hemudu site is located in the kingdom Yue of Gou Jian.( Zhejiang ).

As for the groups sharing the same culture of Bai Yue, one finds the Yang Yue, Nan Yue ( Nam Việt ), Lu Yue, Xi Ou, Ou Yue, Luo Yue ( Lạc Việt ), Gan Yue, Min Yue ( Mân Việt ), Yi Yue, Yue Shang etc… They lived north of the basin of the blue river, from Zhejiang ( Triết Giang ) to Jiaozhi ( Giao Chỉ ) ( the North of Vietnam today ). It is found in this area of distribution the current provinces of Southern China: Foujian ( Phúc Kiến ), Hunan ( Hồ Nam ), Guizhou ( Qúi Châu ), Guangdong ( Quảng Ðông ), Jiangxi, Guangxi ( Quảng Tây ) and Yunnan ( Vân Nam ).

The Bai yue were probably the heirs of the Hòa Bình culture. They were a people of skilled farmers: They grew rice on burned land and flooded fields and raised buffaloes and pigs. They lived also by hunting and fishing. They have the custom of tattooing their bodies to protect themselves from attacks of water dragons (con thuồng luồng). Relying on the support of Si Ma Qian’s Memoires Historiques the scholar Léonard Aurousseau evoked the Goujian ( king of the East Yue ) ancestors’ custom to paint their bodies with dragons or other aquatic beasts similar to the ones found on the South Yue.

They wore long hair in chignon held by a turban. According to some Vietnamese texts, they cut their hair short to facilitate their walk in the mountain forests. Their clothes were made of vegetal fibers. Their houses were elevated to avoid being attacked by wild animals. They used bronze drums as ritual objects in their ceremonies for invocation of rain or as an emblem of power in case there is the need to call warriors for combat. The Giao Chi possessed a sacred instrument: The bronze drum. In listening to the drum, they were so enthusiastic during the war…”, that is what we found in the first volume of Hậu Hán Thư ( Late Hán Book ). Their warriors wore a simple loincloth and armed with long spears decorated with feathers. They were also bold navigators who, in their long pirogues traveled all over East sea (Biển Đông) and beyond in part of southern seas. In spite of their high technicity and perfect mastering of farming and rice growing, they were a very peaceful people. More reading (Part 2)