Litterally meaning « in the South of the Yue », the kingdom of Nanyue is at its origin the name of Vietnam. Between 2nd and 1st century B.C., it took up an area covering the present Guangdong (Quãng Ðông), Guangxi ( Quãng Tây ) provinces, HaiNam island ( Hải Nam) and the kingdom of Âu-Lac, the ancient country of the Vietnamese. The latter whose king was An Dương Vương was annexed by general Zhao Tuo (Triệu Ðà or Triệu Vũ Vương in Vietnamese ), the future founder of the kingdom of Nanyue.
According to the Vietnamese, the loss of their country was closely linked to the legend of the magic crossbow In fact it was due to the way Triệu Ðà fought a war of lightning against An Dương Vương while making the latter think of territorial compromises. Once these provinces were reunited under his banner, Zhao Tuo set up his seat at Pan You (Phiên Ngung ) not far from Guangzhou, presently Canton. He divided the kingdom of Au La.c into two commands, one known as Giao Chỉ which mainly took up the Bắc Việt region, and the other under the name of Giao Châu which gathered together all the other provinces of North and Central Vietnam (Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, etc…). According to French researcher Maud Girard-Geslan (1), the population is composed of non-Han belonging to Bai Yue group to which the Luo Yue (Lạc Việt) and Xi Ou (Tây Âu) are attached.
At the fall of the Qin ( 207 B.C. ), he proclaimed himself King of Nanyue and took the title of Wu Wang, than Emperor in 187. He did not stop challenging the Han Empire by harassing it several times and only accepted to submit himself under the Han’s bosom at the disappearance of the dowager empress Lu Zhi (Lữ Hậu). His fame was so great that in Chinese writings at that time, his name in particular his kingdom, was cited several times. He deceased in 137 B.C.. His descendants had to reign this kingdom at least for a century through five generations. His immediate successor was Zhao Mei, his grand son, better known as Emperor Wen of Nanyue. His grave dug on the side of the Xianggang hill, near Canton, was discovered in 1983 by a team of Cantonese archaeologists. Under the influence of his mother of Chinese origin, the last but one emperor of this dynasty decided to yield his kingdom to the Han empire. Knowing of this plan, his prime minister Lử Gia decided to eliminate him as well as his mother and enthroned in his stead his half-brother known as Dương Vương.
Giving usurpation of power as a pretext, the Chinese invaded the kingdom and annexed it in 111 B.C. in spite of Lử Gia’s heroic attitude. Since then, the country of the Vietnamese passed under Chinese domination. The spreading of Chinese culture did not take place in a peaceful manner during these thousand years and was marked by a series of the following bloody revolts:
- The revolt of the heroines Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị during the years 40-43 A.D.
- The revolt of the heroine Triệu Ẩu in year 248.
- The revolt of the hero Lý Bổn (or Lý Nam Ðế ) during the years 544-602.
- The revolt led by Mai Thúc Loan (or Mai Hắc Ðế ) in 722.
- The revolt of the hero Phùng Hưng (or Bồ Cái Ðại Vương) in 791.
Cemented by the strong awareness for a Vietnamese unity, the Vietnamese continued to harass incessantly their Chinese invaders and succeeded in wrenching out indep