Duy Tân (1907-1916) (English version)


Version française

 A great homage to the man who has dedicated all his life for his people and his country.

Một đời vì nước vì dân
Vĩnh San đứa trẻ không cần ngôi vua
Tù đày tử nhục khi thua
Tử rồi khí phách ông vua muôn đời

With the agreement of the Vietnamese authorities, the ashes of emperor Duy Tân interred up to now in the Republic of Central Africa were gathered with great pomp on April 4th, 1987 in Huế, the city of imperial mausoleums of the Nguyen dynasty. This has brought an end to a long and painful banishment that has had prince Vĩnh San often known as Duy Tân ( or Friend of Reforms ) since his uprising plan against the colonial authorities was discovered on May 4, 1916 because of the treason of a collaborator, Nguyễn Ðình Trứ.

Duy Tân is an outstanding character that none of the last emperors of the Nguyễn dynasty could be equal to. One can only regret his sudden disappearance due to a plane crash that took place at the end of 1945 on his way back from a mission from Vietnam. His death continues to feed doubt and remains one of the mysteries not elucidated until today. One found in him at that time not only the unequal popularity he knew how to acquire from his people, the royal legitimacy, but also an undeniable francophile, an alternative solution that general De Gaulle contemplated to propose to the Vietnamese at the last moment to counter the young revolutionary Hồ Chí Minh in Indochina. If he had been alive, Vietnam probably would not have known the ill-fated decades of its history and been the victim of the East-West confrontation and the cold war.

It is a profound regret that every Vietnamese could only feel when talking about him, his life and his fate. It is also a misfortune for the Vietnamese people to have lost a great statesman, to have written their history with blood and tears during the last decades.

His ascension to the throne remains a unique occurrence in the Annals of history of Vietnam. Taking advantage of suspicious anti-french schemes and the disguised lunacy of his father, emperor Thành Thái, the colonial authorities compelled the latter to abdicate in 1907 and go into exile in the Reunion at the age of 28. They requested that Prime Minister Trương Như Cường assume the regency. However this one while categorically refusing this proposal, kept demanding the colonial authorities to strictly respect the definite agreement in the Patenôtre Treaty of Protectorate (1884) providing that the throne comes back to one of the emperor’s sons in case he ceases reigning ( Phụ truyền tử kế ). Facing popular opinion and the infallible fidelity of Trương Như Cương to the Nguyen dynasty, the colonial authorities were forced to choose one of his sons as emperor. They did not hide their intention of choosing the one that seemed docile and without caliber. Except Vĩnh San, all of about 20 other sons of emperor Thành Thái were present at the moment of selection made by the General Resident Sylvain Levecque. The name Vĩnh San missed at the roll-call, which forced everyone to look for him everywhere.

Finally he was found under the beam of a frame, his face covered with mud and soak with sweat. He was chasing the crickets. Seeing him in this sordid condition, Sylvain Levecque did not hide his satisfaction because he thought only a fool would choose the day of ascession to the throne to go chasing the crickets. Upon the recommendation of his close collaborator Charles, he decided to designate him as emperor of Annam as he found in front of him a seven-year old child, timid, reserved, having no political ambition and thinking only to devote himself to games like children of his age. It was an erroneous judgment as stated in the comment of a French journalist at that time in his local newspaper:

 A day on the throne has completely changed the face of an eight-year old child. 

One noticed a few years later that the journalist was right because Duy Tân has dedicated all his life for his people and his country until his last breath of life.
At the time of his ascension to the throne he was only 7. To give him a stature of an emperor, they had to give him one more year of age. That is why in the Annals of history of Vietnam, he was brought to the throne at 8 years of age. To deal with this erroneous designation, the colonial authorities installed a council of regency constituted of Vietnamese personalities close to General Resident Sylvain Levecque ( Tôn Thất Hân, Nguyễn Hữu Bài, Huỳnh Côn, Miên Lịch, Lê Trinh, Cao Xuân Dục) to assist the emperor in the management of the country and requested that Eberhard, the father-in-law of Charles be Duy Tân’s tutor. It was a way to closely supervise the activities of this young man.

Trần Cao Vân

In spite of that, Duy Tân succeeded in evading the surveillance network placed by the colonial authorities. He was one of the fierce partisans for the revision of the Patenotre agreements (1884). He was the architect of several reforms: Tax and chore duty reduction, elimination of wasteful court protocols, reduction of his own salary etc… He forcefully protested the profanation of emperor Tự Ðức’s tomb by General Resident Mahé in his search for gold, with the governor of Indochina Albert Sarraut. He claimed the right to look at the management of the country. This marked the prelude of dissension which grew more and more visible between him and the French Superior Resident. On May 4, 1916, with Trần Cao Vân and Thái Phiên, he fomented a rebellion which was discovered and put down due to the treason of one of his collaborators. Despite his capture and flattering advice of the Governor of Indochina asking him to reexamine his comportment and conduct, he continued be impassible and said: 

If you compelled me to remain emperor of Annam, you should consider me as an adult emperor. I should need neither the council of regency nor your advice. I should manage the country’s business on the same footing with all foreign countries including France.

Facing his unwavering conviction, the colonial authorities had to assign the Minister of Instructions of that time, the father-in-law of future emperor Khải-Ðịnh, Hồ Ðắc Trung to institute proceedings against his treason toward France. For not compromising Duy Tân, the two older collaborators Trần Cao Vân and Thái Phiên made it known to Hồ Đắc Trung their intent to voluntarily accept the verdict provided that emperor Duy Tân was exempt from the capital punishment. They kept saying:

The sky is still there. So are the earth and the dynasty. We wish long live to the emperor.


Faithful to the Nguyen dynasty, Hồ Ðắc Trung only condemned the emperor to exile in justifying the fact that he was a minor and that the responsibility of the plot rested with the older collaborators Trần Cao Vân and Thái Phiên.

The men were guillotined at An Hoà. As for emperor Duy Tân, he was condemned to exile to the Reunion on November 3, 1916 on board of the steamship Avardiana. The day before his departure, the representative of the General Resident visited him and asked:

Sir, if you need money you may take it from the state coffer.

Duy Tân replied politely :

The money that you find in the coffer is intended to help the king to govern the country but it does not belong to me in anyway especially to a political prisoner.

To entertain the king, the representative did not hesitate to remind him that it was possible to choose preferred books in the library and take them with him during his exile because he knew the king loved to read very much. He agreed to that proposal and told him:

I love reading very much. If you have the chance to bring books for me, don’t forget to bring the entirety of all the volumes of “History of the French Revolution” of Michelet.

The representative dared not report to the Resident what Duy Tan had told him.

His exile marked not only the end of the imperial resistance and the struggle monopolized and animated up until then by the scholars for the defense of the Confucian order and the imperial state but also the beginning of a national movement and the emergence of a state nationalism placed in birth by the great patriot scholar Phan Bội Châu. It was also a lost chance for France for not taking the initiative to give freedom to Vietnam in the person of Duy Tân, a francophile of the first hour.

His destiny is that of the Vietnamese people. For a certain time, one has deliberately made all streets bearing his name disappear in big cities ( Hànội, Huế, Sàigon ) in Vietnam, but one cannot forever erase his cherished name in his people’s heart and in our collective memory. He is not the rival of anybody but he is on the contrary 

the last great emperor of Vietnam.

To this title I dedicate to him the following four verses:

Devoting his whole life to his country and people,
Duy Tan the kid did not hang on to his throne.
Facing exile and humility when defeated,
His uprightness lives forever in history unabated.

Thành Thái (1879-1954) (English version)



Version française

Thành Thái 

A great homage to a man who devoted his whole life for his country and people through my Six-Eight verses:

Ta điên vì nước vì dân
Ta nào câm điếc một lần lên ngôi
Trăm ngàn tủi nhục thế thôi
Lưu đày thể xác than ôi cũng đành

His madness for the love of  his country  and people.

I am mad for the love of my country and people
Once on the throne, I can’t stay deaf-mute
It wouldn’t matter I feel self pity and shame
And my body suffers years of exile with resignation

Prior to becoming emperor Thành Thái, he was known as Bửu Lân. He was the son of emperor Dục Ðức who had been vilely assassinated by the two Confucianist mandarins Tôn Thất Thuyết and Nguyễn Văn Tường, and the grand son of the mandarin Phan Ðình Bình. Because the latter was maladroitly opposed to the enthronement of emperor Ðồng Khánh by the colonial authorities, Ðồng Khánh was fast to take revenge by cowardly getting rid of this old mandarin and by putting Bửu Lân and his mother under house surveillance within the surrounding wall of the purple city at the Trần Võ palace in order to avoid all seeds of revolt. That was why at Ðồng Khánh’s death and upon the announcement of the choice of her son as the successor by the colonial authorities, Buu Lan’s mother was surprised and cried so much because she was always obsessed by the idea that her son would probably meet the same fate as her husband, emperor Dục Đức and her father, the mandarin Phan Ðình Bình. If Buu Lan was preferred to other princes, it was incontestably due to the ingenuities of Diệp Văn Cương, the presumed lover of his aunt, princess Công Nữ Thiên Niệm because Diệp Vân Cương was Resident General Rheinart‘s personal secretary, in charge of conducting business with the Imperial Court to find a compromise on the person to be chosen to succeed emperor Ðồng Khánh.

Thus he involuntarily became our new emperor known as Thành Thái. He was fast to realize that his power was very limited, that the Patenôtre treaty was never respected and that he had no right with regard to the management and future of his country. Contrary to his predecessor Ðồng Khánh, close to the colonial authorities, he took a passive resistance by trying to thwart their policies in a systematic manner with his provoking remarks and amicable gestures. His fist virulent altercation with the Resident General Alexis Auvergne was noticed at the inaugural ceremony of the new bridge spanning across the Perfume river. Proud of technical prowess and confident of the sturdiness of the bridge, Alexis Auvergne did not hesitate to tell Thành Thái with his habitual cynicism:

When you would have seen this bridge collapse, your country would be independent.

To show the importance that the colonial authorities has given to the new bridge, they named it “Thành Thái”. This made the emperor mad. Using as a pretext that everyone can walk over his head when crossing the bridge, he forbade his subjects to call the bridge by its new name and incited them to use the old name “Tràng Tiền”.

Tràng Tiền bridge (Huế)

Some years later, the bridge collapsed during a violent storm. Thành Thái was fast to recall Alexis Auvergne of what he had said with his black humor. Alexis Auvergne was red with shame and had to clear off at these embarrassing remarks. The dissension with the authorities grew day by day until the replacement of the old Resident General by Sylvain Levecque. The latter was fast to place a network of strict surveillance when he learned that Thanh Thai continued to approach his people through the bias of his reforms and his disguise in plain clothes or as a beggar in villages. He was the first emperor of Vietnam to take the initiative of having his hair cut the European fashion, which astonished so many of his mandarins and subjects when he first appeared. But he also was the first emperor to encourage his subjects to follow French education. He was the artisan of several architectural projects. He was also the first emperor of the Nguyen dynasty who wanted to pay enormous attention to the daily life of his subjects and to know their daily difficulties. It was reported that during an escorted excursion, he met on his way a poor man who was hauling a heavy load of bamboo. He body guard wanted to ease the way but he stopped him by saying:

I am neither citizen nor emperor as I should be in this country. Why do you chase him away?

During his excursions, he often used to sit on a mat, surrounded by the villagers and to discuss all the issues with them. It was in one of his excursion that he brought back to the purple city an oarswoman who accepted to marry him and became his concubine. He was well known as an excellent drummer.

That is why he summoned all the best drummers in the country to the purple city, asked them to play drums before his court and reward them generously according to their merit. It was reported that one day, he met a drummer who used to tilt his head when playing. Wanting to help him correct this funny habit, he told him jokingly:

If you keep on playing that way, I will have to have your head rolled.

From then on, the drummer, worrying incessantly about the next call, was overwhelmed by fear and died of a heart attack. One day, knowing the death of the drummer, Thanh Thai was taken my remorse, summoned his family and gave them a large sum of money to take care of their daily needs.

His way of joking, his frequent disguises, his sometimes strange behavior incomprehensible to the colonial authorities gave them an opportunity to brand him a lunatic.

As for Thành Thái, he was deported first to Vũng Tàu (former Cap St. Jacques) in the Fall of 1907, then later to the Reunion Island with his son, emperor Duy Tân in 1916. He was only allowed to return to Vietnam in 1945 after the death of Duy Tân and to stay confined within Vũng Tàu, South Vietnam during the last years of his life.

Is it possible to brand him lunatic when it is known through his poem titled “Hoài Cổ” ( Remember the Past ) that Thành Thái was so lucid and never stopped to groan with the pain facing the alarming situation of his country? Other eight seven-foot verses we know such as The storm of the year of the Dragon in 1904 ( Vịnh Trần Bão Năm Thìn ) or Profession of Faith ( Cảm Hoài ) not only show Thành Thai’s perfect mastery in the strict application of the difficult rules in Vietnamese poetry but also the painful pride of a great emperor who, in spite of a forced exile for almost half a century ( 1907-1954 ) by the colonial authorities, continued to display his conviction and unshakable faith in the liberation of his country. Through him it is already seen forging on this land of legends the instruments of a future revolt.

For him, his incurable illness was the goal to realize his intention, to give his people the dignity so long waited and to show future generations the sacrifice and the price which even he, a person considered alienated by the colonial authorities, had to pay for that country ( 47 years of exile ). In the political context of the time, he should not reveal himself of this “illness”.

Up to now, no historic document show us Thành Thái’s insanity but rather it reveals a great emperor’s lunacy of the love of his country and people, neverending affliction of a great patriot facing the destiny of his country.

Sacrifice (English version)

Version Française


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

Nguyễn Thái Học

Vietnam is not only a land of legends and learned men but also a land that men have acquired acre by acre in a crual mother nature for more than four thousand years. The cradle of the Vietnamese nation, the delta of Tonkin bordered by mild hills of the Hundred Thousands Mounts of China and squeezed in the South by a quasi impenetrable range, the Annamitic Cordillera, reduced to 15,000 km2 but rich of all the mud pulled out by the Red river, continues to be threathened by the latter with the discharge of 500m3 at low tide up to 3500m3 during the highest crests.

To master the blows of sword of the Red River, the Vietnamese people resort to a method of building dikes, which requires not only an increased watch of dikes but also a perpetual struggle. Facing the never-ending change of nature, the caprice of the Red river and the territorial ambitions of China, the Vietnamese people owe their safety at the cost not only of their labor and courage but also of their sacrifice in the long march toward the South.

This sacrifice is not foreign to the majority of Vietnamese in particular the men and women of character. It also becomes a cult that one likes to maintain and ceaselessly praise for Vietnam to excite the whole people before the threat of foreigners.

The sacrifice is the surest way to maintain the perfection of the homeland but it is also the synonym of loyalty and dignity. A great person is the one who dares take the responsibilities in moments of difficulty in his or her life but it is also the one who knows how to sacrifice himself or herself for a good cause, in particular for his or her country. The sacrifice is indispensable to the word “honor” in Vietnam.

Because of this moral dignity, many military people prefered suicide to surrender (Trưng Trắc, Trưng Nhị, Trần Bình Trọng, Võ Tánh etc..). That is why it is the habit to say:

Hùm chết để da, người chết để tiếng.
A dead tiger leaves its hide, a deceased person his reputation. 
The history of Vietnam is also that of sacrifices. The duty of a Vietnamese is to serve his or her country wholehreatedly. The greater the danger, the better his or her loyalty seems to be.



Heroes sacrifice for their fatherland. No matter what happens, his honor is never tainted. It is the case of the scholar Phan Thanh Giản, signatory of the Franco-Vietnamese treaty of 1868. After having failed to put up with the French in the defense of the three western provinces of the Mekong delta (Vĩnh Long, An Giang and Hà Tiên) he chose to surrender and decided to poison himself in 1967 because he thought it was the only way to save the people and to show his fidelity to emperor Tự Ðức. The same, Nguyễn Tri Phương (1873), adversary of Francis Garnier and Hoàng Diệu (1882), adversary of Henri Rivière preferred suicide after having failed to defend Hànội city.

During the French occupation, sacrifice became the flame of hope lit by unknown people such as Nguyễn Trung Trực, Phạm Hồng Thái. The former accepted to die in the stead of his mother captured after having succeeded in blowing up the French “Espérance” on its passage on the “Nhựt Tảo” river in Long An while the latter, chased by the Chinese police in his escape, preferred to throw himself in the river after having failed to assassinate the French governor Merlin during his passage by Canton in 1924. Admiror of his courage and sacrifice for his fatherland, the governor of Canton later buried his remains in a cemetery solely reserved for the 72 Chinese heroes and known as “Hoàng Hoa Cương” in Vietnamese. 

If this sacrifice is not a vain word for men, it carries a particular meaning for the Vietnamese women. Princess Huyền Trân of the Trần dynasty was proposed to become in 1306 the wife of king Chế Mẫn (Jaya Simhavarman)  in exchange of the two territories of Champa Chau Ô and Châu Rí. She had to sacrifice her life, her love for reason of State.

The same, three centuries later, a princess of the Nguyễn dynasty, of the name Ngọc Vạn to whom the word “Cochinchina” or (Cô chín xin) was attributed, was not late in following Huyen Tran’s footsteps in becoming the concubine of Cambodian king Prea Chey Chetta II in 1618 in exchange of the facilities granted to Vietnamese in their settlement in the region Ðồng Nai Mô Xoài which is no other than the Saigon-Cholon region today.

Her presence on the Cham soil served as a pretext for lord Nguyễn Phúc Tần to launch an expedition and annex the last territory of Champa in 1651. One cannot blame the Cham for hating princess Ngoc Khoa at that time because of her, they have lost their homeland. But Ngọc Khoa illustrates for us Vietnamese the sublime sacrifice she consented for her country and her people.




Eastern Han Dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

Version française

Eastern Han dynasty (Nhà Đông Hán)

titre_dynhan_9 Guimet museum of Asian art (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, customs and religious 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 great  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.



Mat weight 

intended to maintain the mat edges thanks to its weight.


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 Đếsucceeded to bring prosperity and stability in his empire by reducing the tax on crops and profits. After his death,   his son Mingdi (Hán Minh Đế) imitating Wudi, pursued the policy of expansion by taking an offensive against the northern Xiongnu (Hung Nô)  with the aim of releasing the States of Central Asia from the guardianship of the latter and restoring the security of the silk road (con đường tơ lụa) for the benefit of China. Being the brother of Ban Gu (*)(Ban Cố) 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 (Nguyệt Chi or Nhục Chi) thanks to the Kusana assistance.


 (*) Author of Hanshu (Hán Thư)


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 (Map 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 River map 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 River map ( 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




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