The history of Vietnam is one of the longest continuous histories in the world, with a cultural history of around 25,000 years and an eventful history with so many wars and calamities.
Archaeological excavations showed the existence of humans in the area that is today Vietnam as early as the Paleolithic age. The presence of Homo erectus around 500,000 BC was found in caves of Lạng Sơn and Nghệ An provinces in Northern Vietnam. Other early human fossils are from the Middle Pleistocene age.
According to mythology, for almost three millennia — from its beginning around 2879 B.C. to its conquest by Thục Phán in 258 B.C. — the Hồng Bàng period was divided into 18 dynasties, with each dynasty being based on the lineage of the kings. The country began as several tribal states, with King Kinh Dương Vương grouping all the vassal states at around 2879 BC. The ancient Vietnamese rulers of this period are collectively known as the Hùng kings.
– Thục dynasty (257–207 BC)
By the 3rd century BC, another Viet group, the Âu Việt, emigrated from present-day southern China to the Red River delta and mixed with the indigenous Văn Lang population. In 257 BC, a new kingdom, Âu Lạc, emerged as the union of the Âu Việt and the Lạc Việt, with Thục Phán proclaiming himself “An Dương Vương” (“King An Dương”). Some modern Vietnamese believe that Thục Phán came upon the Âu Việt territory (modern-day northernmost Vietnam, western Guangdong, and southern Guangxi province, with its capital in what is today Cao Bằng Province).
– Triệu dynasty (207–111 BC)
In 207 BC, Qin warlord Triệu Đà defeated King An Dương Vương and annexed Âu Lạc into his domain located in present-day Guangdong/Guangxi area. He proclaimed his new independent kingdom as Nam Việt, starting the Triệu dynasty. Triệu Đà later appointed himself a commandant of central Guangdong, closing the borders and conquering neighboring districts and titled himself “King of Nam Viet”.
In 111 BC, Han troops invaded Nam Việt and established new territories, dividing Vietnam into Giao Chỉ, now the Red River delta; Cửu Chân from modern-day Thanh Hóa to Hà Tĩnh; and Nhật Nam, from modern-day Quảng Bình to Huế. While governors and top officials were Chinese, the original Vietnamese nobles (Lạc Hầu, Lạc Tướng) from the Hồng Bàng period still managed some highlands.
In 40 AD, the Trưng Sisters led a successful revolt against Han Governor Su Dung and recaptured 65 states. Trưng Trắc became the Queen. In 43 AD, Emperor Guangwu of Han sent his famous general Ma Yuan with a large army to quell the revolt. After a long, difficult campaign, Ma Yuan suppressed the uprising and the Trung Sisters committed suicide to avoid capture. To this day, the Trưng Sisters are revered in Vietnam as the national symbol of Vietnamese women.
Learning a lesson from the Trưng revolt, the Han and other successful Chinese dynasties took measures to eliminate the power of the Vietnamese nobles. The Vietnamese elites were educated in Chinese culture and politics. Nearly 200 years passed before the Vietnamese attempted another revolt. In 225 another woman, Triệu Thị Trinh, popularly known as Lady Triệu, led another revolt which lasted until 248. Once again, the uprising failed and Triệu Thị Trinh threw herself into a river.
From 544 to 602 In the period between the beginning of the Chinese Age of Fragmentation and the end of the Tang dynasty, several revolts against Chinese rule took place, such as those of Lý Bôn and his general and heir Triệu Quang Phục; and those of Mai Thúc Loan and Phùng Hưng. All of them ultimately failed, yet most notable were those led by Lý Bôn and Triệu Quang Phục, whose Early Lý dynasty ruled for almost half a century before the Chinese Sui dynasty reconquered their kingdom Vạn Xuân.
In 866, Annam was renamed Tĩnh Hải quân. Early in the 10th century, as China became politically fragmented, successive lords from the Khúc clan, followed by Dương Đình Nghệ, ruled Tĩnh Hải quân autonomously under the Tang title of Jiedushi , Virtuous Lord, but stopped short of proclaiming themselves kings.
In 938, Southern Han sent troops to conquer autonomous Giao Châu. Ngô Quyền, Dương Đình Nghệ’s son-in-law, defeated the Southern Han fleet at the Battle of Bạch Đằng. He then proclaimed himself King Ngô and effectively began the age of independence for Vietnam.
The basic nature of Vietnamese society changed little during the nearly 1,000 years between independence from China in the 10th century and the French conquest in the 19th century. The king was the ultimate source of political authority, the final dispenser of justice, law, and supreme commander-in-chief of the armed forces, as well as overseer of religious rituals. Administration was carried out by mandarins who were trained exactly like their Chinese counterparts. Overall, Vietnam remained very efficiently and stably governed except in times of war and dynastic breakdown, and its administrative system was probably far more advanced than that of any other Southeast Asian state. No serious challenge to the king’s authority ever arose, as titles of nobility were bestowed purely as honors and were not hereditary. Periodic land reforms broke up large estates and ensured that powerful landowners could not emerge. No religious/priestly class ever arose outside of the mandarins either. This stagnant absolutism ensured a stable, well-ordered society, but also resistance to social, cultural, or technological innovations. Reformers looked only to the past for inspiration. Vietnam independent time passed through many dynasties with Ngô, Đinh, & Early Lê dynasties (939–1009), Lý, Trần, & Hồ dynasties (1009–1407). Specially in Tran Dynasty, Vietnamese won Mongolian with the troop of Genghis Khan 3 times in 1258, 1285 and 1288 marking the top development period of Vietnam history.
In 1407, under the pretext of helping to restore the Trần dynasty, Chinese Ming troops invaded Đại Ngu and captured Hồ Quý Ly and Hồ Hán Thương. The Hồ dynasty came to an end after only 7 years in power. The Ming occupying force annexed Đại Ngu into the Ming Empire after claiming that there was no heir to Trần throne. Vietnam, weakened by dynastic feuds and the wars with Champa, quickly succumbed. The Ming conquest was harsh. Vietnam was annexed directly as a province of China, the old policy of cultural assimilation again imposed forcibly, and the country was ruthlessly exploited.
Within this time, Nguyễn Trãi supported his behold king: Lê Lợi with the rebellions against the Ming and result the victory in 1428. Vietnamese nationalism had reached a point where attempts to turn them into Chinese could only strengthen further resistance. The country came back to its independent route with Later Lê – Mạc & Restored Lê dynasties (1428–1788)
In the year 1600, Nguyễn Hoàng also declared himself Lord and refused to send more money or soldiers to help the Trịnh. He also moved his capital to Phú Xuân, modern-day Huế. Nguyễn Hoàng died in 1613 after having ruled the south for 55 years. He was succeeded by his 6th son, Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, who likewise refused to acknowledge the power of the Trịnh, yet still pledged allegiance to the Lê king
Within this time, Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit priest, improved on earlier work by Portuguese missionaries and developed the Vietnamese Romanized alphabet – Quốc Ngữ – in Dictionarium Annamiticum Lusitanum et Latinum in 1651. Various European efforts to establish trading posts in Vietnam failed, but missionaries were allowed to operate for some time until the mandarins began concluding that Christianity (which had succeeded in converting up to a tenth of the population by 1700) was a threat to the Confucian social order since it condemned ancestor worship as idolatry. Vietnamese attitudes to Europeans and Christianity hardened as they began to increasingly see it as a way of undermining society.
In 1771, the Tây Sơn revolution broke out in Quy Nhơn, which was under the control of the Nguyễn lord. The leaders of this revolution were three brothers named Nguyễn Nhạc, Nguyễn Lữ, and Nguyễn Huệ, not related to the Nguyễn lords. By 1776, the Tây Sơn had occupied all of the Nguyễn Lord’s land and killed almost the entire royal family. The last Lê emperor, Lê Chiêu Thống, fled to Qing China and petitioned the Qianlong Emperor for help. The Qianlong Emperor supplied Lê Chiêu Thống with a massive army of around 200,000 troops to regain his throne from the usurper. Nguyễn Huệ proclaimed himself Emperor Quang Trung and defeated the Qing troops with 100,000 men in a surprise 7 day campaign during the lunar new year. The surviving prince Nguyễn Phúc Ánh (often called Nguyễn Ánh) fled to Siam, and obtained military support from the Siamese king. And later on got the land of the South of Vietnam with the capital of Gia Dinh (Saigon Nowadays). In 1802, he successfully defeated the Tây Sơn Dynasty and set his capital in Phú Xuân (Huế) nowadays. This is also the last dynasty in Vietnam.
In 1858, French army defeated Nguyễn’ Royal troop and Vietnam is under French domination till 1945.
The born of Vietnamese Communist party in 1930 lead by Ho Chi Minh became an important milestone to Vietnamese people as now Vietnam is still lead by this communist party. Ho Chi Minh ideals of gaining independence for his nation of poor famers and exploited workers brought him to this communism. He later on succeeded with the August revolution to win Vietnam independence.
In early 1945, over 2 millions of Vietnamese died in a famine which resulted from French, Japanese and Vietnamese Feudalism forcing people to replace rice by jute plants for dynamite. This is the most terrible famine in Vietnam history.
In September 1945, Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) and held the position of President. In 1946, Vietnam had its first National Assembly election which drafted the first constitution, but the situation was still precarious: the French tried to regain power by force.
Full-scale war broke out between the Việt Minh and France in late 1946 and the First Indochina War officially began. This war ended at Dien Bien Phu which is the Stronghold the France built up in the hope to defeat Vietnamese Major Army in the place of nowhere. The 1954 Geneva Conference according that Vietnam will be divided by 2 parts: The South will be united back to Vietnam motherland after 1 year of Geneva Agreement which set time for French troop in Indochina to gather and leave. Worrying about the raising Communists problem in Asia which could cause a Domino Fall, American aided to form up Ngô Đình Diệm – a Church Father to be the President of Republic of Vietnam, supported by the United States, ruling the South from Saigon.
From 1954 to 1960, talks between 4 sides: Vietnam Northern by Ho Chi Minh – Vietnam Southern by Ngo Dinh Diem and Vietnam Southern By Vietnam Southern People and American could not get to any result. The war alter on known as Vietnam – American war began in 1960 with Ben Tre Rebellions. In 1963, seeing that the Government of Diem was not doing well, CIA assassinated his family and change power to another man that sets American Troops in Vietnam later. From 1963 to 1973, 59.000 American Youngs died in the war and the Vietnamese side is around 40 times than that number. Tet Offensive in 1968 was the turning point that brings the 4 sides back to the talk in Paris but also resulted thousands Vietnam Northern Troop’s death and Ho Chi Minh also passed away earlier as the sorrow for this fight . In 1964, American created a pretext to bomb the North with the imaginative story called Gulf of Tonkin Incident.
In the late of 1972, American bombers bombed the North seriously in the hope to win the talk in Paris but Vietnamese could stand with So Viet and China weapons support. This lead to the withdrawal of the last U.S. forces in 1973, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, and 2 years later the Vietnamese succeeded in controlling over the South and in 1976, the government of united Vietnam renamed Saigon as Hồ Chí Minh City in honor of Uncle Hồ, who died in 1969. The war left Vietnam devastated, with the total death toll standing at between 800,000 and 3.1 million, and many thousands more crippled by weapons and substances such as napalm and Agent Orange
From 1976, Vietnam is united again and Hanoi is chosen to be the capital. The country went into a massive campaign to move to a “Heaven of Socialism” following So Viet with the subsidy economy which had brought power to the nation during the fight with America.
In the late 1970s, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge – led by a man called Pol Pot regime started harassing and raiding Vietnamese villages at the common border and also imprisoned and killed half of Cambodia people. To neutralize the threat, Vietnam Public Army fought against the Pol Pot’s army and defeated Pol Pot in 1979. To take advantage of the situation when the main army was staying in 2000 kms South, as an action to support the pro-Beijing Khmer Rogue regime, China increased its pressure on Vietnam, and then the Chinese troops crossed Vietnam’s northern border in 1979 to “punish” Vietnam as Sino-Vietnamese War, but their foray was quickly pushed back by Vietnamese forces with the help from So Viet helicopters to bring the main troops back to the North in 2 weeks. Relations between the two countries had been deteriorating for some time. Territorial disagreements along the border and in the South China Sea that had remained dormant during the Vietnam War were revived at the war’s end, and a postwar campaign engineered by Hanoi against the ethnic Chinese Hoa community elicited a strong protest from Beijing. China was displeased with Vietnam’s alliance with the Soviet Union. During its prolonged military occupation of Cambodia in 1979–89, Vietnam’s international isolation extended to relations with the United States. Washington also continued to enforce the trade embargo imposed on Hanoi at the conclusion of the war in 1975.
After 10 years of keeping the Subsidy economy, leaders and people found that the country was getting poorer and poorer as the theory simply could not work during peace time when “personal laziness” appeared with the theory of: “Work to ability and get to demand”. In 1986, the lack of goods due to ill management skills lead to 776% inflation rate of Vietnam and the government had to change the currency by adding 3 zeros in the back. In 1986,Nguyễn Văn Linh, who was elevated to the Communist Party general secretary the following year, launched a campaign for political and economic renewal (Đổi Mới). His policies were characterized by political and economic experimentation that was similar to simultaneous reform agenda undertaken in the Soviet Union. Reflecting the spirit of political compromise, Vietnam phased out its reeducation effort. The communist government stopped promoting agricultural and industrial cooperatives. Farmers were permitted to till private plots alongside state-owned land, and in 1990 the communist government passed a law encouraging the establishment of private businesses
Now, Vietnam has stepped out of its sorrowful history to be the destinations of investors and tourism. Economy of Vietnam is going fast and ranked among the strongest economy in South East Asia.
Vietnam now is the nation with 90 million people and the GDP of over 250 Billions (2014)
There isn’t much to say about the guides as there was not much guiding to be done, it …Mr. Carlos from Colombia on 7 Aug 2017
We had a customised Hanoi Tour arranged by Mr Windy. Arrangement was seamless from the …Ms. Jedrin from Singapore on 29 Jul 2017
Kolia is a young, energetic man who is full of senses of humour. He is really helpful. He …ChungYin Man from Hong Kong on 27 may 2017
Vinh who lead the trip was very pleasant and informative. I had a lovely time visiting …Ms. Platt from united kingdom on 2 may,2017
We enjoy the taste of hanoi specially the pancake with fish sauce with garlic and herb, …Ms. Jacklyn Sia from Philipines on 15 April 2017
Series of articles introducing Asia countries with Places to visit, what to do, dishes to try to help you understand and tailor your Asia trip better.