In present-day Vietnam there were three major state formation in ancient times. The Mekong Delta in the south was part of the Funan kingdom, which collapsed in the 500s AD, then became part of the Buddhist Khmer kingdom of Angkor, with its center in present-day Cambodia. Until the 18th century, the Mekong Delta was essentially populated by Khmer.
According to thesciencetutor, the middle part of our Vietnam today was the center of Champa, which is mentioned in Chinese sources from the 20th century AD Champa was first Hindu, later Buddhist. After the downfall of the kingdom in the 17th century, many Chams turned to Islam.
The Red River’s participation in the north was the center of the third state formation, which throughout its history has been characterized by contact and conflict with China. At the time of Confucius and Laozi (the 5th century BCE), when there were several warring states around Chang Jiang (Yangtze) and Huang He (Yellow River), the Red River Delta also had its own state, Au Lac, ruled by the mythical Hung The king. In Vietnamese national storytelling, they appear as Vietnam’s founders. They should have been based on an older culture, the Dong Son culture, which is known from archaeological finds of large bronze drums.
In the last two centuries BCE, when the Chin Dynasty gathered the warring states and the Han Dynasty took over the kingdom, Au Lac also collapsed. The Red River Delta then (111 BCE) became a province in the Middle Kingdom.
Chinese influence and independence
According to Countryaah data, the northern part of present-day Vietnam was conquered by China in the first century BCE This was the beginning of the Chinese dominion that lasted for over 1,000 years.
The Chinese influence left a lasting mark on Vietnamese society. China had a superior culture and civilization. The Chinese improved agriculture by building irrigation systems and metal plows and introduced new technology in mining. They built roads and canals. North Vietnam was gradually characterized culturally by the Chinese. The Confucian doctrine and the Chinese administrative system were introduced.
Under Chinese rule, northern Vietnam became the most advanced civilization in Southeast Asia. China wanted to make the Vietnamese into Chinese. But although the Vietnamese adopted the most important aspects of Chinese culture and civilization, they never accepted the Chinese political dominion.
During this period, the history of North Vietnam is characterized by constant rebellion against Chinese political dominance. But North Vietnam was never “Confutianized” in the same way as China. The Buddhist element was stronger. In the central parts of Vietnam, the Hindu influence was strong, as was the case in Kampuchea, which had dominion over the whole of southern Vietnam. North Vietnam became independent in the ninth century after defeating the Chinese armies.
In the 1500s, the Vietnamese expansion began south. population growth led to a shortage of arable land. The southern part of Vietnam was fertile but sparsely populated. Saigon was conquered approx. year 1700, and by the end of the 1700s, Vietnam is today under one rule, with the exception of the southernmost part of South Vietnam, which was first conquered in 1840.
But this fierce expansion created new problems. The highly centralized administration in North Vietnam could be difficult to maintain over this vast area. The southern area sought to free itself. Civil war broke out, and during periods Vietnam was divided into two states, roughly along the dividing line that became the temporary border between North and South Vietnam. For further development, it was important that South Vietnam never came under the firm centralized control of the central power such as North Vietnam. The local governors of South Vietnam had considerable autonomy.
The Chinese-dominated social system that prevailed in North Vietnam was consolidated as early as the 1100s. The emperor had absolute power. His power attributed to him a “mandate from heaven”. The country was governed by an office of mandarins who were only responsible to the emperor. Similar to China, Mandarins were recruited through an exam system based on Confucian principles. In principle, everyone could become officials, but only the wealthy could afford the long schooling that was a prerequisite for passing the exam.
There was no military caste with political influence, nor an aristocracy with independent political power. No merchant class or any property-owning middle class threatened Mandarin’s power position. The larger landowners were kept in check by regular redistributions of the land.
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South Vietnam never developed the tenacious community structure that prevailed in North Vietnam. The conquest of South Vietnam was complete by the end of the 1700s. 100 years later, Vietnam was colonized by France. Unlike North Vietnam, South Vietnam had received strong civilization and cultural impetus from Hinduism, and the area was part of Kampuchea for a long time. The landlords had a stronger position in South Vietnam. This difference between North and South Vietnam was reinforced by the French conquest.