The Colonial Diasporas and their Effects on Vietnamese Displacement (207 B.C.-939 A.D.)
In 222 B.C., Ch’in Shih Huang Ti triumphed over his rivals and brought an end to the anarchic period of the Warring States, forming the first fully centralized empire in Chinese history. He then established the Ch’in dynasty. Even before his triumph, Shih Huang Ti in 221 B.C. had already planned an expedition and three years later, ordered half a million soldiers to invade the southern Yueh lands. Ch’in’s aggrandizement appeared to be economic; its linkages of the Yueh lands (at that time still far more being completely sinicized) were through the then-existing commercial exchanges between northern China and the southern Yueh realm.  The earliest description of this campaign revealed that “Ch’in Shih Huang Ti was interested in rhinoceros horn, the elephant tusks, the kingfisher plumes, and the pearls of Yueh; he therefore sent Commissioner T’u Sui at the head of five hundred thousand men divided into five armies.” 
By 207 B.C., a Ch’in general Chao T’o (Trieu Da in Vietnamese and who was among the above campaign), was able to establish a Chinese southern state (from 207-111 B.C.) that commanded both the Kwantung and Kwangsi Provinces, and the Red River Delta of northern Vietnam. Chao T’o proclaimed himself King of Nan Yueh in 207 B.C., established his capital near modern Canton, and later assumed the title of emperor in 183 B.C. It is not certain whether the Au Lac kingdom was incorporated in 207 B.C. into Nan Yueh, whether Nan Yueh gained the vassalage of Au Lac in 180 B.C. by means of “rich gifts,” or if sometime after the conquest and before 180 B.C., Au Lac gained its independence (of which there is no evidence). 
Notwithstanding, for the first time, northern Vietnam was part of a kingdom encompassing all of southern China, which was stamped with the personality of its founder, Chao T’o.  That is, with the eminent collapse of Ch’in state as a new Han dynasty competed for power after the death of Ch’in Shih Huang Ti in 209 B.C., Chao T’o had the means to establish an independent kingdom because of the remoteness of the southern Yueh lands. To do so, he sealed “the mountain passes leading north and eliminated all the officials not personally loyal to him.” 
Thus, the purpose and scope of Chao T’o's dynastic aggrandizement of Nan Yueh was to create an independent dynasty ‘divorced’ from the newly established Han dynasty, but also one that needed a new basis for political and economic power. This may explain why Chao T’o sought to build popularity and loyalty among the non-Chinese population by adapting the manner of the local peoples and resisting Han aggression.  However, Chao T’o was interested in developing commercial centers in order to support his newly independent kingdom in which he had also introduced the Chinese language. But overall, the effects of Chao T’o's dynastic aggrandizement on Nan Yueh appeared not to have directly forced Chinese influence on the local cultures, and, at some level, Chinese immigrants were required under his reign to adopt the local customs and to intermarry with the local peoples. 
Chao T’o divided the conquered lands of Au Lac into two prefectures: Giao Chi (located in Hong River plain) and Cuu Chan (located in the smaller plain of the Ma River to the south). According to Keith Taylor, the traditional Lac order in which a royal Lac court and lords continued to exist at Co Loa remained intact, although as a vassal, two legates were assigned to oversee this commercial center.  But, at the same time, some degree of mixture of foreign elements, such as a greater reinforcement of Yueh element and Chinese influence probably took place at Co Loa. 
Worthy of note is that later Vietnamese remembered Chao T’o as one who defended their land against Chinese aggression. In 544, when Ly Bi of a mixed Sino-Vietnamese class rose against a tyrant Chinese governor, he proclaimed himself emperor of Nan Yueh, evoking the precedent of Chao T’o who had earlier defied the Han dynasty.  After 939 B.C., when Ngo Quyen held off southern Han attacks (which proved to be a milestone to the path of national independence), he took on a title of a Vietnamese king, rather taking on Chinese-style political titles, and “once more gave the country its former name of [Nan Yueh].”  In 966, when Bo Linh proclaimed himself emperor to assert his political equality between Vietnam and China, he also assigned his son Lien the title “King of Nan Yueh.” 
In Vietnamese the word Nan Yueh is Nam Viet. In 1802, Emperor Gia Long of the Nguyen dynasty wanted to rename the newly unified country as “Nam Viet,” although it is not certain whether Gia Long sought “Nam Viet” as a way to indicate the newly gained southern territories of the former Cham and Khmer states or to indicate equality with China. Nevertheless, in 1803 he sought the Chinese emperor’s approval of the name. The Chinese emperor rejected this name because it would conjecture territorial ambitions since Chao T’o's Nam Viet had included two Chinese provinces.  The Chinese emperor resolved this issue by simply reversing the order of the two words into: Viet Nam.
In 112 B.C., when Nan Yueh dynasty broke its ties of vassalage to China, the Han Emperor Wu Ti proceeded to occupy the country. A year later, Nan Yueh was incorporated into the empire and formed the province of Giao. In northern Vietnam, an additional province of Nhat Nam (stretching from Hoanh Son to Hai Van Pass) was added to the two previous commanderies of Giao Chi and Cuu Chan.
Northern Vietnam under the Han overlords, according to Keith Taylor, “left no mark on the legendary traditions of the Vietnamese people; unlike the fall of Au Lac, the fall of Nan Yueh did not loom in the collective memory of the Vietnamese.”  Similarly, Georges Coedes noted that Han overlords did not bring provinces of Nan Yueh “under the imperial administration, and did not alter the institutions they found there,” since purpose and scope of Han’s conquest was to secure and control “the opening between the ports Kwantung and of northern Viet-Nam” and other existing commercial centers.  However, there was a recorded accident in which a certain “General of the Left Old Au Lac” received a title from Han as a reward for his having killed the “King of Tay Vu [a name derived from the region where Co Loa was built].”  But it appeared that after submitting to the Han overlords, the Lac lords ruled in their accustomed manner, except that â€œthe principle of prefectural and district administration was established as an official policy.” 
It was not until the beginning of the first century A.D. that the Chinese governs began changing “the people through [marriage] rites and justice [prefectural and district administration],” sinicizing, or spreading the Chinese language, ideographs, ethics, and customs more thoroughly than before through new schools and enforced administration decrees.  Chinese influence became stronger with the arrival of Chinese political refugees (and their scholar-official families), who refused to recognize the Wang Mang who usurped the Han throne (9-25 A.D.).
Because of a growing awareness of Vietnam’s agricultural potential, Chinese policy in northern Vietnam during the early decades of the first century focused on developing an agrarian economy as a stable government source of tax revenue.  It is conjectured that in order for Chinese administrative policy to be effective, the Vietnamese family unit had to be “remade,” because the Chinese concept of political authority rested on a tightly controlled patriarchal family system.  Thus, there was an administrative agenda in establishing a patriarchal society in northern Vietnam based on monogamous marriage that would respond to Han-style government. 
And because the Lac lords were responsible to implement these new Han policies, cultural supports for the traditional authority of the Lac lords began to crumble. Inevitably, “as discrepancies between the old principle of aristocratic hierarchy and the new principle of prefectural and district administration became increasingly evident, the Lac lords were faced with the choice of becoming subordinate officials in Han government or of taking their case to the battlefield.” 
This is the backdrop of the Trung sisters’ rebellion in 40 A.D. From Chinese accounts, Trung Trac was a daughter of a Lac lord of Me Linh (northwest of Hanoi) and was married to a Lac lord of Chu Dien (near the Hong River plain); Trung Trac had a constant companion in her younger sister, Trung Nhi. In reacting to the reportedly greedy and inept prefect of Giao Chih (Su Ting), Trung Trac “of a brave and fearless disposition” stirred her husband to action and mobilized the Lac lords against the Chinese.  In 40 A.D., the Chinese settlements were overrun and the provinces of Cuu Chan and Nhat Nam joined the sisters’ uprising. Trung Trac had “established a royal court at Me Linh and was recognized as queen by sixty-five strongholds [fiefs],” and “it is recorded that for two years she ‘adjusted the taxes’ of Giao Chi and Cuu Chan.” 
By 42 A.D. an expedition led by Ma Yuan, one of the best Chinese generals at the time, arrived in the delta area with 20,000 men to quell the sisters’ rebellion, though when he initially approached the sisters’ armies, the size of the latter compelled him to retreat into the hills. But by May 43 A.D. Ma Yuan won a bloody but decisive victory at Lang Bac in which several thousand Vietnamese were captured and beheaded. 
The cultural significance of this short-lived uprising is that it illustrates the indigenous ability to resist Chinese aggression. Trung sisters in later centuries were incorporated to the pantheon of national spirits able to give supernatural spirits aid in time of need;  according to a noted fifteenth century literary scholar and military hero, Nguyen Trai, the Trung sisters renamed the recover state as Hung Lac.  While Ma Yuan’s suppression of revolt cast the country into the stream of Chinese civilization, Trung sisters’ resistance “effectively ‘froze’ the Dong Son heritage in a moment of heroic courage” and eventually and spiritually called “the Vietnamese back to ancient inheritance.” 
Interestingly, later Vietnamese Confucius scholars favored the idea that the Trung sisters’ revolt was provoked by, and rightfully acted to revenge, the death of Trung Trac’s husband, Thi Sach, at the hands of Han officials. But the Chinese sources revealed that Thi Sach followed his wife’s leadership, and that there is no evidence of this death;  so that Trung Trac’s reign as a queen may have taken place while her husband was still alive. Also, a large percentage of the more than fifty recorded names and biographies that followed Trung Trac’s uprising were women. The matriarchal element is further tested that Trung Trac’s mother’s tomb and spirit temple survived, although nothing remains of her father. Moreover, according to reliable source, the two siblings’ surname was Hung, which conjectured the possibility that the Trung sisters were associated with the mythical Hung dynasty and that such dynasty could have allowed a female ruler? 
Notwithstanding, the defeat of the Trung sisters saw the end of the pre-Chinese popular leaders and the traditional ruling class (that of the Lac), as Ma Yuan followed up his victory by organizing a permanent administration and direct rule in the delta.  In effect, after the defeat of the Trung sisters, the “placement” of Vietnamese identity within the “middle kingdom” consisted of physical, psychological, cultural, and intellectual displacements.
For example, in terms of physical displacement, historical sources implied that after Ma Yuan’s victory, three to five thousand were captured and headed in Cuu Chan and several hundred families were deported to China.  In northern Vietnam, Han soldiers were settled to protect and implemented Han administrative and its agenda, including the idea that the conquered were now “to bind” to a formal promise or oath to obey the “old regulations.”  In addition, Han soldiers took the rice fields away from the Lac lords and were the direct means for building Han-style patterns of land ownership and revenue collection. 
In regard to psychological displacement (where the behavioral impulse is redirected from a more threatening activity or person(s) to a less threatening one), Vietnamese shifted their identity to take account of their new position. That is, for the Vietnamese, their name Lac was no longer of account, whereas the Yueh/Viet identity was forced but also carried some social status with it. From the Chinese view, Yueh/Viet was to express the conquered people’s place within the “middle kingdom” but it was to be temporary since these people would eventually be civilized and become Chinese.
Cultural displacement had also occurred. The Trung sisters’ revolt demonstrated the greater role of women in the traditional Vietnamese societies, the individualistic tendencies and its bilateral character. As noted earlier, according to Chinese sources, Trung Trac’s husband, Thi Sach, followed his wife’s leadership, and that Trung Trac’s reign may have taken place while her husband was still alive.  Thus, for Han officials, the Vietnamese family had to conform to the Chinese family system so as to make the former more hospitable to Chinese concept of government. This included decrees encouraging stable, monogamous marriage, discouraging the practice of levirate (that is, a man must marry the widow of his childless brother in order to maintain the brother’s line), and reforming women to be more trustworthy and less promiscuous.  Thus, such modifications restrained the matriarchal elements and trends of the Vietnamese traditional society.
Finally, intellectual displacement is also evident. According to the conventional view of Chinese scholars and French sinologists, when the Chinese conquered the Hong River plain, “they met ‘barbarians’ whose beliefs and social organization had something in common with those of their own Chinese…early ancestors…and this goes some way toward explaining why they were so rapidly and so easily able to impose their own civilization…[for the Vietnamese] they were simply a later [Chinese], more advanced stage of a common cultural basis.”  And once direct Chinese colonial rule had been enforced, Chinese influence “left indelible traces on [Vietnamese] language, literature, and institutions, and indeed the whole of its intellectual life.” 
While the conventional view acknowledged that Chinese occupation was confronted with “members of the native population who were attached to their traditional institutions and hostile to foreign rule,”  it does not directly acknowledge that Vietnamese were victims and were displaced by Chinese colonial diasporas. Rather, it focuses on the perception that because the traditional Vietnamese society in prehistoric times lacked the inventiveness, its history is linked to the arrival of Chinese civilization, but one that has been “receptive rather than creative when brought into contact.”  The defining theme in this view is that “the Vietnamese borrowed so many cultural traits from China that even when it achieved political independence, it still remained an offshoot of Chinese civilization.” 
However, as discussed earlier, the traditional Vietnamese society both in prehistoric and early history was by its own account rich and vibrant and demonstrated that it was not simply displaced by Chinese colonial diasporas, but also ‘localizers’ and ‘resisters’ of those diasporas.
As noted by Keith Taylor, when strong Chinese dynasties asserted their power in Vietnam, it drew the Vietnamese closer to China and cut them off from their non-Chinese neighbors.  This was the case from 44-544 A.D. and from 603-909 A.D. In these periods, Vietnamese had to learned to articulate their non-Chinese identity, as well as having their resistance to colonial rule (including their alliance with non-Chinese neighbors) modified, in terms of strong Chinese civilizing governors and their military power.  When Chinese power was weak at the center or temporarily withdrew from Vietnam, local heroes attempted to initiate and enforce a new concept of frontiers that set the Vietnamese off from China and their southern neighbors.  This was the case from 541-603 A.D. and from 909-980.
Therefore, the proximity and intensity of Chinese civilizing mission and military power were important determinants of Vietnam’s re-independence process. Overall, the patterns of Chinese immigration and settlement in northern Vietnam reflected Chinese commercial interests, including wanting a port on South China Sea, tax revenues from the agricultural fields and households, and precious rarities. In order to realize these commercial interests, the people of northern Vietnam had to be militarily conquered because they demographically dominated this area. And, because the traditional Vietnamese society and its institutions and infrastructure of communal thought and action proved to be deep and its defenses could not easily be forced by outsiders, they needed to be transformed and be incorporated into the Chinese civilization and empire. As noted by other scholars, the spread and implementation of Chinese civilization into the northeast of the peninsula and southeast of the south sea is the direct result of its assimilation policy put into practice of which was unlikely without military conquest and annexation of territory.
After Ma Yuan’s victory over the Trung sisters, a new ruling class emerged from the marriage between Han Chinese soldiers/immigrants and local Vietnamese families. While this Han-Viet ruling class formally accepted Han culture with few or no reservations, overtime they developed their own perspective on Chinese civilization by taking a regional point of view that owed much to the indigenous heritage. That is, as conjectured by Keith Taylor, because the Vietnamese language survived, “it is reasonable to assume that after the first or second generation, Han immigrants spoke Vietnamese” and more “were effectively ‘Vietnamized’ than the Vietnamese were sinicized.”  By 136 A.D., the middle and low level Han officials “may have had three grandparents of indigenous stock and only one grandfather of northern origin”; then the Han character may have been “seriously compromised by marriage.” 
In 231 A.D., a Chinese prefect acknowledged that there were local customs that have proven to be impervious to Chinese influence. He then pondered why the Chinese were interested in such a place:
They easily become rebellious and are difficult to pacify; district officials act dignified but are careful not to provoke them. What can be obtained from field and household taxes is meager. On the other hand, this place is famous for precious rarities from afar: pearls, incense, drugs, elephant tusks, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, coral, lapis lazuli, parrots, kingfishers, peacocks, rare and abundant treasures enough to satisfy all desires. So it is not necessary to depend on what is received from taxes in order to profit the Central Kingdom. 
In regard to Han’s actual implementation of administrative governance, it appeared, from Han historiography, that a Chinese official who “governed with benevolence and was tolerant of strange customs” was promoted, while officials who “used the law to extort bribes [too excessive]” were eventually executed.  In fact, when the Han government began to decline in 202 and later in periods of political crises in the Central Kingdom, it was the Han-Viet families such as Shih family and Do family, who both were loyal imperialists, who were able to maintain stability and prevent the slide toward separatism in northern Vietnam while, at the same time, did not go against indigenous sensibilities and allowed the local way of life to prosper.  Families like the Shih and the Do, while having roots in Vietnamese society, through education and imperial ambitions were linked to and worked effectively to enforce the Chinese imperial connection in northern Vietnam.
During the reign of the Shih family, Buddhism (which captured the imagination of the local people), Confucianism (predominately embraced by the ruling class people by virtue of their education), and Taoism (many public Confucianists were private Taoists and many Taosists found Buddhism but a short step away) all flourished in varying degrees.  It is of note that the Shih family allowed the Vietnamese culture to localize Buddhism; as late as the T’ang rule, Buddhist influence from the southeast India (Mahayana orthodoxy) by sea, rather than overland from northern India (Theravada orthodoxy) dominated Cham and Khmer civilizations. The popular Buddhist culture in northern Vietnam gave rise to native son resistance leader, Trieu Quang Phuc, who took on an indigenous title of king and was remembered as the protector of the Buddhist religion. 
The importance of families like the Shih and Do were that they were able to achieve a working consensus with the regional ruling class, specifically with the Ly family, dissuaded any effort of separatism or independence as championed by the Ly family. 
However, alienated families, such as the Ly, “because of an aversion to the claims of Han civilization or because of personal taste,” they eagerly embraced the local way of life.  The Ly had continued to pose a threat of separatism that eventually produced a sixth century Vietnamese independence leader, Ly Bi and his Ly’s predecessors. In 541 A.D., Ly Bi rose up against a corrupted Chinese governor and by 544 proclaimed himself emperor of Nan Yueh, evoking the precedent of Chao T’o who had earlier defied the Han dynasty.  Ly Bi emulated Chinese imperial ideals by establishing a reign title and organized an imperial court.
But it also appeared that Ly Bi used Buddhism to buttress his reign, such as publishing the name of his realm as Van Xuan (Ten Thousand Spring-times), and may have patronized the Buddhist religion.  According to a temple document, he also invoked the memory of a popular heroine, Lady Trieu, who was a leader of a 248 A.D. uprising by honoring her with a posthumous title.  Another Ly member, Ly Phat Tu, was able to reoccupy Ly Bi’s realm in 590 until 603 A.D.; his original name may have been Ly Huu Vinh but his personal name was changed to Phat Tu (“Son of Buddha”).  This indicated his support and patronization, which assisted a Vietnamized form of Buddhism that later played an important role in the early independence period, as exemplified by the Ly and Tran dynasties. The promise of the Ly’s was cut short by a resurgence of Chinese power. However, in the long run, the promise of the sixth century was kept. 
In 622 A.D., a new great dynasty emerged: that of the T’ang, who reorganized the administrative boundaries of northern Vietnam and created the general government of Giao, which in 679 became the general protectorate of An Nam (“The Pacified South”).  T’ang domination was firm and efficient. The noted regional ruling class “was neutralized and swallowed up by T’ang administration.”  Unlike the great families under Han rule who controlled vast estates and maintained private armies, T’ang reconstructed them into the “equal-field” system, so as to counter the greater families and to shore up regional authority. However, in the early eighth century, Tang administration broke down and popular leadership appeared such as Mai Thuc Loan in 722 A.D. who captured the capital and proclaimed himself emperor (in alliance with Chams and Khmers). But, as a result, an army of some one hundred thousand men migrated to northern Vietnam to quell the “alien” marauders.  Though even then, in 791 A.D., another individual with a non-Chinese cultural outlook, Phung Hung, was able to seize control of the capital but soon died. However, his son succeeded him and ruled well for a few years until forced to surrender by a new Chinese Protector. 
The legacy of T’ang’s firm and relatively stable rule in northern Vietnam appeared to have a considerable degree of “sinicization” on the local culture, or that that Vietnamese culture and society were to some degree modified by nearly three centuries of T’ang rule.  The greatest number of Chinese loan words in literary character is dated from the T’ang period. These words, unlike the Han administrative terms, were adapted to the Vietnamese tongue;  in addition, during this time, the Vietnamese began to experiment with using Chinese characters to write their own language, which later Vietnamese character (Chu Nom) was eventually developed for literary purposes from the thirteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Thus, by many accounts, during the T’ang epoch, the local people experienced significant knowledge of classical learning and an ability to apply it to popular forms of expression, as well as certain legal and administrative habits which later were integrated by the Vietnamese dynastic courts. 
For instance, the law codes of later Vietnamese dynasties were strongly influenced by T’ang law, although the significant portions retained were chiefly about court etiquette, loyalty to the ruler, the behavior of officials, public order, and such administrative procedures as census registration and taxation. Meanwhile, the portions of T’ang law dealing with criminal justice, marriage, inheritance, and other aspects of family organization and customary usage were replaced or significantly altered by distinctive Vietnamese provisions. 
Notwithstanding, when T’ang fell in 931 A.D. (superseded in 907 by the Later Liang dynasty but with a royal T’ang family able to hold northern Vietnam intact for another half century), the Vietnamese national consciousness, inspired by Buddhism and reinforced by the dozen or so anti-Chinese uprisings between 39 and 939, asserted its independence. By the fall of T’ang, Canton as a port for commercial trade had been sufficiently built up by the Chinese expansion in that area, so that the necessity for controlling northern Vietnam to have access to South China became less urgent for subsequent Chinese dynasties. This also implied that the patterns of Chinese immigration and settlement were negligible, as Vietnam increasingly lay beyond the absorbing powers of Chinese society.
In 931 A.D., a new Southern Han dynasty emerged in Canton and invaded northern Vietnam. Duong Dinh Nghe and his family were members of the T’ang civilization but were willing to enter the reality of regional power politics and built an indigenous power base to resist Southern Han rather than to join forces with northern rulers. He forced the Southern Han army out of northern Vietnam and named himself military governor.
The importance of Duong Dinh Nghe was that he presided over the first wakening of “Vietnamese power” in the tenth century. This included an affirmation that: “We are not Chinese; we are Viet.” As a ruling elite, Duong Dinh Nghe’s willingness to accept this choice may explain his ability to cast himself to the Vietnamese kingship, which grew out of peasant life and village politics and whose members later became the “rustic” kings in the second half of the tenth century. 
Duong Dinh Nghe’s alignment with the Vietnamese village life is further conjectured by Joseph Buttinger’s statement about class politics during Chinese colonization:
The peasant, in particular, must have wanted to rid himself of a foreign rule under which he suffered greatly, profited little, and could expect nothing, relative to its relation with the local upper classes. If for centuries he did not engage in active resistance, it was mainly because he lacked the self-awareness as well as the possibility for organized action of the ruling class. Though passive resistance of the peasant had contributed more to the survival of the Vietnamese people and to national consolidation than all the upper class revolts…Not until the ninth century did these conflicting trends begin to converge. The village emerged as the source from which the national spirit drew its strength, but it was the ranks of the upper class that this spirit had come to life…The upper-class rebels ceased to see the peasant merely as an object of exploitation and began to look at him as an indispensable ally in their fight for independence. They began to speak the language of the villagers and to honor the peasant’s pre-Chinese customs. In preaching the national gospel, they transformed themselves into something more genuinely Vietnamese than they had ever been before. 
Although Duong Dinh Nghe was killed by one of his officers in order to steer a pro-Chinese court in 937, another of Duong Dinh Nghe’s generals, Ngo Quyen, avenged the death of his patron. This led to unavoidable conflict with the Southern Han, who sent an expedition by sea to northern Vietnam in 938. Ngo Quyen anticipated this plan and lured the Chinese boats into areas where barriers of large poles with iron points were planted in the bed of the river; the ships of the Chinese fleet were all caught on the poles. This allowed Ngo Quyen’s soldiers to attack vigorously and defend the point of entry at Bach Dang River. After this battle, Southern Han never attacked Vietnamese again. 
Ngo Quyen’s victory had proved to be a milestone to the path of national independence. In 939, he took on a title of a Vietnamese king, rather taking on Chinese-style political titles, and “once more gave the country its former name of [Nan Yueh]” and made the ancient city of Co Loa his capital.  This pays tribute to, but also further strengthens, the imagination of a Vietnamese kingdom rooted in ancient times.
Today, a more acceptable assessment of the impacts of the Chinese colonial diasporas on the Vietnamese traditional society is that: China for Vietnam was an administrative tutor but was also a colonist aggressor, a promoter in economics but also an exploiter, and a cultural mentor but also an indoctrinator. 
However, for the Vietnamese, at least historically, China always poses a danger, and “that is how things are.” In fact, after Vietnamese independence, China has tried several times to reincorporate Viet Nam into its empire, including in 981, 1075-1077, 1250s, 1280s, 1406-1427, and 1788. That view is embodied in a Chinese document of 1882 which saw Viet Nam as a “barrier of the Middle Empire, a small nation which serves to protect the provinces of Yunnan and Kwangsi…although situated outside the Empire, we cannot abandon it.” 
Thus, living in the shadow of a powerful empire, Vietnamese must necessarily become expert survival artists, including utilizing “the ideas of a large country with the warriors of a small country,” as advised by court historian Ngo Si Lien. The necessity to absorb Chinese influence is also expressed by the legend of Lac Long Quan and Au Co, which exemplifies the theme of Vietnam’s neutralizing the threat of northern legitimacy. In fact, the newly independent Vietnamese state did not journey inwardly or isolate itself from China, so that borrowing from China did not diminish. Indeed, learning and borrowing enabled the Vietnamese to issue its own paper money by 1396 A.D., and to domesticate wood-block printing techniques in the 1400s.  But the Vietnamese also learned and borrowed from their southern and western neighbors and later, western missionaries and colonizers. As noted by Alexander Woodside, from the eleventh to the fifteenth century, “Vietnamese elites had been influenced culturally almost as much as by the Chams as by the Chinese, including the former military strategies, music and operas, newer matriarchal trends, and cultural motifs such as the elephants.” 
Although not entirely and not without elaborations, the borrowing of foreign ideas can be considered that of strategic calculations. That is, Vietnamese dynastic scholars did not necessarily see Sinic institutions and inventions as ‘Chinese,’ that Vietnam was merely imitating. Vietnamese scholars equated the Sinic devices and inventions as universal or a sort of technology. As such, learning and borrowing did not imply that they wanted to become Chinese or to place their institutions within the Chinese civilization and empire.  Rather, the Vietnamese did not want to deprive of themselves of Chinese innovations which represented the most advanced technology for nation building, including acquiring and maintaining technical, administrative, and cultural skills.
And they did not hesitate to use Sinic devices for diplomatic weaponry against the Chinese themselves.  For example, dynastic historian, Ly Quy Don used the study of history, which Chinese classical values, to produce an inventory of lost Vietnamese books and archives, (going back to 1026 A.D.), which had been destroyed or carried away by Chinese invaders, indicating memory of a lost, or stolen, cultural patrimony.  Nor did other Vietnamese scholars hesitate to use the Chinese concept of the “Book of Heaven” and deliberately alter it to enable Vietnamese “Sons of Heaven” to determine who is good and who is evil in the world.  “Book of Heaven” was also rewrote so that Vietnam has its own place in the sun (with its own foreign relations to the south and west), and that anyone who violates its boundaries will be cut to pieces, according to Ly Thuong Kiet’s declaration (in Chinese) in the eleventh century. 
The conventional view of Vietnamese borrowing after independence is that because it retained repeated contact with China, the reconquest of the country by the Ming at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and the tendency to imitate the Court of Peking at the beginning of the nineteenth century “have all contributed towards keeping Viet-nam within the Chinese cultural zone.” While Vietnamese are receptive and attracted to Chinese culture when not politically force upon them, they have always see their nation, though perhaps more intensely because of constant Chinese aggression, as “an ancient culture with its own rivers and mountains, ways and customs, different from those in the north [China],” as penned by literary scholar and military hero, Nguyen Trai. Indeed, Vietnam is not a smaller dragon in terms of origin and identity in the fact that:
China, after losing its Vietnamese protectorate during the political storms of the 10th century, tried many times to reincorporate Vietnam into its empire, and failed on every occasion. The Vietnamese will to dependence was too strong to permit it; and that will to dependence could never have existed without some intuition, reaching through all the social classes right down to the seemingly crustacean politics if the bamboo-walled villages, that there was a special Vietnamese collective identity of some sort. The Vietnamese nation is, to put it bluntly, one of the longest enduring acts of in human history. 
It is more illustrative that the reason why Vietnamese were displaced by Chinese colonial diasporas but were never replaced was because they strategically borrowed, elaborated, and localized foreign influences in order to negotiate and assert their cultural and intellectual rights. Such method allowed them to reclaim their re-independence, “else there would be no such thing as a Vietnamese nation today,” although they were modified and their articulation was constrained by the degree and nature of Chinese power felt in Vietnam. 
Vietnamese dynastic historians did take upon themselves to use the study of history “to define the notion of an absolutely distinct Vietnamese kingdom, and of real as well as mythical frontiers intended to ward off forever China’s wish to resuscitate any legitimate pretension to interference.”  Vietnamese dynastic historiography, while relying heavily on Chinese historical sources, “Vietnamized” them but also preserved their traditions (which were not accounted by the Chinese sources) in order to reflect the cultural favor of different eras during Chinese rule. Doing so, it gave their national history the legal, historical, and cultural basis of their independence.
For example, in the thirteenth century, to ward off any wish of Yuan China to recapture its former colony, historian Le Van Huu sought to demonstrate the antiquity of the Vietnamese state as well as to illustrate that the current Vietnam’s tributary relationship with China was a fiction by demarcating the starting point of Vietnamese history to Chao T’o's Nan Yueh.  As noted by Yu Insun, Le Van Huu “would have known about the other legendary Vietnamese leaders who ruled long before Chao T’o” but who would have appeared pale to Chao T’o's defiance of China, since “early Vietnamese rulers were content with the title of king and did not pursue the rank of emperor.”  Similarly, in the independence period, Le Van Huu saw Dinh Bo Linh (not Ngo Quyen in 939 A.D.) as the person who completely restored Vietnam’s legitimacy because, in 968 A.D., Dinh Bo Linh was able ousted all rivals and rose to the rank of emperor, restoring the legitimate tradition of Chao T’o.
Perhaps, the most important aspect of borrowing, as noted by John Whitmore, is that “the manner in which the Vietnamese received external influences helps us acquire a sense of the culture itself.”  In the prolonged process of re-dependence, a period of gradual spread of Chinese influence combined with the rise and fall of local attempts at regional and political overlordship, it seems to have produced a spiritual call for Vietnamese to go back to its ancient inheritance. However, at the same time, the “Vietnamese cultural core” has taken on Chinese influences and ideals. Generally speaking, Chinese contributions to Vietnam cover all aspects of culture, society, and government. These influences penetrated Vietnamese society, but only as ideals, although they were to some a degree realized among upper- or middle-class Vietnamese who aspired to prominent roles in government or society.  Yet, especially among the upper- or middle-class, cultural borrowing from the Chinese was not to erode the “Vietnamese cultural core” but was more or less deliberate in order to address the physical, psychological, cultural, and intellectual displacements caused by the constant Chinese aggression. Such cultural borrowing has allowed the Vietnamese elite to make and strengthen local cultural statements about its “cultural core.”
In many ways, centuries of Vietnamese borrowing has made the “Vietnamese culture core” a shifting entity and “what would count within it would be that which was considered essential and integral to the culture at any give time.”  Although such situation is inevitably imperfect and may lead to tension and stress within society, it has created an enduring historical agency, whose indigenous language, village religion, kinship reckoning, sex roles, residence and inheritance tactics were never replaced of which today are still distinct and persistent but, at the same time, able to continuously take on (and off) external influences.
- For a historical narrative on how Vietnam moved away from their former colonial ruler and evolved to an independent monarchy based on indigenous traditions from the 8th century to the 11th century, see Taylor, Keith, “The rise of Dai Viet and the establishment of Thang-long,” Explorations in early Southeast Asian history: the origins of Southeast Asian statecraft, ed. Kenneth R. Hall and John K. Whitmore, (Ann Arbor: Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1976).
- For further insights on how Vietnam, who much more than its Asian neighbors, had always had to take China into account in their nation building past and present, see Nguyen The Anh, “Attraction and Repulsion as the Two Contrasting Aspects of the Relations Between China and Vietnam,” China and Southeast Asia: Historical Interacitons. An International Symposium. University of Hong Kong, 19-21 July 2001.
Ly Te Xuyen, Viet Dien U Linh (Departed Spirits of the Viet Realm). Translated by Brian Ostrowski, and Brian Zottoli as a Teaching Tool for Early Vietnam (Cornell University Southeast Asia Program, 1999).
- Pick one person from the sovereign or ministers category and briefly describe why that person was bestowed an honorific title.
- Pick one spirit from the spirits from nature and briefly describe how this spirit relates to the understanding of a ruler or an event.
- Are there Vietnamese individuals or spirits in the diasporic community that you think are instrumental to the Vietnamese Diasporic Experience?
Yu Insun, “Le Van Huu and Ngo Si Lien: A Comparison of Their Perception of Vietnamese History,” in Nhung TuyetTran and Anthony Reid, ed., Viet Nam: Borderless Histories (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006).
- In general, what explain the differences in the commentaries on the same historical incident (i.e. Chao T’o/Trieu Da, Ngo Quyen, Le Hoan, etc) between Le Van Huu of the 13th century and Ngo Si Lien of the 15th century?
- Although there were more differences, what was a key similarity between the two scholars’ historical perspectives?
- Both Le Van Huu and Ngo Si Lien sought a point of origin for the Vietnamese state before Chinese colonial rule. In the case of Vietnamese American Experience, what would be your point of origin in regard to Vietnamese American History or Vietnamese American Cultural Heritage (a date or an historical event)?
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia. Translated by H.M. Wright (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), p.39.
 Keith Taylor, The Birth of Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p.17.
 Ibid., footnote 113, 114.
 Ibid., p.23.
 Ibid., p.26.
 Ibid., p.23-24.
 Joseph Buttinger, Vietnam: A Political History (New York: Praeger, 1968), p.20-23; D.G.E. Hall, A History of Southeast Asia, 4th ed. (New York: St. Martinâ€™s Press, 1981), p.212.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.26.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.46.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.138.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.80.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.281.
 Alexander Woodside, Vietnam and the Chinese Model (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), p.120-121.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.30.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.43.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.29-30.
 Ibid., p.33.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.43.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.36-37.
 Ibid., p.36.
 Ibid., p.36
 Ibid., p.37.
 Ibid., p.38.
 Ibid., p.39
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.46.
 Ibid., p.336.
 Nguyen Van Ky, â€œRethinking the Status of Women in Folklore and Oral History,â€ in Gisele Bousquet and Pierre Brocheux, eds., Viet Nam Expose: French Scholarship on Twentieth-Century Vietnamese Society (Ann Harbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2005), p.89.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.339.
 Ibid., p.39.
 Nguyen Van Ky, â€œRethinking the Status of Women,â€ p.89.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.45.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.46-47.
 Ibid., p.46-47.
 Ibid., p.49
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.39.
 Ibid., p.36, 75,77.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.45.
 Ibid., p.46
 Ibid., p.47
 Ibid., 230.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.xx.
 Ibid., p.xx-xxi.
 Ibid., p.xix-xx.
 Ibid., p.53.
 Ibid., p.64.
 Ibid., p.78
 Ibid., p.59
 Ibid., p.83.
 Ibid., p.151-155
 Ibid., p.115.
 Ibid., p.79.
 Ibid, p.138.
 Ibid., p.140.
 Ibid., p.140.
 Ibid., 157.
 Ibid., 165
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.48.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.209.
 Ibid., p.216.
 D.G.E. Hall, History of South-East Asia, p.197-198.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.1201-121.
 Ibid., p.120.
 Ibid., p.221.
 Ibid., p.21.
 Ibid., p.264.
 Joseph Buttinger, The Smaller Dragon: A Political History of Vietnam (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1958), p.35-36.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.268-269.
 Georges Coedes, The Making of South East Asia, p.80.
 King Chen, Vietnam and China, 1938-1954 (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 1969, p.12.
 Jean Sainteny, Ho Chi Minh and His Vietnam, (Chicago, IL: Cowles Books, 1972), p.72.
 Alexander Woodside, â€œVietnamese History: Confucianism, Colonialism, and Independence,â€ Vietnam Forum, Vol.11, 1988, p.25.
 Alexander Woodside, Vietnam and the Chinese Model, p. 23, 25-26, 29,45.
 Nguyen The Anh, â€œAttraction and Repulsion as the Two Contrasting Aspects of the Relations Between China and Vietnam,â€ China and Southeast Asia: Historical Interacitons. An International Symposium. University of Hong Kong, 19-21 July 2001. See http://www.vninfos.com/selection/histoire/attraction_et_repulsion.html.
 O.W. Wolters, History, Culture, and Region in Southeast Asian Perspectives (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, 1982), p.63.
 Alexander Woodside, â€œVietnamese History,â€ p.30.
 David Marr, â€œSino-Vietnamese Relations,â€ The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No.6, 1981, p.48.
 Ibid., p.48
 Alexander Woodside, â€œVietnamese History,â€ p.27
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.307, xix.
 Nguyen The Anh, â€œAttraction and Repulsion.â€
 O.W. Wolters, â€œHistorians and Emperors in Vietnam and China,â€ in C.D. Cowan and O.W. Wolters, eds., Perceptions of the Past in Southeast Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University of Press, 1976) p.73-74.
 Yu Insun, â€œLe Van Huu and Ngo Si Lien: A Comparison of Their Perception of Vietnamese History,â€ in Nhung TuyetTran and Anthony Reid, ed., Viet Nam: Borderless Histories (Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006), p.49.
 John Whitmore, â€œForeign Influences and the Vietnamese Cultural Core,â€ in D.R. SarDesai, Southeast Asian History: Essential Readings (Los Angeles: Westview Press, 2006), p.40.
 Keith Taylor, Birth of Vietnam, p.298.
 John Whitmore, â€œForeign Influences,â€ p.40.