An Nam Do Ho Phu which is Viet nam. Of the four names, the one for Vietnam – Page 2

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It fell on the Tang, Duong (617-906) to consolidate the internal unity of China and to reassert Chinese authority over its many peripheral possessions. Giao Chau had indeed enjoyed a loose relationship with the Sui; but the Tang immediately brought drastic changes to its administrative structures. First, they divided Vietnam into numerous provinces which were then placed under the control of two general commissioners. After that, they reduced the number of provinces and assigned them to two governors general. Finally, in 679, the Tang government created a new category of administrative division they gave the name protectorate: Do Ho Phu, Du Hu Fu . They imposed that title on all frontier areas surrounding China, each of them preceded by the wishful adjective meaning A Pacified Protectorate. So  we  have  the Pacified  Protectorate  of  the West, covering present day Xinjiang; the Pacified Protectorate of the North: Mongolia; the Pacified Protectorate of the East: Korea, and the Pacified Protectorate of the South: An Nam Do Ho Phu which is Viet nam. Of the four names, the one for Vietnam lasts the longest. Even after hundreds of years of independence and through many different dynas ties, China still kept the name Pacified South to designate Vietnam. Because of a tributary relationship wherein Vietnam was the lesser part ner, the Emperors of China invested Vietnamese sovereigns with the title of King of An Nam, no matter what the name of their country was at the time. Further into the future, the Vietnamese were deeply humiliated to be known as  Annamites.  In  effect,  the  French,  after  conquering Viet nam in the 19th century, resurrected the name An Nam which they gave indifferently to the whole coun try of Vietnam as well as to its central portion, where the Kings of An nam continued to reside at Hue as mere puppets to the colonial authori ties.

In the first half of the 8th century, the control the Tang exerted on Viet nam began to wane. Around 720, at the head of a coalition of many small groups of people, coming from the plains as well as from the moun tains, Mai Thuc Loan successfully challenged the authority of the occupiers and was able to proclaim himself emperor of Vietnam, al though only for a short time, under the title of Mai Hac De,  Mai  the  Black  Emperor.  According  to  the  chronicles,  Mai  Thuc

Loan did have a dark complexion. Would this suggest that he belonged to the minority people coming from the mountain? Vietnamese would identify as black all people who look slightly darker than  themselves  and  if, indeed, Mai  Thuc Loan was a mountain person, that would explain the very exceptional fact, recorded by the chroniclers, that troops from Chenla (Cam bodia) and Champa had been added to Mai Thuc Loan’s own so that the number of men under his command reached up to three hundred thou sand. In the history of Vietnam, it was rather uncommon for coastal people to ally themselves with their neighbors to the south. Be it as it may, the Vietnamese showed their gratefulness to him by erecting temples at several places where the Black Emperor was supposed to have lin gered during his short reign.

A little more than half a century later, it was Phung Hung’s turn to overwhelm Chinese occupational troops. His and his brother’s sheer physical strength manifested in such exceptional ways and in so many skirmishes that the Chinese governor, even before engaging them in real battle, had died of worries, frustration, and desperation. Phung Hung was, therefore, able to enter the capital city without a single fight and made it his own in 782. He must have declared afterwards the indepen dence of Vietnam from the Tang, and proclaimed himself its legitimate ruler, although the chronicles did not mention any new name for the country or any new title for its king. It was even more surprising that, for a title-less king, his reign did last for the whole seven years. Furthermore, he did transmit his throne to his son, even though the latter did not reign for more than two years before he surrendered to the expeditionary corps sent by the Chinese emperor with the aim of reinstating the newly ap pointed Tang Governor of Annam back on his seat of power.

Although Phung Hung did not give himself any title while he was in power, either the people of Vietnam or his son endowed him posthu mously with one that conveys their unrestrained affection as well as their deep gratitude for a well liked king. In addition, the title consists of a very unusual linguis tic expression. It  combines  two  Sino-Vietnamese  words  with  two  pure  Vietnamese  ones.  A Sino-Vietnamese word is a Chinese character pronounced in the Vietnamese fashion, whereas a pure Vietnamese word is a Vietnamese phoneme, which could be transcribed with a single Sino-Vietnamese character or a combination of two Chinese characters, one giving the phonetic, and the other the semantic values of the Vietnamese sound. In this case, the title is pronounced in Sino-Vietnamese Bo Cai Dai Vuong which means “Father, Mother, Great, King.” In mandarin Chinese, the same four words are pronounced Bu Gai Da Wang, which means ACotton Cloth, Umbrella, Great, King.” The reason for this difference resides in the fact that the two first words: Bo Cai can be consi dered at the same time as Vietnamese and Sino-Vietnamese words. This title is, therefore, seen as the first attempt by the Vietnamese to write down Vietnamese words with Chinese characters. An attempt, as we shall see later, will come to some fruition after independence, in a new writing system called nom. All this linguistic innovation, however, did nothing to maintain Phung Hung’s son on his throne. In 791, he surrendered to the Tang.

In the beginning of the 9th century, it was clear that the Tang could not hold on to the colony for much longer. After a resurgence of power resulting in effective control under a couple of governors, the metropoli tan government had to confront damaging uprisings both at home and in the colony. It had not only to face up to an ever increasing number of resistance centers, but also to fend off a series of attacks coming from the Man people inhabiting the south west corner of China where the Tai had gathered together to form a new kingdom called Nan Zhao.

The end of the 9th century was further stirred up by a number of serious challenges to the position of the colonizer. Due to the weakened position of the Tang government, small states, principally those situated on the periphery reclaimed their autonomy, as the central authority no longer was capable of exercising its power. The people in the colonies followed their example. In Annam, a local lord, by the name of Khuc Thua Du, fought successfully against Tang administrators to claim, in 906, autono my for Annam and the title of

governor for himself. The following year marked the end of the Tang, replaced by the Liang (907-921) who recognized Khuc Thua Du’s son as the Annam’s military governor. Even Liang’s loose authority was  not  to  last  long.  Directly north of Viet nam, the state of Nan Han or Southern Han emerged as a strong indepen dent polity. It entertained imperialistic designs  over  Vietnam.  In  923, Nan Han realized its expansionist dreams by wresting control of Vietnam from the disappearing Liang dynasty. Then in 938, the Nan Han king sent his son at the head of a powerful army against Vietnam in an attempt to reestablish  a stronger and more direct domination over the old colonial possession.

It was then that Ngo Quyền, a military officer in the service of one of the Vietnamese autonomous governors, surged as the commander of the Vietnamese anti-Nan Han forces. Together, they dealt the Southern Han troops a humiliating defeat which, at the same time, ushered in the ultimate end of Chinese colonization. From then on, no Chinese govern ment succeeded in subjugating Vietnam for any longer period than the Ming  who  governed  it  from  1407  to 1427.

The next year, Ngo Quyền proclaimed himself king of Vietnam. This date, 939, has hitherto been accepted as the defini tive date of Vietnamese liberation from more than a thousand years of Chinese domina tion. The victory over the Southern Han was memorable for yet another reason. Ngo Quyền’s triumph was not due to the superiority of his armed forces alone but to a stratagem he had thought up first to hinder the ad vance of the enemy, and next, to destroy it.

Upon hearing that the most important part of the Chinese expeditio nary corps consisted of its fleet, Ngo Quyền ordered his soldiers to anchor hundreds of large wooden poles that had been pointedly sharpened and tipped with iron heads on both sides of the bed of the Bach Dang River, which flowed into the ocean some fifteen miles north of Hai Phong. These spikes were to be invisible at high tide. Ngo Quyền then engaged the Chinese fleet at the mouth of the river.

The Viet namese boats quickly retreated up river, but not without taunting and luring the enemy to pursue them. When the tide was about to recede, the


Viet namese summoned all their reinforcements to launch a forceful counterat tack and slowly pushed the Chinese vessels onto the sides of the river where their movement was considerably slowed by the spikes which, now, exposed enough of their iron tips. Few of the Chinese crafts made it to the open sea, be cause they impaled themselves on the pointed poles.

The victory was total and the Bach Dang River joined the list of other place names which will live forever in the collective memory of the  Vietnamese people. Their neighbors to the North, however, seemed to be more oblivious of the past; perhaps they simply wanted to erase the memory of their embarrassing rout. Whatever the reason, approximately four hundred and fifty years later, the Mongols repeated the same mis take in pursuing the fleet of General Tran Hung Dao up the same river and in a similar fashion: that naval battle ended with a stinging defeat for the Mongol forces.

The Ming committed the same error at the same place almost two hundred years later, although their defeat was not as decisive as their predecessors’. Two popular sayings immortalize these victories: Most profound is the Bach Dang River, Three times the enemy attacked,

Three times they melted away

To fight a battle on a river, remain sturdily in its center Don’t you ever venture on its sides lest your boat impale itself on sharp spikes.

Vu Ngoc Phan, Tuc Ngu, Ca Dao Viet Nam, Hanoi, 1978, p. 33.

During the thousand years of Chinese control, practically all components of Chinese civilization were introduced into Vietnam, and if Vietnam emerged in the 10th century as an independent entity, it was but in the political sense. As far as culture was concerned, Vietnam had be come a little China or, as many scholars like to say, a smaller dragon. Perhaps Vietnam was not in a totally barbaric state at the onset of Chi nese colonization and, therefore, we may be allowed to take with some skepticism the claim that the first Chinese governors brought with them into the colony the use of clothes, foot and head wear; that they had to teach the Vietnamese peasants the rudiments of agriculture; that they showed the Vietnamese people how to practice correct wedding and funeral rituals, and that they instilled in them the notions of morality and respect. What we cannot deny, though, is that the real impact of Chinese culture was brought to bear heavily on Vietnam in the aftermath of the Trung sisters’ rebellion when the Han imposed on the reconquered co lonial possession a much more direct and consequently much tighter con trol.

First of all, Chinese became the official writing system of the colonial government. It was the first step that led to the sinicization of almost the entire Vietnamese written culture lasting well into  the  twen  tieth  century.  In  fact,  as they did not have their own writing or knowledge of any other system, the Vietnamese adopted Chinese as their written language in spite of the fact that it does not appropriately transcribe their spoken sound at all: the Chinese characters ra ther point to a foreign tongue. And yet, Vietnamese composed poems and novels, recorded history, geography, wrote law codes, established institutions, disserted about philosophical and moral subjects for thou sands  of years in that foreign tongue. In the world, Vietnam may be the only country that has three distinct bodies of written culture: Sino-Viet namese, nom, the ideographized, and quoc ngu, the romanized system of transcribing Vietnamese words.

The fact that Chinese served as the working language for the co lonial administration of Vietnam had a profound and long-range impact. It led ultimately to the adoption of an educational system that could not be anything other than a slavish copy of the Chinese system. Then, with the system of education were introduced Confucian writings B the Four Books (Tu Thu) and the Five Classics (Ngu Kinh) — which, as in China, became the textbooks for generations of Vietnamese students. Confu cianist principal tenets tended to regulate human behavior in four main areas: to cultivate oneself (tu than), to manage one’s family (tề gia), to govern the country (tri quoc), and to pacify all under heaven (binh thien ha). To start, every human being must endeavor to live by the five vir tues: humanity (nhan), propriety (nghia), ritual (le), intelligence (tri) and trustworthi ness (tin) in order to reach the status of an Aideal man@ (quan tu) which originally and etymologically means Ason of king”. Second, every member of the family must follow precepts which control his/her status. Children must practice filial piety (hieu); brothers and sisters must live by the rules of Afraternity (de); daughters must be prepared to obey their father at home (tai gia tung phu); their husband after marriage (xuat gia tung phu); and their first son, in case they become widows (phu tu tung tu). While waiting for marriage, they should hone the four virtues: skill in house chores (cong), care for their beauty (dung), decorum in their speech (ngon), and, of course, perfection in their behavior (hanh.) To the offi cials devolve the duty of governing the country. What is required of them is ultimate loyalty (trung) to their king, even unto death, according to the well-known Confucian canon: AIf the king decides that an official should die, and if the official does not end his life, then he is not loyal.@ (quan su than tu, than bat tu, bat trung.) The emperor is the person who pacifies all under Heaven (thien ha.) He must rule with benevolence and justice,

bringing prosperity and peace to his realm to the extent that other countries in the world come to seek alliance with and protection from him. The emperor thus must follow the kingly way (quan dao) and thereby earned the Mandate  of Heaven (Thien Menh or Thien Mang). Finally, the all-embracing rule  that applies to every virtue and every behavior of human beings of  all  stations  in society is rectification of names (chinh danh) which prescribes that a son must behave like a son, an official like an official and the emperor like an emperor. This consti tutes the apex of the Confucian doctrine.

Confucianism infiltrated first into the upper crust of the local society and then very slowly seeped into the countryside as native people partici pated in greater numbers in the Confucian educational system. Besides, it would not be farfetched to imagine that some unlucky candi dates to the mandarinal examinations would have remained in their villages to impart to the younger generations the art of writing Chinese characters along with the rudiments of Confucian doctrine. Through the youngsters, Confu cian political,  moral,  and social notions reached a more general popu lation who, although totally uneducated or even illiterate, yet were receptive to new ideas and concepts… even though it would be to make fun of its tenets or to look for alternative ways to escape from its rigid prescriptive virtues: The ideal man (quan tu) who holds on to his word Is an idiot of an ideal man The one who reiterates back and forth Is an intelligent one.

First come the scholars, Second the peasants But when rice is used up, all run around First come the peasants, Second the scholars.

First are the devils, Second the ghosts And third the students. Oh you, do not marry a student-scholar

His long backside uses a lot of clothing,

And once his stomach is full, he just lies down.

You want to leave but I do not want you to leave, On your dress, I inscribe a poem.

Why don’t we let our fathers fret about Loyalty Our mothers about Filial

Piety, As for us, let’s have Love.

My gratefulness to my parents is boundless, Superseded only by my love for my husband

Vu Ngoc Phan, Tuc Ngu, Ca Dao, Dan Ca Viet Nam, Hanoi, 1978, p. 383- 384

As a political and social philosophy, Confucianism had to contend with Daoism which also came from China, although it propagated a dif ferent teaching concerning man and society. Laozi (Lao Tu , 570?-490? BCE), its founder, believed in the purity of human beings as individuals who run the risk, however, of being corrupted by society. He, therefore, advocated for his followers a life of social seclu sion. They should all live like hermits building their abodes on top of mountains, all the time meditating in order to reach the state of Ano action@ (wu wei or vo vi.) In chapter 48 of Laozi’s book, the Dao De Jing (Dao Duc Kinh, Classic of the Way and Virtue), a very difficult to understand definition of wu wei (no action or non-doing) is given: Pursue knowledge, gain daily

Pursue Tao, lose daily

Lose and again lose Arrive at non-doing

Non-doing and nothing not done Take the entire world as nothing

Make the least effort

And the world escapes you

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Indianapolis, 1993,

Laozi, thus, advises us to behave as water which effortlessly and with out any interference flows from higher to lower grounds and in the same way, effortlessly and without interference, takes the shape of its containers.





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