Giao Province



Giao Province

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Shi Xie was termed a “king” in Vietnamese writings of later centuries, but during his lifetime he posed as a loyal official of the Han court until this was no longer plausible, at which point he shifted his allegiance to the rising Wu dynasty in southeastern China, one of the three kingdoms that partitioned the Han Empire in the early third century. After Shi Xie’s death in 226, the Wu moved quickly to exterminate the Shi family and to gain control of northern Vietnam. Cut off from the Silk Road across Central Asia to northern China, the Wu wanted direct access to the maritime route to India and the Mediterranean Sea, for which northern Vietnam had become a terminus during the rule of Shi Xie. Wu exactions and resort to harsh expedients provoked resistance, and in 248 the leader of Lin Yi took advantage of this to seize northern Nhat Nam, inspiring local leaders in Cuu Chan and Giao Chi to rebel against the Wu regime. The Wu  calmed the situation with conciliation, resorting to force only to suppress resist- ance in southern Cuu Chan led by a woman remembered in Vietnamese texts as  Lady Trieu. Despite these successes, the Wu made no effort to re-enter Nhat Nam.

The Wu kingdom, locked in continual war with its rivals in northern and western China, treated Giao Chi and Cuu Chan primarily as sources of wealth, which was not a popular policy among the people who lived there. In the 260s, the Wei of northern China conquered the Shu Han dynasty of western China in Sichuan and thereafter became the Jin dynasty, thereby reducing the Three Kingdoms to two. Local leaders in Giao Chi sent envoys to Sichuan to offer their allegiance to the Jin, Wu’s remaining enemy. In response, the Jin sent a governor with seven military commanders and their men to establish an anti-Wu regime in northern Vietnam. There followed three years of fighting between Wu forces attempting to regain control of the Red River plain and Jin forces endeavoring to prevent this. Local forces were initially allied with Jin. However, when Tao Huang, an astute Wu commander, sent treasure that he had seized from the Jin contingent to a prominent local leader, thousands of local troops shifted their allegiance to Wu. The Jin soldiers were soon besieged and forced to surrender.  Tao Huang thereafter governed northern Vietnam, now known as Giao Prov- ince, for around twenty-five years, until near the end of the third century; the  exact year is unknown. Just as had been the case with Shi Xie, he governed during a time of dynastic change in the north. In 280, Jin conquered Wu. Based  far away in northern China, Jin was content to confirm Tao Huang’s appoint- ment as governor of Giao, where he continued to serve until his death.

Tao  Huang was known as a patron of Buddhism. He also established an adminis- trative structure for Giao Province that lasted through several dynastic regimes.  A salient feature of this structure was the formation of three new frontier jurisdictions. Two of these were in Giao Chi facing the mountains to the north and to the west; one was in southern Cuu Chan facing the old Nhat Nam border. Tao Huang endeavored to re-establish some semblance of authority in Nhat Nam, proclaiming an economic embargo against markets in Nhat Nam and garrisoning soldiers on the frontier, but there is no evidence that he achieved more than a temporary stabilization of the border. On the contrary, his efforts appear to have done little more than elicit attacks by Lin Yi.

During the first two decades of the fourth century, warring princes tore the Jin dynasty apart and various groups of non-Han peoples conquered northern China, sending a great wave of refugees into southern China, where a Jin prince reassembled the dynasty from his base on the lower Yangtze. During this time, Giao Province was left to its own devices with a regime over which local leaders invited prominent members of old Wu families to preside as governors.

In the 320s, the newly constituted Jin court in southern China was strong enough to begin sending soldiers to Giao in efforts to gain control of the government there. As in the previous century when Wu attempted to gain ascendancy and local powers turned to the Jin in Sichuan, local powers in Giao now resisted Jin, inspired by the Cheng Han dynasty that had arisen in Sichuan in opposition to Jin. Meanwhile, Jin immigrants were seeking their fortunes in the south by pushing aside the old Wu families that had come to the fore in the late third century; Giao Province was the last place of refuge for these families.

The Jin dynasty finally established its authority in Giao in the 330s, after Jin troops had cut communications between Sichuan and northern Vietnam; within a decade, Jin gained control of Sichuan and removed that option entirely. Jin forces were concerned to get a grip on the southern frontier because the turmoil of the preceding years had attracted the unwelcome attention of Lin Yi. In the 340s, Lin Yi armies, commanded by a king of Han ancestry who had traveled extensively in China as a merchant and knew of conditions in China at first hand, began a series of raids into Giao, culminating in a full-scale invasion in 347. Jin mobilized soldiers from Giao and the province of Guang (modern Guangdong and Guangxi in southern China) for a major effort against Lin Yi. In 349, the Jin army advanced as far as the Gianh River, the former headquarters of Han-era Nhat Nam, where it was defeated and forced to withdraw. The Lin Yi king was mortally wounded in this battle, but his son continued the policy of attacking Giao until defeated by another Jin expedition in 359.

The mobilizations of men and resources for the expeditions of 349 and 359 bore heavily upon Giao and even provoked some dissention among provincial officials. But after Lin Yi had been quieted, Jin interest in Giao rapidly faded as the imperial court became preoccupied with other threats. In the late 370s, the governorship fell vacant and the prefect of Cuu Chan, the leader of a prominent local family named Li Xun, seized control of provincial affairs.

In 380, the Jin court sent Teng Dunzhi to be governor and Li Xun, perceiving that imperial power was weakening, opted to resist him. However, the head of another leading Giao family, Du Yuan, then serving as the prefect of Giao Chi, took the opportunity to further his ambitions by killing Li Xun and welcoming Teng Dunzhi. The Du family then stood at the head of provincial affairs for the next forty-seven years. Teng Dunzhi remained in Giao as governor for nineteen years, during which the Du family enjoyed preeminence in provincial administration.

Du Yuan’s grandfather was originally from Chang’an (Xi’an) in northern China and had been assigned to a post in modern Guangxi near the Giao border  early in the fourth century before the fall of northern China in 311. He subse- quently settled in Giao during the time when Jin authority was being established  there, apparently participating in that process. The family was prominent in Giao throughout the century of Jin rule.

Shortly after Teng Dunzhi’s departure in 399, Giao was surprised by a Lin Yi invasion that succeeded in placing the provincial capital under siege. Du Yuan mobilized provincial forces and counterattacked, rapidly pushing the invaders back across the border. Shortly thereafter, the Jin court appointed him governor. When he died in 410, his son Du Huidu succeeded to the governorship. When Du Huidu died in 423, his son Du Hongwen succeeded to the governorship, which he occupied until 427 when he received an appointment at the imperial court.

The Du family left in Giao a reputation for good government, reportedly using benevolence and strictness as circumstances dictated. It was a time of dynastic change as the Jin court declined and was replaced in 420 by the Liu Song dynasty, which was content to confirm Du Huidu as governor of Giao. During these years, Giao faced a threat from its northern as well as from its southern border.

In 410, Lu Xun, the governor of Guang, the province in southern China adjacent to Giao, aimed to benefit from the feebleness of the Jin court by rebelling. When defeated by a Jin general in 411, Lu Xun led his army into Giao. There he lost his life when defeated in battle by Du Huidu, who thereby protected both his family’s ascendancy in Giao and its reputation for loyalty to the imperial court.

The more constant threat to Giao was in the south, where fighting with Lin Yi became chronic, with serious episodes of warfare breaking out in 405–407, 413, 415, and 424. In each case, Lin Yi attacks were repulsed, but to eliminate the problem would take more resources than Giao Province by itself could provide. Although the ascendancy of the Liu Song dynasty in Giao was brief (for less than half a century), yet because of the need to respond to Lin Yi and because of major social, cultural, and economic developments during that time, important changes occurred in Giao. Unlike the expeditions organized in the fourth century by Jin against Lin Yi that relied heavily upon local resources, the Liu Song expedition came after several years of preparation that energized Giao with a prosperous imperial economy.

During the fourth century, Jin military leadership had been relatively diffuse, exercised by prominent émigrés who fled into the south after the loss of northern China in 311. These émigrés and their heirs continued to command the armies, keeping the emperors in a position of weakness. This changed when, in 420, the founder of the Liu Song dynasty concentrated control of the military in his own hands. The Liu Song era in the mid fifth century saw a major shift in the structure of politics and society with significant economic effects. Rather than martial  prowess, the élite class of émigrés was encouraged to display literary accomplish- ments at court, where their status relations were carefully monitored. Those  uninterested in this turned to trade and business, aiming their ambitions at the accumulation of wealth. The southernmost provinces, including Giao, attracted the attention of these people as a frontier of opportunity, a place to exercise their entrepreneurial and literary skills. This became an era of accelerating commercial activity and great prosperity.

As the élite émigré class shifted its attention away from military affairs to become a class of landed scholar gentry and urbanizing merchants, new wealth  gained from agriculture and commerce opened possibilities for luxury, for tax- ation, for religion, and for investment. In Giao, this came after a century of stable  government under the Jin and Liu Song dynasties and the administration of the Du family. In the 440s, borders with the dynasties in northern China were calm and did not distract merchants and adventurers from prospects in the far south, and a famously successful expedition against Lin Yi accelerated prosperity by destroying trading rivals on the southern coast and by infusing Giao with a great store of booty.

In 443, Tan Hezhi, the governor of Giao, was instructed to recruit soldiers and assemble supplies. He spent three years on this task, recruiting a formidable and  well-trained military force, preparing a fleet to transport it, and gathering suffi- cient supplies for an extended campaign. He also enlisted the services of two  commanders famous for their battlefield successes on the northern borders of the empire. In 446, the army advanced down the coast into the old territory of Nhat Nam. Defeating the Lin Yi king in several encounters, the expedition first sacked the seaport on the Gianh River where the headquarters of Nhat Nam had once been, then continued south to sack the citadel and palaces of the Lin Yi king near modern Hue, in what had been the southernmost part of old Nhat Nam. The expedition returned to Giao loaded with plunder. The Lin Yi that had contested the frontier during the preceding two and a half centuries had been thoroughly  destroyed and the frontier was thereafter quiet for many years. What subse- quently came to be called Lin Yi was from then based beyond the Hai Van Pass in  the region of modern Da Nang, a major center of culture and kingship for Chams, who were ethno-linguistically related to the Malay peoples.

In Giao, the mid fifth century was a prosperous time. New lands were opened for agriculture south of the Red River in the region of modern Hanoi, resulting in the formation of a new prefecture there, an indication that the rural economy was expanding. Governors sent to Giao by the imperial court in the late fifth century had reputations for scholarly interests. They spent much time reading books; one was famed for his calligraphy and another discussed philosophical questions in a series of letters with two local Buddhist monks. Giao was a desirable assignment for some men at court because of opportunities there for making money. One man obtained appointment as governor in Giao after paying a large sum; he then sold prefecture appointments to others, a percentage of the profits from which he was obliged to pay to the court. These men believed that such investments would be easily recovered, with profit added, by taking posts in Giao. Giao was known as a place where private fortunes could be made.

The weak imperial court lost touch with distant provinces as government service gave way to opportunities for personal ambition. In 468, a local official  prevented a newly appointed governor from entering the province and subse- quently obtained for himself the appointment as governor. In the 470s, after this  man died, his nephew successively turned away at the provincial border three men sent to be governor by the imperial court. Not until 485, after a new dynasty, the Qi, had restored some order to the empire, did an imperial army escort a new governor into the province, prompting the local strongman to go begging for mercy at the imperial court. But the potency of the Qi dynasty was brief and only five years later a local official took advantage of a bookish governor who neglected his duties to place him in confinement and report that he was mentally incompetent; the court simply appointed the reporting official as governor, acknowledging the existing situation. Provincial leaders in Giao had learned to govern their own affairs while posing as imperial officials. During the  next century, as imperial power ebbed, Giao politics was primarily about con- tests for dominance among local strongmen.

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