Chinese dominance of Vietnam

According to conventional wisdom, the Chinese dominance of Vietnam from 111 B.C. to 938 A.D.. 400 years later, a fourth, relatively brief, 20-year punitive invasion by the Ming dynasty is typically disregarded by historians when discussing the primary, almost continuous period of Chinese colonization from 111 BC to 938 AD, as is the brief occupation of northern Vietnam by Chinese forces at the end of World War II.

First Chinese dominance of Vietnam (111 BC–39 A.D.)

Following Chinese imperial advances and the Han-Nanyue War (111 BC), Han-Chinese dominance was established in Vietnam. This was momentarily stopped by the Tru’ng Sisters’ uprising (40–43 A.D.).

The second Chinese dominance of Vietnam (43–544)

It was terminated by the uprising of Ly Nam De, who took advantage of internal chaos in China and the declining Liang dynasty to lead a revolution. Following a political transition and consolidation of power in China, the new Sui dynasty deployed a colossally massive army south in 602 to regain authority over northern Vietnam.

Third Chinese dominance of Vietnam (602–938)

Beginning with the quiet abdication of Ly’s successor in the face of overwhelming Chinese forces and characterized by the consolidation of mandarin rule. The period ended with the collapse of China’s Tang dynasty and Ngo Quyen’s annihilation of the Southern Han fleet in the naval Battle of Bach Dang River (938).

Fourth Chinese domination of Vietnam (1407–1427)

It was a 20-year occupation by the Ming dynasty army, beginning with the Vietnamese defeat in the Ming–Ho War (1406–1407) and ending with the Vietnamese rebellion and Le Loi’s defeat of the Chinese at the Battle of Tot Dong – Chuc Dong and Battle of Chi Lang – Xuong Giang (1427).


Nanyue or Zhuang: Namzyied or Nam Viet was an ancient empire that included portions of northern Vietnam and the contemporary Chinese regions of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan. Zhao Tuo, then-Commander of Nanhai, founded Nanyue in 204 B.C., at the fall of the Qin dynasty, during the reign of Nanhai. Initially, it comprised the commanderies of Nanhai, Guilin, and Xiang.

Geographical scope and influence

The four phases of Chinese colonialism or occupation do not match the contemporary boundaries of Vietnam. Still, they do connect with Vietnam as a cultural entity. During the first three eras of Chinese dominance, most of modern Vietnam’s population resided in the country’s northern region. Ten centuries of Chinese colonialism left a significant demographic imprint, with massive numbers of ethnic Han-Chinese settling Vietnam and opening the country to commerce. In contrast, the second phase of Chinese colonization was marked by over 500 years of rebellion and bloodshed, while the third period (603-936) was relatively peaceful.

In addition to administration and making Chinese the administrative language, the lengthy era of Chinese dominance contributed to Chinese skills for levee construction, rice agriculture, and animal husbandry. Having been established within the elite mandarin class, Chinese culture remained the dominant current among this elite for the majority of the subsequent thousand years (939-1870) until the loss of independence at the hands of French Indochina. This cultural affinity with China persisted even when defending Vietnam militarily against invasion attempts, such as against the Mongol Kublai Khan. The only noteworthy exceptions were the seven years of the anti-Chinese Ho dynasty, which forbade the use of Chinese (among other activities that led to the fourth Chinese invasion), and the growth of vernacular chu nom literature following the departure of the Ming. Although a thousand years of Chinese control left numerous traces, the collective memory of the time strengthened Vietnam’s cultural and subsequent political autonomy.

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