Vietnam’s History

From pre-history to the WTO
Vietnam’s history is complicated – a minestrone of kingdoms and dynasties, invasions and resistance, independence and occupation. Guide books and potted histories that attempt a chronological synopsis of the 500,000 years since the first human habitation of Vietnam usually end up as an impenetrable mêlée of names and dates.

Rather than providing our customers with information that is freely available elsewhere, we prefer to try to interpret the development process that has led to modern Vietnam and attempt to shed a little light upon some of the more arcane, or positively baffling, modes of conduct and behaviour encountered by visitors to our country.

Putting chronology on one side, each of the eight pages in this section follows a particular theme, tracing the influences that have shaped and moulded the Vietnamese people over two millennia. They are intended to provide a framework to enable visitors to place the things they see and hear in a context that makes sense.

Striving for sovereignty
Since their emergence in the Vietnamese heartland of the Red River Delta seven thousand years ago, the Vietnamese have fought for their independence. This struggle, beginning with a thousand years of Chinese domination from the second century BC, has been a potent element in creating the Vietnam of today.

Defying invaders
Vietnam’s history has been one of resistance interspersed by periods of feudal communalism under dynastic rule. Many invaders have sought to conquer the country, including Kublai Khan's Mongol army, and a few have succeeded. However, in every case, the Vietnamese have ultimately triumphed.

The Confucian influence
Whilst religion has been a powerful influence, the strictures of Confucianism, the most successful instrument of large-scale social control ever devised, have probably been the defining factor in the evolution of the Vietnamese character. An outline of its philosophy and development is a prerequisite to an understanding of modern Vietnam.

Incorporation and transformation
Vietnam has experienced numerous incursions of foreign forces, and their subsequent expulsion, throughout its history. Rapidly alternating balances of power have been instrumental in shaping the remarkable pragmatism of its people, and underpinned their assimilation of foreign religions and philosophies: beliefs and ideas that were absorbed and transformed into something distinctly Vietnamese.

Colonial occupation and liberation
The impact of a hundred years of colonialism has also left its mark, but perhaps more upon the tangible infrastructure of the country, rather than its people. However, the French occupation earns its right to being a discrete theme by its galvanising effect upon Vietnam’s burning desire for liberation and the subsequent commitment of most of its people to all-out war against the forces of the United States and its allies.

Reunification and a new direction
After victory, re-unification and eventual international recognition of Vietnam as a free and sovereign state, all these themes combined to set the stage for Vietnam’s recovery, reconciliation and eventual emergence into the world community. As our country struggles to establish its relationships and roles in the emerging world order of the new millennium and prepares for entry to the World Trade Organisation, the current pages of Vietnam’s history are being written by the juggernaut of globalisation, and its impact upon a people who virtually bypassed the twentieth century.

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