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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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