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CHINESE DOMINATION – STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE (179 B.C – 938)

2012-06-07 09:07:46

Following An Dương Vương’s defeat by Triệu Đà (Nam Hải, Guangdong, China) in 179 B.C Âu Lạc fell into the hands of rulers from the north.

Throughout the period of 1000 years – apart from occasional interruptions by local uprisings of the Việt people – the northern courts under the Zhao, Western Han, Eastern Han, Eastern Wu, Jin, Song, Qi, Liang, Chen, Sui, Tang, Later Liang and Southern Han conducted campaigns to extract natural resources, manpower and materials through a harsh regime of annihilation and suppression that condemned the people of Việt Nam to a life of hunger and misery. Moreover, they also destroyed or seized achievements made under the Đông Sơn culture during the Hùng kings period. They carried out a policy of assimilation ordering the abolishment of the traditional culture of the Việt, and forced them to adopt the customs and ethics of the Chinese.

Risking annihilation the people of Việt Nam fought back with tenacity. On the one hand, while exerting efforts to preserve culture, language and national character, they adapted and Vietnamized positive aspects of the Chinese culture and economy and used them as a long-term foundation. On the other, they took up arms and repeatedly rose up against the occupiers in an effort to regain independence. The first of such uprisings was led by the Trưng sisters (40-43), Mê Linh district (present day Vĩnh Phúc). This was followed in the next millennium by an explosion of  armed resistances all over the country including uprisings by Chu Đạt (157), Lương Long (178-179), Khu Liên (192) that established Champa, Lady Triệu (248), Triệu Chỉ (299-319), Lương Thạc (319-323), Lý Trường Nhân – Lý Thúc Hiến (468-485), Lý Bí (542-548), Triệu Quang Phục (548-571), Lý Tự Tiên – Đinh Kiến (687), Mai Thúc Loan (722), Phùng Hưng (766-791), Vương Quý Nguyên (803), and Dương Thanh (819-820).

The independent period began from 905-931 when the position of administrator was assumed by Khúc Thừa Dụ. He instituted changes, improvements and reform of the administration in preparation for independence. When Khúc Thừa Dụ failed in 931, Dương Đinh Nghệ took over. After Dương Đinh Nghệ was defeated in 937, Ngô Quyền assumed the role and proceeded to subdue internal enemies and defeated foreign invasion in the famous battle of Bạch Đằng River in 938. This spelt the end to a thousand years of Chinese domination.

In spite of repression development in economic, social and cultural fields continued during the period of Chinese occupation. In agriculture, outputs increased with the development of irrigation channels, the introduction of new and better varieties of rice. There was also increase in frankincense, silk, and pearl production [61, p.73]. Ceramic, bronze, ironwork and weaving products increased in volume and quality following the introduction of new technologies. Mineral production (iron, copper, gold) continued expanding throughout the country. Internal and external trade developed strongly with riverports, seaports and a network of roads and waterways in Vân Đồn (present day Quảng Ninh) and Lạch Trường (present day Thanh Hóa).

Artifacts found in the first millennium show an evolution in style from that of the Đông Sơn culture of the early years to a culture showing increasing evidence of Han-Tang influences as well as items of pure Chinese origin, and to new cultural development toward the end of this period in preparation for the introduction of the Đại Việt civilization.

·         Đông Sơn-styled Artifacts

Terracotta bricks: Made in Việt Nam for use in construction of tombs of the ruling class. The decoration includes “hairpin” motif at the centre balanced by pairs of lozenges, S, fox-eye shaped and circular motifs. Apart from the latter motif, all others are also found on Đông Sơn drums.

·         Vietnamese - Chinese- styled Artifacts

Bronze basin: The interior base is decorated with a pair of confronting fish, a common Chinese motif. The exterior wall and the base of the basin are decorated with motifs commonly found on Đông Sơn drums. The base features the sun motif with multiple rays surrounded by several concentric rings of geometric designs and long-beaked birds. The external wall is also decorated with similar designs.

This object can be used as a basin or a drum. The decoration combines motifs of Đông Sơn culture and those of the Han culture – creating a rather imaginative coordination. It may represent a “legitimate” way of preserving the Đông Sơn culture of the ancient Vietnamese.

·         Chinese-styled Artifacts

Bronze mirror:  The surface of the mirror is smooth and shiny, but a thick layer of oxidation prevents reflection. The decoration on the back of the mirror is expressed in two levels, with the outer level featuring two concentric saw-toothed rings slopping gently toward the centre. At the centre is a semi-spherical button with a ring attached for hanging. Around the button is a double squares with 12 small raised dots, each surrounded by a circle. This is an object brought from China and used by the ruling class.

Ewer: It has a long, slim neck, mouth slightly flared vertical flange, and handle in the form of a dragon reaching up from the shoulder and holding the ewer mouth between its jaws. The spout is in chicken-head form, slightly inclined outward, and in symmetry with the handle on the ewer’s opposite side. This is a typical product of the Tang period. The glaze shows some deterioration.

·         Artifacts in a New Style

House model: This shows an aristocratic residence surrounded by high walls and with a gate. The complex consists of a front yard with domestic animals and a haystack, a kitchen on one side, two residential buildings (large one on stilts) all with curved roof. Outside the wall is a bowl with descending steps representing a well. This model was made in northern Việt Nam, and used as  burial goods interred with the dead during the Han dominated period.

Bronze drum: Found in a Mường grave.

This drum consists of 3 parts: a wide tympanum, a tapered mantle and a slightly splayed foot. The tympanum which protrudes beyond the drum body 2-3 cm, features a sun motif in relief with multiple rays and concentric circles of geometrical and floral designs. Distributed evenly around the edge of the tympanum are four toad figurines. The mantle is decorated with geometric designs and motifs of bo-leaf, lemon flower, dragon, phoenix, bee and bird. The shape and decoration are  entirely different to that of the Đông Sơn drum. According to Heger classification this drum is classified as a type-II bronze drum.

The differences in shape and decoration on Type II and Type I drums signify the demise of the Đông Sơn culture.

 

After successfully pushing back the Chinese, in 939, Ngô Quyền declared himself king, and established the capital in Cổ Loa (Đông Anh, Hà Nội). This marks the beginning of the period of independence. The country was ruled by feudal monarchy that lasted almost ten centuries under ten different ruling families.