Vietnam is worldwide known as the proud of long-lasting history country which is divided into four main periods. The first period dating back approximately 200,000 years ago was the Pre-historic era with the Stone Age and Bronze Age. Vietnam's Feudal era including three main parts, the First Feudal Governments, Chinese Millennium, and Independent Feudal Period. Next is the French colonial era and Vietnam War with the Nguyen Dynasty and French Protectorate and Vietnam War. At last is the Vietnam in Renovation from 1986 until now.
In pre-historic era, Vietnam was home to competent apes - ones of the world's earliest civilian. Archeologists found fossil teeth of competent apes in Tham Hai and Tham Khuyen Cave (Lang Son Province, Vietnam), which are dating back appoximately 200,000 years ago. Moreover, at other archeological sites such as Do Mountain (Thanh Hoa Province), Xuan Loc (Dong Nai Province), etc.
During the period of Son Vi Culture (dating back 30,000 – 11,000 years ago), the original inhabitants of Vietnam was living mainly on hunting and gathering. Archeological trails include various stone tools and fossil teeth, bones of many kinds of animals (such as wild boar, bison, monkey, and porcupine). The ancient Vietnamese stayed in large caverns, near the streams. In the late Paleolithic, the organization of tribes had been appeared, involved some families that were relative.
Right after the period of Son Vi Culture, Hoa Binh – Bac Son Culture is dating back 17,000 – 7,500 years ago; at the same time with the late Neolithic period. Working tools of residents in Hoa Binh – Bac Son Culture was improved and very diverse like stone axes and other tools from animal’s bones, shells, wood and bamboo. Although their living still depended on hunting and gathering, archeologists discovered seeds and pollen inside archeological sites. These trails indicated that the ancient civilians of Vietnam had started to do farming instead of gathering. It’s an important change marking the beginning of wet-rice civilization, which is typical for the Southeast Asian region.Archeological relics of Hoa Binh – Bac Son Culture are situated in Hoa Binh, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, and Nghe An Province.
Dating between the late Neolithic period and the Bronze preliminary period, Phung Nguyen Culture is considered as the link of Stone Age and Bronze Age. It’s dating about 4,000 to 3,500 years ago. In this period of time, Phung Nguyen residents had discovered the method of making pottery. Along with the development of pottery production, they found a new material: bronze. At some archeological sites on Red River Delta, scientists found the trails of human bones as well as blocks of copper and copper slag.
Existing in around 2,000 – 500 years BC, Dong Dau and Go Mun Culture witnessed the development of pottery and metallurgy techniques. In the late of Go Mun Culture, bronze tools accounted for more than 50% of working tools and weapons.
By around the 7th century BC, Dong Son Culture was formed on the base of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Ma River and Red River Delta. This was the golden age of bronze tools in Vietnam. The archeological evidences comprise many bronze weapons, tools, drums and old copper mine. In the period of Dong Son Culture, local residents had had the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening. Their main living is agriculture with the use of buffalo’s traction and irrigation. Besides, breeding, fishing and handy-crafts were also developed. Stone tools were completely disappeared in daily life. Nowadays, the image of bronze drums has become the symbol of Dong Son Culture.
Van Lang, the first feudal government of Vietnam was established in the period of Dong Son Culture, around 7th century BC - at the same time with Chu Dynasty in China. Van Lang Dynasty also can be found in some articles with the name "Hong Bang Dynasty".
Civilians under that reign were Lac Viet people and led by the King Hung. King Hung was originally the head of a group of tribes. Legend has it that he was the eldest son of the Dragon Lord Lạc Long Quân and the Immortal Fairy Âu Cơ. Capital of the country was set in Phong Chau (Phu Tho Province now). The system of Van Lang government was very simple: the King Hung had the highest power, govern the country; at the lower position were his assistances. Under Hong Bang Dynasty, matriarchy was common in social living.
In the year of 218 B.C, Tan Dynasty in the north deployed a vast invasion to thesouth. In order to save the country, Lac Viet and Au Viet tribes collaborated and defeated the foreign invaders. The war ended, the leader of Au Viet tribal called himself as King An Duong Vuong, governed both Lac Viet and Au Viet tribes. The Kingdom of Au Lac (the name combined of “Au Viet” and “Lac Viet”), was officially formed. According to the order of King An Duong Vuong, Co Loa Citadel was built and become the capital as well as politic center of the country.
In 179 BC, the King of Nam Viet State in the north - Zhao Tuo, led his troop to the south and aimed at conquering Au Lac State. As intelligence operations, King An Duong Vuong lost his kingdom to Zhao Tuo. Since then, Vietnam had been set as a province and dominated by Chinese states. Vietnamese experienced a thousand years of Dark Age in the history as brutal policies of Chinese domination. Upon that long period, there were many revolts against wicked rulers such as the Trung Sisters, Lady Trieu and Ly Bi’s revolts. Unfortunately, those all didn’t reach success and independence for the country.
In 905, Khuc Thua Du and his force rose in revolt against the North’s domination. The revolt succeeded and gained autonomy for Vietnam. Under the reign of Khuc Dynasty, Vietnam was a vassal kingdom of China.
Independent Feudal Period
Till 938, with the great win in the battle against Southern Han on Bach Dang River, finally, Ngo Quyen released the country from a millenniumunder Chinese control. When the invaders left, Ngo Quyen declared himself as the King. However, Ngo Dynasty wasn’t lasted long as his dead in 944. Thus, Vietnam was once again in chaos. In the end of 967, Dinh Bo Linh succeeded in defeating twelve warlords and founded Dai Co Viet State (the Great Viet Land) as an independent nation along with the Chinese Song Dynasty. Dinh Bo Linh became the King of Dai Co Viet and ordered to build capital city in Hoa Lu (now is Ninh Binh Province). The name “Dai Co Viet” had used to call the country under Dinh Dynasty, Former Le Dynasty and Ly Dynasty. After the foundation of Ly Dynasty, Ly Cong Uan, so-called King Ly Thai To, had moved the capital from Hoa Lu to Thang Long (“Ascending Dragon”, now is Hanoi) and set up a monarchy. In 1054, King Ly Thanh Tong renamed the country as Dai Viet (the Great Viet). Under Ly Dynasty, Dai Viet was in full flourish and developed in all sectors (politics, economy and religion). Ly Dynasty released “Hinh thu” – the first document of law of Vietnam. This is also the period that Buddhism was wide-developed and many pagodas as well as temples were built in all regions of the country. Nowadays, One Pillar Pagoda is still remained as a historical relic as well as evidence of Buddhism under the reign of Ly. Also under Ly Dynasty, the first university of Vietnam, Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam (the Temple of Literature) was established as the order of King Ly Nhan Tong in 1076.
The state of Dai Viet had lasted for Ly Dynasty (1009-1225), Tran Dynasty (1226 - 1400), Ho Dynasty (1400 - 1407), Later Le Dynasty (1428 - 1527), Mac Dynasty (1527 - 1592), Trinh – Nguyen Lords (1533 - 1789) and Tay Son Dynasty (1778 - 1802). Under Tran Dynasty, Dai Viet was a wealthy country. Tran’s government paid attention to develop agriculture by improving cultivation and irrigation method. Foreign trade was developed with a commercial port system (including the ancient commercial port of Van Don and islands on Halong Bay such as Ngoc Vung, Van Hai and Cong Do Island). Trade relationship with neighboring countries like Indonesia, India, etc. was enhanced. But in the end of 14th century, Tran Dynasty fell into recession as serious corruption and lost the power to Ho Dynasty. Lasted for just 7 years, Ho Dynasty was ousted by Ming invaders in 1407. The revolt of Le Loi, with the assistance of Nguyen Trai, was regained the sovereignty for the country. By the power of the King, Kings of le Dynasty implemented land reform in order to recover the economy after the war. At that time, literature and science were developed with several famous people such as Ngo Si Lien, Nguyen Trai and Luong The Vinh. Le Dynastry also widened trade relationship with some European countries and Japan at commercial center of Thang Long and Hoi An. In 1527, Mac Dang Dung deposed King Le Chieu Tong and came to the throne. However, he faced an unexpected opposition of Le Dynasty’s generals. In the chaos, two powers in two regions of the country, Trinh Lords in the North and Nguyen Lords in the South, rose and fired a civil war. Dai Viet had been divided into two territories with Gianh River as the boundary for more than 200 years. In 1771, Nguyen Hue led Tay Son Revolt, deposed both Trinh Lords and Nguyen Lords. Country was unified; Nguyen Hue was called as King Quang Trung. After his dead in 1792, Tay Son Dynasty was in recession and ousted by Nguyen Anh, the heir of Nguyen Lords. Nguyen Anh founded a new state called Vietnam and declared himself as King Gia Long, marked the beginning of Nguyen Dynasty.
After 900 years of independence and following a period of disunity and rebellion, the French colonial era began during the 1858-83 period, when the French seized control of the nation, dividing it into three parts: The north (Tonkin), the center (Annam), and the south (Cochinchina). In 1861 France occupied Saigon, and by 1883 it had taken control of all of Vietnam as well as Laos and Cambodia.
Nguyen Dynasty and French Protectorate
With the assistance of French, Nguyen Anh ousted Tay Son Dynasty and became the first king of Nguyen Dynasty. In August 1858, as the order of King Napoleon III, French Navy made an attack in Da Nang Port, and then Saigon. In 1862, King Tu Duc – the 4th King of Nguyen Dynasty signed an agreement that empower the French to control three provinces in the East of Mekong River Delta. Till 1867, the French had the control over the whole of Mekong River Delta and called it Cochinchine Colony. From 1873 to 1886, with the Tonkin Campaign, France expanded its control to the Northern (Tonkin) and the Central Vietnam (Annam). In 1887, France merged three regions of Vietnam (Northern Vietnam – Tonkin, Central Vietnam – Annam, and Southern Vietnam – Cochinchina) into one and formed French Indochina. At the same time, France pronounced French protectorate in Vietnam but still remained puppet feudal government of Nguyen Dynasty. Nguyen’s Kings, who raised the revolts against French protectorate, including Ham Nghi, Duy Tan and Thanh Thai, were all dethroned and exiled. Besides, there were many resistance movements such as Dong Du Movement (“Go East” Movement) led by Phan Boi Chau and Duy Tan Movement ("Modernization" Movement) led by Phan Chau Trinh. Resistance movements drew the attraction of patriotic members of the public but didn’t reach success. Under French administration, the traditional Chinese scripts or the Nom script in education were replaced by the Romanized alphabet of Vietnamese language (now called Vietnamese). In the early of 20th century, Vietnamese Nationalist Party was established under the influence of Three Principles of the People (Sun Zhongshan). As the failure of Yen Bai Revolt in 1930, Vietnamese Nationalist Party fell into recession and couldn’t work longer. In 1930, under the influence of Marxism, the Indochinese Communist Party was also founded by merging three parties: Communist parties; Annamese Communist Party and the Indochinese Communist Union. The Indochinese Communist Party was led by the General Secretary Tran Phu and Nguyen Ai Quoc (so-called Ho Chi Minh) – representative of the Communist International.
In 1940, Japan – one of the Axis, implemented a vast invasion in Vietnam, and made a deal with France to remain puppet French administration. In 1945, Japan held the control of all over Indochina and established the Empire of Vietnam with King Bao Dai’s puppet government, officially eliminated French Protectorate in Vietnam. As the failure of the Axis in the Second World War, Viet Minh (League for the Independence of Vietnam) led by Ho Chi Minh, started a campaign against Japan and gained control over the Tonkin. In August 1945, King Bao Dai abdicated, marked the end of Nguyen Dynasty. On 2nd September 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, affirmed the sovereignty as well as independence of Vietnam. In 1946, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had the first general election and constitution.
According to the agreement of the Allies after the Second World War, Britain – a power of the Allies appointed France to disarm Japan in the Southern Vietnam. With the assistance from the US, France once again tried to reclaim control in the Northern Vietnam. However, the French could do nothing to retake the Tonkin as their schedule. After the failure in Dien Bien Phu Battle in 1954, the French were forced to sit at the negotiating table of Geneva Conference and make a compromise to end the war in Vietnam. Also in this conference, Vietnam was divided into two regions: the North and the South with the boundary was the 17th parallel. The North was governed by government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, developed in socialist direction. The South was under the domination of the Republic of Vietnam, puppet government of the US in Vietnam, and developed a market economy.
From 1954 to 1975, backed by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) was founded and started a resistance war agaisnt America. Diem’s administration of the Republic of Vietnam was confused by unexpected attacks from Viet Cong. As that status, the US had to make further intervention in Vietnam with the Strategic Hamlet Program and Special War Campaign (1961-1965), Gradual Escalation (1965-1967), Vietnamization (1968). Unfortunately, those all just made the US mired in Vietnam War. NLF’s operations in Tet Offensive (1968) and Ho Chi Minh Campaign (1975) ended Vietnam War after more than 30 years. On 30th April 1975, the Republic of Vietnam’s administration officially surrendered NLF.
Two regions of Vietnam were unified as one state: the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and started to reconstruct the country after war. Vietnamese government implemented a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories in the direction of socialism but it didn’t help Vietnam to recover as on paper. Vietnam’s economy faced an unexpected situation of stagnation and hyperinflation.
In 1979, Vietnam sent the troops to Cambodia; helped topple the Pol Pot government and establish the People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). On the pretext of Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia, Chinese army attacked some southern provinces of Vietnam. The conflict made Vietnam - China relationship in tension and even led to the interruption of diplomatic relation between two countries.
At the 6th congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam in December 1986, the General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh made a proposal of Doi Moi (Reform) and adopted. Doi Moi is a reforming program in economy and politics that has been launched by the Communist Party of Vietnam.
In economy, Vietnam’s economy has been developed as the Socialist-oriented market economy. In this new model, the government holds a decisive part in the national economy. Besides, private and foreign enterprises also play an important role in economy. Vietnamese government acknowledges legal and equal existence of economic components: state economy, collective economy, private sector (including individual business owners and economic profile), state capitalist economy, economy of foreign investment. Vietnam’s enclosed economy was replaced by open-market economy. Vietnam also expandscommercial relationship with several countries and organizations in the world such as US, EU, Japan, China, etc.
In political sector, Vietnam has established and resumed diplomatic relation with many Western and neighboring countries (like the US, China, ASEAN countries). Vietnam’s partners now are not only socialist countries like it was. Vietnamese government also focuses on multilateral cooperation, joining actively international and regional organizations, including WTO, ASEAN, APEC, etc.
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