Annamese (Annam-North Vietnam)
(The Chinese name Annam meaning ‘The Pacified South’)
of its neighbours, Annam was primarily an agricultural state with its
survival based above all on the cultivation of rice. Like in medieval
Europe most of the land was divided among the powerful noble families. A
class of landholding farmer’s also existed and in later years powerful
monarchs frequently limited the power of feudal lords by dividing up
their large estates.
The economy was not
based solely on agriculture but also with commerce and manufacturing
becoming to thrive with local crafts appeared in regional markets
throughout the area.
The people are believed to be of mixed
Mongoloid-Indonesian stock with the area being strongly influenced by
China from as early as the 9th century BC. At the time of the fall of
the Chin dynasty, circa 208BC, the area, which included Annam, was taken
over by its Chinese Commander Chao To. (The name Nam-viet was given to
the entire area that he ruled but this was soon limited to the province
The end of the Annamese Trieu Dynasty in 111AD
marked the beginning of over eight hundred years of Chinese rule.
Although there were many insurrections and attempts to restore
independence during that time all were short-lived. The people also
resisted efforts to introduce Chinese literature, arts and agricultural
It wasn’t until 939AD that the provincial mandarin
Ngo Quyen vanquished the Chinese. Ngo Quyen is honoured as Vietnam's
greatest hero for restoring Vietnamese independence, which despite much
turbulence since that time, has continued until today.
By 1010AD the Ly
dynasty moves the capital to Thanh Long (Hanoi). During this dynasty
they repelled attacks by the Chinese, Khmer, and Champanese. They start
the expansion towards the south conquering territories from the
Champanese with the conquest of
all Champa by 1471 and by 1697 Saigon itself had become a Vietnamese
city. (The Ly monarchs called their country Dai Viet).
The Mongol invasions
In 1257 Uriangkhadai led a
Mongol expedition into Annam which by 1858 accepted Mongol authority.
In 1281 a small army of only five thousand men, under
Sodu, in one hundred ships, set sail for Champa. The Champanese withdrew
into their jungle covered hills and mountains and a fierce guerrilla war
prevented the Mongols from making any headway. The following year
reserves were sent.
This time the army was sent through Annam but the
Annamese who had accepted Mongol suzerainty were not prepared to let the
Mongols pass unmolested but were defeated with relative ease so they
then adopted the guerrilla tactics of Champa.
The small Mongol armies strength was steadily sapped as
it suffered mounting losses in both men and supplies and it now withdrew
but near the Annam-China border they were surrounded and crushed in 1285
in the decisive battle of Siming where Sodu was killed.
A new campaign into Annam, under the command of
Toghan, was launched in 1286 and reached as far as Hanoi by 1287. With
the defeat of a Mongol fleet at the estuary of the Bach Dang river and
at the same time they defeated Toghan's army on its route of withdrawal
through Lang Son the war came to on end when both Annam and Champa
agreed to pay tribute to Kublai Khan.
The Trung sisters
In 39AD Trung Trac’s husband was executed
for complaining about taxes imposed by the
Chinese so she along with her widowed sister, they were daughters
of powerful lord, led an uprising against the Han Chinese.
They gathered an army of 80,000 people, promoting 36 women,
including their mother, to be generals. (Many names of leaders of the
uprising recorded in temples dedicated to Trung Trac are women.)
With victory, the people proclaimed Trung Trac to be their ruler
renaming her ‘Trung Vuong’ or ‘She-king Trung.’ During the
next three years sisters were engaged in constant battles with the
Chinese but their troops were badly defeated in 43 A.D and the Chinese
re-occupied the country. Rather than accept defeat the sister chose the
traditional way of maintaining honour by committing suicide. (Some
stories say they drowned themselves in a river.)
Today the Trung sisters are considered a national
symbol in Vietnam where they represent Vietnam's independence and have
became legends. Vietnam holds a national day in their honour with
parades; also stories, poems, plays, postage stamps, posters and
monuments glorify their heroism. They are depicted as women riding war
elephants, sometimes standing on them.
The sisters lived in a time when women of Vietnam
enjoyed freedoms forbidden in later centuries and could inherit
property, through their mother's line, women also became political
leaders, judges, traders, and warriors