Hồng Bàng dynasty

  (Redirected from Văn Lang)

The Hồng Bàng period (Vietnamese: thời kỳ Hồng Bàng),[2] also called the Hồng Bàng dynasty,[3] was a legendary, semi-mythical period in Vietnamese historiography, spanning from the beginning of the rule of Kinh Dương Vương over the state of Văn Lang (initially called Xích Quỷ) in 2879 BC until the conquest of the state by An Dương Vương in 258 BC.[3]

Hồng Bàng

c.2879 BC (?)–258 BC
Đông Sơn bronze drum of Hồng Bàng
Đông Sơn bronze drum
Map of Văn Lang
Map of Văn Lang
CapitalNgàn Hống (c. 2879 BC – ?)
Nghĩa Lĩnh (29th c. BC)
Phong Châu (until 258 BC)
Common languagesAncient Vietnamese[1]
Animism, folk religion
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy
• 2879–2794 BC
Hùng Vương I (first)
• 408–258 BC
Hùng Vương XVIII (last)
Historical eraAncient history, Bronze Age, Iron Age
• Establishing of the Xích Quỷ confederacy by Kinh Dương Vương
c.2879 BC (?)
• Conquered by Thục Phán
258 BC
Succeeded by
Âu Lạc
Today part ofVietnam

The 15th century Vietnamese chronicle Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (Đại Việt, The Complete History) claimed that the period began with Kinh Dương Vương as the first Hùng king (Vietnamese: Hùng Vương), a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Vietnamese rulers of this period.[4] The Hùng king was the absolute monarch of the country and, at least in theory, wielded complete control of the land and its resources. The Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư also recorded that the nation's capital was Phong Châu in present-day Phú Thọ Province. It was bordered to the east by the East Sea, to the west by Ba Thục (present-day Sichuan), to the north by Dongting Lake (Hunan), and to the south by Champa.

Origin of nameEdit

Hồng BàngEdit

The Vietnamese name is the Sino-Vietnamese pronunciation of characters "" assigned to this dynasty in early Vietnamese-written histories in Chinese. The meaning is a mythical giant bird.[5]

Văn LangEdit

French linguist Michel Ferlus (2009)[6] includes Văn Lang (Old Chinese: ZS *mɯn-raːŋ; B&S *mə[n]-C.rˤaŋ) in the word-family *-ra:ŋ "human being, person" of Southeast Asian ethononyms across three linguistic families, Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, together with:

  • The ethnonym Maleng of a Vietic people living in Vietnam and Laos; Ferlus suggests that Vietic *m.leŋ is the "iambic late form" of *m.ra:ŋ.
  • A kingdom north of today-Cambodia, Chinese: Táng-míng in Sānguózhì and later Dào-míng in Tang documents;
  • A kingdom subjected by Jayavarman II in the 8th century, known as Maleṅ [məlɨə̆ŋ] in Pre-Angkorian and Malyaṅ [məlɨə̆ŋ] in Angkorian Khmer; the kingdom's name is phonetically connected with Maleng, yet nothing further is conclusive.
  • The ethnonym မြန်မာ Mraṅmā (1342); in Chinese transcription : OC *moːɡ-raːŋsMC *muk̚-lɑŋᴴ → Mandarin Mù-làng.
  • Malayic *ʔuʀaŋ "human being, person".

There also exists a phonetically similar Proto-Mon-Khmer etymon: *t₂nra:ŋ "man, male".[7]

The earliest historical mention of Văn Lang, however, just had been recorded in a 7th-century to 9th-century Tang dynasty's document about the area of Phong Châu (Phú Thọ).[8]


Pre-dynastic stageEdit

Vietnam, a country situated along the eastern coast of mainland Southeast Asia, has had a long and turbulent history.[9] The Vietnamese people represent a fusion of races, languages, and cultures, the elements of which are still being sorted out by ethnologists, linguists, and archaeologists.[10] The Vietnamese language provides some clues to the cultural mixture of the Vietnamese people.[10]

The area now known as Vietnam has been inhabited since Palaeolithic times, with some archaeological sites in Thanh Hóa Province reportedly dating back around half a million years ago.[10] The prehistoric people had lived continuously in local caves since around 6000 BC, until more advanced material cultures developed.[11] Some caves are known to have been the home of many generations of early humans.[12] As northern Vietnam was a place with mountains, forests, and rivers, the number of tribes grew between 5000 and 3000 BC.[13]

Prior to the beginning of the Hồng Bàng period, the land was settled by autonomous villages. Vietnamese pre-dynastic society was anarchic and did not have any management mechanism. They lived together in groups as tribes. Archaeologists have found many images on the wall of caves which showed the daily living of ancient people.

The first Hùng king (c. 2879 BC)Edit

During a few thousand years in the Late Stone Age, the inhabitant populations grew and spread to every part of Vietnam. Most ancient people were living near the Hồng (Red), Cả and Mã rivers. The Vietnamese tribes were the primary tribes at this time.[13] Their territory included modern meridional territories of China to the banks of the Hồng River in the northern territory of Vietnam. Centuries of developing a civilization and economy based on the cultivation of irrigated rice encouraged the development of tribal states and communal settlements.

Legend describes a significant political event occurred when Lộc Tục came into power in approximately 2879 BC.[14] Lộc Tục was recorded as a descendant of the mythical Chinese ruler Shennong.[15] He consolidated the other tribes and succeeded in grouping all the vassal states (or autonomous communities) within his territory into a unified nation. Lộc Tục proclaimed himself Kinh Dương Vương and called his newly born nation Xích Quỷ. Lộc Tục inaugurated the earliest monarchical regime as well as the first ruling family by heirdom in Vietnam's history. He is regarded as the ancestor of the Hùng kings, as the founding father of Vietnam, and as a Vietnamese cultural hero who is credited with teaching his people how to cultivate rice.

Early Hồng Bàng (c. 2879 – c. 1913 BC)Edit

As rule was passed to the Hùng king's male heirs, Kinh Dương Vương was succeeded by his son Lạc Long Quân, who founded the second dynasty of Hùng kings in c. 2793 BC.

Starting from the third Hùng dynasty since c. 2524 BC, the kingdom was renamed Văn Lang, and the capital was set up at Phong Châu (in modern Việt Trì, Phú Thọ) at the juncture of three rivers where the Red River Delta begins from the foot of the mountains.

The evidence that the Vietnamese knew how to calculate the lunar calendar by carving on stones dates back to 2200–2000 BC. Parallel lines were carved on the stone tools as a counting instrument involving the lunar calendar.[11]

Middle Hồng Bàng (c. 1912 – c. 1055 BC)Edit

By 1500 BC, the coastal residents developed a sophisticated agricultural society.[16]

Late Hồng Bàng (c. 1054 – c. 258 BC)Edit

The tidal irrigation of rice fields through an elaborate system of canals and dikes started by the sixth century BC. The Hùng ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty led the armies to conquer what is modern-day Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh Provinces.[17] A rival people, the proto-Cham people based in modern-day Quảng Bình Province, resisted and a clash between the two sides was inevitable.[17] The Hùng forces defeated the proto-Chams, annexing the land.[17]

The Hồng Bàng epoch ended in the middle of the third century BC on the advent of the military leader Thục Phán's conquest of Văn Lang, dethroning the last Hùng king.

Final moments (c. 258 BC)Edit

Thục Phán (An Dương Vương), the ruler of the neighbouring upland Âu Việt tribes, overthrew the last Hùng king in c. 258 BC. After conquering Văn Lang, Thục Phán united the Lạc Việt tribes with the Âu Việt ones to form a new kingdom of Âu Lạc, building his capital and citadel, Cổ Loa Citadel in Hanoi's Dong Anh district.[18]

Văn Lang ended c. 258 BC when Shu prince Thục Phán, the ruler of the neighbouring upland Âu Việt tribes, overthrew the last Hùng king in approximately 258 BC. After conquering Văn Lang, Thục Phán united the Lạc Việt tribes with the Âu Việt tribes to form a new kingdom of Âu Lạc. He proclaimed himself An Dương Vương and built his capital and citadel, Cổ Loa Citadel, in the modern-day Dong Anh district of Hanoi.[18][19]

Continued influenceEdit

The Lạc lords maintained their feudal influence long after demise of the Hồng Bàng era. These feudal lords faded into history only after the defeat of the Trưng Sisters in mid 1st-century AD.

Government and economyEdit


The first Hùng King established the first Vietnamese state in response to the needs of co-operation in constructing hydraulic systems and in struggles against their enemies. This was a very primitive form of a sovereign state with the Hùng king on top and under him a court consisted of advisors – the lạc hầu.[20] The country was composed of fifteen bộ "regions", each ruled by a lạc tướng;[20] usually the lạc tướng was a member of the Hùng kings' family. Bộ comprised the agricultural hamlets and villages based on a matriarchal clan relationship and headed by a bộ chính, usually a male tribal elder.[20]

Semi-historical source described Văn Lang's northern border stretched to the southern part of present-day Hunan, and the southern border stretched to the Cả River delta, including parts of modern Guangxi, Guangdong and Northern Vietnam.[20] Such claims haven't been proved by archeological research.

According to Trần Trọng Kim's book, Việt Nam sử lược (A Brief History of Vietnam), the country was divided into 15 regions as in the table below.[21] However, they're in fact taken from Sino-Vietnamese names of later commanderies established by the Chinese in northern Vietnam.

Regions of Văn Lang
Name Present-day location
Phong Châu (King's capital) Phú Thọ Province
Châu Diên(朱鳶) Sơn Tây Province
Phúc Lộc (福祿) Sơn Tây Province
Tân Hưng(新興) Hưng Hóa (part of Phú Thọ Province) and Tuyên Quang Province
Vũ Định(武定) Thái Nguyên Province and Cao Bằng Province
Vũ Ninh(武寧) Bắc Ninh Province
Lục Hải(陸 海) Lạng Sơn Province
Ninh Hải(寧海) Quảng Yên (a part of Quảng Ninh Province)
Dương Tuyên(陽泉) Hải Dương Province
Giao Chỉ(交趾) Hà Nội, Hưng Yên Province, Nam Định Province and Ninh Bình Province
Cửu Chân(九真) Thanh Hóa Province
Hoài Hoan(懷驩) Nghệ An Province
Việt Thường(越 裳) Quảng Bình Province and Quảng Trị Province
Cửu Đức(九德) Hà Tĩnh Province
Bình Văn(平文) unknown


The economy was based predominantly on rice paddy cultivation, and also included handicrafts, hunting and gathering, husbandry and fishing. Especially, the skill of bronze casting was at a high level. The most famous relics are Đông Sơn Bronze Drums on which are depicted houses, clothing, customs, habits, and cultural activities of the Hùng era.

The Hùng Vươngs ruled Văn Lang in feudal fashion with the aid of the Lạc Tướng, who controlled the communal settlements around each irrigated area, organized construction and maintenance of the dikes, and regulated the supply of water. Besides cultivating rice, the people of Văn Lang grew other grains and beans and raised stock, mainly buffaloes, chickens, and pigs. Pottery-making and bamboo-working were highly developed crafts, as were basketry, leather-working, and the weaving of hemp, jute, and silk. Both transport and communication were provided by dugout canoes, which plied the network of rivers and canals.



The period between the end of the third millennium and the middle of the first millennium BC produced increasingly sophisticated pottery of the pre-Dong Son cultures of northern Viet Nam and the pre-Sa Huỳnh cultures of southern Vietnam. This period saw the appearance of wheel-made pottery, although the use of the paddle and anvil remained significant in manufacture.[22] Vessel surfaces are usually smooth, often polished, and red slipping is common. Cord-marking is present in all cultures and forms a fairly high percentage of sherdage[definition needed]. Complex incised decoration also developed with rich ornamental designs, and it is on the basis of incised decoration that Vietnamese archaeologists distinguish the different cultures and phases one from another.

The pottery from the successive cultural developments in the Red River Valley is the most well known. Vietnamese archaeologists here discern three pre-Dong Son cultures: Phùng Nguyên, Đồng Đậu, and Gò Mun. The pottery of these three cultures, despite the use of different decorative styles, has features that suggest a continuity of cultural development in the Red River Valley. In the Ma River Valley in Thanh Hóa Province, Vietnamese archaeologists also recognize three pre-Dong Son periods of cultural development: Con Chan Tien, Dong Khoi (Bai Man) and Quy Chu. In the areas stretching from the Red to the Cả River valleys, all the local cultures eventually developed into the Đông Sơn culture, which expanded over an area much larger than that of any previous culture and Vietnamese archaeologists believe that it had multiple regional sources. For instance, while Đông Sơn bronzes are much the same in different regions of northern Viet Nam, the regional characters of the pottery are fairly marked. On the whole, Đông Sơn pottery has a high firing temperature and is varied in form, but decorative patterns are much reduced in comparison with preceding periods, and consist mainly of impressions from cord-wrapped or carved paddles. Incised decoration is virtually absent.


Ethnic minoritiesEdit

Contemporary Vietnamese historians have established the existence of various ethnic minorities now living in the highlands of North and Central Vietnam during the early phase of the Hồng Bàng Dynasty.[23]


Bronze toolsEdit

Image on the Ngoc Lu bronze drum's surface

By about 1200 BC., the development of wet-rice cultivation and bronze casting in the Mã River and Red River plains led to the development of the Đông Sơn culture, notable for its elaborate bronze drums. The bronze weapons, tools, and drums of Đông Sơn sites show a Southeast Asian influence that indicates an indigenous origin for the bronze-casting technology. Many small, ancient copper mine sites have been found in northern Vietnam. Some of the similarities between the Đông Sơn sites and other Southeast Asian sites include the presence of boat-shaped coffins and burial jars, stilt dwellings, and evidence of the customs of betel-nut-chewing and teeth-blackening.

Canals and dikesEdit

An important advancement occurred by the 6th century BC: the irrigation of rice fields (lac dien) through an elaborate system of canals and dikes.[citation needed] This type of sophisticated farming system would come to define Vietnamese society. It required tight-knit village communities to collectively manage their irrigation systems. These systems in turn produced crop yields that could sustain much higher population densities than competing methods of food production.[24]


The history of the Hồng Bàng period is split according to the rule of each Hùng king.[25] The dating of events is still a subject of research.[26] The date ranges are conservative date estimates for the known periods:[26][17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Colonial Diasporas & Traditional Vietnamese Society
  2. ^ Dror, p. 33 & 254 "Hồng Bàng period"
  3. ^ a b Pelley, p. 151
  4. ^ Tucker, Oxford Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War
  5. ^ Nhất Hạnh Master Tang Hôi: First Zen Teacher in Vietnam and China – 2001 Page 1 "At that time the civilization of northern Vietnam was known as Van Lang (van means beautiful, and lang means kind and healing, like a good doctor). The ruling house of Van Lang was called Hong Bang, which means a kind of huge bird."
  6. ^ Michel Ferlus. "Formation of Ethnonyms in Southeast Asia". 42nd International Conference on SinoTibetan Languages and Linguistics, Nov 2009, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2009. pp. 4-5
  7. ^ Shorto, H. A Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary, Ed. Paul Sidwell, 2006. #692. p. 217
  8. ^ Kiernan 2019, p. 53.
  9. ^ Vietnam – History and Culture
  10. ^ a b c "Mission Atlas Project – VIETNAM – Basic Facts" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-09-15. Retrieved 2012-10-07.
  11. ^ a b Ancient calendar unearthed. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
  12. ^ 6,000-year-old tombs unearthed in northeast Vietnam. Retrieved 2014-01-19.
  13. ^ a b Lamb, p. 52
  14. ^ Ngô Sĩ Liên. "Complete Book of the Historical Records of Đại Việt". Viet Texts. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  15. ^ Vu, Hong Lien (2016). Rice and Baguette: A History of Food in Vietnam. ISBN 9781780237046.
  16. ^ Vietnam – History Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b c d Tracing the origin of ethnic and ancestor land during the Hùng King Age.
  18. ^ a b Ray, Nick; et al. (2010), "Co Loa Citadel", Vietnam, Lonely Planet, p. 123, ISBN 9781742203898.
  19. ^ Chapuis, Oscar (1995). A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 13, 14. ISBN 0-313-29622-7.
  20. ^ a b c d Khâm định Việt sử thông giám cương mục, Vol. 1
  21. ^ Trần Trọng Kim (2005). Việt Nam sử lược (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City: Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House. p. 18.
  22. ^ Hoang and Bui 1980
  23. ^ Phan Huy Lê, Trần Quốc Vượng, Hà Văn Tấn, Lương Ninh, p. 99
  24. ^ eHistory, Ohio State University. Guilmartin, John. “America and Vietnam: The Fifteen Year War.” 1991. New York: Military Press.
  25. ^ Tăng Dực Đào, p. 7
  26. ^ a b Vuong Quan Hoang and Tran Tri Dung, p. 64
  27. ^ a b c d Ngô Văn Thạo, p. 823-824


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    • 1959. Further notes on the Kalanay pottery complex in the Philippines. AP 3 (2): 157–166.
    • 1964. The Archaeology of Central Philippines: A Study Chiefly of the Iron Age and its Relationships. Manila: Monograph of the National Institute of Science and Technology No. 10.
    • 1968. The Batungan Cave sites, Masbate, Philippines, in Anthropology at the Eight Pacific Science Congress: 21–62, ed. W. G. Solheim II. Honolulu: Asian and Pacific Archaeology Series No. 2, Social Science Research Institute, University of Hawaii.
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Kiernan, Ben (2019). Việt Nam: a history from earliest time to the present. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190053796.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
New creation
Dynasty of Vietnam
c. 2879 – 258 BC
Succeeded by
Thục Dynasty

21°16′54″N 105°26′31″E / 21.28167°N 105.44194°E / 21.28167; 105.44194Coordinates: 21°16′54″N 105°26′31″E / 21.28167°N 105.44194°E / 21.28167; 105.44194