Đông Sơn culture

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Prehistoric and ancient cultures of Vietnam
Sơn Vi culture (20,000–12,000 BC)
Hoabinhian (12,000–10,000 BC)
Bắc Sơn culture (10,000–8,000 BC)
Quỳnh Văn culture (8,000–6,000 BC)
Đa Bút culture (4,000–3,000 BC)
Bronze Age
Phùng Nguyên culture (2,000–1,500 BC)
Đồng Đậu culture (1,500–1,000 BC)
Gò Mun culture (1,000–800 BC)
Đông Sơn culture (1,000 BC–100 AD)
Iron Age
Sa Huỳnh culture (1,000 BC–200 AD)
Óc Eo culture (1–630 AD)
Drum from Sông Đà, Vietnam. Dong Son II culture. Mid-1st millennium BC. Bronze.

The Đông Sơn culture (literally "East Mountain culture", but from the name of Đông Sơn village) was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered at the Red River Valley of northern Vietnam during the late period of the Hồng Bàng dynasty .[citation needed] It was the last great culture of Văn Lang (as Vietnam was known then) and continued well into the next Vietnamese state of Âu Lạc. Its influence spread to other parts of Southeast Asia, including Maritime Southeast Asia, from about 1000 BC to 1 BC.[1][2][3]

The Đông Sơn people, who are also known as Lạc or Lạc Việt, were skilled at cultivating rice, keeping water buffalos and pigs, fishing and sailing in long dugout canoes. They also were skilled bronze casters, which is evidenced by the Đông Sơn drums found widely throughout Southeast Asia and Southern China.

Similar artefacts have been found in Cambodia along the Mekong dating back to the 4th millennium BC. Đông Sơn influence is seen throughout Southeast Asia, from the moko drum of Alor Archipelago, Indonesia, which are suspected of originating with the Đông Sơn bronze drums, to the design of kris knives.

To the south of the Đông Sơn culture was the proto-Cham Sa Huỳnh culture.


Close-up view of design of a typical Dong Son drum
Bronze figurine, Đông Sơn culture, 500 BC-300 AD. Thailand.

The origins of Đông Sơn culture may be traced back to ancient bronze castings. The traditional theory is based on the assumption that bronze casting in eastern Asia originated in northern China. However, according to archaeological discoveries in north-eastern Thailand in the 1970s, the casting of bronze began in Southeast Asia first.[4] The Đông Sơn and other southeast Asian cultures were known to have used bronze lost-wax casting techniques from a very early time - perhaps predating the first millennium BCE.[citation needed]

This interpretation is supported by the work of modern Vietnamese archaeologists. They have found that the earliest bronze drums of Đông Sơn are closely related in their basic structural features and decorative design to the pottery of the Phùng Nguyên culture. It is uncertain whether the bronze drums were made for religious ceremonies, to rally men for war, or for another secular activity. The various discerning images and arrow points engraved on the drums have led to speculation that the drums may have been used as a local seasonal calendar.[citation needed]

The bronze drums were made in significant proportions in Vietnam and parts of southern China and were then traded to the south and west to places such as Java and Bali.[citation needed] Thus it became valued by people with very different cultures. The Đông Sơn bronze drums exhibit the advanced techniques and the great skill in the lost-wax casting of large objects, the Co Loa drum would have required the smelting of between 1 and 7 tons of copper ore and the use of up to 10 large casting crucibles at one time. Most scholars agree the Đông Sơn drums display an artistic level reaching perfection that few cultures of the time could rival.[citation needed]

Expansion of the Dong Son culture[edit]

The discovery in the late 17th century of large, elaborately incised "Dum" drums in mainland and maritime southeast Asia first alerted Western scholars to the existence in the region of distinctive early bronze-working cultures. Ranging in height from a few inches to over six feet, up to four feet in diameter, and often of considerable weight, such drums are the most widely dispersed products of the Đông Sơn culture. Examples produced in Vietnam, in addition to works made locally, have been found in south China, in mainland southeast Asia, and in Sumatra, Java, Bali, and Irian Jaya.

The function of these drums, often found in burials, remains unclear: they may have been used in warfare or as part of funerary or other ceremonial rites. Models of the drums, produced in bronze or clay, were made to be included in burials. This small bronze example has the rounded top, curved middle, and splayed base often found in drums from Vietnam. The central loop and the four small frogs on the tympanum are characteristic features of examples produced from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD. The starburst pattern in the center of the tympanum, a standard motif on Đông Sơn drums, is surrounded by a row of linked concentric circles and crosshatching. These designs are repeated around the side of the top section and just above the base. On the center of the drum, four stylized scenes showing warriors. Many bronze drums of the Đông Sơn period have been reported in South and Southwest China, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia.

In Vietnam, approximately 140 drums were discovered in many locations throughout Vietnam from the high land region of the north to the plains of the south and as far as to the Phu Quoc island, in the Gulf of Thailand.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vietnam Tours
  2. ^ Nola Cooke, Tana Li, James Anderson - The Tongking Gulf Through History - Page 46 2011 -"Nishimura actually suggested the Đông Sơn phase belonged in the late metal age, and some other Japanese scholars argued that, contrary to the conventional belief that the Han invasion ended Đông Sơn culture, Đông Sơn artifacts, ..."
  3. ^ Vietnam Fine Arts Museum 2000 "... the bronze cylindrical jars, drums, Weapons and tools which were sophistically carved and belonged to the World famous Đông Sơn culture dating from thousands of years; the Sculptures in the round, the ornamental architectural Sculptures ..."
  4. ^ Taylor, Keith W. (1991). The Birth of Vietnam. University of California Press. p. 313. ISBN 0-520-07417-3. 

Austronesian vernacular architecture and the Ise Shrine of Japan: Is there any connection? Link

by Ezrin Arbi Department of Architecture Faculty of Built Environment University of Malaya.

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