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Jiaozhi or Giao Chỉ (traditional Chinese: 交趾, 交阯; pinyin: Jiāozhǐ; Vietnamese: Giao Chỉ) was the name of all or part of Vietnam's territory, from the era of the Hùng kings to the middle of the Third Chinese domination of Vietnam (c. 7th–10th centuries) and again during the Fourth Chinese domination (1407–1427).

Giao Chỉ in the Văn Lang era[edit]

Giao Chỉ was the name of one bộ, an administrative level equivalent to a district, of the former nation Văn Lang during the time of the Hùng kings. Its territory included present-day Hanoi and the land on the right bank of the Red River.


Main articles: Nanyue and Triệu dynasty

After annexing Âu Lạc (179 BC), the Nanyue divided it into two sections: Jiaozhi and Jiuzhen (Vietnamese: Cửu Chân).

Jiaozhi district under the domination of the Han dynasty[edit]

The Han dynasty destroyed the Nanyue in 111 BC and annexed its territory, including Âu Lạc. Like the Nanyue, the Han divided Âu Lạc into 2 commanderies: Jiaozhi and Jiuzhen. The head of the commandery was Chinese tàishǒu. The Jiaozhi Commandery (Giao Chỉ quận) was an administrative unit in the Jiaozhi Department (Giao Chỉ bộ), whose head was cìshǐ (the first one was Shi Dai). The capital city of Jiaozhi was firstly Miling, but later moved to Luy Lâu, Liên Lâu (a region now at Thuận Thành suburban district, Bắc Ninh province).

According to the book Book of Han - Treatise on Geography, the Jiaozhi Commandery contained 10 counties (縣): Leilou (羸婁), Anding (安定), Goulou (苟屚), Miling (麊泠), Quyang (曲昜), Beidai (北帶), Jixu (稽徐), Xiyu (西于), Longbian (龍編), Zhugou (朱覯). The historian Đào Duy Anh stated that Jiaozhi's territory contained all the Tonkin, excluding the regions upstream of the Black River and Mã River.[1] Interestingly, the southwestern area of Guangxi was also a part of the former Jiaozhi district.[1] And the southwest area of present-day Ninh Bình province was the border area of the Jiuzhen Commandery (behind Jiaozhi, its territory now belongs to Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh). Afterwards the Han dynasty created another district named Rinan (Vietnamese: Nhật Nam), located at the south of Jiuzhen (located from the Ngang Pass to Quảng Nam).

Trade with countries to the west including the Roman Empire[edit]

Jiaozhi and Rinan commanderies in what is now northern Vietnam became the main point of entry to China from countries to the west as far away as the Roman Empire, as recorded in the Book of the Later Han:

"In the ninth Yanxi year [166 CE], during the reign of Emperor Huan, the king of Da Qin [the Roman Empire], Andun (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, r. 161-180), sent envoys from beyond the frontiers through Rinan. . . . During the reign of Emperor He [89-105 CE], they sent several envoys carrying tribute and offerings. Later, the Western Regions rebelled, and these relations were interrupted. Then, during the second and the fourth Yanxi years in the reign of Emperor Huan [159 and 161 CE], and frequently since, [these] foreigners have arrived [by sea] at the frontiers of Rinan [Commandery just south of Jiaozhi] to present offerings."[2]

The Book of Liang states:

"The merchants of this country [i.e. Da Qin or the Roman Empire] frequently visit Funan [in the Mekong delta], Rinan (Annam) and Jiaozhi [in the Red River delta near modern Hanoi]; but few of the inhabitants of these southern frontier states have come to Da Qin. During the 5th year of the Huangwu period of the reign of Sun Quan [= CE 226] a merchant of Da Qin, whose name was Qin Lun came to Jiaozhi [Tonkin]; the prefect [taishou] of Jiaozhi, Wu Miao, sent him to Sun Quan [the Wu emperor], who asked him for a report on his native country and its people."[3]


Jiaozhi was proposed by Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877 to have been the port known to the geographer Ptolemy and the Romans as Kattigara or Cattigara, situated near modern Hanoi.[4] Richthofen's view was widely accepted until archaeology at Oc Eo in the Mekong delta suggested that site may have been its location. Cattigara seems to have been the main port of call for ships travelling to China from the West in the first few centuries CE, before being replaced by Guangdong.[5]

The first native cìshǐ of Jiaozhi[edit]

During the rule of Emperor Ling of Han (168-189), Lý Tiến was the first native of Jiaozhi to be the region's cìshǐ. Lý Tiến then petitioned the Han emperor to allow natives of Giao Chỉ to be officers and mandarins in the Han court, but the emperor only accepted the ones who graduated with Maocai (茂才) or Xiaolian (孝廉) degrees in the ancient Chinese examination, and they were only accredited to low positions in Jiaozhi. Another native of Jiaozhi named Lý Cầm tried his best to petition, and eventually the natives were allowed to take higher positions in other regions of the Han empire. For example, a Jiaozhi native named Trương Trọng was a tàishǒu of Jīnchéng district in China.

Ma Yuan's bronze column[edit]

Ma Yuan's bronze column was built by Ma Yuan after he had repressed the uprising of Hai Bà Trưng (40-43). Ma Yuan had made a most brutal assimilation of Yue people to Han dynasty, destroyed all the history & culture of Jiaozhi (Việt) people. He had destroyed Jiaozhi traditional bronze drums in order to build the bronze column in Nam Quan, next to the border of Jiaozhi and China. Six Chinese characters were carved on the column: "If this bronze column collapses, Jiaozhi will be destroyed" (銅柱折 交趾滅). Thus when passing the column, the people of Jiaozhi always put some rocks beside the column to prevent it from collapsing. Over time, the number of rocks grew so large that they totally covered the column and now nobody can see it anymore. There is another theory that the people threw rocks at the column simply because they hated it so much, not because they didn't want it to collapse.[citation needed]

Jiaozhi During the Jin Dynasty[edit]

Jiaozhi underwent attacks from the neighboring kingdom of Lin-yi (Champa) starting from 270 and continuing until at least 280. In 280, the governor of Jiaozhi write to the emperor of the Jin Dynasty complaining about these attacks aided by allies from Funan.[6]

The Jiaozhi district under the domination of the Eastern Wu dynasty[edit]

The Jiaozhi Commandery under the domination of the Sui and Tang dynasty, then Mongol Empire[edit]

The Sui dynasty divided Jiaozhi Commandery into 9 county: Songping (宋平), Longbian (龍編), Zhuyuan (朱䳒), Longping (隆平), Pingdao (平道), Jiaozhi, Jianing (嘉寧), Xinchang (新昌) and Anren (安人).

However, after replacing the Sui, the Tang dynasty changed Jiaozhi Commandery into a prefecture (府) named Jiaozhou. Then in 679, the Jiaozhou Prefecture was renamed Protectorate General to Pacify the South (安南都護府). Protectorate General to Pacify the South was divided into 12 zhou (州); one of the zhou had the old name Jiaozhou. The Jiaozhou administrative division contained 8 counties: Songping, Longbian, Zhuyuna, Jiaozhi, Pingdao, Wuping (武平), Nándìng (南定), Taiping (太平). Jiaozhi County was created in 622 due to the separation of Songzhou. In 938 Ngô Quyền defeated Southern Han Dynasty at the famous Battle of Bạch Đằng River north of modern Haiphong. He took Cổ Loa to be the capital. In 1257, after invading China in 1251, Mongol Empire invaded Tran Dynasty (Đại Việt) but they had to draw back in 1258 cause of Tran Dynasty's anti. Till 1284 and 1287, Mongol Empire tried to invade Đại Việt but they were defeated both times.

Jiaozhi Province under the domination of the Ming dynasty[edit]

In 1407, the Ming dynasty invaded Đại Việt, destroyed the Hồ dynasty and began the Fourth Chinese domination (1407–1427). The Ming restored the Jiaozhi Province (交趾承宣布政使司). At this time, the Jiaozhi Province area contained all the territory of Vietnam under the Hồ dynasty. The Jiaozhi Province was divided into 15 prefecture (府, fu) and 5 independent zhou (直隶州):

  • 15 fu: Jiaozhou (交州), Beijiang (北江), Liangjiang (諒江), Sanjiang (三江), Jianping (建平, Kiến Hưng in Hồ dynasty), Xin'an (新安, Tân Hưng in the Hồ dynasty), Jianchang (建昌), Fenghua (奉化, Thiên Trường in the Hồ dynasty), Qianghua (清化), Zhenman (鎮蠻), Liangshan (諒山), Xinping (新平), Yanzhou (演州), Yian (乂安), Shunhua (顺化).
  • 5 independent zhou: Taiyuan (太原), Xuanhua (宣化, Tuyên Quang in the Hồ dynasty), Jiaxing (嘉興), Guihua (歸化), Guangwei (廣威)

Together with the 5 independent administrative divisions, there were other administrative divisions, which were under the fu. There were 47 divisions in total.

In 1408, the independent administrative division Taiyuan, Xuanhua was promoted to fu, which increased the number of fu to 17. Afterwards the Yanzhou fu was dismissed and its territory became an administrative division.

After the hero Lê Lợi defeated the Ming army and restored Đại Việt's independence, he dismissed all former administrative structure and divided the nation into 5 đạo. Thus, ever since that time, the name Giao Chỉ and Giao Châu have never been applied to official administrative units.

The name's meaning[edit]

Jiāozhǐ is also used for the ancient Vietnamese. Jiāo () meaning mix, intersect, communicate, or combine. However, the meaning of Zhǐ has not been clarified yet.

Zhǐ in the books Sima Qian's Shiji, Hanshu,... is written with the set (阯). However, in the Hou Hanshu, Cíyuan, and Cihai, it is written with the set (趾).

The book Cíhǎi and the historian Nguyễn Văn Tố claim that both of the Zhǐ letters are correct. According to Cíhǎi, the zhǐ 趾 has four meanings:

  1. synonymous with "jiǎo" (leg)
  2. means "jiǎozhǐ" (toe)
  3. synonymous with "zōngjī", means "original", "vestige", "trace",...
  4. phonetic loan characters zhǐ have set (址), means base, basis, foundation (jīzhǐ, zhùzhǐ)

Thus Zhǐ is translated in several ways, as is Jiāozhǐ. Scholar Du You wrote in the book Tongdian: "Jiāozhǐ are the Southern People; the big toe points to the outside of the foot, so if the man stands up straight, the two big toes point to each other, so people call them Jiāozhǐ (Zhǐ means big toe).". This idea is accepted by many Chinese and Vietnamese scholars.

The book Cíyuán (volume Tý, page 141) offers another interpretation. It explains that "The meaning of the words Jiāozhǐ cannot be understood literally, but the ancient Greek method of "opposite pillar" and "connecting pillar" to label humans on earth – where "opposite pillar" stood for the South side and its logical opposite the North side, whilst "connecting pillar" stood for the East side with the West side connected to it – could provide a suggested origin. If Jiāozhǐ was intended to characterise "opposite pillar" because this was what people of the Northern directions called the people of the Southern directions, then the feet of the North side "chân phía Bắc" and feet of the South side "chân phía Nam" must oppose each other, therefore rendering it impossible for the feet of a person to cross or intersect each other "không phải thực là chân người "giao" nhau"."

"Theo nghĩa cũ bảo hai ngón chân cái giao nhau là Giao Chỉ, nhưng xét đời cổ bên Hy Lạp, có tiếng "đối trụ", có tiếng "lân trụ" để gọi loài người trên thế giới. "Đối trụ" là phía Nam, phía Bắc đối nhau, "lân trụ" là phía Đông, phía Tây liền nhau. Sở dĩ có tên Giao Chỉ là hợp vào nghĩa "đối trụ", vì dân tộc phương Bắc gọi dân tộc phương Nam, cũng như một chân phía Bắc, một chân phía Nam đối nhau, không phải thực là chân người giao nhau."

Vietnamese historians and scholars Nguyễn Văn Siêu, Đặng Xuân Bảng, Trần Trọng Kim, Đào Duy Anh, and others all agree with the second explanation.

In 1868 Dr. Thorel, in the exploring group of Doudart de Lagrée, commented that the left and right big toes pointing to each other is "a characteristic of Annam people". Many later French scholars made the same comment.

Nonetheless, the "Jiāozhǐ" phenomenon occurs not only in the people of Indochina but also in the Malaysian, Siam, Chinese, Arabic people, Melanesian and Negroid as well, though the level varies from race to race. The phenomenon is very rare in the European people. It is not a pathological sign but can be considered as a "variation atavique", because the bones do not grow as straight as usual.

Jiāozhǐ, pronounced Kuchi in the Malay, became the "Cochin-China" of the Portuguese traders circa 1516, who so named it to distinguish it from the city and princely state of Cochin in India, their first headquarters in the Malabar Coast. It was subsequently called "Cochinchina".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Đất nước Việt Nam qua các đời, Văn hóa Thông tin publisher, 2005
  2. ^ Hill (2009), pp. 27, 31.
  3. ^ Hill (2009), p. 292.
  4. ^ Ferdinand von Richthofen, China, Berlin, 1877, Vol.I, pp.504-510; cited in Richard Hennig,Terrae incognitae : eine Zusammenstellung und kritische Bewertung der wichtigsten vorcolumbischen Entdeckungsreisen an Hand der daruber vorliegenden Originalberichte, Band I, Altertum bis Ptolemäus, Leiden, Brill, 1944, pp.387, 410-411; cited in Zürcher (2002), pp. 30-31.
  5. ^ Hill 2004 - see: [1] and Appendix: F.
  6. ^ Hall, D.G.E. (1981). A History of South-East Asia, Fourth Edition. Hong Kong: Macmillan Education Ltd. p. 28. ISBN 0-333-24163-0. 
  7. ^ Yule, Sir Henry Yule, A. C. Burnell, William Crooke (1995). A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases: Hobson-Jobson. Routledge. p. 34. ISBN 0-7007-0321-7. ; and Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce. Vol 2: Expansion and Crisis, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1993. p.211n.


  • Hill, John E. (2009) Through the Jade Gate to Rome: A Study of the Silk Routes during the Later Han Dynasty, 1st to 2nd Centuries CE. BookSurge, Charleston, South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4392-2134-1.
  • Zürcher, Erik (2002): "Tidings from the South, Chinese Court Buddhism and Overseas Relations in the Fifth Century AD." Erik Zürcher in: A Life Journey to the East. Sinological Studies in Memory of Giuliano Bertuccioli (1923-2001). Edited by Antonio Forte and Federico Masini. Italian School of East Asian Studies. Kyoto. Essays: Volume 2, pp. 21–43.