Names of Vietnam

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The word "Vietnam" was coined by 16th century poet Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (right), a political prognosticator often compared to Nostradamus. Here he is depicted alongside Sun Yat-sen and Victor Hugo as a Cao Đài saint.

The name Việt Nam (About this sound listen) is a variation of Nam Việt (Southern Việt), a name that can be traced back to the Triệu Dynasty (2nd century BC).[1] The word "Việt" originated as a shortened form of Bách Việt, a word used to refer to various peoples who lived in what is now southern China in ancient times. The word "Việt Nam", with the syllables in the modern order, first appears in the 16th century in a poem by Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm. "Annam", which originated as a Chinese name in the seventh century, was the common name of the country during the colonial period. Nationalist writer Phan Bội Châu revived the name "Vietnam" in the early 20th century. When rival communist and anti-communist governments were set up in 1945, both immediately adopted this as the country's official name. In English, the two syllables are usually combined into one word, "Vietnam." However, "Viet Nam" was once common usage and is still used by the United Nations and by the Vietnamese government.

Throughout history, there were many names used to refer to Vietnam. Besides official names, there are names that are used unofficially to refer to territory of Vietnam. Vietnam was called Văn Lang during the Hùng Vương Dynasty, Âu Lạc when An Dương was king, Nam Việt during the Triệu Dynasty, Van Xuan during the Anterior Lý Dynasty, Đại Cồ Việt during the Đinh Dynasty and Early Lê dynasty. Starting in 1054, Vietnam was called Đại Việt (Great Viet).[2] During the Hồ Dynasty, Vietnam was called Đại Ngu.[3]

Origin of the name "Vietnam"[edit]

The term "Việt" (Yue) (Chinese: ; pinyin: Yuè; Cantonese Yale: Yuht; Wade–Giles : Yüeh4; Vietnamese: Việt, Early Middle Chinese: Wuat) comes from Old Chinese *wjat.[4] It was first written using the pictograph "戉" for an axe (a homophone), in oracle bone and bronze inscriptions of the late Shang dynasty (c. 1200 BC), and later as "越".[5] At that time it referred to a people or chieftain to the northwest of the Shang.[6] In the early 8th century BC, a tribe on the middle Yangtze were called the Yangyue, a term later used for peoples further south.[6] Between the 7th and 4th centuries BC Yue/Việt referred to the State of Yue in the lower Yangtze basin and its people.[6][5]

From the 3rd century BC the term was used for the non-Chinese populations of south and southwest China and northern Vietnam, with particular states or groups called Minyue, Ouyue, Luoyue (Vietnamese: Lạc Việt), etc., collectively called the Baiyue/Bách Việt (Chinese: 百越; pinyin: Bǎiyuè; Cantonese Yale: Baak Yuht; Vietnamese: Bách Việt; literally: "Hundred Yue/Viet"; Zhuang: Bouxvot).[6][5] The term Baiyue/Bách Việt first appeared in the book Lüshi Chunqiu compiled around 239 BC.[7]

In 207 BC, former Qin dynasty general Zhao Tuo/Triệu Đà founded the kingdom Nanyue/Nam Việt (Chinese: 南越; literally: "Southern Yue/Việt") with its capital at Panyu (modern Guangzhou). This kingdom was "southern" in the sense that it was located south of other Baiyue kingdoms such as Minyue and Ouyue, located in modern Fujian and Zhejiang. Several later Vietnamese dynasties followed this nomenclature even after these more northern peoples were absorbed into China.

In "Sấm Trạng Trình" (The Prophecies of Trạng Trình), poet Nguyen Binh Khiêm (1491–1585) reversed the traditional order of the syllables and put the name in its modern form: "Vietnam is being created" (Việt Nam khởi tổ xây nền).[8] At this time, the country was divided between the Trịnh lords of Hanoi and the Nguyễn lords of Huế. By combining several existing names, Nam Việt, Annam (Pacified South), Đại Việt (Great Việt), and "Nam quốc" (southern nation), Khiêm could create a new name that referred to an aspirational unified state. The word "nam" no longer implies Southern Việt, but rather that Vietnam is "the South" in contrast to China, "the North".[9] This explanation is implied by Lý Thường Kiệt in the poem "Nam quốc sơn hà" (1077): "Over the mountains and rivers of the South, reigns the emperor of the South." Researcher Nguyễn Phúc Giác Hải found the word "Việt Nam" on 12 steles carved in the 16th and 17th centuries, including one at Bảo Lâm Pagoda, Haiphong (1558).[9] Nguyễn Phúc Chu (1675–1725) used the word in a poem: "This is the most dangerous mountain in Vietnam" (Việt Nam hiểm ải thử sơn điên).[10] It was used as an official name by Emperor Gia Long in 1804-1813.[11]

The use of "Vietnam" was revived in modern times by nationalists including Phan Bội Châu, whose book Việt Nam vong quốc sử (History of the Loss of Vietnam) was published in 1906. Chau also founded the Việt Nam Quang Phục Hội (Vietnam Restoration League) in 1912. However, the general public continued to use Annam and the name "Vietnam" remained virtually unknown until the Yên Bái mutiny of 1930, organized by the Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng (Vietnamese Nationalist Party).[12] By the early 1940s, the use of "Việt Nam" was widespread. It appeared in the name of Ho Chi Minh's Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (Viet Minh), founded 1941, and was even used by the governor of French Indochina in 1942.[13] The name "Vietnam" has been official since 1945. It was adopted in June by Bảo Đại's imperial government in Huế, and in September by Ho's rival communist government in Hanoi.[14]

Folk etymology[edit]

The modern Chinese name for Vietnam (Chinese: 越南; pinyin: Yuènán) can be translated as "Beyond the South", leading to the folk etymology that the name is a reference to the country's location beyond the southernmost borders of China. Another theory explains that the nation was termed as such in order to emphasize the division of those who stayed in China in contrast to the people living in Vietnam.[15]

Other names[edit]

  • Xích Quỷ
  • Văn Lang
  • Âu Lạc
  • Nam Việt
  • Giao Chỉ
  • Annam
  • Vạn Xuân
  • Đại Cồ Việt
  • Đại Việt
  • Đại Ngu
  • Đại Nam
  • Empire of Vietnam (Đế quốc Việt Nam)
  • Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North) (Việt Nam Dân chủ Cộng hòa)
  • State of Vietnam (South) (Quốc gia Việt Nam)
  • Republic of Vietnam (South) (Việt Nam Cộng hòa)
  • Republic of South Vietnam (South) (Cộng hòa miền Nam Việt Nam)
  • Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Cộng hòa Xã hội Chủ nghĩa Việt Nam)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ L. Shelton Woods (2002). Vietnam: a global studies handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 38. ISBN 1576074161. 
  2. ^ Nicholas Tarling (2000). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia: From Early Times C. 1500. Cambridge University Press. p. 139. ISBN 0521663695. 
  3. ^ Ring, Trudy; Salkin, Robert M.; La Boda, Sharon (1994). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania. Taylor & Francis. p. 399. ISBN 1884964044. 
  4. ^ OC pronunciation from Baxter, William H. (1992). A Handbook of Old Chinese Phonology. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 806. ISBN 978-3-11-012324-1.  These characters are both given as gjwat in Grammata Serica Recensa 303e and 305a.
  5. ^ a b c Norman, Jerry; Mei, Tsu-lin (1976). "The Austroasiatics in Ancient South China: Some Lexical Evidence". Monumenta Serica 32: 274–301. 
  6. ^ a b c d Meacham, William (1996). "Defining the Hundred Yue". Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association 15: 93–100. 
  7. ^ The Annals of Lü Buwei, translated by John Knoblock and Jeffrey Riegel, Stanford University Press (2000), p. 510. ISBN 978-0-8047-3354-0. "For the most part, there are no rulers to the south of the Yang and Han Rivers, in the confederation of the Hundred Yue tribes."
  8. ^ Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, "Sấm Trạng Trình"
  9. ^ a b Thành Lân, "Ai đặt quốc hiệu Việt Nam đầu tiên?", Báo Đại đoàn kết, March 14, 2003.
  10. ^ Nguyễn Phúc Chu, "Ải lĩnh xuân vân". This is a reference to Hải Vân Pass.
  11. ^ L. Shelton Woods (2002). Vietnam: a global studies handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 38. ISBN 1576074161.  At first, Gia Long requested the name Nam Việt, but Qing Emperor Jiaqing refused.
    Moses, Dirk (2008). Empire, colony, genocide: conquest, occupation, and subaltern resistance in world history. Berghahn Books. p. 207. 
  12. ^ Stein Tonnesson, Hans Antlov, Asian Forms of the Nation, Routledge, 1996, pp. 117.
  13. ^ Tonnesson & Antlov, p. 125.
  14. ^ Tonnesson & Antlov, p. 126.
  15. ^ "Introduction to Vietnam". International Conference on Control, Automation, Robotics and Vision.
    "CIA: East & Southeast Asia - Vietnam". CIA.