Nong Zhigao (modern Zhuang language: Nungz Ciqgaoh; Chinese: 儂智高; pinyin: Nóng Zhìgāo, Vietnamese: Nùng Trí Cao) (1025—1055?) is a hero admired by the Nùng people of Vietnam, and Zhuang people of China. His father was the head of local Zhuang people in Vietnam.
According to the History of Song: Guangyuan Zhou Man Zhuan (《宋史·廣源州蠻傳》), as he became an adult he followed his father as the head of local Zhuang people in Quảng Nguyên (present-day Cao Bằng Province). At that time, the Zhuang people were oppressed by Jiaozhi (now northern Vietnam), so Nong Zhigao presented many treasures to Northern Song asking to be a member of Northern Song. But the Emperor of Northern Song refused. So he had no other choice but an uprising. He founded the Great South Country the area south west of the present day Nanning. But later he was beaten by General Di Qing from Northern Song. After that he and his people fled to Yunnan, Thailand and Laos.
The modern-day veneration of Nong Zhigao and his father Nong Quanfu (儂全福; Zhuang:) and his mother A Nùng (A Nùng; Nung: ) in Cao Bằng province is closely tied to the shared regional identity of people from this region. Nong Zhigao remains a hero and a “man of prowess,” and worship includes practices that highlight the particular strengths of Nong Zhigao, including his willingness to face up to the aggression of both Song and Đai Viêt authorities and his ambition to unify and heighten the status of his region's people. From the historical record, one can also see that, by the late 19th century, annual festivals devoted to the spirit of Nong Zhigao were regionally important. It is equally apparent that the appeal of these Vietnamese festivals extended beyond clan or ethnic affiliations to the general populace that has often included communities on both sides of the modern political border.
In stark contrast to the wealth of evidence for worship activity in northern Viet Nam, there is little confirmation in the Chinese historical record of the existence of temple sites dedicated to Nong Zhigao in China. In fact, most relevant Chinese sources only describe stelae and temples that honor the names of the Song generals who crushed Nong Zhigao′s bid for independence. Only in the last few years has the issue of a public memorial to Nong Zhigao in China been addressed. On January 8, 1997 a local group of Nong Zhigao′s descendants and their supporters from the Guangxi township of Jingxi (靖西) and the tiny village of Xia Lei (下雷) took the initiative to revive interest in this rebel′s life and deeds. The vice-director of the Center for Zhuang studies in Nanning, Pan Qixu (潘其旭), had earlier been invited to Xia Lei to authenticate the discovery of the cave believed to be Nong Zhigao′s dwelling and storehouse at the time he founded his first kingdom. A modern stele was then erected on this site. A large group of provincial officials and leading academics from Guangxi reportedly attended the commemoration ceremony.
This ceremony did generate some controversy. Funds for this stele had to be raised privately. Organizers of this event said that high-level political figures have avoided involvement in the project, voicing concerns over its “separatist” implications. Nevertheless, the goal of bringing Nong Zhigao back into the public eye was largely successful, as the long list of small donors to the stele installation suggested. A glance at the large donors list, however, reveals that 32 out of the 34 persons included had the surname Nong. This fact suggests that although distant Han officials fear that the memorial could be used to fan regional “Pan-Tai” sentiments, older clan associations may shape local identification with this site.
Local disputes aside, this recent Guangxi memorial and the continuing regional popularity of the temples in Viet Nam are signs that the region has recovered from the “dark days” of the 1980s when the Sino-Vietnamese border remained tense and frosty diplomatic relations curbed official crossborder activities. Communities that honor Nong Zhigao still span a region that contains many historical sites of bloody confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese armies. However, these communities share a common thread of identity, preserved in part by a devotion to the figure of Nong Zhigao.
- Chappell, Hilary (2001). Sinitic grammar: Synchronic and Diachronic. Oxford University Press. p. 397. ISBN 0-19-829977-X. "Historical records relate that large contingents of soldiers, many from Shandong, settled in Guangxi, particularly after the southern expedition of General Di Quin to suppress a Zhuang uprising during the Song dynasty. (p.18)"
- James A. Anderson, "Monumental Pride: Sino-Vietnamese Cross-border Commemorations of Nùng Trí Cao" in Thai-Yunnan Project Bulletin no.1, July 2001