Triệu dynasty

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Triệu or Zhào
Nam-Viet 200bc.jpg
Country Nam Việt (南越; pinyin: Nányuè)
  • Governor of Nánhăi
  • King of Nam Việt (南越; pinyin: Nányuè wáng)
  • Emperor of Nam Việt (南越; pinyin: dì Nányuè)
Founded 207 BC
Founder Triệu Đà (; pinyin: Zhào Tuó)
Dissolution 111 BC

The Triệu dynasty (Vietnamese: Nhà Triệu; ) ruled the kingdom of Nam Việt ("South Yuè"), which consisted of parts of southern China as well as northern Vietnam. Its capital was Panyu, in modern Guangzhou. The founder of the dynasty, called Triệu Đà or Zhao Tuo, was a military governor for the Qin Empire.[1] He asserted his independence in 207 BC when the Qin collapsed. The ruling elite included both ethnic Chinese and native Yue, with intermarriage and assimilation encouraged.[2] Triệu Đà conquered the Vietnamese state of Âu Lạc and led a coalition of Yuè states in a war against the Han Empire, which had been expanding southward. Subsequent rulers were less successful in asserting their independence and the Han conquered the kingdom in 111 BC.

In Vietnamese historiography, this dynasty was a government of the Vietnamese nation, and its end marks the beginning of the First Chinese Domination (111 BC – 39 AD). The modern name "Vietnam" is derived from "Nam Việt".[3] However, Chinese-oriented historians regard the Triệu as a Chinese dynasty and thus consider this a period of Chinese rule over Vietnam.


The scholar Huang Zuo produced the first detailed published history of Nam Việt in the fifteenth century.[4] Chinese historians have generally denounced the Triệu as separatists from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), but have also praised them as a civilizing force. A particularly strident denunciation was produced by poet Qu Dajun in 1696.[5] Qu praised Qin Shi Huang as a model of how to uphold the purity of Chinese culture, and compared Triệu Đà unfavorably to the emperor.[5] A more positive view of Triệu multiculturalism was presented by Liang Tíngnan in Nányuè Wŭ Wáng Chuán (History of the Five Kings of Nanyue) in 1833.[4] The Cantonese traditionally reject or minimize any connection to Nam Việt with implausible stories that assert pure northern Chinese ancestry.[6] Despite this, the Cantonese refer to themselves as Yuht, the Cantonese pronunciation of Yuè/Việt.[7] In modern times, the character (yuè) refers to Cantonese while (yuè) refers to Vietnamese. But historically, these two characters were interchangeable.[8]

Meanwhile, Vietnamese historians have struggled with the issue of whether to regard the Triệu heroically as founders of Vietnam, or to denounce them as foreign invaders. For centuries afterward, Triệu Đà was a folk hero among the Viets, and was remembered for standing up to the Han Empire.[9] After Lý Bí drove the Chinese out of northern Vietnam, he proclaimed himself "emperor of Nam Việt" (Nam Việt đế) in 544, thus identifying his state as a revival of the Trieu, despite obvious differences in terms of location and ethnic makeup.[10] In the thirteenth century, Lê Văn Hưu wrote a history of Vietnam that used the Triệu as its starting point, with Triệu Đà receiving glowing praise as Vietnam's first emperor.[4] In the 18th century, Ngô Thì Sĩ reevaluated Triệu Đà as a foreign invader.[4] Under the Nguyễn Dynasty, Triệu Đà continued to receive high praise, although it was acknowledged that the original Nam Việtwas not in fact a Vietnamese state.[4] The current Communist government portrays Triệu Đà negatively as a foreign invader who vanquished Vietnam's heroic King An Dương.[4] Modern Vietnamese are descended from the ancient Yue of northern Vietnam and western Guangdong, according to Peter Bellwood.[11]

Triệu Đà or Zhao Tuo[edit]

Main article: Triệu Đà

Triệu Đà (r. 204-136 BC), the founder of the dynasty, was an ethnic Chinese born in the Kingdom of Zhao, now Hebei province. He became military governor of Nanhai (now Guangdong) upon the death of Governor Ren Xiao in 208 BC, just as the Qin Empire was collapsing. The Qin Governor of Canton advised Triệu to found his own independent kingdom since the area was remote and there were many Chinese settlers in the area.[12] He asserted Nanhai's independence declared himself the king of Nam Việt in 204 BC, established in the area of Lingnan, the modern provinces of comprises Guangdong, Guangxi, south Hunan, south Jiangxi and other nearby areas.[13] He ruled Nam Việt and committed acts of defiance against Emperor Gaozu of Han and he severed all ties with China, killed many Chinese employees appointed by the central government and favored local customs.[13] Being a talented general and cunning diplomat, he sought a peaceful relationship with China, both with the Qin Empire and the succeeding Han Empire.

In 196 BC, Emperor Gaozu sent the scholar Lu Jia to the court of Triệu Đà.[14] On this occasion, Triệu Đà squatted and wore his hair in a bun, in the Yuè manner.[14] "You are a Chinese and your forefathers and kin lie buried in Zhending in the land of Zhao", Lu told the king.[15] "Yet now you turn against that nature which heaven has given you at birth, cast aside the dress of your native land and, with this tiny, far-off land of Yue, think to set yourself up as a rival to the Son of Heaven and an enemy state....It is proper under such circumstances that you should advance as far as the suburbs to greet me and bow to the north and refer to yourself as a 'subject'."[15] After Lu threatened a Han military attack on Nam Việt, Triệu Đà stood up and apologized.[15] Lu stayed at Panyu for several months and Triệu Đà delighted in his company.[16] "There is no one in all Yue worth talking to", said the king, "Now that you have come, everyday I hear something I have never heard before!"[16] Lǔ recognized Triệu Đà as "king of Yue".[16] An agreement was reached that allowed legal trade between the Han Empire and Nam Việt, as the people of Nam Việt were anxious to purchase iron vessels from China.[17] When Lǔ returned to Chang'an, Emperor Gaozu was much pleased by this result.[16]

Lü Zhi, the Han dowager empress, banned trade with Nam Việt in 185 BC.[17] "Emperor Gaozu set me up as a feudal lord and sent his envoy giving me permission to carry on trade," said Triệu Đà.[17] "But now Empress Lu...[is] treating me like one of the barbarians and breaking off our trade in iron vessels and goods."[17] Triệu Đà responded by declaring himself an emperor and by attacking some border towns.[17] His imperial status was recognized by the Minyue, Western Ou, and the Luolou.[18] The army sent against Nam Việt by Empress Lǚ was ravaged by a cholera epidemic.[14] When Triệu Đà was reconciled with the Han Empire in 180 BC, he sent a message to Emperor Wu of Han in which he described himself as, "Your aged subject Tuo, a barbarian chief".[18] Triệu Đà agreed to recognize the Han ruler as the only emperor.[18]

Peace meant that Nam Việt lost its imperial authority over the other Yue states. Its earlier empire had not been based on supremacy, but was instead a framework for a wartime military alliance opposed to the Han.[14] The army Triệu Đà had created to oppose the Han was now available to deploy against the Âu Lạc kingdom in northern Vietnam.[14] This kingdom was conquered in 179-180 BC.[14] Triệu Đà divided his kingdom into two regions: Cửu Chân and Giao Chỉ. Giao Chỉ now encompasses most of northern Vietnam. He allowed each region to have representatives to the central government, thus his administration was quite relaxed and had a feeling of being decentralized. However, he remained in control. By the time Triệu Đà died in 136 BC, he had ruled for more than 70 years and outlived his sons.

In modern Vietnam, Triệu Đà is best remembered as a character in the "Legend of the Magic Crossbow". According to this legend, Triệu Đà's son Trong Thủy married Mỵ Châu, the daughter of King An Dương of Âu Lạc, and used her love to steal the secret of An Dương's magic crossbow.[19]

Seal of Triệu Văn, second ruler of the Triệu Dynasty. The inscription says: Chinese: ; pinyin: Wén dì xíng xǐ; literally: "Seal of Emperor Wén [Văn]".

Triệu Văn or Zhao Mo[edit]

Main article: Triệu Văn

Triệu Đà died in 136 BC and was succeeded by his grandson, who took the temple name Triệu Văn (Chinese: ; pinyin: Zhào Mò). Triệu Văn was the son of Trọng Thủy and Mỵ Châu, according the Legend of the Magic Crossbow. He was 71 years old at the time. In 135 BC, the Minyue attacked and Triệu Văn requested the assistance of the Han Empire.[20] Emperor Wu offered to "help" by sending his army, ostensibly to suppress the assist Nam Việt, but with an eye of seizing the country should an occasion arise. Crown Prince Triệu Anh Tề was sent to live and study in the Hàn court.[20] The king took this as a gesture of goodwill by the emperor, whom he viewed as a brother,[citation needed] to strengthen the relationship between Han and Nam Việt. Triệu Văn died in 124 BC. His mausoleum was found in Guangzhou in 1983.[citation needed]

Triệu Minh Vương or Zhao Ming Di[edit]

Main article: Triệu Anh Te

Triệu Anh Te (r. 124-112 BC) was the crown prince when his father, Triệu Vǎn Vương, died. Triệu Anh Te's appointment to the position of Triệu Minh Vương (Emperor Zhao Ming) was a conciliatory measure to the Emperor in Chang'an as a sign of respect. This crowned prince, Triệu Anh Te, lived most of his life in China.[citation needed] In China he had fathered a son by an ethnic Chinese woman name Cu Thi; In one popular theory, she was Emperor Wu's own daughter.[citation needed] He named the son Triệu Hưng. Only when his father, Triệu Văn Vương, died did Triệu Anh Te receive permission to go home for his father's funeral. This happened in 124 BC. Triệu Anh Te ascended the throne as Triệu Minh Vương. Not much is known about Triệu Minh Vương's reign, probably because it is a short one and he was subservient to the Han emperor. His Chinese-born son, Triệu Hưng, was only about 6 years old when Triệu Minh Vương died. Owing to Triệu Hưng's extreme youth, his mother Cu Thi, became the Empress Dowager.

Triệu Minh Vương's death precipitated the events that would lead to the seizure and domination of Nam Việt by the Hán forces.[citation needed]

Triệu Ai Vương or Zhao Ai Di[edit]

Main article: Triệu Hưng

Triệu Hưng (r. 113-112 BC), just 6 years old, ascended the throne and adopted the temple name Triệu Ai Vương. Soon thereafter, Emperor Wu of Han summoned him and his mother, Cu Thi, to an audience to pay homage in the Hán court. The Han held Cu Thi and Triệu Ai under the pretext that the young emperor needed their protection. By acquiescing to this gesture, both the empress dowager and the young emperor gave the public the impression that they were just puppets in the hands of the Hán court. With Triệu Ai in their hands and the empress dowager beheaded, the Chinese prepared their army for an invasion. In 112 BC, the emperor sent two of his commanders, Lo Bac Duc and Duong Boc, along with 5,000 of his best soldiers to invade Nam Việt.[citation needed]

Triệu Dương Vương or Zhao Yang Di[edit]

Main article: Triệu Kiến Đức

Nam Việt's senior prime minister, Quan Thai-pho, Lữ Gia (Lü Jia) sent out the army to meet the Hán at the border to repel the invasion. The army was strong, but smaller in number. Meanwhile, inside the country, the word has spread that Triệu Dương Vương was in the hand of the Han emperor. The Việt feared that if they resist, their Emperor would be harm by the hands of the Han Emperor.[citation needed] The country was now in a state of chaos. When the Han kept sending more and more reinforcements for his army at the border, the Nam Việt's army was unable to hold their position. Lữ Gia saw that Nam Việt must have a new king in order to calm its people and to stir up Nam Việt patriotism to fight. Triệu Kiến Ðức, Triệu Minh Vương's eldest son from one of his concubines, took the burden of leading his people to war. Triệu Kiến Ðức took the title of Triệu Dương Vương (Emperor Zhao Yang) (ca. 111 BC).

Decline of the dynasty[edit]

Emperor Wu of Han dispatched soldiers against Nam Việt.[21] With its king being too young and inexperienced and leading an untrained, however brave army, Nam Việt was only able to keep their stronghold for a while. Hán crushed the Nam Việt army along with Lữ Gia (Lü Jia) and his King (Triệu Dương Vương), both resisted until the end. Nam Việt as the prefecture of Giao Chỉ (Jiaozhi) of the Han Empire, was divided into nine districts.[citation needed] Han dynasty would dominate Jiaozhi until the revolt of the Trưng Sisters, who led a revolt in 40.[22]

Southern Triệu[edit]

By the 14th century book Lĩnh Nam Chích Quái ("Mysterious tales of the Southern Realm"), Triệu dynasty bloodline fled to present-day Hà Tĩnh Province, founded the Nam Chieu/Nam Triệu (Southern Triệu ) kingdom and lasted until the Jin Dynasty (265–420).[citation needed]

List of kings[edit]

Temple name Given name Reign (BC)
Vietnamese Pinyin Chinese Vietnamese Pinyin Chinese
Triệu Vũ Vương Wǔ Wáng 武王 Triệu Đà Zhào Tuó 趙佗 203 – 137
Triệu Văn Vương Wén Wáng 文王 Triệu Mắt Zhào Mò 赵眜 137 – 122
Triệu Minh Vương Míng Wáng 明王 Triệu Anh Tề Zhào Yīngqí 趙嬰齊 122 – 115
Triệu Ai Vương Āi Wáng 哀王 Triệu Hưng Zhào Xīng 趙興 115 – 112
Triệu Thuật Dương Vương Shù Yáng Wáng 趙術陽王 Triệu Kiến Đức Zhào Jiàndé 趙建德 112 – 111

Nam Việt/Nanyue culture[edit]

There was a fusion of the Han and Yue cultures in significant ways, as shown by the artifacts unearthed by archaeologists from the tomb of Nanyue in Guangzhou. The imperial Nanyue tomb in Guangzhou is extremely rich. There are quite a number of bronzes that show cultural influences from the Han, Chu, Yue and Ordos regions.[23]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patricia M. Pelley Postcolonial Vietnam: New Histories of the National Past 2002 Page 177 "The fact that he was Chinese was irrelevant; what mattered was that Triệu Đà had declared the independence of Vietnam."
  2. ^ Snow, Donald B., Cantonese as written language: the growth of a written Chinese vernacular (2004), Hong Kong University Press, p. 70.
  3. ^ L. Shelton Woods (2002). Vietnam: a global studies handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 38. ISBN 1-57607-416-1. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Yoshikai Masato, "Ancient Nam Viet in historical descriptions", Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Volume 2, ABC-CLIO, 2004, p. 934.
  5. ^ a b Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt, Wolfgang Schluchter, Björn Wittrock, Public spheres and collective identities, Transaction Publishers, 2001, p. 213.
  6. ^ Sow-Theng Leong, Tim Wright, George William Skinner, Sow-Theng Leong, Tim Wright (1997). Migration and ethnicity in Chinese history: Hakkas, Pengmin, and their neighbors. Stanford University Press. pp. 40–41. 
  7. ^ Caihua Guan, English-Cantonese Dictionary: Cantonese in Yale Romanization, New Asia - Yale-in-China Chinese Language Center, p. 57, 2000. "Cantonese N....Yuhtyúh (M: geui)".
    Ramsey, S. Robert, The Languages of China, 1987, p. 98. "Named after an ancient 'barbarian' state located in the Deep South, the Yue [Cantonese] are true Southerners.
    Constable, Nicole, Guest People: Hakka Identity in China and Abroad (2005)
  8. ^ Hashimoto, Oi-kan Yue, Studies in Yue Dialects 1: Phonology of Cantonese, 1972, p. 1. See also "百粤", YellowBridge.
  9. ^ Woods, L. Shelton (2002). Vietnam: a global studies handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 15. 
  10. ^ Anderson, James (2007). The rebel den of Nùng Trí Cao: loyalty and identity along the Sino-Vietnamese frontier. NUS Press. p. 36. 
  11. ^ Peter Bellwood. "Indo-Pacific prehistory: the Chiang Mai papers. Volume 2". Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association of Australian National University. p. 96. 
  12. ^ Taylor (1983), p. 23
  13. ^ a b Chapius, Oscar, A history of Vietnam: from Hong Bang to Tu Duc
  14. ^ a b c d e f Taylor, Keith Weller, The Birth of Vietnam, p. 24. University of California Press, 1991.
  15. ^ a b c Sima Qian, Burton Watson, Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty I, pp 224-225. ISBN 0-231-08165-0.
  16. ^ a b c d Sima Qian, p, 226.
  17. ^ a b c d e Wicks, Robert S., Money, markets, and trade in early Southeast Asia: the development of indigenous monetary systems to AD 1400, SEAP Publications, 1992. p. 27.
  18. ^ a b c Wicks, p. 28.
  19. ^ Sachs, Dana, Two cakes fit for a king: folktales from Vietnam, pp. 19-26. University of Hawaii Press, 2003.
  20. ^ a b Taylor, p. 27.
  21. ^ Yu, Yingshi (1986). Denis Twitchett; Michael Loewe, eds. Cambridge History of China: Volume I: the Ch'in and Han Empires, 221 B.C. – A.D. 220. University of Cambridge Press. p. 453. ISBN 978-0-5212-4327-8. 
  22. ^ Gernet, Jacques (1996). A History of Chinese Civilization. Cambridge University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-521-49781-7. 
  23. ^ Guangzhou Xi Han Nanyue wang mu bo wu guan, Peter Y. K. Lam, Chinese University of Hong Kong. Art Gallery - 1991 - 303 pages - Snippet view [1]


Preceded by
Thục Dynasty
Dynasty of Vietnam
207–111 BC
Succeeded by
First Chinese domination