Vietnam under Chinese rule

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Vietnam under Chinese rule or Bắc thuộc (北屬, lit. "belonging to the north")[1][2] (111 BC-939, 1407-1427) refers to four historical periods when several portions of modern-day Northern Vietnam was under the rule of various Chinese dynasties. Bắc thuộc in Vietnamese historiography is traditionally considered to have started in 111 BC, when the Han dynasty conquered Nanyue (Vietnamese "Nam Việt") and lasted to 939 when Ngô dynasty was founded. A fourth, relatively brief, 20-year rule by the Ming dynasty during the 15th century is usually excluded by historians in their discussion of the main, almost continuous, period of Chinese rule from 111 BC to 939 AD. Vietnam asserts these periods as modern reconstructions, however, and claim they serve various nationalist and irredentist causes in China, Vietnam, and other countries. Museums in Vietnam often completely omit periods of Chinese rule, skipping over large periods of its own history.[3][4]

Periods of Chinese rule[edit]

The four periods of Chinese rule in Vietnam:

Period of Chinese rule Chinese dynasty Year Description
First Era of Northern Domination
Bắc thuộc lần thứ nhất
Western Han dynasty
Xin dynasty
Eastern Han dynasty
111 BC–AD 40 The first period of Bắc thuộc is traditionally considered to have started following the Western Han's victory in the Han–Nanyue War. It ended with the brief revolt of the Trưng sisters.
Second Era of Northern Domination
Bắc thuộc lần thứ hai
Eastern Han dynasty
Eastern Wu dynasty
Western Jin dynasty
Eastern Jin dynasty
Liu Song dynasty
Southern Qi dynasty
Liang dynasty
AD 43–544 Chinese rule was restored after the Trung sisters' rebellion. The second period of Chinese rule was ended by the revolt of Lý Bôn who took advantage of the internal disorder of the waning Liang dynasty. Lý Bôn subsequently founded the Early Lý dynasty with the official dynastic name "Vạn Xuân" (萬春).
Third Era of Northern Domination
Bắc thuộc lần thứ ba
Sui dynasty
Tang dynasty
Wu Zhou dynasty
Southern Han dynasty
AD 602–905
AD 602–938
The Sui dynasty reincorporated Vietnam into China following the Sui–Early Lý War. This period saw the entrenchment of mandarin administration in Vietnam. The third period of Chinese rule concluded following the collapse of the Tang dynasty and the subsequent defeat of the Southern Han armada by Ngô Quyền at the Battle of Bạch Đằng. Ngô Quyền later proclaimed the Ngô dynasty.
Fourth Era of Northern Domination
Bắc thuộc lần thứ tư
Ming dynasty AD 1407–1427 Vietnam was brought under the control of China following the Ming dynasty's defeat of the short-lived Hồ dynasty. The fourth period of Chinese rule ended when the Lam Sơn uprising led by Lê Lợi emerged successful. Lê Lợi then reestablished the Đại Việt kingdom (大越) under the new Le dynasty.

Geographical extent and impact[edit]

The four periods of Chinese rule did not correspond to the modern borders of Vietnam, but were mainly limited to the area around the Red River Delta and adjacent areas. During the first three periods of Chinese rule, the pre-Sinitic indigenous culture was centered in the northern part of modern Vietnam in the alluvial deltas of the Hong, and Mã Rivers.[5][6] Ten centuries of Chinese rule left a substantial genetic footprint, with settlement by large numbers of ethnic Han,[7][8] while opening up Vietnam for trade and cultural exchange.[9]

Elements of Chinese culture such as language, religion, art and way of life constituted an important component of traditional Vietnamese culture until modernity. This cultural affiliation to China remained true even when Vietnam was militarily defending itself against attempted invasions, such as against the Yuan dynasty. Chinese characters remained the official script of Vietnam until French colonization in the 20th century, despite the rise in vernacular chữ nôm literature in the aftermath of the expulsion of the Ming.[10] Although 1,000 years of Chinese rule left many traces, the collective memory of the periods reinforced Vietnamese cultural and later political independence.[11]


Year Chinese dynasty Period Household Population
2[12] Han dynasty First Era of Northern Domination 143,643 981,755
140[12] Han dynasty Second Era of Northern Domination 64,776[a] 310,570
Jin dynasty[13] Second Era of Northern Domination 25,600 -
Liu Song dynasty[13] Second Era of Northern Domination 10,453 -
609[14] Sui dynasty Third Era of Northern Domination 56,566 -
ca. 700[15] Wu Zhou dynasty Third Era of Northern Domination
(Protectorate General to Pacify the South)
38,626[b] 148,431
740[15] Tang dynasty Third Era of Northern Domination
(Protectorate General to Pacify the South)
75,839[c] 299,377
807[15] Tang dynasty Third Era of Northern Domination
(Protectorate General to Pacify the South)
40,486 -[d]
1408[16] Ming dynasty Fourth Era of Northern Domination - 5,200,000[e]
1417[17][16] Ming dynasty Fourth Era of Northern Domination 450,288 1,900,000

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The 140 census for the Hong River Delta did not survive.[12]
  2. ^ The census for Phuc Loc, Luc, Truong and Dien counties did not survive.[15]
  3. ^ The census for Phuc Loc county did not survive.[15]
  4. ^ Information pertaining to the population size in the census did not survive.[15]
  5. ^ Ming Shilu Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu: an open access resource


  1. ^ Eliot 1995, p. 557.
  2. ^ Ooi 2004, p. 1296.
  3. ^ Churchman, Catherine (2016). The People Between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of a Bronze Drum Culture, 200–750 CE. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 978-1-442-25861-7.
  4. ^ Brindley, Erica Fox (2018). "The People Between the Rivers: The Rise and Fall of a Bronze Drum Culture, 200–750 CE by Catherine Churchman". Asian Perspectives. 57 (1): 179–181. doi:10.1353/asi.2018.0007. S2CID 166116726.
  5. ^ Lockard 2010, p. 125.
  6. ^ Walker 2012, p. 269.
  7. ^ Trần 1993, p. 14.
  8. ^ Suryadinata 1997, p. 268.
  9. ^ Hoang 2007, p. 15.
  10. ^ Ms 2007, p. 828.
  11. ^ Ray 2007, p. 29.
  12. ^ a b c Taylor 1983, p. 56.
  13. ^ a b Taylor 1983, p. 120.
  14. ^ Taylor 1983, p. 167.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Taylor 1983, p. 176.
  16. ^ a b Li 2018, p. 166.
  17. ^ Li 2018, p. 159.


  • Lockard, Craig A. (2010). Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History To 1500. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1-439-08535-6.
  • Walker, Hugh Dyson (2012). East Asia: A New History. ISBN 978-1-477-26516-1.
  • Suryadinata, Leo (1997). Ethnic Chinese As Southeast Asians. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
  • Eliot, Joshua (1995). Thailand, Indochina and Burma Handbook. Trade & Travel Publications.
  • Hoang, Anh Tuấn (2007). Silk for Silver: Dutch-Vietnamese relations, 1637-1700. Brill. ISBN 978-9-04-742169-6.
  • Trần, Khánh (1993). The Ethnic Chinese and Economic Development in Vietnam. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789813016668.
  • Ms, Cc (2007). The World and Its Peoples: Eastern and Southern Asia - Volume 6. Marshall Cavendish.
  • Ray, Nick (2007). Lonely Planet Vietnam. Lonely Planet.
  • Ooi, Keat Gin, ed. (2004). Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-576-07771-9.
  • Li, Tana (2018). Nguyen Cochinchina: Southern Vietnam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-1-501-73257-7.
  • Taylor, Keith Weller (1983), The Birth of the Vietnam, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-07417-0

External links[edit]