Văn Lang

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A hypothetical rendering of Văn Lang in the early 3rd century BC
History of Vietnam
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Văn Lang (Chinese: ) was an early nation state of the Vietnamese people, thereby the predecessor to modern Vietnam. Geographically covering most of modern Northern Vietnam, it was ruled by the Hùng Kings of the Hồng Bàng dynasty. Hùng Vương as the title of a line of kings and the Văn Lang kingdom's existence are attested in Qin and Tang-era sources.[1] The people of Văn Lang were referred to as the Lạc Việt or sometimes simply as the Lạc.

French linguist Michel Ferlus (2009)[2] includes Văn Lang (Old Chinese: ZS *mɯn-raːŋ; BS *mə[n]-C.rˤaŋ) in the word-family *-ra:ŋ "human being, person" of Southeast Asian ethononyms across three linguistic families, Austroasiatic, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesian, together with:

  • The ethnonym Maleng of a Vietic people living in Vietnam and Laos; Ferlus suggests that Vietic *m.leŋ is the "iambic late form" of *m.ra:ŋ.
  • A kingdom north of today-Cambodia, Chinese: Táng-míng in Sānguózhì and later Dào-míng Tang documents;
  • A kingdom subjected by Jayavarman II in the 8th century, known as Maleṅ [məlɨə̆ŋ] in Pre-Angkorian and Malyaṅ [məlɨə̆ŋ] in Angkorian Khmer; the kingdom's name is phonetically connected with Maleng, yet nothing further is conclusive.
  • The ethnonym မြန်မာ Mraṅmā (1342); in Chinese transcription : OC *moːɡ-raːŋsMC *muk̚-lɑŋᴴ → Mandarin Mù-làng.
  • Malayic *ʔuʀaŋ "human being, person".

There also exists a phonetically similar Proto-Mon-Khmer etymon: *t₂nra:ŋ "man, male".[3]

According to the 15th-century book Đại Việt sử ký toàn thư (Đại Việt Complete History), the nation had its capital at Phong Châu in present-day Phú Thọ Province. It was bordered to the east by the South China Sea, to the west by Ba Thục (present-day Sichuan), to the north by Dongting Lake (Hunan), and to the south by Champa. According to Trần Trọng Kim's book, Việt Nam sử lược (A Brief History of Vietnam), the country was divided into 15 regions as in the table below:[4]

Regions of Văn Lang
Name Present-day location
Phong Châu (King's capital) Phú Thọ Province
Châu Diên Sơn Tây Province
Phúc Lộc Sơn Tây Province
Tân Hưng Hưng Hóa (part of Phú Thọ Province) and Tuyên Quang Province
Vũ Định Thái Nguyên Province and Cao Bằng Province
Vũ Ninh Bắc Ninh Province
Lục Hải Lạng Sơn Province
Ninh Hải Quảng Yên (a part of Quảng Ninh Province)
Dương Tuyên Hải Dương Province
Giao Chỉ Hà Nội, Hưng Yên Province, Nam Định Province and Ninh Bình Province
Cửu Chân Thanh Hóa Province
Hoài Hoan Nghệ An Province
Việt Thường Quảng Bình Province and Quảng Trị Province
Cửu Đức Hà Tĩnh Province
Bình Văn unknown

Việt Sử Lược (Việt Brief History) notes that Văn Lang consisted of 15 regions: in it there are 10 names recorded similar to those given in Đại Việt Complete History (Giao Chỉ, Vũ Ninh, Việt Thường, Ninh Hải, Lục Hải, Hoài Hoan, Cửu Chân, Bình Văn, Cửu Đức, and Văn Lang), and five regions with different names (Quân Ninh, Gia Ninh, Thang Tuyền, Tân Xương, and Nhật Nam). The founder of Văn Lang was Hùng Vương (King Hùng). The Hùng Vương throne was hereditary. The Hùng Kings were military commanders and religious leaders at the same time. Văn Lang was supposedly ruled by 88 Hùng Kings, but only 18 names are recorded (or, according to recent research, 18 names of 18 Dynasties, like Ancient Egyptian):

  1. Hùng Dương (Lộc Tục)
  2. Hùng Hiền (Lạc Long Quân)
  3. Hùng Lân (vua)
  4. Hùng Việp
  5. Hùng Hy
  6. Hùng Huy
  7. Hùng Chiêu
  8. Hùng Vỹ
  9. Hùng Định
  10. Hùng Hy
  11. Hùng Trinh
  12. Hùng Võ
  13. Hùng Việt
  14. Hùng Anh
  15. Hùng Triều
  16. Hùng Tạo
  17. Hùng Nghị
  18. Hùng Duệ

Văn Lang ended c. 258 BC when the Âu invaded under their Shu prince Thục Phán. Thục defeated the last Hùng Vương, united the kingdoms as Âu Lạc, and proclaimed himself An Dương Vương.[5]


  1. ^ Keith Taylor, The Birth of Vietnam, Appendix A, Appendix B and C.
  2. ^ Michel Ferlus. "Formation of Ethnonyms in Southeast Asia". 42nd International Conference on SinoTibetan Languages and Linguistics, Nov 2009, Chiang Mai, Thailand. 2009. pp. 4-5
  3. ^ Shorto, H. A Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary, Ed. Paul Sidwell, 2006. #692. p. 217
  4. ^ Trần Trọng Kim (2005). Việt Nam sử lược (in Vietnamese). Ho Chi Minh City: Ho Chi Minh City General Publishing House. p. 18.
  5. ^ Chapuis, Oscar (1995). A History of Vietnam: From Hong Bang to Tu Duc. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 13, 14. ISBN 0-313-29622-7.

See also[edit]