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Hà Nội; Saigon; Cần Thơ; Đà Nẵng; Hải Phòng; Đà Lạt; Nam Định; Vinh; Mỹ Tho; Huế; Thái Nguyên; Việt Trì; Biên Hòa; Nha Trang; Quy Nhơn; Vũng Tàu; Hạ Long; Thanh Hóa; Buôn Ma Thuột; Hải Dương; Cà Mau
The nation we know as Vietnam today has its roots dating back from the Iron Age, with the first known incarnation of the Vietnamese nation being the polity of Hong Bang in the north of that country from the 29th century BCE, eventually annexing the current territories which form modern Vietnam by the Late Middle Ages. Over this time Vietnam's identity has been shaped by long-running conflicts, both internally and with foreign forces. Most notably, various Chinese dynasties ruled Vietnam for various long stretches of time at several intervals, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture. By the Early Modern Era, however, powerful northern and southern families fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries, eventually giving rise to the Nguyen dynasty, but Nguyen dominance was short-lived and soon fell under the influence of the French who eventually annexed Vietnam under the pretext of supporting the Empire, and Vietnam would remain under foreign domination by different powers well until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
The history of Vietnam is one of the longest continuous histories in the world, with archaeological findings showing human settlements as far back as around half a million years ago and a cultural history of over 20,000 years. Ancient Vietnam was home to some of the world's first agrarian cultures. The first know incarnation of the Vietnamese nation started from the Bronze Age named the Hong dynasty that appeared at the north of the country from the 29th century BCE. Following the fall of An Duong Vuong in 207BCE againts the Chinese warlord Zhao Tuo, Vietnam became a vassal territory of China for the next 1,000 years. Resistance against Chinese rule proved to be robust and fierce, yet the Vietnamese also assimilated many aspects of Chinese culture. This period would come to a close in 938CE when Ngo Quyen successfully drove out the Chinese, regaining the sovereignty of Vietnam with him as its king.
After regaining independence various, Vietnamese dynasties continuously ruled the country, now known as Dai Viet (literally Great Vietnam). Although its power waxed and waned, Dai Viet slowly became a regional power even as almost every Chinese dynasty tried to annex Dai Viet. Most notably, Dai Viet was one of the few nations that was able to stop the Mongol invasion and they did it not once but three times! Nevertheless, Vietnam continuously expanded its territory to the south and the west, reaching its zenith under the Second Le dynasty in the 16th century.
The empire dividedEdit
Following the passing of Le Thanh Tong (r1442–1497), the Le dynasty failed to create good emperors and the empire fell into decay. A general, Mac Dang Dung, who managed to usurp power in 1522, proclaimed himself emperor and seized the north, forcing the Imperial family to flee south to find support in the Nguyen and Trinh clans. These events started the civil war known as “North and South dynasties war”. Eventually, the combined power of the Nguyen and Trinh clans overthrew the Mac clan, forcing the survivors into exile in China. The victorious clans reinstalled the Le emperor, who was now little more than a puppet.
This was not the end of things, however. The Trinh clan tried to eliminate the Nguyen clan, who in turn fled south and renewed the civil war, dividing the empire once more. This new conflict, known as the Trinh–Nguyen Civil War, raged for more than a century. The continuous arms race and economic competition between the two ruling houses however kept both sides strong and Vietnam overall remained a regional power in the area. It was also the first time the Vietnamese made contact with European powers, notably the Dutch and the Portuguese. So despite a state of civil war both clans continued their expansion, with the Trinh advancing into Lan Xang (now present-day) Laos and the Nguyen toward Cambodia, the latter being of note because it led to conflict with the new rising power of Siam.
Rise and fall of the Tay SonEdit
Although the Nguyen had the upper hand in technology and naval strength in contrast to the Trinh's dominance in manpower and money, the conflict between both sides had harsh consequences for the common folk. A new power started to emerge based on the suffering peasantry which would soon become known as the Tay Son uprising.
The Tay Son were headed by 3 brothers, the eldest being Nguyen Nhac, the second and the greatest Nguyen Hue and the youngest Nguyen Lu. The uprising was sparked off by tax burdens which had become increasingly unbearable for the civilian populace of Nguyen lands. By 1777, the Nguyen clan was wholly exterminated in Vietnam, with one sole survivor, Nguyen Anh, having fled to Siam. The leader of the Tay Son, Nguyen Nhac, established the Tay Son dynasty and stylised himself Emperor Minh Duc.
After that, the Tay Son — now a powerful force supported by most of the population — marched north and shattered the Trinh too. The Trinh clan was anihilated while the Le emperor fled to China. Thus, Tay Son power effectively controlled the entire empire.
However, the house of Nguyen still remained a thorn in Tay Son's flesh. The vengeful Nguyen Anh gained the support of the Siamese court and some European traders who provided troops and ships to invade Vietnam. The Siamese army was divided in two parts: the fleet would advance toward the Cuu Long Rivers while the land army attacked from Siam through Cambodia. In response, the then Tay Son emperor Nguyen Hue prepared to counter them. Nguyen Hue succeeded in annihilating the Siamese fleet at Rach Gam and Xoai Mut. Upon hearing or the total destruction of the fleet, the smaller Siamese land force fled back to their country.
After the south, it was the north's turn. The Trinh clan and Le emperor cajoled the ruling Qing dynasty of China into help and a large Manchu army advanced southward. Again, Nguyen Hue came to save the day for the Tay Son. Although vastly outnumbered by the Chinese, Nguyen Hue launched a surprise attack on the Lunar New Year, and managed to rout them. In addition, he drove them and their Trinh allies to retreat back to China, leaving Tay Son as the sole rulers of Vietnam.
The Tay Son dynasty, although powerful and popular, did not last long. The great Emperor Quang Trung passed away suddenly, without leaving a good heir, and court intrigue subsequently set in. Meanwhile, Nguyen Anh (now known as Gia Long) continued his effort and befriended a French priest named Pigneau de Behaine. Through de Behaine's own efforts, French troops, as well as western-style guns and ships were collected together, and these along with an understanding of Western military doctrine allowed Gia Long to obtain his throne after almost two decades of exile and bloody struggles with the Tay Son.
The Nguyen Dynasty and French colonisationEdit
After regaining his throne, however, Emperor Gia Long made a mistake that will cost Vietnam another century of foreign domination. He embraced an orthodox form of Confusianism and clung on to the parochial approaches of the same while rejecting the Western powers, notably the French. The Nguyen dynasty nevertheless remained strong for several more decades before one of gia Long's successors, the emperor Minh Mang, made a second grave mistake, that was invading Cambodia. This led to a decade-long bloody war between Vietnam and Siam. As the result, both sides exhausted themselves. The war shattered Vietnam’s economy and army, yet the old ideas perversely resisted any attempt at modernisation. Nguyen rulers after Minh Mang proved incapable of solving these problems and so, divided and technologically retarded, Vietnam stood no chance againts a Franco-Spanish expedition, and the country became a French colony in the final years of the 19th century.
Despite this, the Nguyen were left in place by the French authorities as nominal rulers over the northern half of this colonial empire, named "French Annam". The position of the Nguyens remained unchanged even during the Japanese occupation of Indochina and was abolished only with the rise of the Communist Viet Minh in Vietnam.