Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective


Issue #11. Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, The 
Asian Student, May 6, 1972. Article was reprinted from Vietnam Press, 
the offical news agency of the government of the RVN.

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
articles. 
Please direct all questions to trant@teleport.com
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Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 - Jan 17, 1996
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
           VB710208.
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208 -
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222 -
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301 -
           March 13, 1996.
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308 - March 20, 1996.
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
           TAS720506 - March 27, 1996.
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, Geroge F Schutlz, VB701221 - 
           April 3, 1996
           
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Since we are a couple month from the the Hung Vuong feast, I thought 
this article would be appropriate. The last 2 paragraphs are a 
reflection of the times and should be viewed from a historical context.
Remember that the article was written in 1972 and came from Vietnam
Press, the official press agency of the RVN.
======

           Golden Age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings
                        By Pham Tang
                Reprinted from the Vietnam Press.

Viet Nam was 4852 years old on April 28 (the tenth of the third lunar 
month) since Chinese Emperor Ti Ming's heir-designate Prince Loc Tuc 
came into power in the meridional territory of China in 2880 B.C. after 
he conceded the right to run China to his brother, Prince Ti Yi, 
according to Viet Nam’s legend.

When he succeeded in grouping all the vassal states within his territory 
into a unified nation, Loc Tuc proclaimed himself King Kinh Duong Vuong 
and called his newly-born nation Xich Quy. Loc Tuc inaugurated the 
earliest monarchical regime in Viet Nam with the Hong Bang Dynasty, as 
the first ruling family by heirdom in Viet Nam’s history. The Hong Bang 
Dynasty lasted for 2622 years till 258 BC, legend of Viet Nam said.

All the 18 kings who made up the Hong Bang Dynasty made admirable 
headway in their efforts to organize Viet Nam of yore into one of the 
most stabilized, prosperous and civilized nations in Asia at the 
prehistoric stage. This is the reason why Vietnamese people as a whole 
now consider Hung kings as their patron saints and founders of Viet Nam 
as a nation right at the period preceding the human being’s recorded 
history.

                         Source of Folklore

Developments under the reign of Hung kings largely contributed to the 
Vietnamese folklore. Good morals such as national obligations between 
the rulers and their subjects, family obligations between spouses and 
between parents and children, self-improvement through the cultivation 
of letters, and beautiful customs such as the practice of haircut and 
tattooing in preparing oneself to go out hunting or fishing, the 
blackening of teeth for dental protection, the chewing of betel along 
with areca nut and slaked lime, and wonderful fabulous tales such as 
“Son Tinh and Thuy Tinh” (Mountain God and Aq. God on Proposal), the 
Origin of Water-melon and Phu Dong Thien Vuong, the celestial hero, all 
such belief's, customs and legends date from the time of Hong Bang.

Under the reign of King Kinh Duong Vuong, the Xich Quy kingdom stretched 
from the near bank of the Yang Tse Kiang to the southernmost area now 
called Quang Tri, adjacent to Ho Ton (Champa), including the Yunnan, 
Kweichow, Hunan, Kwangsi and Kwangtung provinces of China.

Succeeding King Kinh Duong Vuong was the latter’s only son, Prince Lac 
Long Quan who married Au Co of the fairy lineage. Of this union, legend 
said, Queen Au Co laid a 100-egg pouch giving life to 100 sons who 
looked just alike, physically and ethnically as well.
	

To determine who is the royal heir and at the same time the seniority 
among the brothers, a lots drawing was held by the King and as a result, 
Hung Lang was legal successor, legend said.

Later, when the children came to years of discretion, King Lac Long Quan 
suggested to Queen Au Co to live apart, each with 50 of their children. 

"As you are of the fairy lineage, and mountains and highlands are of 
your domain while I am of the dragon descent and lowland and, rivers and 
seas are my field of action, we had better depart from each other for 
the sake of the future of Xich Quy," the King said, according to legend.

Queen Au Co accepted the suggestion and went westwards along with 50 
children while King Lac Long Quan was bound down east with 49 of his 
beloved, Hung Lang, the King’s heir remaining in Phong Chau, Xich Quy’s 
capital, and reigning over the whole kingdom.	

                          Ethnic Minorities	

Contemporary Vietnamese historians have accredited the existence of 
various ethnic minorities now living in the highlands of North and 
Central Viet Nam to the Queen’s exodus.

Hung Lang later changed the Xich Quy national appellation into Van Lang 
(Country of the Lettered) and called his reign Hung Quoc Vuong.	

Succeeding Hung Quoc Vuong was Hung Hoa Vuong who was succeeded by his 
eldest son Hung Hy Vuong and the latter by Hung Huy.

King Hung Huy Vuong had 22 sons and was once in a dilemma in his 
selection of the ablest heir. He finally said to the princes: "Who among 
you could supply me with the best foodstuffs ever known thus far as 
offerings to our forbears’ altar from now to the year’s end will get the 
throne."

Lang Lieu, the King’s ninth son and also the most virtuous prince in a 
light sleep was instructed by an angel to use rice and make of it two 
kinds of pudding called Banh Day (Round Rice Pudding) and Banh Chung 
(Square Rice Pudding). Lang Lieu then won the race to the throne. And 
this is the reason why on April 23 President Nguyen Van Thieu when 
commemorating Hung Vuong Day at Tao Dan Park offered two famous puddings 
to the altar of the patron saint, founder of the nation.

Lang Lieu came into power under the royal appellation of Hung Chieu 
Vuong and was succeeded by Hung Vi Vuong, Hung Dinh Vuong, Hung Uy 
Vuong, Hung Trinh Vuong, Hung Vu Vuong,  Hung Viet Vuong, Hung Anh 
Vuong, Hung Trieu Vuong, Hung Tao Vuong and Hung Nghi Vuong.

                           Peace and Prosperity

In short, under the Hong Bang Dynasty with Hung kings as rulers, the Van 
Lang population really enjoyed for long peace and prosperity and moral 
excellence. Particularly, King Lac Long Quan devoted much of his time to 
the dissemination, among his subjects the practice of tattooing as one 
of those measures against the threat of river and lake monsters, and of 
using knives and mattoxes made of stone for the promotion of cereals 
cultivation. He also taught the Van Lang people how to behave as good 
citizens and practice good morals.

Successors to King Lac Long Quan still put into effect other innovations 
in the field of agriculture and administration for the improvement of 
the Vang Lang inhabitants’ welfare. For example, they urged their 
subjects to make the most of irrigation for the development of 
cultivated areas, and divided the national territory into departments, 
and set up a clear-cut administrative channel with Lac Hau (civilian 
ranking officials) and Lac Tuong (military officers) helping the rulers 
in administrative and military affairs.

Hung kings also pushed ahead the promotion of diplomatic ties with China 
in an effort to better ensure the independence of Van Lang. (On two 
occasions, Hung kings appointed ambassadorial delegations to visits of 
good will to China. Chinese annals acknowledged that at one time, the 
Bach Viet King from the South offered through a visiting delegation a 
giant turtle to Emperor Ti Yiu and at another time a white pheasant to 
Emperor Tcheou Chen Kwan.

Hung kings’ outstanding achievements resulted not only in the founding 
of Viet Nam of yore as a nation but also in the establishment of well-
defined institutions, administrative, social and economic which made up 
a civilization of the Viets own, entirely different from that of the 
Chinese.

                             Relics Remain

The origin of Hung kings largely remains the product of Viet Nam’s 
legend. However, vestiges of the Hong Bang Dynasty such as the Hung 
kings’ Temple in Phu Tho (North Viet Nam), the agricultural implements 
made of stone discovered in Son Tay, Vinh Yen, Bac Giang (North Viet 
Nam) and what was recorded in the Chinese Annals of the Bach Viet (100 
principality) kingdom, South China are evidences to the fact that “the 
Viets of the prehistoric age did inaugurate a monarchical dynasty which 
lasted for 18 generations under the Hung Vuong appellation” as several 
Vietnamese historians put it.

"The 1972-commemoration of Hung Vuong Day has a much more magnificent 
meaning, especially when North Viet Nam invades the South across the 
Demilitarized Zone," Minister of State in Charge if Cultural Affairs, 
Mai Tho Truyen said.

The reason, as President Thieu defined it in his message to the nation 
on the observance of the Day held April 23 at Tao Dan Park, is “the 
worship of our ancestors who devoted themselves to the ever-growing 
development of Viet Nam as a nation now falls on the shoulders of the 
South Vietnamese people insofar as North Viet Nam rulers denied their 
national ancestors and adore Marx and Lenin as ideological fathers."
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Note from TT: according to Viet Nam Duy Va(n Su+~ Quan, by Hoang Van Chi,
the name "la.c" used in "la.c ha^`u", "la.c tu+o+'ng" came from the Chinese
phonetization of the word rice, lo' (which became lu'a at a later time). 
Apparently, due to the weather up North not being as warm as it is now, the 
Chinese could not grow rice and they discovered rice when they visited what 
was the Hung Vuong empire of those days, which covers most of southern China.