Guidebook Below the surface, Vietnam’s history is deep and fascinating


Below the surface, Vietnam’s history is deep and fascinating

“Vietnam has a history as rich and evocative as anywhere on the planet,” observes Lonely Planet. Centuries before the so-called ‘American War’ captured the attention of the west, Vietnam was “scrapping with the Chinese, the Khmers, the Chams and the Mongols.” And Vietnamese civilisation is “as sophisticated as that of its mighty northern neighbour China, from where it drew many of its influences under a thousand-year occupation.” After that came the “humbling period” of French colonialism in Vietnam, which finally ended in the second half of the 20th century. Quite simply, says The Culture Trip, Vietnam is “one of the oldest cultures in South East Asia, dating back to 2000 BC, and it has has a complicated history starting from its native Dong Son culture and spanning thousands of years.”

Vietnam has had so many wars (Chinese, Japanese, French, American, Cambodian, Chinese again ...), explains Mark Eveleigh in The Independent, “that for them there is no such thing as ‘The Vietnam War’ … the one that ended in the Fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975 was the American War."

“The name Vietnam originated in 1803 when envoys from the newly founded Nguyen dynasty traveled to Beijing to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese court. The new emperor had chosen the name Nam Viet for his kingdom. The word Viet he derived from the traditional name for the Vietnamese imperial domain and its people in what is now northern and central Vietnam. Nam (south) had been added to acknowledge the expansion of the dynasty's domain into lands to the south. The Chinese objected to this new name because it was the same as an ancient state that had rebelled against Chinese rule. They therefore changed it to Viet Nam. Vietnamese officials resented the change and it did not attain public acceptance until the late 1800s.” - Every Culture

“Forty years have now passed since these events unfolded – and as I stroll back to the wide avenue of Dong Khoi, it feels like it. That urgent swell of engine noise and bodies is still wholly present, but now it is not military men making a commotion. It is the swarm of motorcycles, and their passengers, as Vietnam's biggest urban enclave goes about its business. Was there a conflict here -- a seismic struggle of skewed ideology, inhumanity and up to (if you use the highest estimates) four million deaths? On this bright day, in a city which has embraced the 21st century, it seems a faded nightmare.” - The Independent

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