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Official Gazette

Friday, December 3, 2021

A brief look at the rule by feudal China

Updated: 16:23’ - 16/02/2011


Institute of State and Law

      In 179 BC, Trieu Da, King of Nam Viet, a warlord feud in China, invaded and imposed his rule on Au Lac. From that time to 905 AD, Au Lac was dominated by successive feudal Chinese dynasties: the Souei, Occidental Han, Oriental Han, Ts'in, Song, Leang... All policies of the feudal administrations in the North were aimed at abolishing the national sovereignty and territory of Au Lac, integrating it into China, and assimilating the Vietnamese nation.

      Trieu Da divided Au Lac into two prefectures called Giao Chi (northern part of present day Vietnam) and Cuu Chan (northern part of Central Vietnam). He sent administrators and troops to rule these prefectures and set up military posts there. Accordingly, the armed forces of the Au Lac State disintegrated and were dissolved together with the Royal Court of Au Lac. Trieu Da used demagogy to create a socio‑political foundation favorable to him by maintaining the mandarinate of Au Lac,and the local regulations and customs. The ruling administration began to register the population of Giao Chi and Cuu Chan prefectures to recruit corvees and soldiers.

       After Nam Viet was abolished, Au Lac's territory changed hands to the Han dynasty. The latter established the Giao Chi dominion headed by a governor who installed his headquarters at Me Linh (Yen Lang, Vinh Phu). Giao Chi was composed of 9 prefectures : 3 prefectures in Au Lac and 6 prefectures in southern China. Each prefecture was headed by a political administrator and a military commander. The prefectures were divided into districts. Like their predecessor, the Han at first maintained their rule through the local mandarins and the local customs. But gradually they applied the policy of enslavement, exploitation and assimilation more systematically and on a larger scale. The hereditary mandarinate of the Viet at district level was thus abrogated and replaced by mandarins of Han descent from the North. When Ma Vien was nominated as governor of Giao Chi, he split big districts into smaller ones, and appointed new chiefs to these administrative divisions. Ma Vien reported to the King of the Han dynasty that the law of the Viet greatly differed from that of the Han, and asked for permission to abrogate it. From then on, the Viet law was replaced by the Han law.

      From the late 2nd century to early the 3rd century, the Oriental Han dynasty in China declined and disintegrated. From then to the early years of the Tang dynasty, the administration in the Giao dominion was essentially another warlord feud.

      From the VIIth century, Au Lac fell into the rule of the Tang dynasty. In 622, the Tang dynasty established the Giao Chau dominion, and in 679 changed it to An Nam dominion headed by a governor. From late in the IXth century, the Tang dynasty divided the Au Lac territory into 12 administrative divisions with 59 districts. Early in the Xth century, seizing the opportunity arising from the decline of the central authority of the Tang dynasty in China and the consequent chaotic situation of the vassals in An Nam, and with the support of the people, Khuc Thua Du, a village chief of the Viet, rose up and led the people in an insurrection to regain national independence. Khuc Thua Du set up a sovereign administration, thus putting an end to the millenarian domination by feudal China.

      The following remarks can be made from the ruling method applied by feudal China:

      Firstly, feudal China divided Au Lac into prefectures and districts, and regarded it as part of Chinese territory. Each prefecture was headed by a mandarin of Han descent. Even during the period when the local mandarins were maintained by heredity, or later when the local mandarinate was abrogated and replaced by mandarins of the Han, the surrogate administration was able to rule no further than the district boundary, and they had to maintain an administrative apparatus of the Viet at village and commune levels. Their main method of exploitation was exercised through the paying of tributes by the locals. So, an outstanding feature of the ruling method applied by feudal China in Vietnam was that they had to exercise a "loose ruling" policy. Many areas, particularly those at village and commune levels, were beyond the control of the feudal ruler of the North. According to the annals of China, Tiet Tong, governor of Giao Chi early in the Ngo dynasty (IIIth century), admitted that under the Han dynasty, many areas in Giao Chi were left to be on their own.

      Secondly, the ruling administration in Vietnam was organized on the model of feudal China, but in reality it had to constantly adapt its ruling method to the population of Lac Viet in order to drag on its domination. The result was that with the passage of time the Viet, far from being assimilated by the Chinese culture, were weaned further and further away from the Imperial Court in China by the political centrifugal force of the local ruling administration.

      Thirdly, although in the early period of the Christian era, the ruling administration abrogated the Viet law and applied the Han law instead, this law was, in fact, effective only at the political centers and in the ruling administration of the Han, while among the communities at villages and communes, the regulations, customs and habits of Vietnam still prevailed as they had existed long before.

      In the process of the persistent struggle waged in different forms by the communities of autonomous villages and communes against the acculturisation and assimilation scheme of the invaders, armed uprisings involving the inhabitants of the Lac Viet broke out in many areas (such as the armed uprisings of the Trung Sisters, Lady Trieu, Phung Hung, etc.). These uprisings were as many demonstrations of the patriotism of the Lac Viet population, their aspiration for national independence and sovereignty, and their determination to fight against foreign rule, and build an independent and sovereign nation of their own.-


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