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."

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.